Am I a Christian because it can be proven in a book?
How a debate with a non-believer taught me to know God for myself.
I’ve always thought of myself as a Christian. I grew up in a Christian family and went to church every Sunday like clockwork. When I was 13, I gave my heart to God. I did my best to be a good Christian, but while I prayed and read my Bible regularly, it wasn’t until I was much older that my faith was questioned, and I was forced to reexamine the beliefs I had been taught since childhood and determine what they meant to me personally.
What does it mean to be a Christian?
When I started college, I took an astronomy class for one of my electives. My professor also taught many of the physics classes at the college and was an atheist. He quickly identified me as a Christian and would often stop the class to ask me what I thought about a subject or topic he was discussing, or question my beliefs. After class, he would often try to engage me in lively debates about evolution. I didn’t mind his teasing and bantering, but he was so knowledgeable and confident in his own belief of evolution that it made me want to be able to respond with equal authority on intelligent design.
I started researching and reading articles and books on both theories. Evolutionists argued that there is more evidence to support evolution than events written in the Bible, while creationists argued that carbon dating is inaccurate, gaps of transitional fossils in the fossil record disprove evolution, and cellular life forms are too complex to have evolved by chance. As I read through one argument after another, I felt myself being pulled in two directions. One was a competitive need to prove Christianity right; the other was a little voice in my head saying: “Why does it matter? Being a Christian has nothing to do with debates about intelligent design. What does being a Christian mean to you personally?”
Believing without seeing
I realized that in all my research, it had been some time since I had picked up my Bible, so I picked it up and started reading. And as I read, one particular verse stuck out to me:
“At that time, Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” Matthew 11:25.
The verse frustrated me. Why would God hide things from the wise and prudent? Why couldn’t the secrets of the universe be revealed to everyone so everybody would know that there was a God? The answer came to me as soon as I asked myself these questions. Christianity would no longer be a life of faith. The smartest people who had the most knowledge would get the farthest, while others would be left in the dust. In His infinite wisdom, God used faith rather than knowledge as the way that led back to Him, so no one would be left behind. That is why Jesus said to Thomas:
“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29.
Drawing near to God
As I thought about these words, a peace came over me, and I realized that I draw close to God not by reading books about intelligent design, not by being a Christian because my friends and family are, but by believing in God for myself and by being obedient to His Word. For example, in Matthew 5:48 it says to be perfect just as my Father in heaven is perfect. I can do this by saying no when I am temptedand praying to God for help to do His will instead, just like Jesus did when He was on earth. (Hebrews 4:15) In this way, I prove that God’s Word is true through the life I live and draw others to God through my example. (1 Timothy 4:16) I also receive a peace and joy that can’t be found anywhere else that fills the empty places in my heart.
A personal relationship with God equals a happy life
I returned all the books I had checked out to the library, and after the next class, when my professor stopped me on my way out for another lively discussion, I turned to him with a smile. “You know,” I said, “I’m not a Christian because it can be proven in a book. I’m a Christian because when I live according to God’s Word, it makes me happy.” I expected him to combat my statement with another argument, but instead, he looked at me for a moment and then smiled.
“I respect that,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure you were thinking for yourself and not believing something just because that’s what you’ve been taught.” I was stunned. After listening to his comments and teasing all quarter long, all it took was a simple personal statement of faith from me to end the debate. We remained friends, and he never questioned my beliefs again. I got top marks in the class, but more importantly, I made a firm decision that continues to make me happier and happier: a decision that had nothing to do with adopting others’ beliefs or getting involved in scientific debates, but everything to do with developing my own personal relationship with God.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.