Everyone should consider matters of eternity very carefully, because eternity matters.
I used to be a skeptic. I’ve gone to church most of my life, but let’s just say I wasn’t paying very close attention for the first 28 years or so. At all. I couldn’t have told you anything about the Bible. Even then the church I attended was a lousy Joel Osteen-wannabe type church — nothing but messages about “God’s unconditional love,” with no scriptural analysis. I learned nearly everything of importance about the faith outside of church. My hope is that the rest of you are in churches where you can learn and grow.
My path to Christianity wasn’t linear, but there were many things along the way that I recommend to real skeptics and authentic seekers (hereafter referred to simply as skeptics and seekers). I hope you will consider using some of these on your search.
(I wrote real skeptics because many self-proclaimed skeptics across aren’t skeptical at all. They have a position and work aggressively to advance it. I respect their freedom to do that but it would be an abuse of the word to say they are skeptical. And I mean authentic seekers in the sense that they are seeking God on his terms and not in some immature fantasy world where they think they get to invent their own god or just pick the religion they like best — and that the real God will consider that to be acceptable.)
Read/study the Bible – This may sound obvious, but far too many people ignore it. I come across very few people who have read the whole Bible and/or read it regularly, and that includes the countless Christians I know. Everyone should read it carefully and often. Jesus didn’t call it “bread” for nothing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t miss too many meals of real food. I eat at least 5 times per day (My motto: “Second breakfast – the third most important meal of the day!”). I work hard to read at least some of the Bible every day. I’m currently doing a “read the Bible in a year” plan, which is roughly three chapters a day, plus I listen to various Podcasts that go into detail on the scriptures.
Christians should read it to spend time with God, strengthen their faith and educate themselves to help others know the truth. Skeptics should read it to have a better idea of what they are criticizing. Some do, but I find that most critics of Christianity make no efforts to do that. They just repeat out-of context passages (“Don’t judge!”). Seekers should read it because Christianity is a logical starting point in the search for God.
The Bible makes many claims about itself and its power. It quotes God directly over 3,000 times and states that He inspired all the writings it contains. It claims that it has the power to save and transform you. It has made an immeasurable impact on the world. Those things aren’t what make it true, but they are good reasons for any skeptic / seeker to read it carefully.
If you want to know someone, you spend time with them. Reading the Bible (and praying) is spending time with God. Read it carefully and get to know Jesus. Then decide if you think He is trustworthy and if He should be the Lord of your life.
The Bible Fast Forward is a great audio resource that ties together the major themes of the Bible. I highly recommend it for anyone at any stage of their journey.
Pray – Tell God that if He is real that you truly want to know him on his terms.
Self reflection — In your quiet, honest moments, ask yourself if you think you need forgiveness.
Examine your motives. There are typically three reasons at the root of unbelief. Which are yours? If you want to deceive others that is bad enough. But don’t deceive yourself.
1. Rational / intellectual – Have people gathered enough information to believe? Have they investigated the facts and logic behind the faith? Are they using reasonable criteria (i.e., adequate evidence versus absolute proof)?
2. Emotional – People may have had bad experiences with church and/or Christians. Some people would have very serious consequences from converting (rejection or even persecution from friends, family or society). People may not want to give up favorite sins. These may be difficult but are nothing that should get in the way of your eternal salvation.
3. Volitional, or that of the will – Plain old rebellion. People have seen the facts but use items from the first two categories as excuses. Spending eternity in Hell because of pride = really bad idea.
Podcasts / websites / Facebook groups – There are countless sites out there, but here are the ones I’ve used the most. The links go to the main sites, but you can search for those names in iTunes to get the Podcasts. These will address most common objections.
Stand to Reason – My all-time favorite. An amazing mix of facts, ways to think clearly and techniques to share the truth in an effective way.
Please Convince Me – Hosted by a cold-case homicide detective who is a former atheist, he is very thorough and analytical in explaining the reasons for our faith and addressing objections.
CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry) – A great site for information on just about any Christian topic or world religion. Very easy to navigate.
Grace to You – John MacArthur gives terrific verse-by-verse sermons. He reads countless commentaries and the original languages to prepare each one.
Debates – some people don’t see the value in debates, because it is more like a sporting event where each side is just rooting for their team and against the opposition. Few minds seem to be changed. But I think debates have merit. For a skeptic or seeker it is important to hear both sides in their own words. I find apologetic works to be very useful because over time I have learned which apologists to trust. If someone just sets up straw men to knock down, then that isn’t productive. You may get a temporary boost in confidence for your views but will get creamed when you use those in the real world.
There are some things you should never forget about Darwinian evolution. While this worldview has had a monopoly position in education, media and government for many decades, there is a reason most people still don’t believe it. Despite what its proponents may tell you about how the theory lets you be an intellectually satisfied atheist, Darwinian evolution has many issues and major theories about it continue to change. Their views from just a few years ago about “junk” DNA should haunt Darwinists and Theistic Evolutionists alike.
But remember that even if Darwinian evolution was completely true, it would:
- not explain the origin of the universe (they have to resort to un-scientific stories like the “multiverse” theory to rationalize away the amazing design in the universe).
- not explain how life came from non-life. Despite decades of efforts, they have no idea how to prove how life might have come from non-life, though in their blind faith they persist.
- be 100.00% responsible for the faith of Christians in the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (what else could have created these beliefs?).
- be unable to ground true universal morality. They have a thing they call morality, but they are really just running off the fumes of Christianity and the fact that God wrote his laws on our hearts. But real, universal morality in a Darwinian worldview is merely an illusion. If those in power decide what is right, then it isn’t transcendently right. It is just a power play. That doesn’t mean atheists can’t do things we consider to be moral. Some atheists are pro-life, for example. It just means they have no philosophical grounding for morality.
Signature in the Cell – DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design – this book is a little complex for the average reader but very important for those who want to know more about what Intelligent Design is really about.
There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by Antony Flew – one of the most famous philosophical atheists eventually became a theist based on the evidence for design in the universe. Sadly, I don’t think he became a Christian before he died.
The big picture — Consider a two-step approach (though you may do this in parallel):
- Is there a God? Examine the information from teleology (design), cosmology, morality, etc. And meditate closely on this passage: Romans 1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
- Is Christianity true? Consider the “minimal facts” approach. Christianity is a faith based on reason and evidence, not “blind faith.”
If you are a real skeptic / authentic seeker, I highly encourage you to learn enough about Jesus to decide whether you want to put your trust in him. Deep down you know you are a sinner and will one day die and face God to be judged based on this life. You can stand alone and take the punishment for your sins, or you can trust in the sacrifice Jesus made. If you trust in him, all your sins are transferred from his account and all his perfect righteousness is transferred to yours. It is literally the ultimate deal – and it is free. You can’t buy it or earn it.
Remember, “doubting Thomas” (who got a bad rap, by the way) was shown the evidence and he made the proper response of belief. You may not see Jesus face to face as evidence, but there is more than enough evidence for you if you really want to know the truth.
Ultimately, you can trust in yourself or you can trust in Jesus . . . and eternity is a mighty long time to regret a prideful decision.