One of the most often-heard objections to the Christian faith is that God doesn’t give enough clues to His existence. If God were real, they say, we’d see Him doing more public miracles and things that would point to His presence in the world. There would be less evil, pain and suffering in the world, they say.
They would rather believe that the many documented accounts of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and appearance before ascending to heaven are false and made up than to evaluate what the world would look like had those events never occurred. (In fact, these events are more well documented than anything in the ancient world by many orders of magnitude.)
But even if the accuracy of those historical accounts were set aside, the presence of Christians and Christianity in the world has been a force for the most good ever injected into the human race. In 2008, atheist Matthew Parris wrote in the Times of London that Africa needs God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
To preemptively answer the inevitable “but all religions point to good and all have bad” argument, I’ll dispense with it now. In India, Ghandi used non-violent citizen non-cooperation to overthrow British rule. Mahatma Ghandi was a Hindu, with Jainism leanings. But he wasn’t a religious leader, he was a political leader. Hinduism is not responsible for India’s transformation.
And of course, the Crusades–always the Crusades. The reality of God is not influenced by people who hide behind His name and do evil. Christianity is different than all other religions, in that God has come to earth to dwell among us and demonstrate His love. Mahatma Gandhi said he loves Christianity’s Christ, but Christians not so much.
If we may focus on Christ for a moment, what can be said about Him? For if He is real, and Christians are called to be like Him, then nothing you can say about Christians can be said outside of that relationship. But those who denounce Christ do so by comparing Christians to the world, not to Christ.
Jesus faced the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate after the religious authorities had him arrested for claiming to be God: Blasphemy. Were Jesus to arrive today, would not the same thing happen? The religious authorities who gather power to themselves in the name of God would condemn the Son of God, miracles and all, to the civil authorities.
The miracles would be explained away as sorcery, as they did with Christ two millenia ago.
While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”
But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They said, “Barabbas!”
Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”
Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”
When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.”
And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.
They would crucify Jesus today as they did then, because they do not know the power of God, or the Scriptures (Mark 12:24); they mistake human law for God’s law. They mistake human sin for God’s will, and they mistake evidence of God for human invention.
There is, in fact, overwhelming evidence of God’s existence in the world today. There’s overwhelming evidence of lives transformed, hearts changed, entire societies moved, and liberty restored by the Truth. But the very evil in the world that atheists cite to deny God’s goodness is tolerated when God is minimized or ignored.
Jesus got it right when he told the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, or I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”
They do not hear, nor do they listen. They would crucify Jesus again. And they would not be persuaded if he rose from the dead today.