I am sometimes asked what is the one greatest proof or the one thing that most dramatically proves the existence of God? My response to that question is that each person who searches finds answers, but for some people one evidence is compelling while for others it is not. People with mathematical backgrounds and abilities may find such things as Fibonacci's Ratio or the Anthropic Principal convincing. A person with an interest in literature and history might find archaeological and historical evidence more convincing. Probably, for most people, it is a combination of many things and, in fact, the weight of the total evidence that convinces them that God is real and the Bible is His Word.
There is one common proof of the validity of the Christian system that cuts across all these lines. All people of all backgrounds, all training, all education, all races, all sexes, all economic situations, and all occupations end up being confronted with it--frequently in a dramatic way. It is not easily put into words and may, in fact, be very age-dependent. It really has to do with what you find when you get to the end of your personal rainbow--what is your pot of gold?
In June, 1995, I found myself on the east coast of New Jersey not far from Atlantic City. I had gone there to get away from the pressures of a lectureship for awhile and had gone to Barnegat Lighthouse. Climbing the 250 or so steps to the top of this ancient structure and being able to see from 168 feet in the air the area along the coast was a beautiful experience. I love water, and I could see the inlet, the bay, and the Atlantic as it pounded on the shore some distance to the east. There were birds flying all around me, and I found it hard to leave the beauty of my perch to return to the traffic and congestion below.
When I made it to the top of the lighthouse, there was a man with a white cap on who stayed in one spot the whole time that I was there, staring at the marinas behind the business district of town near the lighthouse. The marinas stretched as far as I could see to the south. They were filled with huge yachts and expensive fishing boats--most of which gleamed of white enamel and bristled with antennas, radar units, and fishing gear. On the way to the lighthouse, I had driven by elaborate houses with expensive cars in the driveways and eloquently decorated with exotic plants and art work. It was an odd contrast--the works of man to the south and, in my opinion, to the beauty of God's creation to the north.
"You want to look out this window?" the man asked as he gestured toward the window facing south.
"No, thanks," I replied. "I like what I see to the north better anyway." He smiled wryly and turned back to the window.
"Yup, and it's a whole lot easier to get along with too."
"I take it you work out there," I remarked, pointing toward the yacht basin.
"You might say that," he replied. "You have a boat out there?"
"No," I responded. "I'm a school teacher. Won't find me in anything much bigger than a canoe."
He turned to look at me and said, "Just keep the canoe, Son. All of this stuff is nothing but grief."
"You sound like a man who's had some run-ins with the jet set out here," I said. He smiled again, but did not say anything.
When I got ready to go down, I said good-bye to him. "I was serious in what I said about the canoe, Son. I own that marina over there and about half the boats that are in it. Every house you see on the street going to the entrance is mine. This morning, I found out I don't have too much longer to live, and I have to say I don't see anything out there that I'm proud of or anything that makes me think my life has been worthwhile." Then, with an expletive, he muttered, "I can't believe I said that to a total stranger."
I went over to him and said, "Let's look the other direction for a few minutes," and as he turned toward me, I saw that tears had been flowing for a long time. We talked and I explained what I was doing in New Jersey and suggested some things I thought might help him. I hope he will make contact with me because I never asked his name and told him I did not need nor would I ever ask him for money. Later he said anytime someone spoke to him about spiritual things, they always wanted his financial help before it was all said and done, and he never seriously considered his relationship to God. "All I know is I've never really been happy," he said.
"It's never too late," I responded and we parted with a hug--two people whose lives are light-years apart but who met in a lighthouse at a time that at least for me will always be special.
By this time, you may have lost track of the theme of this article. How is this story a proof of the validity of the Christian system? This man had found his pot of gold. I do not have any idea what his profession was or how he acquired the millions of dollars that he had; but, by any measure of the society in which we live, he was highly successful. In his own eyes, as the reality of his own mortality came home, he saw nothing in his accomplishments that he considered to be worthwhile. As I have thought of our brief meeting, I have also been reminded of the statement Solomon (a man of great economic and political success) made in Ecclesiastes 1:2 when he said, "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity."
The point is that it is impossible for a person who has lived by standards extolled by much of society and mandated by secular humanism to find true fulfillment and purpose in life. Once you have acquired millions or billions or trillions of dollars, then what? Once you have had any sexual experience the human mind can conceive of, then what? Once you have become the political ruler of the world, then what? Once you are recognized as the most educated person in the world, then what? Once you are acknowledged as the best athlete, the best fisherman, the greatest actor, or the most beautiful woman or ...(you fill in the blank) in the world, then what? It does not take a religious leader vilifying the evils of self-indulgence to see that just from a common sense standpoint, nothing that a person can accomplish in the secular world has any meaning or offers any real fulfillment or lasting value.
Can Christianity offer any alternative that is any better? If it can, this is a good apologetic for the Christian system and a powerful rebuttal of the atheist viewpoint. I would suggest that there are at least four ways in which Christianity offers a positive, logical, verifiable alternative to the void easily seen in the values of our secular society.
1. Contribution to something greater than you are provides infinite challenge and a constantly-changing positive feedback. The teachings of Jesus Christ did not involve a fixed limited objective. There is no limit to the Christian agenda. Feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely, caring for widows and orphans, teaching lost people about Christ, providing for those without clothing or shelter, relieving pain and suffering, changing the lives of alcoholics or drug addicts and substance abusers, helping people make their marriages work, assisting in the molding and shaping of young people's lives--all of these things--bring satisfaction and make life valuable. In the Christian system, there is always help that makes them achievable and workable. The scope of this activity is infinite, and the personal joys and satisfactions are also without limit. Once you see your feeble efforts make a difference, you are hooked on doing more.
2. The Christian system gives a moral platform from which every relationship in your life can have greater meaning. In spite of the huge amount of press that pseudo-Christians get, most people who really are working to be Christ-like live good, moral lives. An astronomical percentage of all Christians have never had a sexual affair, do not function dishonestly in their businesses, and can be trusted not to steal, lie, or abuse someone else.
I can personally testify to the joy of having a faithful, loving, committed wife. I watch my peers in the work place deal with mates who cannot be trusted, and I see the pain and anxiety it produces. They are astounded that I leave for a weekend trip without the slightest concern about what my wife might do or who she might be with. They cannot imagine that I trust my wife to manage our family finances or to buy a major item like a car (or even a house, for that matter, since we just did!). The joy and satisfaction of never having to question what your mate will do morally has been a blessing in my life that grows every time I see a friend or business associate go through a divorce or a crisis because of moral turpitude on the part of a mate.
On a personal level, there is a Christian growth principle that enriches life as one matures. As you get older and understand the teachings of Christ better, you grow in your ability to not be controlled by guilt and remorse over things you have done. I personally have a long way to go in this area, but the principle is clear to me. Christianity is a guilt-relieving system, and the impact of that fact on people's feelings about themselves and their lives is incalculable. To know you are doing better, that the past is forgiven and forgotten, and that there is infinite growth potential is a fantastic blessing.
A book could be written on all the ways that the moral teachings of the Christian system give value and meaning to life. Each of them gives confidence, security, positive self-image help, and offers an even better tomorrow.
3. The Christian system offers continuous reinforcement, optimum family support, and infinite resources to carry on the Christian life. It always worries me when I hear a Christian say, "I don't see how you keep on doing all the things you do" to another Christian who seems to be especially active. I am especially concerned when the comment comes from another believer who is in good health and in the prime of his/her years. My fear is that the questioner has not yet been hooked in to the power source of the cosmos.
I am aware that we all have different metabolisms and that some are stronger than others. The biblical teaching, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Phillipians 4:13), is an example all believers need to look at, however. One of the major values of the Christian system is that there is power available to do things that are extraordinary, and this is available to all Christians. One source of this power is the support group base found in the local congregation. I love to go to mid-week Bible study or to a group Bible study at someone's home because it always "charges my battery," even if I am the one teaching the class. I go to these sessions with the attitude that I will be strengthened, and I am almost always gratified in my expectation. Being with people who care and who share concerns while engaging in prayer, singing, and other acts of unity with these people is a constantly positive experience. Support groups are biblical, and they work!
In addition to the positive feedback, I experience in meetings with other Christians, there is a help that comes from what the Bible refers to as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is beyond the scope of this essay to explore how this works, but it does work. The Christian system promises this, and it can be seen in the lives and activities of many people. Power to do what you could not do completely on your own is there. There are numerous books on this subject, but we would recommend The Holy Spirit by Garth Black (Biblical Research Press, 774 East North 15th St., Abilene, TX 79601) as a simple, easy-to-understand source.
4. The Christian system offers an ultimate positive end to all that happens in this life. Skeptics like to ridicule the idea of heaven and hell, and frequently both heaven and hell are misrepresented by skeptics and believers alike. For our purposes here, it is enormously encouraging and positive to be convinced that our existence on earth is the worst thing we will ever have to face. To be able to be confident in the face of cancer, poverty, and failure that we will ultimately be free from all the negatives found in this life means more than one can really put into words. Even the skeptics have spoken to this point, wishing it were true. The Christian is confident that it is true, and the stability and positiveness it generates, and the help it provides in the face of tough situations in life is one more reason for seeing the anxi-ety that skeptics have about death as an apologetic for Christianity.
What is at the end of your rainbow? I hope it is heaven and that you have put yourself in a relationship with Christ that guarantees that the pot of gold is really there.
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
--John N. Clayton