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By Gary F. Zeolla
If we base our faith solely on past, personal experience, we tread on thin ice. Tragedies in the present have a way of obliterating good feelings about God's presence in the past. Unless we have logical, rational arguments for the truth of our faith on which to fall back on when our emotions betray us, we too will be tempted to "hang it all up."
This paragraph by Craig Blomberg originally appeared in The Shield newsletter.1 I have experienced first-hand the reality of the situation Blomberg describes. In my short life I have suffered through many health and other difficulties.
With all the problems going on, my faith has been stretched to the limit. There have been may times I have felt like "hanging it all up" and turning my back on Christ and the Christian faith.
But whenever I have had these kind of thoughts the words of Peter in John 6:68 come to mind. The context of the verse is when many of Jesus' disciples have left Him.
The passage continues, "Then Jesus said to the twelve, 'do you also want to go away?' Then Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal live'" (John 6:67,68).
"To whom shall I go?" If I left Christ and the Christian faith, I would have to turn to some other belief system. It is impossible to live without holding some basic assumptions about life and ultimate reality.
Should all of my suffering cause me to become an atheist? But if "Chance" or "Fate" or "natural forces" are the cause of everything, then there is no reason to believe there is any purpose to anything, including my own existence.
But then why do I feel there should be a purpose to life? Moreover, how can these impersonal forces be trusted to bring any good out of my anguish? Death is left as the only way out; so why not just commit suicide and end it all now?
Maybe I should become one of Jehovah's Witnesses. They promise "You can live forever in paradise on earth." But this is only for some supposed future. What good does it do me now? And how can the finite "Jehovah of the Watchtower" be trusted to really bring about this paradise? Further, how can a finite god and a created "Jesus" (both of whom are stuck up in heaven) comfort me now or throughout eternity?
What about Mormonism? It promises me I can become a god. But with all that has happened to me that has been completely out of my control, can I seriously believe I can become a god and rule an entire planet? Furthermore, since the Mormon god is just an "exalted man" himself, can I really trust that he has been in control of all that has occurred?
Shall I turn to the New Age Movement and its belief that everything is part of an impersonal god. But if everything is god, then pain is a part of this god and thus eternal; there is no hope it will ever end. And how can an "IT" be trusted to find some purpose in suffering and bring any good out of it?
Then there is Christian Science. It teaches all suffering and pain is just an illusion.2 I'm sorry but the anguish I have been experiencing is very real.
I could go on, but as I survey the various religions and philosophies of the world in light of all that has happened to me, all I can do is cry out with the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" (Eccl 1:2).
So I turn back to the Christian God. Is He there? Is He in control? Does He care? There have been many times I have felt like Naomi when she cried out:
Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara [bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me? (Ruth 1:20,21).
But in this cry, Naomi shows she still believes in the LORD. She acknowledges He is Almighty. As such, she knows He is in control of all that has been happening to her. This has been my experience also.
I think back over all I have studied as regards the integrity of the Christian faith. I remember that only the Christian worldview is a logically consistent belief and grounded in historical fact.
Meanwhile, all other belief systems fall apart when they are investigated in depth. They are inherently contradictory and/ or they don't coincide with the facts of reality.
Most importantly, as regards my personal experience, other belief systems can't hold up when one's life begins to fall apart. They offer no hope, no comfort to the suffering soul.
The Christian faith acknowledges the existence and reality of evil (Gen 3). Yet it promises there is a purpose behind it all. Ultimately, good will come out of it (Rom 8:18-30).
The God of Christianity is omniscient (Prov 15:3), omnipotent (Luke 1:37), infinite (Eph 4:6), and unchanging (Num 23:19), and can know He loves me (1John 4:8-10). So I can trust He knows what He is doing and that He can and will bring to pass all He has promised (Ps 33:10f). This means His pledge to end evil and to "wipe away every tear" is reliable (Rev 21:4).
Even now, this God can comfort me. He promises, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb 13:5). This assurance of His presence can be taken literally since He "fills heaven and earth" (Jer 23:24).
He is also in control of all things. So He can and will work out all that has happened to me for His glory and my ultimate good, just as He did for Naomi (Ruth 4:14,15; Phil 1:6,11).
My faith has been tested. But because of my previous studies regarding the veracity of the Christian faith and the utter bankruptcy of all other worldviews, my faith is still intact (Heb 6:9-12; 2Pet 1:5-12; compare Prov 5:23; Hos 4:6).
Many problems still lie ahead; but praise be to Him who has been upholding me "by the word of His power" (Heb 1:3; see also Phil 2:12,13; 1Pet 1:3-7; Jude 24,25).
For more about this topic and the director of Darkness to Light, see Healing and the Gospel and Who Am I?.
LORD will perfect that which concerns me;
your mercy, O LORD, endures forever;
do not forsake the works of Your hands
Footnotes: All Scripture
references from: The New King James Version. Nashville,
TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.
1) Blomberg, Craig, Ph.D. "Who Needs Apologetics?" The Shield. Vol.III, No.3 (July 1989), p.4. Dr. Blomberg is professor of New Testament studies at Denver Seminary.
2) The same concept is seen in Hinduism where it is called Maya.
Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light
Value of an Intellectual Faith. Copyright © 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).
An earlier version of the above article
appeared in The Shield newsletter in 1991
as an article titled "Christian vs. Cultic Spirituality: Part II."
The above, revised version was published in Darkness to Light newsletter
and posted on this Web site in January 1997.
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