Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why I choose science over religion...and you should too!

Estimated reading time: Under 10 Minutes
Main point: Paragraph 1-3



Main Point
The title of this article may seem shocking and unorthodox coming from a Christian, but it’s really not as radical as you might think.  If you give me a chance to explain, I think I can justify it and maybe even convince you to share my view.  I choose science over religion because doing so is logical and even biblical.  The Bible tells us to examine everything carefully (1 Thess 5:21) and not to judge hypocritically (Matt 7:1-5, Matt 23:27, Rom 12:9); two commands I am obeying and advocating by choosing science over religion.  However, don’t think that my view is just a blanket statement that applies to every situation.  I will only choose science if making a choice is necessary and after very carefully considering and understanding both sides.  


For the most part, science and religion do not overlap, so there is usually no reason to choose one over the other.  Science and religion serve different purposes and answer different questions.  The purpose of science is to learn about the physical aspects of the universe while religion answers questions about the supernatural and immaterial, such as who is God, what is the purpose of life, and what is morally right, etc.  However, there are instances where specific religious claims pertain to the physical universe.  Jesus even echoed this statement by saying He tells us of earthly things so we can believe what He tells us about heavenly things (John 3:12).  It is only in those rare instances of overlap that I elevate science over religion because the scientific method, although limited to the physical universe, is the most reliable and accurate method for uncovering truth.  Science transcends personal experience and can mostly rule out chance, other extraneous factors, personal biases, and errors in reasoning.  It uses objective measures and produces results that are testable and repeatable1.  It doesn't matter what your beliefs are, where you live, or what your state of mind is - if you do the same experiment, the results will always be the same2.  The scientific method is the best and only way to carefully examine religious claims about the physical universe.


It would be foolish to disregard knowledge from a reliable source in favor of a less reliable source.  If your doctor looked at the results of medical tests and said you have cancer, but your child said you didn’t have cancer, who would you believe?  Absolutely 100% of rational people would choose the doctor.  We need to accept belief in God in the same way: based on the best and most reliable information.  Christians often do this and recognize the importance of reliability when building a case for the supremacy of the Bible and when rejecting other religious beliefs (including atheism).  However, if Christians are not willing to fully apply science (and reason) to their own beliefs, then they are hypocrites! We must evaluate Christianity with the same standards we use for evaluating other people’s views about God, otherwise we lose our claim to truth and our beliefs are merely opinions.



Deeper Understanding
There are many reasons why people become Christians, all of which boil down to truth (if it doesn’t, then I question whether that person is truly a Christian).  Christians believe the Bible to be the word of God (2 Tim 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20) and that God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19, Hebrews 6:18, Titus 1:2)3.  We really believe God exists and that His son, Jesus, died for our sins (Romans 10:9).  Jesus claimed to be the truth (John 14:6) and that knowing the truth would set us free (John 8:32).  Truth is of the utmost importance.  If Christians don’t hold truth in extremely high regard, there is nothing separating us from the rest of the world.


While the scientific method is the most reliable method for knowing truth, it is limited and imperfect, so we must critically evaluate science and recognize other methods of attaining knowledge such as philosophy (i.e. logic and reason), history and other humanities, personal experience, and divine revelation.  Understanding the relationship between all these domains, the limitations of each, and when to use them will help us discern what is really true.  In the quest for truth, it is important to gain an understanding of whatever it is we are evaluated.  It is just as important to critically evaluate science as it is to critically evaluate religion.  In order to do that, we must have a deep understanding of both and their relationship.  We need to be aware of their flaws and limitations4, know how science and religion might come in conflict, and recognize how they can help each other.  


1.) Science is limited to the material universe, whereas the existence of God is a metaphysical question.  Science will never be able to answer the question of whether or not God exists because science cannot give us infinite knowledge.  If science can one day tell us what caused the Big Bang, then we will ask what caused that Cause.  If it answers that question, then we will ask what caused that, and so on.  Eventually we have to recognize that only metaphysics can answer the questions of whether everything needs a cause or if there can be an infinite regression of causes.  However, since specific religions make claims pertaining to the material universe, science can evaluate the truth of these claims.  For instance, Greek mythology tells us that Apollo literally pulls the sun across the horizon every day.  Science has disproved this because we can see with a telescope that there is nothing pulling the sun, not to mention that the sun’s apparent movement is due to earth’s rotation, not a moving sun.  Science has disproved Greek mythology.  Miracles, on the other hand, are a different question.  Atheists often point out that miracles contradict science and therefore, all religions that accept miracles are false.  This is the result of confusing science with philosophy.  Miracles are instances of supernatural intervention and are beyond the realm of science.  When scientists investigate miracles, sometimes they find natural explanations and other times they find no explanation.  In either case, they have not shown that miracles do not occur or that there is no supernatural cause. Logically speaking, if the universe was created by an all-powerful supernatural being, then it logically follows that said being could also intervene in the universe anytime He wants to.  The difference is in explaining how the universe works based on the laws of nature versus whether or not God occasionally intervenes in the laws He created.


2.) Human error is always present, whether in reading the Bible or doing science.  The creation and evolution debate is a perfect example of this for both cases.  Most of the Bible is clear and easily understandable, but some verses, including those on creation, are ambiguous.  There are very knowledgeable theologians on both sides of the debate that use sound reasoning to support their conclusion.  It essentially comes down to the translation of the Hebrew word for day.  Because it is used figuratively and literally throughout the Bible, it could be used either way in Genesis as well.  Additionally, and I say this as someone who has no bias or conclusion regarding the creation and evolution debate, the science for evolution and creation is also subject to human error.  The physical evidence for evolution is the same exact physical evidence used to support creation.  Different conclusions are reached due to the underlying philosophical presuppositions of the person who interprets the physical evidence. I have yet to see any evidence for either side that is able to eliminate the other as a possibility4.  This is why it is important to recognize where human error can play a role in objective science.  Even when the scientific method is properly followed, it is human reasoning that draws conclusions based on the empirical evidence.  This means that even objective science often relies on human reasoning ability, and even though it is very good at removing human error, assumptions, and biases, it is still somewhat prone to the same biases and errors as less reliable disciplines or methods for discovering truth.


To recognize human error or ambiguity in science, we need to increase our scientific literacy so that we can distinguish between the different types of sciences and the difference between empirical evidence and reasoned conclusions.  Math is fairly certain.  The Bible tells us that pi equals 3 (1 Kings 7:23 & 2 Chronicles 4:2; it might even say 3.14 depending on how you do the calculations, click here for more on this issue).  This is an estimate, rounded to the nearest whole number so it fits with actual value (3.14159…).  If the Bible said pi was 2, 4, any other whole number, or even if it rounded to a closer decimal and did so incorrectly (3.2, 3.3, etc.), then the Bible would be wrong!  While math is virtually indisputable, other sciences leave more to question.  Physics and chemistry are quite certain; biology, archeology, and geology are less certain; and the social sciences are the least certain. Regardless of the type of science, we also need to consider limitations within any specific experiment and be aware of the potential for human error is reaching conclusions that extend beyond the observation-based results.


3.) Science and religion can inform each other.  That statement is probably very controversial to many scientists and many theists, but a little critical thinking shows it to be historically true and it will likely be true in the future as well..  As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Bible (or other religious texts) is sometimes vague or ambiguous.  If we simply do not know what the Bible is telling us, then we can and should use science to inform our knowledge of the Bible.  This was the case when Galileo discovered that earth orbits the sun.  The Bible uses common and poetic language, some of which was used to support the view that the earth is the center of the universe (Genesis 1:14-18, Psalm 104:5, Job 26:7 & Isaiah 40:22).  In this case, people read too much into the Bible and science was able to point this out to us and give us a better understanding of God and His Word.  On the other hand, religion can also inform science.  It can give us moral boundaries to use while doing science (cloning, stem cells, ethics boards, etc.) and it can also offer hypotheses for us to test.  The benefits of this are probably most clear in archeology where the Bible has led to numerous discoveries.  Even more broadly, science assumes a uniform and logical universe, an assumption that is unfounded without God, and something that led many early scientists to do their work.



Conclusion
Faith is believing what is not seen (Heb 11:1), but this does not mean believing without reason. Faith should be the product of reason (1 Peter 3:15), not an enemy of it.  Christians have a vast and comprehensive list of reasons on which we can build our faith.  We have strong philosophical and scientific arguments that make sense of the beginning and design of the universe beyond what naturalism can explain.  We have historical evidence for the resurrection and the reliability of the Bible.  We have personal experiences ranging from miracles, drastic life change, and being filled with joy from our relationship with Him.  We have scientific confirmation of numerous specific claims in the Bible and despite many opportunities for science to disprove the Bible, it never has in any instance.  Not even once, regardless of the claims of ill-informed skeptics.


There are certainly what appear to be disagreements between the science and the Bible, but closer investigation reveals these to be the result of ambiguity or linguistic misunderstandings.  One instance that initially gave me trouble is that the Bible says rabbits chew the cud (Lev 11:6 & Deut 14:7), which means they regurgitate their food and eat it again.  Rabbits do not chew the cud; however, they do practice refection (they eat their poo).  The word used is usually translated as chew the cud, but a more accurate translation of the Hebrew is to say eat partially digested food, which is aligned with scientific observation.  


All truth is God’s truth and so the more we learn through science, the more we learn about God.  All biblical claims are either supported by science or are yet to be tested.  My view of science and religion should not be revolutionary, nor should it be scary.  Christians do not need to fear science.  We need to embrace it and do so fully.  Increasing our scientific literacy will lead to stronger faith, a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with God by helping us learn about Him, and it will help us fulfill our God given purpose of bringing the Gospel to non-believers, especially those who are scientifically oriented.


When there seems to be a disagreement between science and faith, I am not advocating that anyone just blindly choose one over the other.  I am advocating that everyone should take the time to fully understand both sides; to check for ambiguity, uncertainty, and sound reasoning.  Additionally we should also apply this type of scrutiny to information that supports ours views, not only when our views our challenged. So in theory, I will choose science over religion if there ever is a disagreement, but the science has to be sound and the contradiction must be unambiguous.  However, in practice, I am reasonably certain that there never will be a real, genuine disagreement between science and the Bible, so I will never have to make a choice between the two.  In fact, I cannot even think of a possible instance where there could be a clear contradiction between the two (beyond what is already in agreement).  Hopefully, I have convinced you to share my view.



Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.


“Test everything. Hold on to the good" (1 Thess. 5:21). The Bible calls for an exploration of the truth with eyes wide open and mind engaged. Permitting scientific and spiritual curiosity to work together sets people free to run toward, not away from, the complex why questions. – Hugh Ross (from, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is)




Footnotes:
1. God is the most reliable source; however, He chose to reveal Himself most thoroughly through the Bible, which we know is true mostly due to historical and philosophical support.  God could have made it so that nature even more clearly points to His glory or He could speak to us through large scale, miraculous, and indisputable ways, but for reasons which we can only guess at such as free will, the fall, or others, He decided to use more uncertain methods.


2.  You may get different results occasionally, especially in the social sciences; however, the differences will be attributable to slightly different conditions, which means it was not the same experiment.


3. The Bible was written by God, not men, and so it must be true (otherwise it would be written by men).  To paraphrase Norman Geisler, the Bible is literally true, but every word is not true literally.  The Bible can and does use figurative, poetic, metaphorical, or common language and still be true in the same way we use that type of language in our speech.  While it was written for people of that time, it was also written to transcend culture, so the principles apply even today and always will.


4. Religion is limited by its concept of God and logic (which is usually part of the concept of God, but is a factor regardless of recognizing it).  For instance, the Christian God is love, good, and logically.  These attributes are part of Him character and He is limited by them.  He can not act in a way that is opposed to His attributes.


5. If you haven’t investigated creationism and it seems kooky, I know, I’ve been there.  I thought it was completely irrational, unscientific, and anti-intellectual until I honestly and humbly took the time to try to understand it and think things through from that perspective.  If you want to know more about it,  Answers in Genesis has a plethora of great resources.




Thanks for reading.  If you have a question, comment, or disagreement, please write it in the comments.



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Monday, August 12, 2013

The End of Faith or Reason?

Dual Book Review.
The End of Faith by Sam Harris and
The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias (a response to Harris)


The End of Faith
This book is the most scathing attack on religion I have ever read.  Throughout the entire book, Harris berates all religious belief and religious people.  He does this in two ways: by pointing out all of the bad things throughout history that can be linked to religion, and by name calling at every possible opportunity.  He uses words like irrational, unsupported, ignorant, unreasonable, and just about any other related adjective to describe religious beliefs or people.  The repetitious put-downs alone might be enough to dissuade apathetic believers from their religion.  Overall, there are three very big problems with this book: little to no differentiation between different religions or intellectual vs. blind faith, poor reasoning (at least when discussing religion), and a lack of argumentation for what is true as opposed to what Sam Harris prefers.


The basic thesis of the book is that all religious faith is blind faith, and blind faith is bad (except for blind faith in Sam Harris, which is good).  Harris speaks as though he is a definitive source of knowledge and authority and should not be questioned.  His words make him sound as though he is a premier Bible scholar and a highly regarded source of knowledge  This is an attractive writing style, but is extremely comical when he is wrong.   One of many instances is on page 64 when he is talking about a Bible verse, Hebrews 11:1, he makes the statement, “Read in the right way, this passage....”  Unfortunately, Harris doesn’t read it in the right way, not even close, and butchers the verse to fit what he wants it to believe.  The verse says that faith is conviction of things not seen.  Harris decides “things not seen” means without evidence.  By this same reasoning, Harris does not believe in the wind or any other thing that cannot be or has not been seen.  A couple minutes of critical thinking or research would have revealed his error.  This is one of many similar examples that plague the entire book.


Throughout the whole book Harris suspends critical thinking and scholarly integrity as soon as he discusses religion.  Perhaps the draw of this book is that he does speak very intelligibly when he is discussing non-religious matters such as reason, perception, and even moral responsibility.  I even agree with him on many of his non-religious views.  However, when he switches back to religion, without exaggeration, nearly every one of his statements is absolutely ridiculous, especially when discussing Christianity.  These rapid shifts from reasonable to nonsensical literally made me laugh out loud more than once.


However, as bad as this book is, I think it will ultimately be good for Christianity.  This book does not actually criticize Christianity, it criticizes a straw man version of Christianity that Harris constructed using a combination of abuses throughout history and extremely poor Bible scholarship.  I don’t recall a single instance where Harris offers a real, genuine criticism of Christianity.  Which brings me to another major problem with this book, which is that there is a huge glaring hole in it.


The books seems like it should be a sequel because Harris never once attempts to construct an argument that suggests that Christianity or any other religion is false.  The entire book is a collection of examples of bad things attributed to religion, with no scientific or logical evidence that any religious belief is false or even that it is entirely responsible.  When blaming religion for atrocities, he simply cites a historical example of something bad and since it was committed by religious people he concludes that all religious belief is bad.  He doesn’t go back to the religious text to see if the believers were accurately representing their belief, discriminate between different types of beliefs and believers, nor does he mention why most religious people today also find those things wrong.  Had he done that, he would have found that all the terrible things done in the name of religion (at least Christianity) are abuses of doctrine, not logical conclusions of it.


In contrast, when discussing the millions of deaths attributable to atheists, he explains it away (very poorly) in a few lines and moves on.  He doesn't apply any level of scrutiny or deeper consideration to the matter.  Not only that, but he seems completely unaware of the logical conclusions of his views or any atheistic views.  He merely blames it on government instead of atheism, and irrationality instead of rationality (but doesn't explain why it is irrational in an atheistic framework).  He doesn't seem to understand that the crimes committed by Stalin and Mao, at el., are examples of the many logical out-workings out atheism.  When you have no reasonable foundation for what is considered right, then you can reasonably justify any behavior.


The result of a book that is so poorly reasoned can only be good for Christianity.  I think it will merely “separate the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-46) and will help purify Christianity in the West.  This book is way too poorly thought out to impact any serious Christian.  It will only be seductive to those who are already biased against religion or lack experience critically evaluating a powerful voice that speaks from a such a strong position of authority.  The entire book is scholastically and philosophically weak.  Harris’ words are without a logical foundation, lack any serious rational thought, and are therefore, empty and powerless.


The End of Reason
After reading Harris, I can see why Zacharias wrote The End of Reason.  On the one hand, I don’t think this book is necessary because the arguments in The End of Faith are so terrible.  However, since so many people were taken in by Harris’ book, I suppose it is good  that there is a response.  Ravi’s response is very good, but there is a somewhat big problem with it.  His response is very broad and it often goes much deeper into philosophy than Harris.  The result is that his arguments might be seen as misrepresenting Harris’ positions or may go over the heads of those who were taken captive by The End of Faith.


Overall, Ravi’s response is right on, but he deals with Harris’ arguments at a level that is so much deeper, sometimes it seems like he is discussing a different topic.  He responds to multiple arguments from Harris at one time as they all have the same issue and then discusses critiques those arguments at their philosophical roots. I this book might be more effective if he dealt with Harris’ arguments more specifically and at a more basic level (at least before going deeper into philosophy).  However, had he done this, Ravi would have had to have been even more selective with which arguments he refuted because there was just so much bad information and poor reasoning in The End of Faith that a comprehensive response would be much too long.  Ravi also critiques arguments from Harris’ other book, Letters to a Christian Nation, which I assume is very similar in content and style to The End of Faith.  I assume  Ravi’s responses to that book are just as good, but also just as deep as his responses to The End of Faith, but I cannot really offer an opinion until I read Letters to a Christian Nation.

I don’t want to necessarily recommend people not read The End of Faith because it is such a popular book for atheism; however, if you do decide to read it, I think you will find it was a huge waste of time.  If you liked it and thought it was worthwhile, then I would recommend following it up with The End of Reason, and not just read it, but go back and forth between the books and really evaluate both positions.  The End of Reason is a very good book, but I’m not sure it is a necessary read for people who could see through Harris’ poor reasoning or haven’t read either of  his first two books, although it still may be good to gain a basic understanding of Christian apologetics.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Journey to Christ

The more I understand about God and nature, the more I find this to be true.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
-Romans 1:18-23 (NASB)

I did not grow up in a Christian home.   For the first 8 years of my life, I lived in St. Paul, MN in very close proximity to religious relatives. During this time, we were a standard American Christian family, which is to say we weren't Christians at all.  We attended church somewhat regularly, claimed to be Christians, and tried to be somewhat good people (by our own definition of good), but we didn't actually follow Jesus or the teachings of the Bible.  We didn't pray together as a family, didn't give (time or money) sacrificially, didn't read the Bible, and didn't fellowship with other believers, which I see as some of the most basic things that come from loving God.  I didn't even know the difference between the Old and New Testaments, what the Gospel is, or who the apostles were until I was an adult, something I expect my kids will know before they start school.

When I was 8 years old, my family moved to the suburbs and away from extended family.  In about a year we pretty much stopped going to church altogether, even on Christmas and Easter.  My dad committed suicide a few weeks before my 10th birthday and by that time, our family had already stopped attending church.  I remember getting Christmas gifts from our church (because of my dad's death) and thinking it was really strange since we didn't go there very often and hadn't been for a long time.  We were strangers to them, so why would they do anything to help us?  I never went to confirmation classes, church groups, or attended any other religious activities that kids do when their parents are Christians.

For the next couple years, I still prayed before bed, but that was my only thought of God.  I didn't really know anything about God or Christianity other than Jesus died for our sins, something that I didn't even understand at the most basic level.  Around the age of 11, I was tired of being burdened by God (my only burden was a couple minutes of prayer every night), and so I gave Him an ultimatum.  I was playing a game with a friend and I told God that if He didn't help me win, I would stop believing in Him, which is what I did when I lost.  Yes, this was childish, but I was 11 and was already questioning the existence of God and looking for a reason not to believe.  As far as I was concerned, I was self-reliant and God was not necessary for me.

For the next few years after I explicitly rejected God, I was a terror.  I was rebellious and extremely selfish.  I stole whatever I wanted, constantly fought with my family, smoked pot and was on the verge of doing much more serious drugs like my friends did, I completely disregarded the rights and feelings of other people, and even had serious homicidal thoughts.  I almost perfectly fit the criteria for a psychopath.  I was awful and no fun to live with and my parents  even considered sending me to live with relatives.  The only thing that kept me from going completely off the deep end was hockey.  All I ever wanted to do was play hockey and if that was taken away for any reason (injury, punishment, finances, etc), I had explicit plans to act on all the selfish thoughts and ideas that I was just barely restraining from.

When I was about 14 or 15, I had somewhat of an epiphany or revelation from God.  It wasn't a grand or miraculous moment, but a peaceful calm and overwhelming sense of God. Without a seriously rational explanation, which is and was out of character for me, I just felt as though the beauty and complex design in the world were clearly the work of God.  I had a rudimentary understanding of evolution and knew that it offered an explanation for all we see in world, but I still felt like something was missing.  On some random, barely memorable day in my late adolescence, I renewed my belief in God and started praying again.

I defaulted to Christianity for a couple reasons.  Growing up in America, Christianity was all I really knew about and thanks to my grandma and one of my aunts, it wasn't completely strange or foreign to me.  I tried to start reading the Bible but didn't get past the first few pages.  That probably lasted a week and after that, I continued to pray each night before bed, but that was about it.  I did change personally though.  I instantly and naturally changed from having severe psychopathic tendencies to being a relatively normal and responsible teenager.  I mostly stopped fighting with my family, started controlling my temper, and treating people with respect; however, I was still concerned with little more than my own well-being.

Unfortunately, my new belief in God was unbounded and largely meaningless.  Although I now acknowledged God and tried to be a not so bad person, I never even thought to consider religion in terms of truth.  I was completely brainwashed into a relative way of thinking.  I thought sex was ok as long as it was between consenting parties and figured that the Bible wasn't all that clear on it anyway (I figured this without even reading the Bible).  I mostly stopped manipulating and abusing people, but I still bent or broke rules when I thought I could get away with it or if there was no victim.  I was a good person as far as worldly standards go, but I still acted in ways that were harmful to myself and others.  I still got drunk, swore like a sailor, and watched pornography, just to name a few of the things I did as a "good person."  I (incorrectly) recognized the relative nature of truth and morality and I was perfectly content to continue making my own rules of moral behavior.

From the time of this recognition of God until I actually became a follower of Jesus (around the age of 23), I was once again in the stage of being a standard American Christian.  I tried to be a good person because I figured that is what God wanted, but if I failed or wanted to do something badly enough, I could easily rationalize why it was ok.  I had no relationship with God, nor did I submit any part of my life to Christ.  And why would I?  I saw lots of other "Christians" acting the same way as me or worse.  I believed Christianity was just one of many ways to God and that I could believe and behave however I wanted and still be a "good person."  In fact, I was under the impression that there were contradictions in the Bible (there aren't any) just to teach humanity that there is no correct religion and we should not be so arrogant about our beliefs.  To sum up this stage, I believed God existed in some form, but I was still keen on doing life my own way.  I was like the seed that fell by the roadside and is snatched away before it can grow (Mark 4:1-20).  I was a deist, not a Christian.

The next major change in my journey was when I was about 20 years old.  It was my last year of junior hockey before I went to college.  There were two people who lived the Christian life and made me see what it can really be.  One was my coach and the other was my future wife.  I didn't really even talk to them about religion, but I just sensed that they were Christians by the way that they lived and how they spoke.  Obviously I have since discussed religion at length with my wife, but it wasn't something we really discussed before we dated.  This encouraged me to take my moral development to a higher level, but my religious development was still stagnant and stuck in a relativistic way of thinking.

Going in to college I knew that I wanted to study psychology because I had a deep interest in understanding people.  Along with that came a peripheral interest in religion and how it influences people.  That interest went largely unexplored for my first two years of college.  My junior year I took a psychology of religion class and the assignments for that class served as a catalyst to push my interest in religion to full force and spur my religious development.  I discovered that there were a lot of smart people using their intellect to discuss religious ideas, from all perspectives.  I basically realized that I didn't know what I believed or why.  I figured I needed to find out what was true and if God really does exist, then it only makes logical sense to make God the most important thing in my life.

I started frantically reading Christian apologetic books.  I heard of a book where the author started writing as an atheist in order to prove Christianity is wrong and irrational, but ended up becoming a Christian based on the evidence (The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel).  That was the first religious book I read and then moved on to two of his other books, The Case for Faith and The Case for a Creator (The Case for the Real Jesus is probably the best of the bunch but it was not yet written at this time).  I also watched The Truth Project and started reading the Bible. Although my initial search for truth was in the context of Christianity, I was not necessarily tied to it.  I read The God Delusion to see if atheism had anything to offer and even at that time, with almost no knowledge of Christianity or truth, I was able to see the poor reasoning behind Dawkins' rejection of Christianity and his subsequent atheism.  I also investigated the claims of other religions to see if they might hold the truth.

What was important for me at this stage is that this was the first time I had ever seen God presented in terms of truth.  Before taking the psychology of religion class and doing my own investigating, I thought religious thinkers were uneducated morons and that religious beliefs were merely in the realm of opinion.  I didn't see this as bad, but just thought religion was something people did out of habit or comfort and anyone who put too much stock in it had taken it too far.  I was amazed to find out that people, and especially very smart people, genuinely thought that their religious beliefs were true AND had they had evidence to support their beliefs.  This astounded me and I wanted to know more.  I had an immediate and passionate desire to seek out and find what is true.  I wasn't necessarily concerned with what was Christian, but with what was and is true (however, I have found that what is Christian is true).

I continued searching deeper for truth, mostly in Christianity and atheism, but I also investigated many other religions or worldviews and have gained a working knowledge of them.  Despite a more limited understanding of each one, I do feel as though I have honestly considered Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Confucianism, paganism, pantheism, deism, agnosticism, and various other worldviews.  What I have found with these other religions or systems of belief is that they simply are not true and cannot be true.  When applying tests of truth to these other systems of belief, they all fail and fall far short of the consistency, accuracy, and comprehensiveness of Christianity.  Their foundational claims are logically or empirically contradictory and/or unsubstantiated.  Although they are all comprised of pieces of truth, for the reasons just mentioned, none of the other beliefs can be true in their entirety.

My journey to Christ was a long and slow one, marked by occasional jumps in my moral development, but being a "good" person doesn't make someone a Christian.  It wasn't until I intellectually investigated truth, which led me to Christianity and a meaningful difference in my life.  Prior to becoming a genuine Christian, I had directly and indirectly experienced a small amount of God's love.  He revealed Himself to me through His creation and his followers and He drastically changed who I was.  But as I've said, it wasn't until I had seen the truth of God that I began to believe and experience deeper life change and a true relationship with Him.

Jesus said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6, NASB) and for me, I think I only needed to open my eyes and see that truth.  That is all I've ever been concerned with, even before I was able to articulate it.  I've always been of the mind that if something is true, why would I not believe it?; however, I recognize that not all people are the same way. I expect some people may need to only experience God's love, while some may need to see truth and love.  Hopefully there is someone in your life who will show you God's love, but if not, please know that it does exist.  As I think my story shows, just because someone claims to be a Christian does not mean they actually are (Matthew 7:22).  There are a lot of genuine Christians sacrificing comforts, desires, and even their lives to serve others.  Unfortunately, there aren't enough of them.  We can also feel God's love directly from Him by having a relationship with Him.

God's truth is evident in His creation, but unless you look at it through an unbiased lens, you will always be able to rational or make excuses for the evidence that you see.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).  I think this means different things to people at different stages of their spiritual development.  If you are not a believer or a Christian, I think it means to simply be open to the idea of God and to honestly search for Truth.  Perhaps it even means talking (praying) to God to ask for discernment and for Him to reveal Himself to you.  Start investigating all beliefs about religion (including atheism) to find out what is true.  Read and apply tests of truth to the Bible, but also the Koran, the Vedas, other religious scripture, and philosophy.   If you are rebellious by nature like I am, you may not like what you find because if you search honestly for truth, I feel confident that your search will lead you to Christ.

Once you have accepted the truth of Christianity (or if you already have), then drawing near to God takes on a slightly different meaning.  It still means searching for truth, but more so in the correct context of who He is (as opposed to trying to find out who He is) by studying and understanding His word.  It means taking steps of faith and actually living out your realization of His truth and showing love to others.  Ultimately, being a Christian is about having a relationship with Christ and submitting to Him. What does this mean?  It means the same as any other loving relationship that you have.  It means you talk to Him.  Tell Him about your fears and worries.  Thank Him for the blessings He has given to you.  Tell Him when your disappointed, even if it is with Him.  Praise Him for His greatness.  Learn about who He is and act in ways that bring Him glory.

If you haven't already started a journey towards truth, it's never too late and it's never too early.  There is nothing more important in this life.  If you already identify as a Christian, honestly and humbly "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-- unless indeed you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5, NASB).  Test yourself by reading scripture, specifically 1 John and Galatians 5 (especially verses 22&23).  If you're not truly living the life Christ called us to live, then you need to repent and turn back to God.

That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Romans 10:9-10 (NASB)