This is a further bit of personal info, but it’s something that is a big part of my life – even bigger than motorbikes! – so is something I want to share with you. At this point I suppose I should put up one of those warnings like they do on TV; “We wish to advise that the following programme contains….”. So okay, here we go. “I wish to advise that the following article contains Christian themes.” So there you are; you can click “Back” and go no further if you wish. But I hope you do read on. Now, I don’t want to try and preach to you, or force my beliefs upon you; I just want to share this with you, and then you can do with it what you will. And there’s a kind of connection to bikes, so there you go, it’s got to be worth a read hasn’t it? If you’ve checked out the links at the bottom of the “Who Am I?” page, you’ll see that one is to the Christian Motorcyclists Association; of which I say I am a member. (The photo on the left is of their patch, on my jacket sleeve). From that you might assume that I’m a Christian; and you’d be right, I am. Now, this might be breaking one of those basic rules; you know, if you’re an actor they say, “Don’t work with children or animals”, and if you’re in a group of friends, “Don’t talk about politics or religion.” But, as I said, it’s something that’s important to me, and something I just want to share with you. To not share this, to me, would be a bit like having a great product and not telling you about it. Like having the AirHawk seat, for example, and enjoying the benefits of that, but not telling you about it. I’ve got to tell you about the seat (which I’ve done), because it works so brilliantly, it’s used by so many people, and it’s been a big help to me. You don’t have to buy one yourself, but I do want you to know about it. Same sort of thing with this. Now, at this point, you might already be forming an opinion. Perhaps you are a Christian also (I know some readers are). If so, you’ll know what I’m on about. Or perhaps you have different beliefs. That’s fine; as I said, I’m not trying to force my beliefs on anyone. Perhaps you’ve had a bad experience with a church, or someone from a church; that can turn you right off! But if you have, can I suggest that experiences like that are a reflection on the particular church or person, rather than on the basic principles of Christianity itself. It’s a bit like people outside motorcycling forming an opinion on all who ride bikes, based on the behaviour of a few. Hey, let me tell you, I’ve been to churches that’d turn me off! And I’ve met people in churches who’d do the same! But it’s not the building or even the people in it that draws me along each Sunday; I go because I believe in what Christianity is all about. The people are mostly great too, but you know what they say, in every barrel there’s always a few rotten apples. Doesn’t wreck the barrel or spoil the rest of the fruit though. I said I wasn’t going to preach, so perhaps I can best explain what I believe by answering a few common questions, or challenges. People who go to church are just “goody-two-shoe” types who think they’re better than anybody else, aren't they? Again, sadly, you may have met people who act like that, but really that’s just not the case! Nobody is perfect; and we all know that. The Bible makes this very clear too. So people who go to church certainly don’t do so because they think they’re perfect; in fact they should know better than most just how not-perfect they are! A former minister at the church I go to used to have a brief-case with this message written on it: “Bad people go to Heaven; Good people go to Hell.” People used to think he’d made a major typo, but he assured them he hadn’t. His point was that people who think they’re perfectly good and deserve to go straight to Heaven will get a rude shock – they aren’t! (For a start, humility is one thing lacking!). But those who realise that they are less than perfect, that they’re not instant-qualifiers for a Godly pat-on-the-back and automatic entry into Heaven, if they turn to God and seek forgiveness, Heaven is where they’ll end up. The Bible makes this point all the way through. Actually, the Bible is full of non-perfect people. Take this bloke for example. He’s wandering around on the roof of his palace one night (yes, he's a king), and sees a good-looking sort down below. She was bathing, so probably naked, and not expecting someone to be up on the roof perving at her. The king sends someone to check out who she is, and bring her to him. (Being a king he could do that sort of thing!). The woman is brought in, and pretty soon there’s a bit of royal jousting going on – if you know what I mean. Oops, she ends up pregnant! She’s married too, but hubby is a soldier and he’s off somewhere in battle. So the king conspires to have him killed. Hmm, so that’s adultery and murder; a nice type! Being a king he gets away with it, right? Well, no, he is punished; and made to realise how wrong his actions have been. God is hardly pleased about that sort of thing! But, admitting how badly he has acted, and resolving not to abuse his power like that again, he’s also forgiven by God, and goes on to be one of the greatest kings ever, and a real hero of the Bible. (For the good things he did, not for that episode!). He was King David. So he was far from perfect! And so are we! But he was forgiven; and we can be also. After all, if someone like that can be turned around, then there’s certainly hope for us!
How do you know that God exists?
This is a complex question, because you can’t prove the existence of God by physical evidence – you can’t say, “Look, there he is over there!” So you’ve got to dig a bit deeper. (And consequently the answer is going take a bit longer! Sorry, but stick with it). We can gain evidence for the existence of God from three things; experience, logic, and history. A belief in God can come from just one of these, or a combination of them. I’ll try to have a look at all three. Firstly, Experience. A friend of mine grew up believing there was no God. A well-educated man, he used to say, “One day science will prove that God doesn’t exist!” But then an event occurred in his life that convinced him that indeed there was a God. And that’s how it can be for many people, personal experience, for them, proves the existence of God. Through personal experience you can reach a point where you acknowledge the existence of a power beyond the physical; a power that you acknowledge as God. For me, I have always believed in God. I was brought up in a church-going family, but drifted away during my late teens. I still believed in God though. And things happened in my life, especially during my late 20s (while I was still not going to church), that confirmed, for me, the existence of God. I’ll try to explain the sort of thing I’m talking about. You’ll have heard people say, “It was meant to be.” Maybe you’ve even used that saying yourself. It usually refers to a series of circumstances that seems to indicate the inevitability of a certain occurrence; or even the existence of a power beyond our immediate comprehension that dictates that the particular occurrence actually happens. To Christians, this “power” is God. And they refer to this sort of thing as, “Divine intervention”, or “God at work in the lives of people.” I’ve had this experience on many occasions; including when buying bikes. (I told you there was a connection to bikes!). I believe that God is active in my life, and leads me in certain directions. I won’t go into all the details here, because personal experience is just that – it’s personal, and has most relevance to the person it’s happening to. Suffice to say that I’ve had the experience of heading down a certain path and doors keep opening, leading me further; or alternatively, keep shutting, indicating I was going the wrong way. Some people might say, “It was meant to be”, or “It wasn’t meant to be”; and I’d agree – but I’d add that it was God who was deciding what was or wasn’t meant to be. (I said I wouldn’t go into detail, but if you’d like to know the stories I’ll gladly tell you, of course!). I said that personal experience is personal, it has most relevance to the people it’s happening to. And people’s experiences vary greatly, leading to different interpretations of the meaning or reason behind them. So let’s look a bit further. This brings us to what I’ve broadly termed Logic. There are probably as many books written arguing against the existence of God as there are books arguing for the existence of God. Of the many that argue for the existence of God, one called “The Reason For God – Belief In A Skeptical Age” by Tim Keller presents some strong, logical arguments. Another one is “Evidence That Demands A Verdict” by Josh McDowell. That’s an interesting one too, because it was written by a guy who was highly skeptical of the Christian faith before conducting many interviews (which this book is essentially a record of) in an attempt to get to the truth. Perhaps the best-known Christian writer is C.S. Lewis. (That's him on the left). His writings are interesting because, again, they come from a man who was at one time highly skeptical of God. He was born into a church-going family but during his teens renounced his Christian belief and became an Atheist. However, after further investigation and a lot of thought and head-scratching, he subsequently returned to his Christian belief. (The story of his life in general is quite fascinating. Click here to go to a Wikipedia article with lots of info and links). He came to this conclusion largely through the application of logic. Going back a lot further, Thomas Aquinas was a famous philosopher who lived back in the 1200s. His “Theory Of Causation” argued that, again thinking logically, everything had to have a cause. A minister at the church I go to (who also rides a bike!) explains it like this. “My bike only goes because the engine is running. The engine only starts because the starter-motor turns it. The starter-motor only goes because the battery powers it. And the battery only powers it because I (in a godlike way) will it and make it happen.” Aquinas argued God as “The initial cause standing behind all other.” His writings (or the principles of them) are easy to find on the internet if you want to read further. (Just do a Google search for his name). Similar to this is the argument of “Intelligent Design.” The motorcyclist minister I mentioned puts it like this. “The design of a motorbike indicates that there must be a designer. ‘Creation from (or by) nothing’ and ‘macro-evolution’ is as likely as a cyclone blowing through a junkyard and assembling a Ducati Superbike out of the parts. Our existence and function calls for a designer.” Okay, let’s have a quick look at History. History argues for the existence of God too. For example, the existence of Jesus is documented substantially more than that of Julius Caesar. No-one seems to doubt the existence of Caesar, so the existence of Jesus is pretty hard to deny. (Of the many ancient writers who mention Jesus, Josephus is probably the best-known). I happen to be writing this just before Christmas; a time when the whole nation stops for a holiday that was established to celebrate the birth of Jesus. So, if there was this man Jesus, and history provides a lot of evidence that there was, and he claimed to be God, then, to quote C.S. Lewis, this suggests that, “He is either Lord, Liar, or Lunatic.” As Lewis says, it’s pretty hard to argue for the latter two.
How do you know there is life after death?
A lot of people don’t bother with religion because they don’t believe in life after death. When you’re dead, you’re dead. That’s it, game over, kaput! And if that were true, there’d be little point in religion would there! Even the apostle Paul, who wrote a fair slice of the New Testament in the Bible, agrees with this. He says that if we only have hope for this life, then we’d be a pitiful bunch! But I believe there is life after death. Why? Well, the main reason I believe is because the Bible says there is; and it has a lot to say on the matter too. Okay, that’s a “circular argument” I suppose; but have a look at the next question to see why I believe in the Bible. And if you do believe the Bible, then you’ll believe in life after death. The most obvious confirmation of life after death is that Jesus died and came back again. Some people have tried to dismiss this as a fake; he didn’t die, he just hid for a while or something. But if you think about it, a stunt like that would be pretty hard, if not downright impossible, to pull off. There have been books written on this. One I have is “The Day Death Died” by Michael Green. Josh McDowell, who I mentioned above, has another book “More Than A Carpenter” that also addresses this issue (and others). But there is reason to believe that there’s life beyond the grave even apart from what the Bible (and other, non-Christian religions too, for that matter) have to say. Take a look at what’s known as the “spiritual world”. Now, let me say that I’m very much a skeptic when it comes to this sort of thing. Seances, for example, I reckon are mostly a lot of bunk! You know the sort of thing, some old lady in a funny hat gets everyone to sit around a table holding hands and then calls up someone’s long-departed Aunt Ethel, who responds by knocking on the table. Yeah, it’s Mrs Funny-hat kicking the table with her foot! (“Are you there, Aunt Ethel?” Kick, kick!). Then there are people who have had near-death experiences. Mostly they see a vision of a wonderfully peaceful place, like a sunny garden bathed in tranquility. Mostly wishful thinking, I reckon! And then there are the stories about ghosts, and things that go bump in the night. Yep, mostly just the wind, or someone forgetting to put the cat outside. But if you look at enough of these happenings I think you get to a point where some can’t be discounted. You’ll notice that in describing my skepticism I used the word “mostly”. I’ve known people who have had experiences that can’t really be discounted in the ways I’ve indicated. Maybe you’ve heard similar things? Stories that make you think that there is something out there; something beyond our comprehension; something beyond the grave even. So, while my main reason for believing in life after death is that I believe the Bible and what it says, I’ve seen enough evidence from sources outside Christianity to reinforce my belief – despite my natural skepticism!
How do you know the Bible is true? It’s just a load of fairy-tales isn’t it?
If you believe in God, then you’ve got to believe the book about him; the book he inspired people to write. Also, if the Bible wasn’t true, would it have lasted so long? I don't think so. Surely if it was just “fairy-tales” someone would‘ve successfully proven this by now! Naturally, there are people who argue that it is all a bunch of lies, but enough people still believe for it to continue to be the most-read book ever written. And, I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe that a bunch of lies purporting to be truth could exist for a couple of thousand years (and longer in the case of the Old Testament) without being irrefutably shown up as a fake. Not convincing enough? Well, if you look at the historical evidence for the truth of the Bible, you’ll find it has a lot going for it. For example, there are more original manuscripts for the Bible than for many other historical events and people that we unquestioningly accept as fact. And non-Christian writings confirm many of the events and people of the Bible too. Archeology has also discovered many things described in the Bible. And as further indication of its truth, as I mentioned earlier, some people who have set out to gather evidence to prove the Bible is a fake have ended up being convinced of its authenticity! Another couple of books I can recommend are “Reasons skeptics Should Consider Christianity” by Josh McDowell (again!) and Don Stewart, and “Is The New Testament History?” by Paul Barnett. They explain all this stuff a lot better than I can!
If God is a loving God, why is there so much evil in the world, and why do so many bad things happen?
Well, life is not puppetry. We aren’t puppets with some benevolent God sitting up in Heaven pulling the strings. We are able to make choices in life. I did say that God can be active in our lives and lead us in certain directions, but he doesn’t force our decisions; there’s no arm-twisting going on here! And, as we see happening every day, when people make all the decisions, sooner or later someone gets hurt! It’s a fact of life that bad things happen to good people. That’s because we live in an imperfect world. And that’s the way it’s always been; because God allows us to live the way we want to. For now. Eventually though, God will bring it all to an end, creating, as the Bible says, “A new Heaven and a new Earth” which will be perfect. But for the moment God is delaying; giving all of us imperfect people time to stop making wrong choices and turn to him.
Aren’t all religions basically the same?
No. There are big differences between some, and smaller differences between others. When we look at the whole spectrum of religions, some of them don’t acknowledge God, but worship Buddha, or Mohammed etc. So they are obviously very different. Many others, (Islam, for example), acknowledge God, but have different views on Jesus. So again, very substantial differences. To say all religions are the same is a bit like saying all roads are the same. They might have a similar appearance, but they lead in very different directions!
If I live a good life, I’ll go to Heaven won’t I?
Sadly, no. God has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to who gets into Heaven. The more theological way of putting it is that God is perfection and can only abide with perfection. No matter how good we are, we aren’t perfect; so we aren’t acceptable to God. And it doesn’t matter how many good deeds we do; we can’t earn our way to Heaven. Many people seem to think that doing good deeds will earn some “brownie-points” and that God will kind of weigh everything up – and if the good out-weighs the bad we’ll be okay. But it doesn’t work that way. That might seem unfair, but if you think about it, that system wouldn’t really work. How would you weigh up good and bad? How many good deeds would you have to do to make up for all the bad things you’ve done? Think about it. Just add up even all those little things – the stuff from work that found its way into your pocket, the bad things you said in anger about someone, all those other times you’ve said things you shouldn’t have, the packet of Smarties you stole from the corner-shop when you were a kid….. and on it goes. Even if we’ve lived very good lives, if we added up all the things we know we’ve done wrong, it’d still be a fair old list! So how many good deeds would we need to do? And how would the balance work? Does helping a little old lady across the road weigh the same as stealing the packet of Smarties? Or would you have to help two little old ladies to cancel that one? To relate it to bikes, imagine you had a flat front tyre. You could say, “Well, if I pump the back tyre up to twice the normal pressure, that’d be okay, because on average they’d both be right!” Okay, that’s being silly, but really it’s the same kind of principle. The good things we do can’t eliminate the bad things we’ve done; just like the extra air in the back tyre can’t compensate for the lack of air in the front one. So, you might think that Heaven is looking like a pretty lonely place right now! But the message of Christianity is that Jesus was sent to pay the price for our failure to be perfect. Accepting Jesus means that God looks at us just as if we haven’t done anything wrong. “Born again” is a hackneyed old phrase, but that’s what has to happen. Basically it means beginning a new life; not living the same old life and trying to outweigh the bad stuff with good stuff, but becoming a new person – a person who still fails and falls short of what we should be (because we’re still human and still not perfect), but who has a new relationship with God. The Bible puts this into perspective when it tells us not to sin, then straight after, (knowing that we always will!) says that if we do, we have Jesus who will speak to God on our behalf because he has taken the punishment for all the wrong stuff we’ve done. But we can’t just show up on the door-step and say, “Jesus took all the punishment for what I did wrong didn’t he, so I can come in, can’t I?” That’s where that “Born again” bit comes in. I mentioned the word “relationship” above; and that’s the key to this – we have to enter into a relationship with Jesus to gain the benefit of what he’s done for us. That only seems fair, really, doesn’t it? Well, that ended up being a lot longer than I intended! But, having raised the questions, I wanted to try to give you reasonable answers. The main thing I wanted though was to share with you these things that I believe in, because they’re important to me. And I hope they might end up being important to you. But that’s it; as I said at the top, I’m not going to try to force my beliefs upon anyone. But if you would like to ask any questions, or discuss this further, then I would be very happy to do so.
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