Most people seem to spend more time planning for a vacation than considering what if anything is after their lives here. Have you really thought about why you believe what you believe about what happens after this life, and have you ever really thought about what will happen to you after this life?
If you have thought about either of these questions, have you really investigated the reasons you are basing your beliefs on? Many people have beliefs they've accepted without ever really checking to see if there are evidences supporting those beliefs. Or if they do have evidences for those beliefs, many have never really checked out the validity of those evidences. Remember Pascal's quote from the home page:
"People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”
I remember when I was in high school I didn't give much thought to the reasons for the beliefs I had, including the beliefs that had to do with what happens after we die. At that time I believed in God, and that God would weigh my good works against my bad, and if my good outweighed my bad, I would get to go to heaven. Kind of like Grading on the Curve. I accepted many of the beliefs I held because I was raised with them. While in high school, I started to think about the beliefs I had and the reasons I believed them. I started to wonder what the reasons were to justify what I believed. I wanted the reasons for my beliefs to be more than just because I was raised with them.
Since high school, I've found evidences which have changed some of my beliefs, especially my belief about going to heaven and my good outweighing my bad. I've also found evidences which have confirmed other beliefs. Maybe you have started to think about what you believe, and why. If you haven’t yet started to think about the reasons for the beliefs you hold, and maybe you haven’t even thought about what you believe, I hope the information in this guide will motivate you to consider what you believe, to really consider the evidences you have for the beliefs you have, and to consider the implications of those beliefs.
You may be wondering, “Why does it really matter what we believe?” That is a great question! The reason why what we believe matters, why it is so important, is because most of us live consistent with what we really believe, even if we don’t consciously think about the connection between our beliefs and our actions. Beliefs - or ideas - have consequences, and the consequences of some beliefs can last for all eternity.
If the teachings of Christianity about what happens after this life are true, then all of us will spend eternity in one of two places. If the teachings of Christianity are wrong, there are a huge number of people with a very false hope. Again, if there is even the slightest possibility that all of us will go to one of two eternal destinations, isn't it important to consider the evidence and what that evidence proves?
One of the major differences between now and when I was in high school is the Internet. The Internet didn't exist until about 15 years after I graduated from high school. During my high school years, the only place I could go for information was the school or local library, and that was five miles away. How much more information is available now through the Internet then what is available in most city libraries? The existence of Wikipedia has all but eliminated the need or relevance of print or CD encyclopedias. Think about it. When was the last time you accessed a print or CD encyclopedia, if ever (if you are a student), and when was the last time you Google'd or asked Siri the answer to a question? See what I mean? Now, try to imagine not having the Internet till 15 years from now. Where would you go to do research and to find answers to the questions you might have?
There are vast numbers of resources available through the Internet. As such, you don’t have the limitation of only having access to one school or city library as I once did. With the information and links in this guide you don’t need to go to the library, leave your house, or even your tablet or smart phone. You now have the ability to access so much more information than was available to me when I was in high school! The quantity of information is far greater than I realized would ever be available, and so easy to access too. The Internet truly is amazing!
With access to so much information though I see two potential problems. The first, is that with this amazing access to so much information, it can sometimes be difficult to find specific answers to specific questions. I saying I've heard that really illustrates this is:
“It’s like trying to take a drink of water from a fire hose”
This is equally true whether the questions are important or not so important. If you've not thought about some of the important questions of life or are not quite sure what some of them are, here are a few to get you thinking:
Why am I here? What is the purpose of life?
Where did I come from? Where am I going when I die?
Is there a God? Is there life after death?
Have you ever thought about any of these questions? Again, most people spend more time thinking about their family vacation destination than they spend thinking about their eternal destination.
The second problem is, how do we know that the information we find is accurate? How can we be sure the information is true? Many people seem to believe that simply finding information on a website is proof that the information is true. This is confirmed by what some had heard was a new feature of the iPhone 6 when it was first released. This "new" feature was claimed to allow the iPhone 6 to be quick charged in a microwave in just 90 seconds. Many new owners didn’t realize the claim was a hoax, because the website where they found the claim looked so professional. These new iPhone owners placed their phones in a microwave to charge the phones. Instead of a charged phone, they ended up destroying their phones. The following is one article bringing attention to this hoax:
This and the following are some of the reasons why I created this evidences guide. I want to show why it’s important to consider these important questions of life, present answers to these questions, and provide verifiable evidences for the truths of the answers presented. Answers which go beyond a reasonable doubt.
Through this guide, I will show evidences for the existence of God, the accuracy and reliability of the Bible, and the significance of the central person of the Bible - Jesus Christ.
It is my intention that if you already believe that Christianity is true, the evidences in this guide will provide you with greater confidence in your beliefs and in the truths of Christianity. If you don’t currently believe that Christianity is true, I hope the evidences in this guide will correct some misunderstandings you have about Christianity, and also answer some of the questions or challenges you may have had with Christianity. I want you to have legitimate reasons to seriously consider the truths of Christianity as well as the implications of these truths.
When Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason www.str.org speaks to a non-Christian audience, he tells them that he is not there to try to convert them. He tells them that he wants to “Put a stone in their shoe”, by giving them something to think about. I hope the information in this guide gives you something to think about too. I’m confident that after you’ve read through the information, you will find that Christianity is really worth considering.
There is a lot of incorrect information about Christianity, and there are many who believe this incorrect information as truth. Much like the iPhone 6, many have heard information and they believed it without checking it out. It is understandable how non-Christians would hold incorrect beliefs about Christianity and why they would continue to do so. However, I was surprised when I found that many Christians also believe incorrect information about Christianity. With the information in this guide, I hope to correct misinformation about the foundational teachings of Christianity that you may have come to believe as truth, and also save you from needing to spend many long hours researching answers to some of the important questions of life as I have done. I encourage you to verify the Biblical passages and the information I’ve included here, so that you can be confident I have included everything accurately and in its correct context.
The First section is a Self-Test to see how good you are. Most of us typically see ourselves as good, because we compare ourselves to the world around us. It isn’t difficult go get the impression that we’re pretty good by evaluating ourselves this way. But are we really as good as we think we are? This Self-Test will show us how good we really are when using a standard almost everyone is familiar with, but a standard which most don’t normally use or think about.
The Second section looks at Worldviews. Worldviews are how we view the world around us. They are the framework into which we put the evidences we find, to validate the beliefs we hold and what we believe is true and important. This second section will also show how a worldview can often bring us to false conclusions as to what is actually true. Most of us don’t realize how often we shape the evidences we find to fit our worldview rather than have our worldview shaped by the evidences. This is because we are quite often more committed to our worldview, our belief about what is true, then we are about what is actually true.
The misinformation believed about Christianity is a good example of this. The misinformation that people have come to believe as true often supports their beliefs, and since they like their beliefs the way they are, they aren’t motivated to correct the misinformation they have accepted as true. If you’ve not heard the term worldview before, this 2nd section will cover worldviews and show why they are so influential to our determining what we believe as true.
The Third section contains a number of the major claims and statements which challenge the truths of Christianity. An example of one of these claims is, “There is no Truth”. The underlying message by those who say this is that we can’t really know that anything is true with any confidence. The statement infers that if you can’t know anything is true, then you can’t know Christianity is true. Statements like these can seem very challenging when we don’t know the inconsistency in the statement or question. As you will see though, there are problems with these statements which become obvious once the statements are examined. The statements actually work against themselves rather than against Christianity. This third section answers many of these challenging statements and claims.
The Fourth section is called Apologetics. Apologetics means To provide a reason for. When we have a belief, apologetics is the reason behind the belief, the why behind the what. This section shows why it is important to not only know that evidences exist for what we believe, but to also know some of the actual evidences as well.
The Fifth section contains many of the actual evidences for the claims of Christianity. There are some who say that Christianity is built on blind faith. Essentially, they are saying that those who believe the claims of Christianity believe them only because they want to believe them, not because there is any real evidence to believe them. Some will also say that Christianity contradicts science. IPhone 6 Alert! This fifth section shows actual evidences supporting the major claims of Christianity, and also how Christianity is actually verified extremely well by science, and is very compatible with science.
I should clarify the usages of the word Faith in this guide. Many people have come to believe that having faith is the same as having a hope in what we know isn’t true. They believe that to have faith means to have no evidence, and that the person who has faith is exercising wishful thinking. This isn’t the Biblical definition of the word faith.
Faith, as a verb in the Bible and in this guide is having confidence in what you have good reason to believe. As an example, if you have faith in what you expect a good friend to do, it is because the friend has proven themselves faithful in the past. Similarly, a Christian’s faith in what will happen in the future is based upon God’s faithfulness in the past. The following quotes illustrate this Biblical meaning. Lee Strobel states, "Faith is a step in the direction the evidence already points." And J.P. Moreland states, “Faith is trust in what we have reason to believe.” The other meaning for the usage of faith is as a noun, to indicate a person’s religious belief as in when we say, “They are of the ______ faith”, however this is not the specific meaning as the term is used in this guide.
There is a saying that goes,
"The heart cannot accept for long what the mind rejects."
Evidences give confidence to the mind and ultimately to the heart. No wonder Jesus responded as indicated in Matthew 22:27, when He was asked “Which was the most important commandment?
Matthew 22:27 And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
When a Christian makes the statement
“you just need to have faith,”
they are implying that having faith is all that is necessary to have confidence. This also perpetuates the belief by some non-Christians that Christianity is not a belief based upon evidences. They believe that Christians have to turn off their reasoning and thinking faculties to truly accept the claims of Christianity. Does this seem consistent with the part of Jesus’ statement, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind."? We bring glory to God when we use the intellectual tools he has given us, so that we can determine what the truth is and what it is not.
The challenges made against Christianity can be answered effectively. Many of the evidences in this fifth section will be evidences you've possibly not seen before.
If you are a Christian, once you have read through these first five sections you should have a solid foundation for the truths of Christianity. If you don’t currently accept Christianity as true, I hope the presentation of the evidences in this guide show Christianity as being worthy of your serious consideration.
Whatever beliefs you hold, you should have solid evidences for believing them. As to the significance of evidences, whether you are Christian or not, do you really want to believe something not supported by the evidence? And especially concerning the beliefs of what happens after this life do you really want to base your eternal destination on a belief which is not supported and possibly proved wrong by the evidence?
The Sixth section looks into whether Christianity has benefitted the world or not. Many believe it has not. Can an argument be made for the positive influence of Christianity on the world? And if Christianity has been beneficial to the world, would this be enough of a reason to consider its possible truth? This section will cover this and answer many of the challenges to Christianity being an actual benefit to the world.
The Seventh section will give you a few ideas as to how to get others to seriously think about their belief as to how good they are and where they could spend eternity. Many Christians avoid bringing up the subject of life after death with others. This is usually because they feel they will make the person they are talking with feel uncomfortable. Or they think that they themselves will come off looking narrow-minded and foolish. The seventh section shows very effective ways to bring up the subject of existence after this life with family, friends, and others. And these methods shouldn’t make either you or the person you’re talking with feel awkward. You will see tools in this section which will give you confidence in motivating those you share with to start thinking seriously about life after death, and the consequences of ignoring it. And if those you share with raise challenges, section seven also shows how to respond to many of the typical challenges you are likely to encounter.
These sections together provide many evidences for Christianity as well as answers to the main challenges made against Christianity. They also provide methods to be able to discuss these subjects with others.
The Eighth section provides a detailed look at the subject of Salvation. I’ve arranged this section in a Question and Answer form, with many of the questions being ones I’ve had myself had have heard from others. Verses from the Bible are provided to answer the questions, presenting the Bible’s perspective and to include additional clarifications. This way you will have as full an understanding of the subject of Salvation as I can think to provide within the limits of this guide.
The Ninth and last section provides numerous websites, covering all of the subjects presented here as well as other subjects. There is also a list of leading Christian speakers, authors, and philosophers, as well as their websites, and a list of many terms common to the teachings of Christianity. The information in this ninth section will enable you to research the topics covered in this guide in much greater depth, as well as the additional topics found on the different websites and not included in detail here. As well, these websites will allow you to research the answers to many questions not discussed here, and hopefully find answers to those questions.
Considering terminology, whether about Christianity or not, when you think about the different areas of knowledge - whether a school subject, a particular sport, or an industry or process - knowing the definitions of the different terms used gives you a greater understanding and appreciation of that subject area. In Mathematics, there are the quadrilateral equation, bisected angle, and parallelogram. In Football, there are the conversion, interception, false start, touchback, touchdown, etc.
If you are not familiar with some of the specific terminology for a subject, you are at a disadvantage in being able to have as complete an understanding of the subject as you do when you have a knowledge of the terminology. As well, don’t you typically enjoy learning about a subject more when you understand the terms specific to that subject that people use? I know I feel less "left out".
Some of the terms specific to Christianity and evidences are; relativism, post modernism, and ontological argument. I’ve provided a list of many of the terms, and definitions for some of them. Having this knowledge and the links in this guide will give you the ability to search for and learn more about the specific terms.
While knowing this terminology is important. It is equally important to realize that many of these terms are likely to confuse a person you are talking with if they don’t know them. I touch a little more on this and some of the concerns in the section, Sharing the Truths of Christianity.
Two specific terms you will see used in this guide, are argument and proof. The way argument is used here is not as a quarrel or heated disagreement. In this guide these terms are used in the legal sense similar to a courtroom. In a courtroom, the attorneys present arguments about the guilt or innocence of the defendant, or about the position they are defending. They then provide evidence or proofs to support their argument. Greg Koukl of www.str.org found this very humorous illustration of this evidence / proof type of argument. Here is the link to the YouTube video:
Argument Clinic - John Cleese and Michael Palin - Monty Python
Here are additional sites on evidences and logic:
Straight Thinking - Logic
I think the most accurate way to view this guide is to view it as a toolbox and the different resources as tools. My desire is not only that you know that tools exist, but also that you have methods to increase your proficiency with the various tools. This way you can be encouraged in what you believe as a Christian, be able to share these truths effectively with others, and also be able to defend against challenges to what you believe.
Think about taking tests in school. When was the last time you enjoyed taking a pop-quiz or looked forward to a test or a final? If you weren’t confident in your knowledge of the subject, you probably weren’t excited at all. But what if you had studied and had confidence in your knowledge? You might have actually looked forward to taking the quiz or test, so that you could demonstrate your proficiency with your knowledge. Knowledge gives us confidence! When we are prepared, we do well. When we aren’t prepared, we rarely do well. The same is true with questions about and challenges to Christianity. When you are prepared to respond to questions and challenges raised against Christianity, you can effectively reply to those challenges, and respond in a way that is respectful of the other person and not insulting to them. There is a great military quote regarding being prepared:
“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle”.
William Lane Craig indicates that being prepared also allows you to remain calm when challenged. What he has found is that when you know the answer, you can remain calm in the discussion. As an example, if someone claimed that 2+2=5, you wouldn't get upset because you know what the truth is, right? Greg Koukl gives greater insight to the importance of our remaining calm as it relates to conversations about Christianity. He says,
“When talking with someone, if either of you get upset, you lose. If they get upset, you lose. If you get upset, you lose.”
While this guide has many tools and links to tools, you will need to invest time if you want to learn to use them and become proficient with them. Hopefully, you will become excited once you learn about some of the tools and see their effectiveness. Hopefully this will be a motivation to learn them. As with learning anything, once you start to use these tools, you will become much more comfortable in their usage and confident in presenting them effectively.
Please realize that it has taken more than a few years for me to discover these tools so don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of them nor discouraged that you would need to learn all of them in a short period of time. If I can encourage you, I still feel I have a much better knowledge of these tools than I have a proficiency in their usage. Whatever our ability, we can all strive to become more proficient in everything we do. With greater usage of any knowledge comes greater proficiency. These tools are no different. The following link shows that God really honors those who are diligent and work hard.
Even many of the speakers I've reference in this guide continue to pursue learning, even though many of them have Masters and Doctorate degrees. In different speaker’s recordings, I periodically hear the speaker reference something they are studying or learning. If you are a Christian, learning should be a lifestyle and not just a short term goal. The reason for this is illustrated by the phrase “Use it or lose it.” And 1 Peter 3:15 indicates this as well:
1 Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared”.
Think back to previous classes you have had. If you had to take the same tests now that you took then, would you do as well on the test as you did then? Probably not, right? Me neither. However, what if you kept familiarized with the knowledge? You would probably do as well, maybe even better. And would it take much time to stay familiarized? Not once you've learned the information. If we are to “Always be prepared”, we need to be staying familiar with information which can have an eternal implication for the people we talk with.
One professor I reference in this guide is Jay Wegter. In his audio recordings he describes initiating conversations with others so that he can motivate them to think about eternal matters, and also answer challenges they might have. His accounts don’t give the impression that he is hesitant when approaching others. His proficiency gives him confidence. It is natural for us to have feelings of hesitation when thinking of talking with others about these subjects. However, with specific knowledge and practice the prospect of talking with someone about these subjects becomes far less intimidating. It certainly sounds this way listening to Jay Wegter.
I believe the thought that motivates Jay above all others, and excites him about speaking with others, is that he realizes that God has placed him there at that moment in time in that encounter with this other person. Jay knows that he might be the last person God uses to bring this person to the point of thinking about where they are and where they might spend eternity.
One of the things you can do to improve your knowledge and confidence is to read and re-read sections in this guide. As this guide is more a reference guide and not a novel that is read through once, you will find value in reviewing sections you've not yet become proficient in. Hopefully, with the table of contents as well as the web links being click-able, you will be able to quickly go to any section and/or access the web content of any link.
Thinking of the "tool" illustration, when you think about a vehicle technician, they have many tools which enable them to perform different services. Depending on the service they are performing, they will use a specific set of tools. No one service requires the usage of all the tools, however the more tools they have and are able to use effectively, the greater their ability to perform a wider range of services. Similarly, each conversation we have with someone will typically only require knowledge of a few of the tools included here. Each situation is different though, and the more proficiency you gain with the tools in this guide the more confident and capable you will be in the various conversations you are in.
Whatever your passion; playing a particular sport or instrument, a game console, drawing, cooking or another passion, haven’t you found that it took dedication and an investment of time to become proficient in that ability? And if you have invested that time, don't you find that activity enjoyable rather than work? Just as an investment of time is required to improve any ability we have, learning and becoming proficient in the usage of the tools in this guide will require your decision to do so and a time investment. There is no getting around the fact that some effort is required to become better in anything we do. In the end though, isn't the investment of time learning these tools worth it, especially when you realize that God could use you to make a difference in someone’s life and their eternal destination?
Even with becoming proficient with the tools in this guide, you will still encounter scenarios where you are presented with a question or challenge with which you don’t know or haven’t yet learned how to respond. This happens because it is difficult to think of all possible questions, objections, and ways they will be presented, and prepare for all possible questions and objections ahead of actually being presented with them. This guide should enable you to learn about the most common questions and challenges, and go a long way to enabling you to answer them.
Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason (www.str.org) says,
“It’s ok not to know the answer to a question you haven’t been asked before. However, it’s NOT ok to not know the answer the second time you are asked.”
Greg’s encouragement is that it's OK not to have an answer to a question you've not been asked before. When you do, let them person know that you don't know the answer, but that you will research it and get back to them with the answer. Then go find the answer to the question or challenge afterward. This way you not only respect the question of the initial questioner, you are also prepared to effectively respond the next time you are presented with that question or challenge. Check out the Tactics section for some great information on this.
Before going further, it is important that we not get any mistaken impression that our ability is what is most important to God. While out ability is very important, our availability is far more important. If we decide to be available to God, he will enable us to develop the ability. The saying I’ve heard that shows this reality is:
“God doesn’t need your ability but your availability”
Ability or Availability
Not Ability, but Availability
Availability vs. Ability
I hope your desire is to be involved in an effort which has an eternal impact and results in eternal rewards. I hope this toolbox is an encouragement and an aide to your efforts toward this. I believe the following quote effectively illustrates this point concerning what we decide is worthy of our efforts,
"Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last." CT Studd