Why I Choose To Believe In A Christian God
This article is an attempt to hold my faith up to the cold, harsh light of internet accountability.
I believe in God.
I jumped on the long and winding train of religion when I was 11 years old, when my older brother took me to church. I was introduced to some very kind, normal-looking, compelling girls and boys my age who I really liked. After hanging out with them on consecutive Sundays, I decided to commit to the journey.
It’s been a meandering ride, and I’ve jumped off this train twice. First, when I was struggling in my early twenties, and then later, in my late thirties. As it happened, those two periods were dark times in my life.
I guess I’m also not a conventional Christian guy. I don’t go to church anymore. I swear vigorously. I get drunk with my friends every now and then. I’ve even (shock, horror) indulged in contraband substances more than a few times.
I have several friends who are convicted atheists who have very strong, very convincing views that contradict mine. I’ve had several dinner table discussions where my faith is held up to ridicule (side note: I’m 100% fine with that), due to the ostensible implausibility of my chosen religion - or any religion for that matter.
These days, it seems genuinely uncool to believe in God. It’s currently way more acceptable to cite Sam Harris and Yuval Harari than it is to quote Tim Keller and Jordan Peterson.
I suppose it’s a revealing aspect of my character that I’m a big fan of Harris and Harari, but a bigger fan of Keller and Peterson.
With that in mind, I write these types of articles to try articulate my reasoning. There are three layers to my faith, which I will try to outline as succinctly as possible.
1. Philosophical: Why I Believe In A God of Freedom
This is a tricky one for me to articulate. I’m no philosopher, but it’s both an attempt to explain why there is a God, but also to explain “why natural disasters” or “why kids get cancer” in a philosophical way.
Essentially, my belief is based on the premise that it’s too difficult for me to reconcile the randomness of existence without a God.
To me, it’s a far bigger leap of faith for me to be an atheist than it is to be a Christian.
In my view, there are too many clues in too many places for a creator God.
The symbiosis of proteins and amino acids. It’s an impossible miracle that life arose out of these building blocks. Author Bill Bryson describes it like “putting ingredients on a table and expecting a cake to suddenly bake itself”.
Overwhelming historical evidence, in the Bible, in all ‘the books’, of something out there.
The presence of supernatural phenomena. I have personally experienced this (see point 3 below).
The very concept of infinity. I mean, seriously - how even? Infinity. Look that shizz up and try get your head around it. Then go take a long bath to recover.
The fact that we have not been obliterated by one of millions of asteroids, comets or rogue space particles passing us by each year. I know. I know. We have been obliterated before - but yet, here we are.
Evidence of design, all around us. From massive stellar constellations of unthinkable size, to the tiny zinc fireworks display that occurs at the moment of conception.
Conscience. How do we know good and bad, right from the start? What’s that invisible force that pulls at us when we want to steal gramma’s sweets?
There is an unlimited number of these clues that point me in the direction of a God - each one possibly deserving an article of its own.
What’s probably harder to explain is that this God dude is actually a good guy; that he’s a God of freedom.
There is a lot of bad stuff that goes on around us. Beheadings in the Middle East. Murders in the Suburban Flats outside of Cape Town. Tsunamis in Indonesia. Genocides. School shootings. Serial killers. Child trafficking.
For me, the hardest stuff is the random stuff.
My dermatologist told me of a horror story that he witnessed. A sweet, kind-natured seven-year old patient of his died after a long ordeal battling melanoma in her uterus.
In her uterus.
He said it was not normal at all, and he certainly could not wrap his head around it.
So, if there’s a God, why would he / she allow that to happen?
If He’s a good God, then why does He not intervene, or prevent this stuff from happening? How can we explain that to the mother of such a child, who prays diligently and then is still subject to such devastation?
The only way I can explain it, at least in my mind, is that if there is indeed a God and He created the world and everything in it, He must be allowing us to live with 'free will', Otherwise He'd be interfering all over the show, beating his chest and showing off his power.
I see no evidence of that.
What it looks like to me is that the Big Guy has created a set of laws that govern the Universe. He’s set these laws up and then allowed us to live within that legal framework.
Laws like “every action has an equal and opposite reaction” and “if you put your hand in the fire, you’re gonna get burnt” and “when the seismic movement of tectonic plates reaches a certain level of abrasion, earthquakes happen” and “if you hit on someone’s wife, you’ll likely get hit in the face” and “under a very particular set of circumstances, certain cells in your body will metastasise and consume the rest of you”.
Sometimes, the outcome of these laws totally totally sucks, but if this God fella has truly created a free world, logically He cannot intervene, otherwise He'd contradict the preposition of free will.
Therefore, it makes sense to me that the creator God, this Force behind the Universe, would invent a world where man could make decisions and choose his own destiny; where the only laws are the laws of nature within whose jurisdiction we must live.
This is the price we pay.
This is the price of freedom.
2. Historical: Why I Believe In A Christian God
So, if we propose that there is in fact a Dude who created everything and who is all around us, and He’s letting us roam free without intervening all the time, then why the God of the Bible?
Why not the God of Judaism, Hinduism, or Islam?
Why not Thor, Loki or Odin?
Or why not the Great Turtle that vomited up the Earth and has carried us all on his back for eternity?
My simple answer is that I have read many of the ‘big books’ and the Christian narrative makes the most sense to me.
The story goes kinda like this:
The Universe was created by a Designer. Somewhere down the line, we humans appeared. We promptly began misbehaving. Since the early days of consciousness, we’ve been creating death, pain, suffering for ourselves and for others around us.
We’ve also been doing some good stuff, but let’s focus on the bad stuff for now.. Despite all our miscreant behaviour, He chose not stop us by force, otherwise he would negate the very idea of freedom (see Point 1, above).
The only natural intervention available was that He had to come to Earth to teach us a cosmic lesson. He’d let us do bad stuff to Him, then teach us Grace.
This ‘Grace’ thing is really the central theme of Christianity. It’s basically forgiveness, kindness and redemption, all wrapped up in one - and it’s pretty awesome.
This is the only way He can intervene and still allow the Laws of the Universe to prevail, thus keeping 'free will' intact.
Therefore the idea of an omnipotent God, the creator of all things, coming to Earth as a humble servant, appeals to me. This massively powerful God came to us as a helpless baby, subject to His own natural laws. He grew up with no special favours and was subjected to the same cruelties and injustices as we are. He showed us how to live a blameless life and taught us what He intended for us.
In return, as He must have known we would, we put Him to death on the cross.
He then forgave us, and in doing so, in sacrificing Himself despite doing nothing wrong, He gave us the ultimate gift of Grace.
His resurrection three days later became a symbol of Good over Evil. He showed us that He loved us, that He identified with us, that He would die for us.
He then showed us that Life is more powerful than Death, the thing we fear most.
Christ's life proves that God is not distant, cold and unmoving. That the Higher Power behind the Universe is accessible and benevolent. That He was willing to come to Earth and connect with us in the an Earthly form, a human like us.
Most importantly, it showed us that we have a place in eternity, that our existence is not just a random happenstance.
I like this story.
I like the Christian story the most of all the great stories. It makes the most sense to me, from a cosmic perspective. I like the extraordinary juxtaposition of omnipotence and helplessness, and the central theme of Grace that binds it all together.
3. Personal: Why I Believe In A Present God
So, now that I’ve explained why I believe there’s this Dude who created everything, and that He came to earth in order to teach us the lesson of Grace.
I know from experience that it’s not a satisfying argument to people who I speak to about these things.
The truth is that, like any rational person that thinks about this stuff, I am afflicted regularly by doubt.
If I base my faith on merely the two points above, my faith will be fragile.
The third thing that hammers the nail in me for is my personal journey and the various supernatural events that I’ve witnessed. Each one probably deserves a post on its own to unpack, but here is a list of some of the weird-ass shizz that I’ve experienced:
Regular, inexplicable ghostly noises in a room in Denmark when I was 15.
Stationery objects hopping up and down on a table on the day my father died.
A row of windows blown open simultaneously, on a windless day, while I was praying.
Witnessing the healing of a leg of someone I knew well, after witnessing that same person’s leg broken the week before.
A large, well-fixed ‘peace’ sign on my door crash to the ground, while praying during a particularly difficult day in my life.
These things are hard to explain. They’re also hard to talk about. I second-guess myself when relating these occurrences to people, but I cannot deny they happened.
Some friends have suggested that for each supernatural occurrence, there is an equally convincing scientific explanation.
However, at some point, I have to make a choice. For each of the things I’ve experienced, or heard second-hand from people I know and trust, I have to decide: was it Twilight Zone material, or was it MythBusters?
I lean more towards the Twilight Zone.
I have many more things that I can list, not just my own, that indicate the presence of a supernatural entity.
This third point is no proof of God, admittedly, but it certainly points me firmly towards ‘something’.
And that something is enough to keep me on the religious train.
In short, my belief is based on three pillars:
Philosophical - I can’t reconcile the concept of infinity or randomness without the inclusion of a benevolent, designer God.
Historical - I have read too many historical accounts of God in some form - and I like the Christian narrative best.
Personal - I’ve personally seen too many weird-ass things to deny that there is ‘something’ out there.
I realise that these points may provide an unsatisfying answer to many readers, and so I must add this:
Both times that I hopped off the Christian train, in my early twenties and late thirties, I noticed a profound impact on my sense of wellbeing. Both times resulted in me becoming severely anxious.
However, when I hopped back on I noticed those feelings being replaced by a sense of peace.
The sense of emptiness went away, replaced with a rich sense of meaning.
That in itself is cause enough for me to retain my faith and stay for the ride.