I sat next to an atheist on a recent flight to Mexico. He was from England, where it is reported that only about 40% of the population believes in God.
Once he learned that I work for God, he didn't hesitate to tell me that he didn't believe my Boss exists. The very idea of God was absurd to him. Why would anyone believe in God? he said. But then he courteously asked me why I believed. So I told him.
I started by pointing to my wristwatch. I told him that I've never seen the people who designed and manufactured my Seiko. But I have no doubt that they exist because I can see what they made. And I'm even more confident that my wristwatch didn't just "happen." Surely he had to agree that only a fool would think so. By the same token, the intelligent design of the universe testifies of an intelligent designer. I then offered him a few examples of God's fingerprints found in His creation.
He was unfazed. Even though he agreed that my wristwatch was proof of watchmakers, the design of the universe proved nothing about the existence of God.
So I asked him what he thought about Jesus.
He said that if Jesus existed, no doubt He was a good man who had become mythologized.
I told him that there is no possibility that Jesus was just a good man. He didn't leave us that option. A person who declares that He existed from eternity past, claims that He came from heaven, tells people that their sins are forgiven, accepts worship from friends, allows weeping women to wipe His feet with their hair, and declares that He is the only source for salvation, is not just a good man. Jesus was either a very evil deceiver, a madman, or He was who He claimed to be---the Son of God. Take your choice: Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.
The Bible was written by men, he politely retorted. The accounts of Jesus were likely exaggerated over time.
I reminded him that the accounts of Jesus' life were written by His contemporaries. At least two of the Gospels were penned by His close friends, Matthew and John. They were eye-witnesseses to just about all that He did. If Jesus was mythologized, it didn't take place over time. The four original sources---Matthew, Mark, Luke and John---had to have knowingly exaggerated as well as collaborated, as their four accounts all harmonize beautifully.
Moreover, most of Jesus' closest friends gave their lives to preserve their alleged common deception, a virtual impossibility. No one suffers martyrdom to defend what they really don't believe.
Beyond that, tens of thousands of other people in the first century died the death of martyrs because they, too, were convinced that Jesus was God in the flesh, that He died for their sins and was raised from the dead after three days, just as He had foretold.
I posed a question: What if someone wrote a biography about Winston Churchill that claimed that Churchill walked on water, multiplied food, cleansed lepers, opened the eyes of the blind, and claimed to be God in the flesh? How many copies of that book would sell? Would anyone believe the tales in its pages? Could a religion be spawned from that book that in a few years would be embraced by multitudes who would be willing to give their lives before denying their faith?
He had no reply.
I posed a few more questions: What if the Person whose history is recorded in the four Gospels came to the earth today and lived the identical life? What if He started working miracles of the scale that Jesus performed and began saying what Jesus said? What if He predicted His death and resurrection after three days and then pulled it off? Could such a miraculous life escape the notice of the people for miles around? Of course not. Might news of that life spread beyond that circumference? No doubt about that it would. Would it ultimately make history books? How could it not? Could such a life ever be erased from the world's consciousness? No. In fact, time itself would likely be divided into what happened before that unique Person and what happened after that unique Person. Such reasoning adds credence to the historicity of Jesus. If such a miraculous Person lived on earth today, 2,000 years from now, there would be a religion centered around Him that would span the globe.
He changed the subject to evolution. Surely I didn't believe in Adam and Eve. Evolution has proven the Bible to be wrong.
I replied that people seem to come from other people, and the world's population has been growing throughout my lifetime. It would stand to reason that if we work backwards through time, we'd find the original two human parents of the human race.
And although Jesus never mentioned Adam and Eve that we know of, He did speak about Noah, who was just nine generations from Adam. So it would seem likely that the man who proved by His deeds and words that He was God in the flesh believed in Adam and Eve. And if anyone ought to know if the story of Adam and Eve is true, it ought to be Him. Moreover, Luke listed Adam in Jesus' genealogy.
I told my British seat mate that evolution from one species to another cannot be proved by science as it cannot and has never been observed. And according to many scientists, the fossil record simply does not support the theory of evolution. I wish I would have had a few good quotes at the time for him like these:
Fossils are a great embarrassment to evolutionary theory and offer strong support for the concept of creation. --- Dr. Gary Parker, Ph.D., Biologist/Paleontologist and former evolutionist)
The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils. --- Stephen Jay Gould, Former Professor of Geology and Paleontology at Harvard University
Nine-tenths of the talk of evolutionists is sheer nonsense, not founded on observation and wholly unsupported by facts. This museum is full of proofs of the utter falsity of their views. In all this great museum, there is not a particle of evidence of the transmutation of species. --- Dr. Etheridge, senior paleontologist of the British Museum of Natural History
To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. --- Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species
My British friend had only one card left...the religion card. He said, "Most all of the trouble in the world revolves around religion. Think of all the hatred and killing done in the name of religion. I think of John Lennon's song Imagine. He sung about a utopia where there would be no religion. How right he was!"
He had already told me he was on his third marriage, and because he was so quick to blame religious people for the world's strife, I was tempted to ask him what part religion played in the demise of his relationships with his first two wives. But I resisted that temptation. I think I may have stunned him, however, when I told him that, just like John Lennon, I was longing for a day when there would be no religion, and so is Jesus. Jesus demonstrated by His words and deeds that He was anti-religion. He was, however, pro-relationship, that is, in favor of loving God and neighbor.
I also explained that true Christians aren't just dreaming about a world that John Lennon could only imagine. We have the sure promise of God that one day John Lennon's dream of "all the people living life in peace" will be a reality. And there will be "no need for greed and hunger," when a "brotherhood of man" will be "sharing all the world." But it will only be enjoyed by those who have surrendered to Jesus' lordship, who have been born of His Spirit, and who already have a taste of what the future holds for them.
I told him that I had been an atheist at one time. He asked me what "turned me around." I told him that when I weighed all the evidence for God's existence against anything I could find to the contrary, I just couldn't remain an atheist any longer. The evidence was overwhelming. My faith was borne from facts.
And then our plane landed. It didn't appear that my words had shaken his faith in the least, even though it wasn't based on anything factual, logical, or that could be proven to any degree. He could not see that his faith was even more incredulous to me than my faith was to him. Firm against all evidence, he walked off the plane steadfast, clinging to what he wanted to believe. It confirmed to me once again that everyone believes something---either the truth or lies. And what people choose to believe reveals what is in their hearts. As John wrote, "Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). So we also read in Scripture: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1).