Q & A


    The media has been filled with stories of ministers who have been charged with molesting young children, church leaders who have embezzled funds from church accounts, and pastors caught in adulterous affairs. Scores of religious celebrities and leaders have been exposed in recent years for sexual or financial impropriety. But its not just Christians that disappoint us, but institutions as well. As a result, more and more seekers are saying, “Spirituality, yes. Church, no.”

    When those who claim to follow Christ are immoral, inflexible, strange, uptight, unloving, judgmental or hypocritical, it casts shadows on the faith itself. And when our experience with Christian community involves being bored, or even worse, burned, it is tempting to walk away from Christianity altogether. Yet disappointed people who continue their exploration of the Christian faith have often done so after realizing that it is God who is perfect, not people. While somewhat trite, the phrase, “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven,” is important to remember. An authentic Christian is not someone who is perfect, just someone who has come to God for forgiveness and a relationship.

    Adapted from James Emery White, A Search for the Spiritual (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998)


    The first thing to understand is that the Bible was endorsed by Jesus. Today, a book is often bolstered by “blurbs” written on the book jacket by famous people or experts in particular fields. Their credibility is used to establish the book’s credibility. For a Christian, there is no more credible figure in history than Jesus, and He threw his weight behind the Bible. (see Matthew 5:18; John 10:35)

    Second, the integrity of any ancient writing is determined by the number of documented manuscripts or fragments of manuscripts we have to examine. For example, there are less than ten existing copies of the ancient manuscripts of Plato which are available to study and compare in order to determine the accuracy and quality of the transmission of his writings throughout the years. The oldest of these manuscripts is a copy dating about 1,400 years after it was originally written.

    When it comes to the Bible, there are more than 5,000 handwritten manuscripts in the Greek language in support of the New Testament alone that help us ensure the accuracy of its writings. Many of the earliest copies are separated from the originals not by 1,400 years, but by only 25 to 50 years. Simply put, the Bible is the most dependable ancient document in all of history in terms of textual credibility.

    Third, the Bible has been supported at every juncture by archaeology. Sir William Ramsay of Oxford University, regarded as one of the greatest archaeologists ever to have lived, concluded upon his own examination that the writers of the Bible are historians of the first rank that should be placed along with the very greatest of historians. So overwhelming was the support of the archaeological evidence that Ramsay eventually became a Christian. The historical integrity of the Bible also extends to the Bible’s record of such things as the teachings of Jesus. Recent evidence has determined that such biblical records as the gospel of Matthew are truly firsthand, eyewitness accounts written as early as A.D. 50, as opposed to layers of stories and traditions that were added over a kernel of Matthew’s actual writings throughout history.

    The Bible is the most reliable document imaginable, and can be read by a spiritual seeker with confidence.

    Adapted from James Emery White, A Search for the Spiritual (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998)


    The Bible teaches that God is all-powerful, able to do anything He wants. The Bible also teaches that God is thoroughly good. Yet bad things happen.

    People reason: If God is good and all-powerful, He shouldn’t let bad things happen; since they do happen, either God isn’t good or He isn’t all-powerful. The Bible teaches that God made us to love us. Because of this, God gave us the freedom to respond to that love, or to reject it. Love is meaningless unless it is freely given and freely received.

    The first use of free will, according to the Bible, was by the first humans, Adam and Eve. They made the purposeful choice to disobey God and remove themselves from His leadership. Each of us, like Adam and Eve, has used our free will in ways that has reflected rebellion and disobedience against God. All choices come with consequences, else they were never really choices. The decision to reject God’s leadership altered God’s original design for how the world would operate and how life would be lived, ushering in sin and evil as well as the consequences of sin and evil. Theologians have termed this the “fall,” and point out that we now live in a “fallen” world.

    Remember, however, that God is not the author of sin and suffering — we are. God let us choose, and we did. Even though it can be used in a way that rejects His love and can have terrible consequences, God has determined that the gift of free will is worth it.

    Could God step in and stop the consequences of our choices? Yes, but He doesn’t, for to do so would violate our free will, and the violation of free will would end the possibility of true relationship between us and God. So where is God in the suffering? Right in the middle of it. He is in grief over how free will was used to reject Him. That’s why He has invested Himself in the process of healing the wounds that have come from our choice by entering into the suffering process with us in order to lift us out of it.

    Jesus on the cross was God entering into the reality of human suffering, experiencing it just like we do, in order to demonstrate that even when we used our free will to reject Him, His love never ended.

    God could wipe out all evil and suffering at any time. But if at midnight tonight God decreed that all evil would be stamped out in the universe, not a single person would be here at 12:01.

    God’s hope is that you will instead be given the time to search, and that your search will result in an authentic relationship with Him. So the real question is whether, as a seeker, will you allow the reality of pain and suffering to drive you away from God, or to God?

    Adapted from James Emery White, A Search for the Spiritual (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998)


    Why are Christians intrigued by a lone historical figure from the distant past? This question is particularly pressing when you consider that His life didn’t seem destined for greatness. He was born into poverty, living in an obscure village. He didn’t go to high school or college. He never visited a large city. In fact, He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place where He was born.

    He was only 33 years old when the tide of public opinion turned against Him, prompting even His closest friends to abandon Him. He was then turned over to His enemies and was nailed to a wooden cross between two criminals. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing, the only property He had on earth.

    After He died, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of an acquaintance. Yet almost two thousand years have come and gone, and today He is arguably the central figure of the entire human race. Why? It begins with His life.

    Why His Life Matters
    Christians believe the life of Jesus matters first because of who He was: God in human form, which was Jesus’ claim for Himself (for example, see John 8:48-59; 10:36; 14:6).

    Second, His life matters because of how He lived. As God in human form, He lived a perfect life and gave us the best picture of how life ought to be lived. Finally, His life matters because of what He taught. Christians sense within the teachings of Jesus an authority and truth that isn’t found anywhere else.

    Why His Death Matters
    Christians believe that the death of Jesus matters because it was in our place. Sin in our life is serious business, and separates us from God leading to eternal, spiritual death. Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for our sin so that we wouldn’t have to. Through the sacrificial death of Jesus, our relationship with God can be restored and spiritual death can be avoided.

    Why His Resurrection Matters
    But Jesus’ life and death pale in comparison to why Jesus matters the most to Christians — after His death, the Bible maintains that Jesus rose from the dead. This is what the celebration of Easter is all about: the resurrection of Jesus, which gives Christians the ability to trust in Jesus, have a new beginning in life, experience power for living, and look to the future with hope. As the Bible teaches, “Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven.” (1 Peter 1:3)

    Adapted from James Emery White, A Search for the Spiritual (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998)


    In this day and age, tolerance is seen as a great virtue. And we need to avoid a spirit that persecutes someone for their differing beliefs, or denies them their religious freedom.

    But this spirit of tolerance is very different than believing that all points of view are equally valid. Ultimately, the question is whether or not we believe in truth. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me!” (John 14:6, The Living Bible).

    Not a way, a truth, or a life, but the way, the truth, and the life. And this idea marks the Christian faith. In the book of Acts, we read the apostle Peter proclaiming that:

    “It is by the name of Jesus Christ. … Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10, 12, NIV)

    While there may be an initial shock to this outrageous claim, it should not be dismissed simply because there are so many other religions and religious ideas. While there are many from which to choose, they differ radically from each other, and choosing where to place your spiritual trust is neither narrow-minded nor intolerant.

    Truth exists, and it matters. If all roads do not lead to God, then our spiritual search will lead us to the scandalous reality of one way.

    Christians believe that way is through a person — Jesus Christ.

    Adapted from James Emery White, A Search for the Spiritual (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998)


    Polls show that as many as 96 percent of all Americans strongly believe in the existence of a God who is holy and perfect, and who created the world and rules it today. But is there really a God? You cannot prove that God exists, at least by normal scientific methods.

    If it is beyond our five senses to examine, then you cannot use science to either prove or disprove. But think about it, no one has ever seen love, yet we all know it is real. No one has ever smelled freedom, but it exists. The key is to look for evidence that would support whether or not it is reasonable to believe in the existence of God. Christians believe that such evidence exists in abundance.

    For example, the leading hypothesis for the beginning of the universe is the “Big Bang” theory, which maintains that at one time all matter was packed into a dense mass at temperatures of many trillions of degrees. Then, roughly 4 billion years ago, there was a huge explosion. From that explosion, all of the matter that today forms our planets and stars was born. The great cosmological question is:

    “What caused the Big Bang?”

    Even more important, where did the matter come from — you can’t have something come from nothing!

    Dr. Robert Jastrow, professor of Astronomy at both Columbia University and Dartmouth College, director of the Mount Wilson Institute, manager of the Mount Wilson Observatory, and for twenty years director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, made the following comment in regard to the Big Bang:

    “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world.”

    But there is far more than “cause and effect” to consider; there is the great order and design of the world as well. Imagine you came upon a space shuttle sitting in the middle of the desert. You could reason that it came together by chance through a chaotic sandstorm.

    But your initial thought would likely be that someone made it and placed it there. Buildings imply an architect, paintings suggest a painter. There is design in the universe, so it is reasonable to assume that there is a Great Designer. The alternative is that infinite time plus chance, in the context of chaos, created incredible order and purpose. This would be akin to having the software for the latest windows application result — by chance — from an explosion in a computer warehouse.

    Physicist Stephen Hawking once told a reporter that:

    “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the big bang are enormous. … I think clearly there are religious implications.”

    And so do Christians.

    The debate is hardly academic. More consequence for thought and action flow from this one question than any other question you can raise.

    Adapted from James Emery White, A Search for the Spiritual (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998)

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