It has been more than a year since my son Tim died of COVID. A man who refused to wear a mask or get a vaccination gave him a disease that his weakened immune system could not handle. He died after a six-month battle in which he could not walk, feed himself, or speak clearly. Even though Tim was an adult, watching your child die needlessly and painfully is hard because life is not supposed to end that way.
Every time I see a news report about the death of a child, it reminds me of the pain caused by a careless or even vindictive act of another human being. However, sending your child to school healthy and happy never to come home is even harder. Having your child take their own life is harder yet.
We all cope with the death of a loved one in different ways. Jim Smith has produced a booklet that discusses the ten stages of grief. Those stages are: (1) Shock (2) Denial (3) Lamenting (4) Withdrawal (5) Frustration (6) Panic (7) Depression (8) Detachment (9) Adaptation (10) Reinvestment.
The stages do not necessarily come in that order, and we all have many questions with no answers to make the pain disappear. Guilt, anger, and blame are almost always involved when watching your child die. We may even blame God for our loss and wonder why a loving God would allow it. Unfortunately, atheists have used that as a club against believers.
When we think about what death means to atheists, it seems strange that it can destroy faith in God. I grew up in an atheist home with strongly atheistic parents who taught me that death was the ultimate tragedy. I was not allowed to go to a funeral or a memorial service, even as a teenager. My mother was furious when my girlfriend’s mother took me to a visitation for a classmate’s father. Seeing a dead man in a casket was a radical experience for me. Now, as a Christian, I am dealing with my son’s death. Although I miss him, his death is a blessing that has allowed me to move through the ten stages very rapidly.
Death for Christians is freedom from the evil of the world. My son no longer has to deal with his blindness or his struggles to breathe, walk, feed himself, or speak clearly. He is finally finished with the war between good and evil. Furthermore, his life still speaks to me and others as one full of purpose and meaning. While watching your child die, it is difficult to understand how good can come from the senseless death or murder of an innocent person. However, the response of those left behind can bring meaning to the life we have lost. For Christians, death is a beginning, not an end.
When I was a promoter of atheism, one thing I envied the most was the unique bond between Christians. As an atheist embracing “survival of the fittest” as a way of life, I was always looking over my shoulder to see what might threaten my security. I watched my father, an atheist college professor, go to extreme ends to protect his standing at the university and promote his reputation and standing in the academic community. I remember him telling me, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” and encouraging me to assert superiority over my peers to achieve success.
Coming from that perspective, I was amazed to see Christians making themselves vulnerable. I envied the unique bond between Christians who were not related and had nothing to gain from those bonds. When Christians were together, they really enjoyed being together. There was sincere kidding and laughter that did not insult, demonstrate prejudice, or serve an ulterior motive. The terms “brother” and “sister” were alien to me as an atheist. When there was laughter between my atheist friends, it was derisive and usually spurred by alcohol or other drugs, and it was hollow and insincere.
I remember riding with my father several miles from our home when a tire blew out. After my father called several work associates with no success, he called a family friend who was a Christian. That man came with a replacement and a jack to change the tire. My father was amazed that anyone would do that, and the Christian friend told my father, “That’s how Christians do things.” I’m not sure my father ever comprehended the importance of that statement and the testimony that it presented.
If I believe in “survival of the fittest” and “he who finishes first wins,” why would I do anything that doesn’t give me an advantage? Who can put a price tag on what it means to have someone care about you just because you share a connection to the teachings of Jesus Christ? The warning of 1 Corinthians 15:33 that “bad company corrupts good character” is borne out in the struggles of life.
In the real world, few people have the strength and resolve to care about others sacrificially. Jesus demonstrated that in the extreme on the cross. Following His example, the unique bond between Christians can show love and care, reaching out to those who don’t share their faith. The “bond of peace” and the love of brethren is not just a nice cliché but a vivid apologetic for the validity of the Christian life.
A Finnish study has found that singing is good for your health. In addition, it showed better verbal fluency in elderly singers compared to non-singers. The study says that these findings make sense because singing requires regulation of attention, versatile information processing, linguistic output, learning, and memorization.
Several New Testament passages talk about singing, including Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Romans 15:9, and 1 Corinthians 14:15. The New Testament presents singing as part of worship, and everyone should participate in worship. Merely being entertained by someone who is blessed with great musical talent is not participating in worship.
In our day of four-part harmony, it is easy for everyone to learn to sing in their comfort range. In the Old Testament, the Psalms were songs. Music for worship in Jesus’ day mainly consisted of chants that everyone could join.
A person can be tone-deaf and still participate in singing in Christian worship. Although many religions use singing as a part of their worship activities, group participation is unique to the worship system of Christians.
Singing is not what takes place in the meetings of atheists. When I was an atheist, the only songs I remember were songs that carried a pornographic or comedic message. Music was not something we all participated in, but it was a vehicle of entertainment.
“Making melody in your heart” (Ephesians 5:19) is a proven way to improve your mental health. Furthermore, like everything God tells us to do, it has a purpose and benefits our well-being. Therefore, singing is good for your health, both physical and spiritual health.
It may sound strange to talk about death in a positive way. The truth is that the design of death is part of the creation. The second law of thermodynamics, in simple terms, says that in a closed system, things move toward a condition of disorder. That principle is built into the fabric of the physical universe. It allows the diffusion of resources, the circulation of air, the transfer of energy from one form to another, and multiple other physical processes. It also means that our human bodies are in a constant movement toward decay.
The Bible contains a statement of this law in Isaiah 51:6: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell in the earth shall die in a like manner.” Thus, the design of death applies to the universe and everything in it.
Is our death just a piece of collateral damage to the second law? For those who are Christians, death is not the ultimate tragedy. My son Tim lived his whole life with multiple handicaps, including muscular dystrophy, blindness, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia. Despite those handicaps, his life was full. When COVID-19 took away his ability to swallow, talk, sit up, stand or walk, he could still hear and communicate with me. For him to be unable to die would have been insanely cruel. Isaiah 57:1-2 describes this well: “For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.”
For a Christian, death removes us from evil and brings us into peace. I look forward to freedom from politics, pollution, illness, global warming, and pain. In 2 Peter 1:15, Peter talks about his death using the Greek term “exodos,” which means to depart. It is the word from which we get the name of the book of Exodus that describes Israel’s departure from Egyptian bondage.
So far in 2021, I have lost my son, my brother, and three of my close friends to death. They were all Christians, so I am happy for them. I take to heart 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, which tells me not to grieve “as others do who have no hope.” Psalms 116:15 tells us, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” The word “saint” here refers to “one set apart” as members of God’s family of believers–Christians.
When I was an atheist, death offered me no future. As a Christian, I see death as an entrance into a far better existence than I have now. We have an instinctive desire to live, and any change we make can be scary. That is especially true of departing this life. Paul said in Philippians 1:21-23, “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” Death can be beautiful, and the design of death is a reality for the world in which we live.
As we said yesterday, science cannot detect 68.3% of the energy in the cosmos, but we know it is there because of its effect on the galaxies. Also, today’s scientists cannot detect 26.8% of the mass in the universe, but they know it is there because of gravity. They call it “dark matter.” To make their theories work, scientists now say that there must be a bizarre form of matter that does not affect or interact with light, visible or invisible, in any way. They call this hypothetical particle which cannot be seen or detected, “the axion.” The axion would explain dark matter, but the big question is how can we detect it?
As science attempts to understand the nature of the world we live in, it becomes evident that the creation is not just the physical world that our senses can detect. Seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, and tasting are wonderful, but they are just physical manifestations of something far more significant.
For Christians, this is not the mystery that it might be to an atheist. Hebrews 11:3 says it well: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” My physics studies have convinced me that the world we can see is just a snippet of the total creation.
We are beginning to understand that there are many dimensions beyond what our senses perceive. Even when we extend our senses with machines, we still cannot detect the axion. The wonder of creation simply brings us back to the Psalmist’s song: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). The cry of wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-23 reminds us of our limitations: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way before His works of old I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or before the Earth existed.”
Remember that “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). Science is a friend of faith, and God has given us a limited view of what He has done. The full scope of creation is beyond our comprehension, but science helps fill in some gaps in our understanding. Perhaps someday science will find the axion.
I recently had a discussion with an atheist who said, “I have no faith.” I pointed out that his statement was simply not true because things in his life radiated a faith. He has faith in America, even though there are things going on in this country that might try to destroy that faith. He has faith in gravity. He doesn’t walk around worrying that gravity will fail, and he will float off into space. He has faith in the political party that he supports and even faith in a professional sports team. Everyone has faith. The question is not whether we have faith but what we have faith in.
What does your faith do for you, and is your faith growing or dying? Everyone has faith, but is your faith in any way dependent on another human being? If so, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed in that faith. People die. Politicians lie. Sports figures lose their ability. Philosophical beliefs radiate the inability of humans to think rationally.
I am an old man, and sometimes I make contact with atheistic people I knew years ago when I was an atheist. If they are still atheists, they cannot give me any evidence to support their atheistic faith. They are opposed to belief in God, but their atheism has not blessed them. They are getting ready to die with nothing but frustration, anger, disappointment, and disillusionment.
My atheist friend admitted that being an atheist had not improved his life. He then challenged me to show him how my faith had improved my life. That was easy. My faith led me to a wife who was a blessing to me. There was never any evidence in our 49 years of marriage that she even thought about being unfaithful. When death took her from me, my faith sustained me and led me to a second wonderful woman who has blessed my life. My faith has caused me to have an excellent relationship with my children. It has helped me find joy in a son who has sustained multiple birth defects.
My faith has also given me friends I can trust. I know they would never let me down, and I can rely on them for help in all circumstances. My faith led me to a career in teaching instead of the one my father picked out for me, which primarily involved making money. My teaching experience was rewarding and full of joy. My faith took me into a ministry that makes my life pregnant with purpose and full of value.
My faith causes me not to fear death. My faith is in Jesus Christ and His word, not in humans. I have received hatred and abuse from people who claimed to be Christians, but my faith in Christ has sustained me. I have not listened to the humans who have their own set of problems and refuse to follow the love and compassion that Jesus taught.
Everyone has faith, but in what? I want to share my faith with others because I want the world to be saturated with a belief based on love, service, and peace. God has given us all kinds of evidence for faith in Him. Life teaches us that not having faith in God and His Word brings misery and frustration. When Thomas had a faith problem, Jesus gave him evidence (John 20:24-29). Today we have more evidence than ever to believe and live by faith in God.
We have frequently pointed out that a massive percentage of the pain and death people experience is directly related to their choices in life. If you don’t believe in God, what do you use for support when you hit the usual frustrations in life? My brother Jim bought into my parent’s atheistic beliefs. For much of his life, he lived as an atheist.
When my youngest brother grew frustrated with the everyday struggles of life, alcohol became his tool for coping. That caused him to be unable to help others or find meaningful companionship. When he struggled with his normal sexual drives, he did not believe that marriage was the only way those feelings could be satisfied. My brother’s marriage failed because of his alcohol use, and it also seriously affected his relationship with his two sons.
My brother Jim was fired from his first teaching job because his alcohol use affected how he dealt with his students. One of his sons and I pleaded with him to realize what alcohol was doing to him, and gradually he began to move away from his addiction. He eventually got involved in Alcoholics Anonymous, started studying the Bible, and carried on extensive conversations with me about the existence of God.
I finally convinced my brother Jim to go with me and a group of 50 Christians as we toured the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, and the Canyonlands. In addition to showing evidence that the Bible accurately describes Earth’s history as revealed in these places, we all engaged in singing hymns, praying for one another, and studying God’s Word. At the end of the trip, my brother admitted that he could not be an atheist anymore and that he saw the validity of Christianity.
What do people in our culture do to relieve the pains that come in life? The use of drugs, including alcohol, has skyrocketed in my lifetime. Developing a relationship with God and working with those of like faith to establish a realistic approach to failure and frustration is not on the radar for much of our culture. As people reject God, ridiculing the Bible, and questioning its relevance to the struggles of life, the problems they experience have grown. The ultimate result of this is a massive increase in health issues related to drug use and an enormous rise in legal problems, including prison terms. More than half of the prisoners studying our correspondence courses are in prison because they abused drugs.
Unfortunately, the use of alcohol and the destructive nature of my brother’s early atheistic beliefs had consequences on his relationships and health. He had marginal relationships with family, had few friends, and never found the kind of joy that Christians have when they follow God’s Word. In addition, his health had been compromised by his use of alcohol. On May 28, he died from all the damage alcohol had done in the past. Living the Christian way of life is essential to give the hope of eternal life and to give us the very best things that this life can bring. My brother Jim is a case history that demonstrates that fact in vivid, realistic terms.
Robert Ingersoll is an atheist hero because he traveled the country attacking God, Christianity, and the Bible in the nineteenth century. Ingersoll is quoted as saying, “The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, the way to be happy is to make other people happy.” That statement is remarkably similar to the writings of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:10-13 and the words of Christ in John 16:22-24. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching.
Every attempt by atheists to provide an alternative to the teachings of Christ has ended up in frustration and pain. When an atheist built a town in Missouri with the name “Liberal,” it collapsed in a short time, with the founder saying he never again wanted to live in a town with no churches. Governments based on atheism in the past and today have not been successful in providing peace and prosperity for their citizens.
It is easy to attack Christianity while enjoying the blessings of Christ’s teachings. Offering a useful and positive alternative to what Jesus taught is another matter. As the United States drifts away from its Christian roots and embraces humanism, secularism, and atheism, we see an increase in suicides, shootings, racism, and abuse. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching.
When someone is incarcerated, the prison usually asks their religious beliefs for the record. Very few prisoners say “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “none.” In our prison work, we ask prisoners taking our correspondence courses to explain how they got to the point of being jailed. Merle Haggard wrote a song in which he said: “In spite of all my Sunday learning, to the wrong I kept on turning. No one could steer me right, but mother tried.” Haggard’s mother was a member of the Church of Christ, and his prison stint took place because he rejected the teachings he learned as a child. We hear that line over and over from many of our students in prison.
My father was an atheist, but he was a very moral man. I asked him one time why he was faithful to my mother. His response was, “I guess it is because of the way I was raised.” His father was a minister, and his mother was a strong Christian woman. Jesus said, “By their fruit you shall know them (Matthew 7:16). Atheism has no positive fruit in the long run. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching. Robert Ingersoll found a receptive audience only when he repeated the teachings of the Bible.
We frequently receive the God question from skeptics. Their challenges are something like this: “Since humans created God to explain what they didn’t understand, and since we now can explain everything, there is no need for God.” This relates to the “god of the gaps” argument, which simply says that people invented God to fill in the gaps in human understanding. There is no question that various cultures and religions have used that way of thinking. When people didn’t understand what caused volcanos, they invented a god or goddess to explain them. Even today, some people in Hawaii sincerely believe that volcanos are sacred and have a supernatural origin.
The “god of the gaps” thinking is rooted in ignorance, but so is the question, “Who created God?” The problem with the God question in this form is that the questioner has a concept of God which is physical and, in some cases, human-like in form and function. The biblical concept of God is unique in that it challenges us to think more deeply than any physical or human makeup.
The question also assumes that there was a time when God did not exist. The problem with that thinking is that God created time. In Revelation 22:13, God says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Personified Wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8:22-23 and says, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning before the Earth ever was.” Peter wrote that “with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).
God is not a man (Numbers 23:19) nor like any physical being. “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24) and does not possess flesh and blood (Matthew 16:17). Acts 17:28 tells us that “..in Him we live and move and have our being.” We find those descriptions difficult to understand because they are outside the realm of our experience. Modern science tells us that there are dimensions beyond our own three dimensions of X, Y, and Z. Mathematics tells us that there are eleven spatial dimensions, but we cannot even define our fourth dimension of time.
The God question that atheists and skeptics bring up shows that they fail to understand that God is outside of time and space and, therefore, He always existed. Quantum mechanics has shown us a whole new realm of physics where some of the laws of classical physics no longer apply. No well-educated person would deny the studies of quantum mechanics which fill modern scientific journals. The only question remaining is whether the things that lie in the quantum world are without design or purpose and therefore show no intelligence behind them. The quantum world is incomplete because it offers no reason for there being something instead of nothing.
The concept of good and evil offers an answer to the God questions. It tells us why there is something. John 1:1-5 provides a glimpse into that question when it says, “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” The word “logos,” from which we get the word “logic,” involves the metaphysical concept of right and wrong. The purpose of human existence is the struggle between good and evil.
Job stretched his mind to understand that he was a major player in the war between good and evil in Job 42:1-6. Understanding God’s nature and that we are beings created in His image opens a new understanding of the God question. It shows us the fallacy of asking, “Who created God?” and expecting a physical answer. God fills the cosmos (Jeremiah 23:23-24), and our studies into the nature of matter have opened a whole new door to better understanding the God question.
Like many other religions, there is a movement toward Atheism as a business enterprise. The magazine known as Skeptical Inquirer is a four-color, flashy periodical that devotes a large percentage of its material to attacking various Christian groups. There is no shortage of targets for this magazine. Between young earth groups, TV evangelists, and miracle-claiming churches, there is always something to which the magazine can apply destructive scientific research. Many of their articles and the research they point to are well done.
The problem is that the Center for Inquiry paints everyone with the same brush. Much of their material condemns all religious faith and all biblical interpretations with the same condemnation. In a recent letter to the membership, their executive director announced that the board of directors authorized hiring a marketing director for the Center for Inquiry. The goal is “to expand and broaden their legal challenges, educational offerings, community building and creating and sharing evidenced resources.” They are appealing for donations to accomplish their goals.
Commercial Atheism is a religion. It is based on faith in a selected group of writers whose material is produced without peer review in most cases and is frequently highly prejudiced. They are appealing to those who wish to deny spiritual matters, and they ignore the work of experts who have religious faith.
As the world blindly moves toward the rejection of God, and especially Christianity, we can expect Atheism as a business enterprise to become a high dollar operation. Hiring a marketing director is just one more indication of the direction atheism is headed. We need to avoid the shysters, hypocrites, and false teachers in religion while responding to the atheists’ challenges. The need for that has never been greater.
Remember 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and always be ready to give an answer to every man who asks you for a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”