I was asked this recently “what if you are wrong and when you die it turns out that you believed in the wrong religion?”
My response was the one people usually give when presented with a hypothetical question loaded with the assumption that you are wrong. “That will not happen”. So convinced am I that my life is safe through faith in Jesus that it is a struggle to answer the question at face value. Jesus is the truth. Assuming that he is not, even for a moment, is like being asked what you would see if you turned the lights off. As Psalm 36 says “In your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Its hard to ask someone to imagine that something so basic to their thinking that it has come to colour everything they think, it wrong. It’s like asking “where would you live if the earth didn’t exist”? That’s a massive question.
But of course the obvious and sought after answer to the original question is “that would be awful. If it turned out that Jesus was not who he said he was and that he could not be trusted to bring me into a relationship with God as my loving heavenly Father, and safely through death into eternal life with him in the new heavens and new earth then that would be a terrible loss, at least from the perspective of the here and now.”
Its interesting that answering in such a way seems to give some credence to the assumption in the question that Jesus may not be trustworthy. It’s made worse because Christianity is a relationship. Your asking about a person that I know and love.
How would you feel if someone said “how would you feel if your husband or wife murdered you in your sleep to get the insurance money?”. Before saying “Oh that would be simply awful” would you not say “But that would never happen. I know them. We love each other. Such a thought is inconceivable”. The questioner would have to ask the question many more times with much force, stressing the hypothetical nature of their inquiry, before you gave in and reluctantly, to humour them, or get the off your back, said “Ok, yes that would be awful. But it is not going to happen. Where are you going with this dark line of questioning?”
I know God the Father through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. These are not just theoretical beliefs, they are tangible relationships. God loves me and does not lie to me.
A better question would be “what evidence can you give me that Christianity is true”. It places the discussion in a more appropriate unbiased context. Interestingly enough that was the second question that I was then asked.
My answer to that was not the subjective experience of knowing God, but something that I felt would be more helpful for someone genuinely exploring the truth of Christianity. Now at some stage we need to take a step of faith and enter into a relationship with God but before then of course there are many things that we can helpfully consider in our quest for truth.
Christianity is an historical religion, grounded in history. Jesus really did live and die and rise again. For me the strongest evidence for this is the disciples being willing to die for their testimony that they saw Jesus physically after he died. They even had breakfast with him! They died, not just because someone had told them that Jesus was the son of God, who died and rose again (people die for that belief, and others, quite often).
No, I think their confidence in who Jesus was, and therefore their willingness to die for him, was largely on the strength of that breakfast. They saw him nailed to a cross and die. They saw him put in a sealed tomb. And then he appeared to them. Many times. And cooked them breakfast.
I wonder if they thought about that when they were arrested for telling people about him. I wonder if as their hands were held down on wooden cross beams, they thought about that meal by the sea. I wonder if as they nails were hammered through their writes whether they had flash backs to Jesus taking up the fish he had just cooked and eating it with them. They died for what they had seen and touched. John, the disciples the Jesus loved, wrote about that “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands” 1 John 1:1.
PS. I Forgot how good Ravi is: