On April 2, 1988, Ivan Lester Mcguire, an experienced skydiver with over 800 jumps, fell to his death. He forgot to put on his parachute. McGuire had aspired to become the best parachute photographer in the country and was apparently distracted by his excitement to film the other jumpers. The surviving footage shows McGuire reaching to pull the cord, only to realize that none was there.
Human beings have the odd ability to distract ourselves with trivialities, ignoring and forgetting the most important things of all. From the day we’re born, we run about trying to figure out the world. We learn how to eat, get around, talk, read, do algebra, and drive. But weirdly, the majority of people skip the most basic questions of all—where did the world come from, why am I here, and what happens after I die? It’s like jumping without a parachute.
It’s odd, because the first and basic task of any life shouldn’t be making money, being cool, or reproducing. It should be figuring out what’s really going on in this universe and living accordingly. And though Christianity answers those questions better than any other worldview, I fear that many of us carry doubts—deep questions about whether our faith is really true. Worse, we’re too embarrassed to ask. That’s sad. Because there are answers.
Lots of great books and resources go into further depth. (Here’s an excellent free resource from Pastor Heston Blake.) I don’t have space for a full apologetic here. I’ll just give three big ideas that grounded me when I hit bottom.
1) If not Christianity, what? If not Jesus, who?
I first struggled with certifying my worldview in college after I took an excellent philosophy course. It taught me to think in ways I never had before and broadened my awareness of worldviews. But over the ensuing year questions swirled silently in my mind until I doubted nearly everything I believed. At some point I got stuck. Doubt is powerful, but I hadn’t answered the central questions of my existence by doubting. What did I actually believe? Something extraordinary is going on in this universe. Do I have any clue what that is?
My argument isn’t just a default to Christianity because I can’t find anything better. The point is to recognize that you haven’t made progress by only being a skeptic. You need to have some actual answers. It isn’t fair to concentrate all the firepower of questions on one worldview without even recognizing the bigger problems the alternatives face. You’re going to die someday, and it would be smart to know what happens next before that day comes.
Islam is pretty easy to dispatch. Just try reading the Koran. Most of the cults are offshoots of Christianity with dubious histories and bad exegesis. The Buddhist, Hindu and Taoists traditions lack much of an evidentiary basis, fail to form a complete worldview and obscure most of their assertions in cloudy, ambiguous aphorisms. (I have studied each of these options in depth—the limits of blogging make this summary impossibly short.)
Broadly speaking, that leaves secular materialism. Which leads to the next big idea.
2) This world is insufficient to explain itself.
The main draw of secular materialism is probably that it’s the preferred view at our current moment in history. If we lived at another time or place it wouldn’t have even seemed a rationale option. Combine that with the real, tangible things that science has accomplished and we tend to defer to the experts on topics like origins because, well, they sound smart.
But a world without a God has no foundation; no resting place. There’s no cause to stand behind the first event, no way to sort out truth from error, no reason for the existence of truth itself, logic as a way to get there, or foundation for right and wrong. In short, finite, causal worlds can’t make themselves. This world makes no sense standing alone.
Secular materialism wins the argument by not even trying to answer the big questions at all. There’s a reason that most atheists actually call themselves agnostic—then they don’t have to defend anything. Maybe God exists; maybe He doesn’t. In the meantime they have fun poking holes in everyone else’s view. But in truth they have no answers. Their plan is to die with no clue what happens next. That’s not a worldview. It’s not even an acceptable way to live.
3) Faith is a lifetime journey.
Christians don’t arrive at a higher plane above the realm where doubts arise and fears dismay. We’re called to run, fight, endure, and it’s those who continue to the end that have true salvation.
On that basis, I suggest that it isn’t just some Christians that face this struggle. We all do. It’s the basic question of faith. In a future post I’ll give three practical suggestions for the battle. But believing what God has said is a daily struggle that isn’t going away. Isn’t that, in fact, the essence of the Christian life?
The nearest you’ll come to a complete answer is an ongoing relationship. In my Christian experience, the times when I’ve struggled are when my walk is already faltering. Theologians call it the self-authenticating power of Scripture. Jesus said it differently.
“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John 7:17).
Or the blind man that Jesus healed:
“One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
How do I know that God exists? That’s an easy question when I just spoke with Him this morning. I can know He’s there when I hear Him in His Word every day or when I see changes in my life that nothing else can explain.
And so the end of the question leaves us where we ought to be anyway. While they’re helpful and I use them, ten thousand apologetics blogs, books and seminars won’t help you or I so much as one book and one Person. The walk of faith drives us to the core of the Christian worldview—do you take God at His Word or not?
I went skydiving once. The newbies and I were terrified. Everybody else had done it hundreds of time. Another day, another jump. That was Ivan Mcguire’s attitude too—until He died. But on the greatest reality of all—life itself—you can’t afford to be casual. Your life and eternity depend on it.