I was asked in an on-line discussion: “Why do people believe the Bible?” I gave it a lot of thought, and this was my response:
Did you ever see the movie, "5 Minutes of Heaven" with Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt? James Nesbitt's role as the brother of a murder victim during "The Troubles" in Ireland was the most stunning performance I've ever seen. Anyway, in the opening scene, Liam Neeson says, "For me to talk about the man I've become, you need to know about the man I was." (I'm telling you that in hopes it will add some 'gravitas' to my post...Lol)
I've always been an avid reader, but I decided at a young age to go out and live the experiences I was reading about. I've been fortunate to have been able to travel and meet interesting people (and fortunate to survive some of those experiences).
I've had a long-time interest in totalitarian governments; I've probably read over 100 books on the Cultural Revolution in China, the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, Joe Stalin's Russia, Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust, and so on. Most of the books were written by people who escaped from those regimes, which adds the balance of human perspective to textbook history lessons.
I've gone in person to see some of those places. My experience in Vietnam opened my eyes to the corruption of government officials and the repression suffered by citizens. Within 30 minutes of landing in Saigon, my Vietnamese friend, Tuyvan, was threatened into paying a bribe to the Customs Officer who was inspecting our luggage. As we traveled around the country, we were pulled over twice by cops who wanted a bribe. We were never ticketed; our Vietnamese driver would hand the officers some cash, and we’d go on our way. It was standard operating procedure.
It was experiences like those that made me pay closer attention to the various ideologies in our world, and, after watching ideology play out in real life, and seeing with my own eyes the results of ideologies, I can confidently say, "Judeo/Christian ideology, when held accountable to its own principles, leads to the greatest amount of freedom and justice for the greatest number of people."
I've observed that same principle in action on a social level. One day about 30 years ago, I was reading Galatians 5:19-21:
"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
I asked myself, "Why? Why do people who practice those things not inherit the kingdom of God?". So, over the years, I've made a point to observe people (myself included) and draw some conclusions.
I'll use myself as an example: In my younger days, I began drinking a lot. Drinking became an almost daily event for me. It became such a big part of my personality that even my jokes were about drinking. It wasn't until I stopped drinking that I realized I'd become a self-centered, self-deluded man.
At 64 years old, I've lived long enough to see the beginning and the end of people's lives. I've observed that same self-centeredness and self-delusion in the lives of people who practice the behaviors listed in Galatians 5. We become our own gods, and build our foundations on sand, choosing to follow our own inclinations rather than follow Jesus.
During the discussion, I was asked: “Maybe it would be better for you to just say that Christianity works for you because you believe it and you like going to church?"
My lengthy response (as I’m prone to do) began with the Creation story in Genesis. There's been a lot of discussion about the topic, but I truly believe people are missing the point: God started us out in a Garden, not a church. Adam and Eve were given a job to do. Right there, in the first book of the Bible, God made it clear that we're meant to be active doers, not merely sedentary pew-sitters.
It's a theme that runs throughout the Bible. In the words of Jesus in the gospel of Luke: “As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.”
We're designed to be people of community. Finding (and attending) a good church is important in the way that a work group attends training sessions: We don’t learn just for the sake of learning; we learn so we can become better at what we’re meant to do, and it's important to do that in a community of like-minded people.
Christianity is also important on a deeply personal level: as Br. Mark Dohle puts it: “When we forget that we have a soul, we let it starve for what it was made for”.
I stopped drinking on March 5, 1985, but I was an angry and bitter man. I was a truck driver/warehouseman at the time. I was missing work so often that I was literally 3 minutes away from being fired.
One day I ended up in a face-to-face yelling match with my Boss. The confused look on his face made me feel deeply ashamed. I went home that night, dusted off my Bible, and searched for a specific verse, Colossians 3:23:
"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men." I wrote down that verse on a piece of paper and took it to work with me the next morning. I made a commitment to begin living my life that way.
A year later, the same boss I'd had the shouting match with walked up to me and said, "Bill, I just wanted to tell you that you've been voted Employee of the Year." I was given a frame-able letter on the Company letterhead, and 4 extra days of vacation. It was the first time ever that the Company had presented an Employee of the Year award. They had created the award to give it to me.
I don’t know if there’s a word that describes my feelings at that moment. To say I was ‘surprised’ doesn’t really cover it. It was a revelation, a deep understanding that God is right there, in real time, intimately involved in our lives.
I chose that particular example because, when I started following that Biblical advice, I had no idea it would change my life so dramatically. In other words, it wasn't just ‘confirmation bias‘. It was the catalyst for a fundamental change.
So why do I believe the Bible? As C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”