Everyone has a worldview. This might seem like a controversial assumption, given that many would deny having any concrete belief system of sorts, but I think the claim is warranted. No one truly acts neutrally – however implicitly, they have beliefs and assumptions that drive their day-to-day actions. These assumptions might be unnoticed even by the ones who hold to them, but they are there, working subtly behind the shadows. There might be someone, for example, who says he is disinterested in philosophy and religion, but if he lives in a secular godless manner, then you know that he is living as if God does not exist – and if he is living as if God does not exist, then clearly he has a belief, deep down in his subconscious, that the idea of God is not worth taking seriously, or, at the very least, that there is no good reason to live as if God does exist.
So, everyone has a worldview, a lens through which he/she views the world, however implicit this worldview might be. And every worldview is, ultimately, a story. I don’t mean this in a condescending manner – stories can be true! My mother used to tell me stories about my childhood, and I have no doubt concerning the sincerity of her testimony. In fact, it is stories that drive our world. Everyone has their own story.
I write this on the twelfth of April, 2020. It is a Sunday, it is Easter. And what better to write on this occasion than to simply tell the story of Easter?
Our world is a strange, dark and forsaken world. Even in the midst of apparent joy, there is deep and real suffering. Even the ancient Indian prince Siddhartha could not help but realise that the world was filled with pain and anguish. And this realisation was so shocking and heart-wrenching for him that, as the legend goes, he forsook all royalty in search for the enlightenment that he believed would reveal to him the secret of joy.
Things haven’t changed much. In fact, today’s world is filled with Siddharthas, desperate to discover the secret of happiness. Every advertisement you have ever seen, every product you have been keen to buy, every place you have wanted to visit, every prize you have been ambitious to win – in other words, everything you have ever done, you have done it in the hope that what you are about to do will finally bring you the joy and peace that your heart desires – or at the very least, will increase the joy that you already have.
And yet, here you are.
I too was a lot like Siddhartha. In fact, my mother wanted to name me Siddhartha, but ultimately decided against it for fear that I would ultimately become a monk. But against all hope, as it turned out, I did have a very ‘monastic’ spirit, even early on. From very early on in my life, I have been searching for answers – answers to the big questions of life. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why does this world exist? Where am I going?
In short: what does it all mean?
My thirst to discover these answers eventually became like a madness, like an obsession that had wormed itself deep into my psyche. I’m certain I was the only person in seventh grade who did not know how to play cricket, but who had, in fact, read the entire Bhagavad Gita cover to cover. I was the only kid in high school who was not a Muslim but who wanted to carry the Qur’an with him to read during the tiffin break. I was, in other words, probably exactly the kind of person my mother had initially dreaded I would become.
Like most people, I sought for something that would give purpose to my life: religion, politics, worldly success as a writer or an actor were high on the list. And yet, the questions remained. At one point in my life, I even contemplated raw, naked materialist atheism. I started reading atheist literature and was initially greatly impressed by the force of the rhetoric. Richard Dawkins, in particular, was a crucial influence. There he stood, marshalling all the powers of reason and science in an intellectual assault upon all forms of religion.
Finally, for a while, it seemed the candle had been blown out. There was no god. There was no purpose. There was no meaning to anything. There was no good, there was no evil – there was simply matter, endlessly morphing. As Christopher Hitchens wrote, “To the dumb question, ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: why not?”
The atheist ‘enlightenment’ informed me that, at best, I was an accident. I didn’t have to be here, but I was. And I would one day flicker out of existence. I came into being for no reason, and eventually, I would perish for no reason. And all my precious joys, passions, loves, desires, ambitions, fears and sorrows would perish with me.
In the worldview which the atheists presented to me, death was more real than life.
It was then that I encountered a person who completely changed my life. His name was Dr William Lane Craig. An academic philosopher of religion and a deeply Christian soul, he was a man who had debated leading atheists at universities around the world. He had faced off against big names like Lawrence Krauss, Dan Barker, Sam Harris, Peter Atkins and a whole host of other atheist heavyweights. And with him, for the first time, I saw someone who was able to give a clear and intellectually compelling case in favour of theism.
Eventually, as I studied more, I came to realise that most militant atheism was more motivated by anger against religion than any careful consideration of the question of whether or not God exists. Many of the arguments atheists had been putting forward, I realised, were extremely poor and shabby, often based upon misunderstandings and caricatures of Christian arguments and theology. And some of the leading atheists like Lawrence Krauss seemed unwilling to even consider the possibility of there being a God.
Rather than overthrowing dogmas, at times it seemed that the atheists were championing new dogmas – dogmas based less upon careful intellectual thought and more upon prejudice and hatred for a particular social order.
Today, I identify not as an atheist, but as a convinced believer in Jesus Christ. I believe in Jesus – and, even more unthinkably, in the Catholic Church - because I believe Christianity – and Catholicism – are true. And I believe the story of Christianity, which is really the story of Easter, can truly change people’s lives for the better.
The Bible opens with a very grand and simple line: In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. In the Biblical worldview, God is the reason why this universe exists. God created us, and we exist because of Him.
But the Bible also tells us that human beings sinned. Though we were originally created holy and good, we turned against God and rebelled against Him. All the evil that exists in the world is merely the outworking of man’s original sin. And the bad news is that none of us is innocent, because we have all participated in this unholy work of sin.
But the good news that Christianity brings is the proclamation that God did not abandon us. On the contrary, He descended from heaven and became one of us. He shared in our misery, our suffering, our loneliness, our pain and our anguish. But He did not share in our sins. He was crucified by men who hated His claims, but as He was dying on the Cross, He offered His life as a sacrifice – to atone for the sins of man.
All the powers of evil gathered together and climaxed on the Cross of Jesus 2,000 years ago… because there was no sin more grotesque than the murder of God’s only Son.
But, in the Christian worldview, death did not have the last word. On the contrary, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, physically, bodily, on the third day, triumphing over the powers of sin and death. Though men murdered Him, death could not hold Him, because He had committed no sin.
Those who hold to materialist dogma will scoff at this idea. For countless souls, miracles and resurrections are the stuff of legend. They cannot happen and do not happen.
If you doubt the Resurrection, then I highly recommend you to take the time to study it, historically. The Oxford atheist philosopher (and later convert to theism, though not to Christianity) Antony Flew admitted in his debate with the historian Gary Habermas that the Resurrection of Jesus had better evidence than claimed miracles in any other religion. I think he is right in this. The Gospels, after all, are not myths written centuries after the time of Jesus, but rather are biographical accounts that can, more or less, all be traced back to the first century. Though written by various authors, they all testify that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. It is the same with the letters of Paul of Tarsus, an anti-Christian Jew who was later converted after seeing a vision of the resurrected Jesus. His letter to the Galatians contains a moving testimony of his conversion, and his story is corroborated by the Book of Acts, written by a man named Luke. These documents I speak of are not fabrications, but rather the writings of real people, who lived at specific times in history, and whose biographical and at times autobiographical claims largely corroborate each other.
In my mind, the Resurrection of Jesus is the single most extraordinary event of human history.
Today, I invite you – whoever you may be – to consider the claims of Christianity for yourself. You have nothing at all to lose. If Christianity is true, then you have everything to gain from discovering its truthfulness. But if it’s false, then a careful study will only reveal its falsity, because the truth cannot ultimately be hidden. Either way, you will increase your knowledge.
What convinced me was the intellectual arguments in favour of God’s existence, the extraordinary testimony of the resurrection of Jesus, the fulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament, the beauty and power of the very words of the Saviour, and, of course, my personal experience of grace.
Of course, you might have questions, and you might want to learn more. If this is so, I rejoice in this, and I encourage you wholeheartedly to follow the truth wherever it leads. A good place to start is the YouTube channel Capturing Christianity, which regularly hosts discussions between Christian and atheist intellectuals and scholars. Bishop Robert Barron’s book Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith is also a great place to start. I also highly recommend the work of Edward Feser, an atheist philosopher whose studies in the philosophy of religion and mind eventually led him to convert to Christianity – I especially commend his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, which, in my mind, is the best intellectual and reasoned defence of classical theism that has been made in recent years.
Above all, I urge you to take the time out and read the New Testament, which is a collection of these ancient historical writings that testify to the life and works of Jesus of Nazareth.
I know that there are people who will read this article of mine and laugh. Why then do I write? Why then do I spend so much time telling people about a man who lived 2,000 years ago, a man I have never met in person?
Because I believe this man is no mere man, but rather the incarnate Son of God. I write because this Man has changed my life, and He can change yours as well, if only you allow Him. And if you do, you will come to possess a joy that the world cannot give.
Telling people about the amazing person that is Jesus is worth any sacrifice and any cost.
This is the faith that has inspired millions, that has shaken empires, that has changed the course of human history. This is the faith of the martyrs, the confessors and the saints of the Cross. And this is the audacity with which I can stare death in the eye and proclaim that Christ is risen and that He lives forever more.
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