My family is a fairly intellectual one, on the whole. While we were growing up, my parents, one a medical doctor and the other a biochemist, both emphasized thinking carefully and critically. They never discouraged my habit of taking things apart to figure out how they worked; they just found old broken watches and locks for me to play with. I kept this up in college, and it was a lot of fun learning how the world works (or at least how we think it works). Since there weren’t many other 13 year olds to hang out with on campus, I spent a lot of time at home. I enjoyed being at home with my family; we could be silly and joke around with one another, but we also had many engaging and thought-provoking discussions, often around the dinner table.
I still have faint memories of one dinner when I was around 4 years old, and the conversation had turned to, of all things, the end of the world. My family doesn’t always have such deep conversations, but we also don’t shy away from the tough topics. I was raised in a Christian home, and one incredible hope we have is that, as the world sinks into chaos and depravity, God offers us a way out. My parents commented on how cool it would be if our whole family could go to heaven together, and I (being only four) agreed. My father noted, however, that wasn’t possible for him to “carry me with him” into heaven; I had to make a decision for myself to ask Jesus into my heart. This I did readily enough; it wasn’t hard for me to make a simple decision.
Now, one may think a choice made at four years of age isn’t likely to have a lasting impact, but I believe that was a starting point for me. As I grew up, I learned more about the world, about science, about relationships, and about God. Especially during college and grad school, I could no longer blindly accept everything my parents told me to believe. My own studies in mathematics have made clear to me that nothing in this world can be proven for sure. Mathematical proofs are so called because they derive from fundamental axioms, which we assume as a starting point. In the physical world, we have no starting point except our own limited, error-prone observations. We don’t even know what causes gravity; we can only construct models that try to fit observed phenomena. So when it came to the question of the origin of the universe, I questioned those who claimed that evolution was “proven” beyond a doubt. By the same standard, the Bible’s hypothesis of creation ex nihilo by God is also unprovable. What could I do, in my own search for the truth? I could only form an “educated guess”, based on the best evidence I could find.
I still don’t have a “proof” of where we come from or where we’re going, but in my own search for a standard by which to live my life, I have accumulated enough evidence that I am confident the Bible is correct, not just on creation, but on the rules by which we live life. It seems to me that it takes more faith to believe that this incredibly complex, incredibly well-designed universe came about by chance than it does to believe that an incredibly intelligent Creator made it all. My definition of faith is similar to an “educated guess” – I’ve examined enough evidence to persuade me that the rest of the Bible is trustworthy. I will not remain rooted in cynicism, but instead I will accept the promises of the Bible at face value. A wise person once compared our lives to a car: when we use a car, there are specific rules, dos and don’ts, that we must follow. We are required to use gasoline as fuel, and not water, or coffee, or milk. Who makes up these rules? The manufacturer decides the rules we need to follow in order to run the car well. The rules may seem unduly restrictive, but the owner’s manual is there to help us get the most out of the car. The Creator decides the standard by which I live my life.
So yes, I’m still a scientist, and I still think critically. Yes, I do believe 100% in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. No, I’m not a religious fanatic, nor have I lost my marbles (yet). I’ve found that the Creator’s standard is perfection, and I’d be kidding myself if I thought I could get there on my own merit. The Bible says that, if God were to be really fair, then anyone who doesn’t meet God’s perfect standard for righteousness is doomed to die without Him. By myself, I don’t deserve anything but hell. What bowls me over is that God loves me enough to have sent his own Son, Jesus, to earth, to die instead of me, so that I don’t have to die. God has power over death and life; he brought Jesus back from the dead, and he also gives eternal life to me, you, and everyone who accepts this free gift. What an awesome hope we have!
“Yet [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness’. The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
(Romans 4:20-25 (NIV))
– Sean Ho. Chapel Hill, NC, May 1999