God, Tsunamis, and Cheese Sandwiches
Author: Ray Comfort, Living Waters Publications
It was early in the morning, late in 2004. Very early. Most people in the airport looked as though they could have done with an extra week or so in bed. I was flying back from New York to Los Angeles waiting to board a plane when a tall man asked me, "What rows did they call?" I answered, "First class… the rich folks." He smiled and said, "Yeah. The ones who should be going on their own Learjet." I handed him a Million Dollar Bill tract and said, "Here's the down payment on your Learjet." When he smiled, I passed him a Department of Annoyance tract, and said, "And here's my card." He turned it over and to my horror began to read out loud the gospel message on the back--despite the fact that the text was printed in reverse to give me getaway time. When I quickly added, "It's a gospel tract," he mumbled "I'm an atheist."
While atheism is the ultimate intellectual suicide, I can understand why some people are tempted to believe that there's no God. The previous night I had listened to a CNN report that scientists had discovered why human beings are more intelligent than animals. I was intrigued with their assumption, and listened to how scientists believed that 20 million years ago we developed larger brains. They predicted that the human brain will continue to grow, giving us larger heads. This will mean that future generations will see more Cesarean births. I admired the newscaster's ability to remain straight-faced.
A few minutes later, CNN reported that after a giant tsunami in Southeast Asia killed multitudes, authorities could hardly find any animals that died in the flooding. They surmised that the animals had some sort of intelligence that caused them to move to higher ground when the tsunami-causing earthquake struck. It was human beings who stayed on the beach to take pictures of the wave as it approached.
As I stood in line at the airport, the morning newspaper showed a picture of a ten-year-old piece of grilled cheese sandwich which was said to bear the likeness of the Virgin Mary. It was sold on eBay to an “intelligent” human, who paid $28,000 for it.
It is information like this that should help anyone with any intelligence to realize that humanity isn't as intelligent as we are led to believe. While most Christians are too smart to bite into the error of Virgin Mary toast, they profess a faith that makes no sense. While watching TV in my hotel room the night before, I saw a well-known pastor talk about his book, which has sold a phenomenal 20 million copies. He said that God's agenda for humanity was to "make our lives better." That was a summation of his message.
Tell that to those who were burying tens of thousands of human corpses after the tsunami hit. Tell that to the fathers who hold the dead bodies of their beloved children in their arms, or to the relatives of those who died of horrific diseases. It doesn't take much intelligence to realize that if there is a God who created all things, He must be all-powerful. Nothing is impossible for Him. He therefore could have easily prevented unspeakable agony by simply lifting His finger off the earthquake button. But He didn't.
Yes, there is plenty of evidence (from cheese sandwiches to tsunamis) for a thinking person to conclude that a God of love who is all-powerful and wants to better the life of humanity doesn't exist. If He did, He would immediately get a supply of good food to the starving in Africa so that their lives may be better, or at least provide some rain to grow their crops.
During that same day the tsunami hit, 150,000 other people died around the world--about 40,000 of starvation. If He wanted to make our lives better, perhaps He could also halt the parade of killer hurricanes that line up to regularly devastate the U.S., or He could slow down the hundreds of terrifying tornadoes that take precious human lives each year. Maybe He could even whisper to us a cure for the cancers that are killing millions annually, including innocent children.
A quick look at Jeremiah 9:21-24 gives the answer to this intellectual dilemma. How could God be loving and yet allow suffering? The Bible tells us that He is in control, and that He does send judgments to this earth. God is love, but He's also just and holy and if He gave us what we deserve, the tsunami of His holiness would sweep us all into Hell.
Imagine you have knowledge that a bridge has been washed out by a terrible storm, on a dark and moonless night. You stop all approaching cars and say, "The bridge that spans a thousand-foot chasm has been washed away! Please turn your vehicle around." The violence of the storm itself is enough to convince any thinking driver that you are speaking the truth, and those who have the sense to believe you do turn around.
Tsunamis, terrible diseases, agonizing cancers, massive earthquakes, devastating tornados, killer hurricanes, awful suffering, and death itself are very real and violent storms that should be enough to convince any thinking person that our warning is true.
The message of Christianity isn't one of God wanting to better this life for humanity. It is one of warning of a terrible fate in store for those who continue on the road of sin. We are told by God's Word that there are two deaths on the highway to Hell. The first death is when we leave the storms of this life and pass into timeless eternity. The second death is the chasm of eternal damnation. It is the terrifying justice of a holy God.
So with the cheese sandwich insanity, and the confusion about the message of Christianity, I could sympathize with my atheist friend in the airport. When he professed atheism it gave me the opportunity to humbly cite my atheist credentials. I said, "I wrote a book called God Doesn't Believe in Atheists: Proof the Atheist Doesn't Exist." Then I told him that I was a platform speaker at the American Atheists' national convention in 2001. I offered, "It's really easy to prove God's existence." He replied, "It's not healthy for me to talk about God." I said that I could understand that, and added, "But you are a reasonable and open-minded person, so you can listen to me for two minutes."
He gave me the okay, so I told him how he could know for sure that God existed, that God had given him a conscience and that if he even lusted after a woman, Jesus said that he had committed adultery already with her in his heart. I also mentioned that if a criminal was given a death sentence and he said to the judge, "But I don't believe in the electric chair," it didn't change reality.
He politely listened, and said, "Well, I'd better board the plane." He reached out his hand, shook mine and said, "My name is Pat." I told him my name, watched him board, and prayed that he would read the literature that he still held in his hand… and that he would have the intelligence to believe the words of warning.
Additional Relevant Information
"I am perfectly content as a non-Christian. I do not believe in an afterlife and would never consider a religion so restrictive and exclusive as Christianity anyway."
You are content as you are—fair enough. If contentment is what you are after, the Christian faith may not have much to say to you for a while. But lots of things that bring contentment are not true. Would you be willing to consider something if it disturbed your contentment, but might actually be true?
How do you know that there is no conscious existence after death? The main reason that people claim to not believe in an afterlife is that they think that the idea is a naive wish-fulfillment in the face of the fear of death.
But disbelief in an afterlife could have the same intellectual status. It could be the hopeful wish that there might be no accountability to anyone after we die, and the hope that there is no intrusive authority in our lives before that time.
Christian exclusiveness starts with the idea that the Gospel of Christ is true in a way that will exclude some other claims to truth. Is this so arrogant? Everybody in the world who has any religious or metaphysical convictions believes that the majority of people in the world are wrong about their religious and metaphysical convictions.
For example, you exclude my convictions. But that's okay. We can talk about it much better knowing where we both stand—two absolutists having a civil discussion.
Text author: Richard B. Keyes, Director of L'Abri MA, a residential study center in Southborough, Massachusetts. L'Abri was founded in Switzerland by the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer in 1955. Mr. Keyes is also and author and lecturer. Since 1997 he has served as an AIIA Resource Associate (worldviews). Above text provided by AIIA Institute.
Why the Atheist doesn't exist
There can be no such things as an atheist. This is why: Let's imagine that you are a professing atheist. Here are two questions for you to answer: First, do you know the combined weight of all the sand on all the beaches of Hawaii? We can safely assume that you don't. This brings us to the second question: Do you know how many hairs are on the back of a fully-grown male Tibetan yak? Probably not. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that there are some things that you don't know. It is important to ask these questions because there are some people who think they know everything.
Let's say that you know an incredible one percent of all the knowledge in the universe. To know 100 percent, you would have to know everything. There wouldn't be a rock in the universe that you would not be intimately familiar with, or a grain of sand that you would not be aware of. You would know everything that has happened in history, from that which is common knowledge to the minor details of the secret love life of Napoleon's great-grandmother's black cat's fleas. You would know every hair of every head, and every thought of every heart. All history would be laid out before you, because you would be omniscient (all-knowing).
Bear in mind that one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, Thomas Edison, said, "We do not know a millionth of one percent about anything." Let me repeat: Let's say that you have an incredible one percent of all the knowledge in the universe. Would it be possible, in the ninety-nine percent of the knowledge that you haven't yet come across, that there might be ample evidence to prove the existence of God? If you are reasonable, you will be forced to admit that it is possible. Somewhere, in the knowledge you haven't yet discovered, there could be enough evidence to prove that God does exist.
Let's look at the same thought from another angle. If I were to make an absolute statement such as, "There is no gold in China," what is needed for that statement to be proven true? I need absolute or total knowledge. I need to have information that there is no gold in any rock, in any river, in the ground, in any store, in any ring, or in any mouth (gold filling) in China. If there is one speck of gold in China, then my statement is false and I have no basis for it. I need absolute knowledge before I can make an absolute statement of that nature. Conversely, for me to say, "There is gold in China," I don't need to have all knowledge. I just need to have seen a speck of gold in the country, and the statement is then true.
To say categorically, "There is no God," is to make an absolute statement. For the statement to be true, I must know for certain that there is no God in the entire universe. No human being has all knowledge. Therefore, none of us is able to truthfully make this assertion.
If you insist upon disbelief in God, what you must say is, "Having the limited knowledge I have at present, I believe that there is no God." Owing to a lack of knowledge on your part, you don't know if God exists. So, in the strict sense of the word, you cannot be an atheist. The only true qualifier for the title is the One who has absolute knowledge, and why on earth would God want to deny His own existence?
The professing atheist is what is commonly known as an “agnostic” - one who claims he “doesn't know” if God exists. It is interesting to note that the Latin equivalent for the Greek word is “ignoramus.” The Bible tells us that this ignorance is “willful” (Psalm 10:4). It's not that a person can't find God, but that he won't. It has been rightly said that the “atheist” can't find God for the same reason a thief can't find a policeman. He knows that if he admits that there is a God, he is admitting that he is ultimately responsible to Him. This is not a pleasant thought for some.
It is said that Mussolini (the Italian dictator), once stood on a pinnacle and cried, "God, if you are there, strike me dead!" When God didn't immediately bow to his dictates, Mussolini then concluded that there was no God. However, his prayer was answered some time later.
Excerpted from God Doesn't Believe in Atheists by Ray Comfort
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