A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:24-25)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 Cor 4 :20)
I was in San Diego with my kids last year, and we were spending the day in Balboa Park. As we were walking around, we noticed a table set up in the courtyard, run by a group of atheists. They were there to share their opinion on why Christianity was false. It was a kind of counter-evangelism; or maybe better to say, evangelism to their own brand of faith in scientism, by means of attacking Christianity.
What struck me about it was how different their motivation was from a group of Christians, if they were similarly sharing their faith. Christians wouldn't be there simply to argue, or to prove one particular belief system wrong, but to share new life. Whatever they were sharing at the atheist table, we know that they weren't sharing the abundant life that comes from atheism. They were sharing an ideology. They weren't comparing the transforming power of atheism to that of Christianity. There is no comparable force in human history. They don't have that to offer.
At the core of Christianity isn't religion but a work of the Holy Spirit. It isn't a set of rules or rationales but a relationship. There is a rationality connected to it, but Christianity is not simply a worldview. It's a transforming power that compels such a view. It spread throughout the world not based on a creed but because those who trusted in Christ had an experience that changed them. Uncounted millions of people have had their lives transformed by this power, and experience His presence at the center of their lives every day. I am one of those people.
The fact that Christianity changes lives doesn't prove it's true, but it does make it rationally compelling, since this is what Jesus claimed to be offering people from the outset. John 4:13-14; 10:10; 14:12, 16-17; 2 Cor 3:17-18; Gal 5:22-23. If the acid test of Christianity is whether his words were true, then our lives are a testimony to the validity of our faith. The fact that atheism doesn't have the power to change lives doesn't mean it isn't true, because it doesn't claim to. At least, not overtly. But it does mean that it fails as a way to move people toward their potential, which is something everyone should demand of their worldview. I think most of us agree that believing the truth will have positive benefits in our lives. That truth brings freedom. But we don't see this, with atheism. We don't see the rejection of religious thought bringing hope to those whose lives have been ruined by addiction. We don't see a denial of God's existence causing convicts or prostitutes to embrace a new, moral lifestyle, contributing to society and offering hope to others.
We also don't see a moral position proceeding from atheism that is good for humanity. Without a God, all that is left are morals we pick and choose from, which end up looking like a consumerist version of Christianity anyway. Or, just as easily, Hitler's brand of social Darwinism. Conversely, Christianity has had a profound impact on western society over the last 2000 years, and continues to be a force in helping those who suffer worldwide. No myth has produced a similar result. No self-help program (apart from those related to Christianity) has had that impact. Believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy has not made anyone a better person. Christianity is what it has always claimed to be—the way to new life.
In John 9, the Pharisees were intent on proving that Jesus was not from God. But he had healed a man born blind, and they had already interviewed the man's parents to confirm it. They had their arguments against Jesus, and the man wasn't capable of refuting them. But it really came down to one thing. He was blind, and now he could see. It's the same for us. The power of Christ is the reason and validation for our faith.
When we're out there, standing at a table in the courtyard to share Christ, it's not to argue with the atheist. It's to offer her something she doesn't have. We know, because we were like her at one point, most of us. But now we have something we didn't have before. It is the presence of the one who loves us, and never leaves us.