Why Do I Believe in Jesus Christ?
I have watched some videos and attended webinars in the last two weeks on why atheists do not believe in Jesus Christ. One of their central arguments against belief in Jesus or the existence of God is that there is no rational basis for such belief. British Philosopher Bertrand Russel aptly captures this line of argument in an interview he granted a few years before his death in 1970. In his answer to the question, why are you not a Christian? In his own words, he says he is not a believer in Jesus: “because I see no evidence whatsoever in any of the Christian dogmas.” He goes on further to say that in his engagement in pursuit of knowledge, he concluded that Christian dogmas are not true because they are irrational and one can’t verify their truthfulness. For instance, Russel considers Jesus teaching of afterlife nonsensical. Jesus’ declaration and promise in John 14 about returning to heaven after his resurrection to prepare a place for those who believe in him, and an invitation to faith in him as the way, truth, and life are rejected by Bertrand Russel and his likes in our current age for lack of proof for the truthfulness of such claims. Can we make a compelling case for the evident truth of Christ and his teachings? Yes, we can.
The incarnate Word, imago Dei, Jesus Christ himself is the proof of dogmas of Christian faith. My claim would be considered fallacious and lacking in scientific evidence by philosophers and scientists respectively. But the onus of proof in this context and concerning this subject is found in the person of Christ himself-the author of life. His words and teachings are true because God’s witness and testimony are true (Jn 8:14). Consequently, we believe in God and all truths he revealed to us: we believe in heaven and hell, we believe in the resurrection of the body at the end of life, we believe in the Parousia, and the last judgement. We believe in all teachings of Jesus because they are self evident to perception of faith. These truths fall primarily within the purview of faith. The knowledge of the world and what is known about it is not limited to the material form of knowledge; after all, our universe is composed of matter and spirit. Jesus is the origin and ground of all human knowledge.
Jesus declares to the curious and knowledge-seeking Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). We know these teaching to be true by the gift of faith and can verify it to be true by the life and works of believers in Christ down the ages who fulfill the promise of Christ when he says that “he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do; because I go to the Father.” (Jn 14:12). All humans are seeking for a way to truth and life, including atheists and agnostics and non-Christians. Because the human soul cannot find perfect fulfillment in the material provision, Jesus provides the way to the essential spiritual purpose of the humans. St. Augustine makes this clear in his sermons: “Every man can attain an understanding of the Truth and the Life; but not all find the Way. The wise of this world realize that God is eternal life and knowable truth; but by the Word of God, who is Truth and Life joined to the Father, has become the way by taking a human nature” (De Verbis Domini Sermones, 54).
For Many, like Bertrand Russel, who reject Jesus, “a cornerstone, chosen and precious” in the configuration of their lives, there are many more who by grace believe or have faith in him as the cornerstone of their lives, and progress and joy are their lots. The growth in the number of disciples and the widespread of the Way among Jews and Gentiles alike as we heard from Acts of the Apostles 6:1 are concrete and verifiable evidence of the truthfulness of Christ teaching about himself when he says “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these” (Jn 14:12). These self-evident truths of faith are parts of the reasons why I believe in Jesus Christ, the reason why I am a Christian. It is part of our functions as partakers in the royal priesthood of Christ to offer sacrifices and prayers for non-believers and carry out works of Christ to attract them to follow the Way.
In Christ, the way, the truth, and the life,
Fr. Bernard Oniwe, OP