My dad wanted to introduce me to his friend who has a ministry in Malawi. He was a marine, in good shape. Nice guy. I chatted with them for a minute and was saying bye and the guy comes up and asks me that if I were to die today, did I know where I was going to spend eternity, in heaven or hell. I don’t think this man was ready for what was to come.
I laughed. I said, “No, I don’t. Do you?” He said, “Absolutely. Heaven.”
I continued with a smile, “There is no proof of anything beyond right here and right now. The only thing that you can claim as proof of a heaven or hell is in a book. And the one you’re using as authority didn’t have an eternal punishment in the first half. It wasn’t until Jesus came along that the consequences were changed and to benefit who and what agenda, I don’t know.”
So he proceeds to give me his script that works well for him from his 35 years of preaching the gospel. (I used this time to gather my emotions and breathe. Yes this is really happening and my dad is standing right there. All this is being done in love.)
He hit the all bases. Original sin, being separated from God – eternally, and the only way to him and heaven is by Jesus. But of course, he points out that it isn’t about heaven or hell but a relationship with God. (Yet the first pitch is salvation from hell, yet now it’s about a loving relationship?)
I kindly let him know that I don’t believe you can ever be separated from God. “As long as I am breathing, I am connected to whatever or whomever gives life and I don’t have to believe anything to have this connection.” I continued saying, “I have no idea what happens after I die, but I have complete peace about dying.
I asked, “Do you want to know why I don’t go to church? Do you think it is fun not enjoying fellowship with the community I live in? It isn’t because I’m lazy and want to sleep in. I don’t want my kids being conditioned to believe this.”
I pointed out the problem I have with Divine Revelation. Moses is on the mount, God speaks and reveals himself to Moses – Divine Revelation. No problem. Moses comes down the mountain and reveals what God said to the people – hearsay -information received from other people that one cannot adequately substantiate; rumor. I told him that it was the same as with Joseph Smith and the Mormons. At this he bristled, and strongly declared, “No, it is not the same!”
I passionately stepped up into theatrical mode and said, “Oh, yes it is!” God gave Joseph Smith the golden discs! Moving my hands and arms around to help illustrate, “Where are the golden discs?! No one has seen them. Nobody knows! God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, written by God’s own hand (or whatever God uses to inscribe into stone). No one has seen them! Where are they? Nobody knows!”
The term archeological evidence came up. I interjected. I had just sent my dad a link to the article about discovering possibly Ganghis Khan’s tomb. He joked about it and included a statement about the possibility of it being a hoax. I asked how he could use archeological evidence to prove anything about the bible being Divine or Jesus existing or dying, and being resurrected. I used the recent archeological discovery to illustrate. The time period was right. A male was buried with 16 females, horses, gold, silver, entombed with slaves killed and buried on top and hidden under a river. It very well could be Ganghis Kahn. But it very well may not be.
So archeological evidence was pushed aside.
Then we went to personal testimony. He had been a marine, Vietnam, drugs, adultery, and when he was at rock bottom, he waved his bible in the air and declared to God, “God, I’ve been reading and looking a Hustler magazine every day” (I kind of lost what was said here) but he said he told God he wanted to know the truth! And he said God started showing him the truth. And His life changed.
Here I quoted a James Allen poem, “Mind is the Master Power that Moulds and makes and man is mind and evermore he takes the tools of thought and shaping what he wills, a thousand joys, a thousand ills. He thinks in secret, it comes to pass, environment is but his looking glass.” It probably went over his head but I said that whatever he believes to be true, he will see in his reality.
He says something to the effect of a loving God who made a way for us to be saved. I strongly let him know that if a loving God set it up where I had to believe what happened in a book two thousand years ago, by people whom no one can claim real authorship of those books, and the stories in them of what happened don’t even line up, in a remote part of the world. If this is what the salvation of my soul hinges on, then I choose Hell.
He declares, “One day you will see?”
My response, “When is that? When Jesus appears in the sky after rolling it back and he sends me to Hell for not believing?”
He mentions the Dead Sea Scrolls to build validity in me believing the Bible as authority. I interjected again. “Let me point out another problem with the divinely revealed word that my souls eternal salvation hinges upon. The mark of the beast is 666 right?” He says yes. I shared about the two oldest versions of Revelation giving the number of the beast as 616 (the Oxyrhynchus site and the Zurich bible) to me this minor incident proposes major problems with God giving man His word to be published in at least 900 English translations. And I am to believe what it says or I go to hell?
He responds saying, “I think you’ve been hurt.” I replied, “I have been hurt. You’ve been hurt, he’s been hurt (referring to my dad). We’ve all been hurt. But we heal. Why does emotion have to be brought into it? Emotions sell cars. Emotions make decisions for Christ.
Look at your body language. Your the one that seems upset.”
He defends his body language by saying “I’m upset for you.”
So, since emotion has been brought up and claiming I am hurt as a reason for me rejecting Christ, I said, “The part of this conversation that bothers me is that you want to say that I am hurt and make it emotional. What happened to reason? You can go away from here and say whatever you’d like. That I am being influenced by demons or whatever church Mumbo Jumbo you want to say. I don’t know how much clearer I can be. I reject it.”
“Well one of us is wrong”, he states. “What if we are both wrong? I said.
“Well, I know Jesus existed.” he declares. I shook my head and strongly told him, “No. You do not KNOW Jesus existed. You BELIEVE that Jesus existed. You have FAITH that Jesus existed. And I respect that. But you do not KNOW that Jesus existed.”