Thursday, March 30, 2006

Truth Or Fiction: Part One

There are a lot of issues when it comes to Christianity and truth - which is a little weird, when you think about the whole "thou shalt not bear false witness" thing in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) - and I'm going to take them on here in the Grapevine over the next couple of weeks. Let's get started...

We had a great week (well, 4 days) with Dr. Allen Troxler & the book of Mark. (For me, it was really cool to work through the layers of meaning behind the triumphal entry... that was new territory for me.)

On Sunday morning, Allen started out his message with a rather famous story:

There was a professor of philosophy who was a deeply committed atheist. His primary goal for one required class was to spend the entire semester attempting to prove that God couldn’t exist. His students were always afraid to argue with him because of his impeccable logic. For twenty years, he had taught this class and no one had ever had the courage to go against him. Sure, some had argued in class at times, but no one had ever really gone against him because of his reputation. At the end of every semester on the last day, he would say to his class of 300 students, "If there is anyone here who still believes in Jesus, stand up!" In twenty years, no one had ever stood up. They knew what he was going to do next. He would say, "Because anyone who believes in God is a fool. If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove that He is God, and yet He can’t do it." And every year, he would drop the chalk onto the tile floor of the classroom and it would shatter into a hundred pieces. All of the students would do nothing but stop and stare. Most of the students thought that God couldn’t exist. Certainly, a number of Christians had slipped through, but for 20 years, they had been too afraid to stand up.

Well, a few years ago there was a freshman who happened to enroll. He was a Christian, and had heard the stories about his professor. He was required to take the class for his major, and he was afraid. But for three months that semester, he prayed every morning that he would have the courage to stand up no matter what the professor said, or what the class thought. Nothing they said could ever shatter his faith...he hoped.

Finally, the day came. The professor said, " If there is anyone here who still believes in God, stand up!" The professor and the class of 300 people looked at him, shocked, as he stood up at the back of the classroom. The professor shouted, "You FOOL!!! If God existed, he would keep this piece of chalk from breaking when it hit the ground!" He proceeded to drop the chalk, but as he did, it slipped out of his fingers, off his shirt cuff, onto the pleat of his pants, down his leg, and off his shoe. As it hit the ground, it simply rolled away unbroken. The professor’s jaw dropped as he stared at the chalk. He looked up at the young man, and then ran out of the lecture hall. The young man who had stood, proceeded to walk to the front of the room and shared his faith in Jesus for the next half hour. 300 students stayed and listened as he told of God’s love for them and of His power through Jesus.

Great story, eh? But just as Allen said Sunday morning... it's not true. It's an urban legend. (For more background on the story, see

Allen went on to focus on "urban legends" in the story of the woman anointing Jesus... but I want to deal specifically with the college class story for a minute.

What is it that causes us as Christians to forward these kind of stories, even though the vast majority of them are bogus? I've got some ideas... but for this week, I'll just focus on one.

We are, unfortunately, pragmatists. A pragmatist bases his decisions, beliefs & behaviors on "what works"... and while there's a temptation to follow that kind of logic, that can easily lead us to allow a Machiavellian "ends justify the means" attitude to creep into the way we share the faith. We deplore when cults use techniques like "
flirty fishing" (sending attractive young women to seduce/indoctrinate young men into a cult) - but this kind of "bait & switch" method is not ethically very far from justifying telling stories with no basis in fact (i.e., lies!) in order that people will believe in Jesus.

You could well point out that Jesus told stories (parables) that may or may not have been "true" stories. Here's the difference: Jesus doesn't claim that these parables, used to illustrate & illuminate particular points of theology, were actual events.

You could also point out that people have been saved under the ministry of some world class liars (
Mike Warnke springs to mind). But the fact that God allowed someone to cross the line of faith in this manner doesn't justify the behavior - it simply highlights the grace of God.

Here's the deal... truth is important. If a seeker finds out we're willing to make up/spread stories because of their emotional effect, then it's a hop, skip & a jump to wondering what else about the Bible & Christianity is "made-up."

So, what should we do?

  1. Don't forward touching stories/e-mails unless you check them out against or (Note: while is a Christian website, is not...)
  2. Check out stuff that's forwarded to you against those sites - and have the courage to let people know when they've forwarded you "junk".
  3. Tell real stories... stories you have personal knowledge of. God has done so many amazing things in our hearts & lives - we don't need to make stuff up!
A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

A truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.

A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful.

Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth.

Proverbs 12:17,19,22; 14:5,25; 16:13

This article originally appeared in the 3/4/06 issue of the Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.


Anonymous said...

The truth matters, which is why I no longer care to be a Christian. I became a believer in college after hearing a lot of lies, including the testimony of Mike Warnke, who STILL goes around claiming to be a former satanic priest. He came to our area a few years ago, so I wrote a column based mainly on the expose from Cornerstone magazine. The preacher whose church was sponsoring the show threatened to sue me!

When I was a Christian, I didn't feel the theory of evolution was a threat to my belief, but Christians can't handle it, so they make up "science" of their own.
Can you give me one honest reason for believing?

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Anonymous... I'm sorry that someone who declares himself as a follower of Christ threatened you with legal action for telling the truth. Besides being decidely un-classy, it's not particularly biblical of him (

I do think you might want to examine the difference between "creation scientists" and "intelligent design" - despite a lot of broad strokes misrepresentations in the MSM, they aren't the same thing. A good place to start might be Phillip Johnson's "Darwin on Trial".

Here's the deal - it's important to realize that just as there are different kinds of, say, Democrats (Dennis Kucinich is not the same as Hillary Clinton), there is a wide spectrum of followers of Christ. for every Pat Robertson who mouths off about "offing" a foreign head of state, there's a whole bunch of ministers who work day-to-day without any notoriety, loving & caring for people in the name of Christ. Just because you've dealt with rabid creationists or clueless defenders of a con man doesn't mean all of us look like or think like that.

Finally, you asked for one honest reason for believing... for me, it's a combination of the historicity of the New Testament documents combined with the profound personal effect it's had on my life and marriage.

Let's continue the conversation... you can jump to e-mail at fluffdaddy at gmail dot com or keep it going in the comments right here on the blog.

Thanks for your honesty.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Oops... I left a hanging paranthesis. I meant to add the reference (1 Corinthians 6) before I hit send, but as you can tell, that didn't happen.