Late one Sunday evening, at the end of October 2021, I happened to be in Pawtucket, Rhode Island when the phone rang. It was the preacher where my daughter and son-in-law worship, asking if he could come over with his family to baptize his son in the Ten Mile River that flows just past the backyard of my daughter’s home. With joyful hearts we scurried around preparing for their arrival, waking my grandchildren to give those who could rouse themselves out of deep sleep the option of witnessing one of their older peers put on Christ and be born again to walk in newness of life. Hymns were selected, and Brian pulled out his floodlights so the family could make their way safely down the stairs and through the trees toward the cold river waters. Though I could not see what was happening below, I could hear the joyous voice of this young believer’s father marking this most sacred of occasions with the words that would mean the most to the heart of his son as he became a part of the family of God.
This young man’s parents, Dan and Heather Bunting have a heart for children, and before beginning their new work with the Gettysburg congregation, I appreciated while he was still in Rhode Island, Dan’s dedicating himself during Covid to the recording of video lessons for children’s classes that teach young souls how to read Bible stories in such a way that they can see the key ideas and make connections to similar concepts in other Bible stories. Children of all ages who watch these videos are invited to “take notes” by grabbing their favorite pencils or markers to draw along as the stories unfold. I know my own grandchildren benefitted much from this great idea!
Another of Dan’s great ideas began in early January of 2019 when he set out to help more people find peace and joy in reading the Bible by creating his “Reading the Psalms” podcast. Why the Psalms? Because, in Dan’s words, “Insight to God’s heart is found in His expressed word”, and when we read the Psalms we are actually listening “to the poetry of God’s heart!” “Reading the Psalms isn’t about completing a task”, Dan says, “but nourishing your roots in the river of life.” In just under four years his 489 episodes had 500,418 plays, with 40% of his audience living outside America! When I asked Dan to what he attributed his podcast's success, he believed that at least in part, it was likely the simplicity of each episode opening with the reading of a Psalm, then after his short talk about some of the ideas within the Psalm, the same Psalm being read once more. This simple template seems especially helpful for people new to the Bible, and the timing of his podcast coming out just as around the world people were going into pandemic lockdown, was, I believe, a godsend for many. I was delighted to hear that now that Dan has thrice covered the Psalms, he is planning on a companion podcast called, “Reading the Gospels” ー just what many of his listeners need to build on what they’ve learned in the Psalms! You can find this series as well as the Gettysburg congregation’s Q&A Bible talk show and short, 3-minute introductory Bible Study videos on topics such as Bible history timeline, biblical archaeology, prophecy and foreshadows, etc. on their website or at biblequest.org.
During our visit to the Gettysburg congregation, Dan, along with fellow evangelists, elders and the congregation as a whole were again serving Christian youth by hosting their annual Bible Forum, where young believers from near and far come to stay for a few days, enjoy the in-home hospitality of this friendly congregation, take in the outstanding presentations, and make encouraging friendships with other young people attending who have set out to be “lights in the world.”
The city of Gettysburg is known, of course, for the Civil War battle in 1863 that involved the largest number of casualties of the entire war and was considered the war’s turning point in stopping the Confederate momentum. What I appreciate most about the church at Gettysburg is their willingness over the years to engage in a spiritual battle for the wellbeing of the souls in their community, with a special focus on the next generation as they actively help them to “Put on the full armor of God…”, so that they will be able to “...stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 6:11-12). This congregation knows a “front line” when they see it, and today’s front line battle is to “destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God”, especially the ultimate lie upon which all foundations crumble 一 the lie that God does not even exist.
Enter guest speaker Buddy Payne, Ph.D. (aka Dr. Harry E. Payne, Jedi Dragon Slayer and elder at our home congregation in Lutz, Florida). At an age when many retirees dedicate themselves to golf tournaments or pickleball, Dr. Payne, in his late 70’s, has found what many today are calling his “Second Mountain”. In addition to his present work as Chancellor at Florida College, Dr. Payne is using his accumulated knowledge and experiences dating back from his Harvard years in the ’60s, to travel the country snatching young souls from the fire by standing against the dogma of anti-God professors in institutions of higher learning who are looking to glorify themselves rather than the Creator, and often belittling the faith of honest and humble students who acknowledge the phenomenal evidence that God most certainly exists.
An avid reader of the most recent scientific breakthroughs, the more Dr. Payne learns about science, the stronger faith he has in the Creator of everything, and is presently being invited to speak all over the country to encourage young people to not be afraid, but rather to enjoy true science, with humble spirits like that of Johannes Kepler who said, “I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.”
Dr. Payne’s lessons on Science and Christianity include topics such as Conflict or Coherence?; The Great Designer: Evidence from the Chemistry of Living Things; The Poor Design Argument: Part 1 ーJunk DNA; The Poor Design Argument: Part 2 ーThe Human Eye; The Immune System; Have this Mind - Philippians 3:7-15. I’d encourage you to hunt down several of these outstanding lessons on Youtube and share them with any young soul holding a special place in your heart.
In a culture where many are basing their worldview on a book that most don’t even realize has perhaps the most hideous, holocaust-inducing subtitle you’ve ever read in your life: “Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”, Dr. Payne recommends instead the superior logic based on more recent science of such authors as Stephen C. Meyer or Antony Flew ー a man who spent 80 years of his life as an atheist, debating and belittling creationists, but has since written a book he has entitled “There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.”
The findings of more than fifty years of DNA research are providing more and more physical evidence for new and enormously powerful arguments in favor of an Intelligent Designer, and as that evidence piles up, it becomes more reasonable than ever to admit that Christianity and science agree. I thank Heaven for congregations like Gettysburg who are eager to bring in clear-thinking, well-spoken Christian men like Dr. Payne to tear down our culture’s most sacred cow. I say sacred cow because even as one Chinese paleontologist named Jun-Yuan Chen noted, “In China, we can criticize Darwin, but not the government. In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”
The book you are now reading is a labor of love, written to souls that include those who have questioned God’s existence and are ready to reconsider. I’m here to say that there is hope for everyone, and I’d like to share in the remainder of the entry, some of my personal reasons for believing in God.
I believe in God because we are not living in a cartoon. Only in cartoons, and such, can things pop into existence out of nowhere. I’m sure you’ve noticed in your history of this planet, not once has something naturally sprung from nothing. Ever. Get this: If there ever had been a time when nothing or no One existed, then there would still be nothing now because not once has something naturally come from nothing. Every single thing we see came from something or Someone. Even the Atheist’s Poster Child Richard Dawkins has to, of course, admit this and in more recent years has been desperate enough to propose something you can witness for yourself at minute 3:30 of conversation you’ll find on a Youtube video called “Ben Stein vs. Richard Dawkins”. There you will witness an argument that acknowledges there must be a first cause, but avoids the key issue by misleading and distracting from this most relevant and important question, “Since something cannot come from nothing, how did everything originate?” His answer? This: “...it could be that at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet now that is a possibility…and I suppose it's possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the detail of biochemistry molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer” Steins conclusion that follows is spot on: “Dawkins was not against intelligent design, just certain types of designers … such as God.” Alien farmers seeding the planet is a really fun idea, but all it does is bump the same question from planet to planet, avoiding the original question of “where did everything originate?” Who seeded the aliens before these aliens and the aliens before them? Switching the backdrop to another planet is fancy, but it still doesn’t answer the question: And I, for one, am not buying into alien farmers, no matter who is selling it or how admired in our present culture the other people are who are buying it.
Here’s what seems to me to make better sense: Since things obviously exist now, it must logically follow that something or Someone has existed forever. Here we only have two choices. Either everything miraculously came from nothing or the most Intelligent Mind that has always existed miraculously created everything. Both are miracles. But which miracle is most likely? Which miracle does the evidence most support? Has matter existed forever or has Immaterial Intelligence existed forever? Given the fact that scientists assign an “age” to the universe and everything within the Universe, an age always admits a “beginning” or starting point, doesn’t it? Your own age indicates your starting point. And anything with an age is obviously not eternal. When you are trying to figure out whether this universe came from Mind or from Matter and ponder for any length of time the incomprehensible complexity and unfathomable wise design of the universe, and the fact that matter cannot come naturally from nothing (except in cartoons) the only reasonable and most scientific conclusion the honest mind can reach is that an omniscient mind with omnipotent power has always existed.
Again, since life can only come from life, either something or Someone MUST be eternal. Who then is the origin of Everything? Well, there is only One who claims to be such in Revelation 22:13 where He says “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Atheists will of course argue with this claim, but a former atheist turned believer named CS Lewis came to realize for himself “When you argue against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.” ― C.S. Lewis
You and I have at every turn a reason to believe God Himself to be the most logical “First Cause.” The explanation that I believe best fits the scientific law of causality is well-stated by Dr. Henry Morris when he says,
“The first cause of limitless space must be infinite.
The first cause of endless time must be eternal.
The first cause of boundless energy must be all-powerful.
The first cause of universal interrelationships must be omnipresent.
The first cause of infinite complexity must be all-knowing.
The first cause of moral values must be moral.
The first cause of spiritual values must be spiritual.
The first cause of human responsibility must have free will.
The first cause of human integrity must be truthful.
The first cause of human love must be loving.
The first cause of life must be living.
Behold, thy God! He is the first cause of all the good that has ever come your way.
Secondly, I believe in God because as apologist Dr. Arlie J. Hoover argues, you’d have to be God to say with absolute certainty that there is no God. Here’s what he means: one would have to be omnipresent to prove there is no God, for otherwise God could be where you are not. One would likewise need to be omniscient to know with absolute certainty that there is no God because whatever knowledge you lack, may be the very knowledge you needed to realize God's existence. You and I can’t know everything or be everywhere, so I’m inviting every atheist reading this to think again and take another humble look at the evidence of God’s existence.
The third reason I believe in the God of the Bible is that the moral standard He created has proven throughout history to be the only one that works. Let me be very clear: I’m not saying here that God’s existence and the Christian faith are true because they work. I contend that the Christian faith based on the existence of God works because it is true. In fact, it works so well that God’s moral laws are reminiscent of the wisdom that keeps our ultracomplex physical earth functioning like “clockwork”. God’s standards of right and wrong work as well in preventing social chaos as His law of gravity works to prevent physical chaos. His moral laws, I believe, are yet another kind of Intelligent Design that indicates His existence because of the complete order His standards of right and wrong create and the disorder they prevent and resolve. Think about it: If everyone would have followed God’s moral standard revealed to us in the New Testament, it would have prevented the Civil War because God’s moral law forbids kidnapping, unkindness, and doing anything to another human being you would not want done to you (Matthew 7:12). For those same reasons, if everyone had followed God’s moral laws, every act of racism would have been prevented, as would every random act of violence, every crime, every murder of an innocent, unborn child. None of it would have happened. Furthermore, if everyone followed God’s moral laws, there would be no one in prison. It would raise the standard of living for every citizen including the very poorest, and ensure that virtually every child has all the emotional, financial, and spiritual advantages that come along with having both a mother and a father. God’s moral laws lived out would eventually vacate orphanages and the foster care system. The positive ripple effects of living by God’s moral standards are immeasurable and incalculable and would right every wrong because virtually every social problem is solved by acknowledging the existence of God and submitting to wisdom. If our culture admitted this ultimate, benevolent authority and bowed our knees to His wise Lordship of our lives, our society would become unrecognizable in its peace and beauty, and this is one more reason why I believe the God of the Bible exists ーbecause every moral law of the Lord is perfect, and gives new life both to individuals and cultures (Psalm 19:7).
My fourth reason I believe in God builds on my last reason. I believe in God because godlessness ruins everything. The scriptures make a strong connection between atheism and wickedness when it says, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds…” Psalm 14:1-3 The same connection is made in Psalm 10:3-4 when God says, “For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, and the greedy man curses and spurns the Lord. The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
You can know that living by the God-given moral standard within the New Testament is right and that the moral relativity among atheists is wrong, by the very fact that every person’s body, mind, soul, and spirit only grow stronger and healthier in the light of God’s wisdom lived out day by day, but the same is not true among the godless. The fewer people who believe in God, the more mental illness and suicide go up. The morals of the godless ruin everything, and over time make the planet unlivable for everyone.
After all, as many have observed firsthand, if you tell people they are just physical bundles of chemical reactions, and merely the descendants of pond scum and are simply advanced animals, they will start to live as such, and the more people that live as such, the more barbaric a culture becomes. It all adds up: why should I be concerned about another’s happiness, if, as an atheist claims, happiness is nothing more than a chemical reaction in the brain? Why should anyone care what the particular chemical reactions are in another human being if we’re all just rearranged pond scum? And if there’s no objective right and wrong and barbaric people start rioting or knocking other barbaric people over the head to take their stuff, if there’s no objective right and wrong, we’ve no basis to get angry about that, if we’re just chemicals. We don’t get angry at baking soda for reacting with vinegar, do we? Chemicals will be chemicals. So if we really are all just animals, incinerating people in gas chambers is not any more immoral than spraying Raid on an anthill. This godless thinking made Mao quite comfortable about exterminating around 55 million people in four years, people who were as real as you and I. Stalin’s godlessness resulted in 20 million people being exterminated in the Gulag Archipelago. If we’re only animals, and there is no objective, God-given moral standard then this is no more wrong than dealing with a lice infestation. I mean, we don’t throw a tiger in jail for killing the water buffalo right? Why should anyone be punished if we are all only animals? Animals kill animals. What's the big deal? And certainly selective breeding of we “animals” could be quite advantageous, at least that’s the consequent conclusion of the very godless, Darwinian-based thinking that led to the death of 6 million Jews in just five years in Nazi Germany. What a contrast to the reality of the God of the Bible, where every soul is worth more than the whole world (Matthew 16:26). I believe in God because godlessness ruins everything.
The fifth reason I’ll share in this entry for why I believe in God is that I believe peer pressure to be the stupidest foundation on which to build a worldview. You don’t need me to tell you that what’s trending is to skew science and history to pressure people into walking lockstep with the atheistic “in crowd”, or be regarded as stupid. Given the history I’ve just eluded to, I certainly don’t want a worldview that’s based on trendy cultural indoctrination of whatever is presently trending or whatever way the wind is presently blowing, that is, whatever the majority opinion is in this tiny snapshot of time in which I’m living. Of course, theists like to claim that people believe in God because of peer pressure from family and friends. Often the opposite is true. Believers in God hold that “truth is true even if nobody believes it and falsehood is false even if everyone believes it. That is why truth does not yield to opinion, fashion, numbers, office, or sincerity—it is simply true and that is the end of it” (Os Guinness). The truth is, the REAL peer pressure right now is on students and employees working in fields where anti-God sentiment is idolized, and bigotry is fierce against obedient believers in God, and in some cases, such students and employees best deny their convictions or be “expelled”, either socially or physically.
To encourage those under this kind of pressure right now, I’d like to share what atheist-turned-theist Lee Strobel said about the period in his life when he was deciding if he should pay the social penalties for walking away from atheism, or pay the price of keeping his eyes closed to the reality of God’s existence, “To continue in atheism, I would need to believe that nothing produces everything, non-life produces life, randomness produces fine-tuning, chaos produces information, unconsciousness produces consciousness, and non-reason produces reason. I simply didn't have that much faith.”
One more encouraging example I’ll mention among the many atheists turned believers is Francis Collins, a geneticist who served as the director of the National Institutes of Health who after heading up the Genome Project, authored a book called The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. Dr. Collins had the courage to stand up in the scientific community and tell the truth about the evidence he observed while unlocking the mysteries of DNA ー evidence that he believes points very clearly to the existence of a Creator. Though I can’t say I see everything the way Francis Collins sees it, what an inspiration he is to the rest of us to be willing to stand alone and be the first one in our own circle to say out loud, in essence “the Emperor does not have new clothes, and I’m done going along with the lie, no matter what it costs me.”
Without God, one’s own appetite for pleasure and popularity becomes the god one serves, and that is a very shallow purpose for living, and is of course much more fun in the middle of life, than it is at the end of it. Atheists cherish the false narrative that people believe in an imaginary God because they fear death. It’s the opposite that is actually true. We Christians love life, and at the same time we believe God when He says “to die is gain” (Phil.1:21). For those who love God, life is good, and in the next life, it only gets better. Christians don’t believe in God because they fear death. In fact, it takes much more courage to believe the realities God reveals about the afterlife. The child of God sees death as a reunion with her Heavenly Father. And for the good of the souls of the atheists reading this, consider this question from C.S Lewis. He says, “It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? ...Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.” C.S. Lewis.
The undeniable conclusion for every honest, humble heart is that God exists. Both this astonishing universe, and our very nature alone, proves it. The courageous mind must then ask, “Has God communicated with His creation, and if so, what has He said?” Even more significantly, “Has He expressed any expectations of me in my own life?”
As believers, let’s be ready to share the answers to these questions as more souls cross our paths looking for meaning and purpose in their lives that is rooted in reality. Let’s help them discover how the Creator of this beautiful planet can also create beautiful lives even from utter brokenness. Truly, no one has a record for helping people break their addictions, overcome their vices and lead productive, fulfilling, and honorable lives than our Heavenly Father. May your eyes be opened to those He brings your way, whose hearts He has softened, who are courageous enough to lay down their will, bow the knee, lay at His feet all He has said hurts their souls, and cry out to Him with a willingness to be baptized, immersed in water to be born again to their fresh start in life, living the remainder of their lives knowing that without Him nothing makes sense, but with Him, everything makes sense.
Gettysburg Church of Christ
60 Fairview Rd Gettysburg, PA 17325