In 1999 – when I was 40 years old – I was ready to retire. Life had been good to me. Riding a wave of success, the company I had joined 15 years earlier had grown from a local Dutch organization with 300 employees to a worldwide consulting business, in 30 countries with 20,000 employees. This growth spawned numerous opportunities. One of these brought my family to settle in the US in the mid 1990s.
Around the time of my retirement, my wife started to attend a church close by. As a good husband, I had to go with her on Sunday. Or, at least, occasionally.
To my surprise, people there were quite nice, and they engaged in thought-provoking discussions.
Before long, I began to become interested. I wondered, "What if this is true?" It seemed most unlikely, as I recalled the stories from my childhood, but still. Suppose it was. I had to know for sure, so I decided to launch my own investigation into the facts behind the Christian claims.
From the start I researched whatever I could find. I didn't matter what angle it came from. I thought I would need to read only a few books, but my project quickly turned into a full-time study, stretching over six months and taking me through hundreds of books and articles. As I struggled with the evidence, a mountain of facts emerged, coming from many disciplines, each objectively pointing to the truth of Christianity. I was taken aback by both the quantity and quality of this evidence. In time, my position became clear.
I had no choice but to face the facts, and once cornered by the evidence for Christianity, I obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christianity is a Fact-Based Religion
Christianity is grounded in historical and scientific evidence. Its claims about creation, redemption and ultimate reality are not merely imposed as truth by one person through some revelation. Therefore Christianity (and Judaism) stands on a foundation of evidence completely different from other religions. In comparison, Islam, Buddhism, and many other world religions rely largely upon a revelation to one single prophet. This prophet subsequently shares his revelation, either in spoken or written form, which then becomes codified as the primary foundation on which the faith of his followers rests.
Jesus, however, never wrote a book. How did Jesus actually conduct his “three-year campaign,” and how would it compare to the ways that others have spread their message? When we consider the basic facts about His life, the vast impact He has had is nothing short of incredible.
Jesus taught his apostles, who after His resurrection took the gospel message throughout the world. That message is still spread by Christians today. Unlike the approach of most other religions, non-believers are invited to hear the Word, assess the message themselves and respond freely. Unlike Islam, Christianity does not try to insulate its believers against the influence of other religions; rather it trains its followers to distinguish between true and false teachings. To do this the Christian believer must research, challenge, and assess the basic truths of the faith. Christianity is not opposed to investigation, since its claims are rooted in space-time reality.
The defense and communication of the Christian faith is called Christian Apologetics. The word apologetics comes from the Greek απολογία (“apologia,” which means a verbal defense, answer, or reply). Therefore, Christian apologetics deals with all criticisms against the revelation of God in Christ and the Bible. Christian apologetics includes complex subjects such as Biblical manuscript transmission, philosophy, and astrobiology, but it can also consist of simple answers to simple questions about Jesus or a Bible passage.
It is important to approach these questions with an open mind. Try to be objective and judge the information in such a manner. Seek to avoid the bias of preconceived ideas. Presume innocence until guilt is proven. Position yourself to be the jury in a trial and insist upon objective evidence. Remember that the faith of Christianity is not afraid of your questions; no truth fears investigation. What father would shy away from his child's honest questions? And God is a father who seeks after His children.
The Great Men of History
Ask anybody: “Who are the great men in human history?” And likely you will near names such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or perhaps even Ronald Reagan. What do these men have in common? What made them great? They were successful because they were powerful, and with this power they changed the course of history. How different these “great men” are when compared to the person of Jesus of Nazareth!
Jesus had little of what made these men of history great: certainly no political clout, no military machine, no war chest. Most of us know the basic facts about Jesus’ life and ministry, but it is still worthwhile to read the following summary of the powerful impact of His message upon humanity:
“Jesus was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another village where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty.
For three years He was a traveling preacher. He never wrote a book.
He never held an office. He fathered no family; he owned no home. He didn’t go to college.
He never visited a big city. He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the
place where He was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him.
His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and
went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property
He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race
All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth, as much as that one solitary life.“
How different is Jesus compared to the great world leaders! Alexander the Great and Napoleon were fabled warriors – Jesus never held a sword or led an army. George Washington liberated his people from foreign occupation – Jesus never even raised His voice against the Roman occupiers of His country. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were all elected to head powerful governments – Jesus never ran for office. He never marshaled the power of government to enforce social changes. Most renowned leaders have been wealthy – Jesus owned little and lived with the poor. And lastly, all great world leaders were famous during their lifetime, but are dead now – Jesus died as a criminal and was executed by crucifixion, but His death was the birth of Christianity.'
Jesus of Nazareth is by far the greatest person in history. He did not pursue the agendas which made others great, yet still He towers above them all. He turned the world upside down as no one had done before or has done after Him. Now one-third of the world population call themselves His followers, and even those who do not follow Him still experience the impact He had on the world. This observation alone sets Him aside from all others.
Enjoy this article? Watch our corresponding Five-Minute Apologetics video on The Great Men of History!