Now, 1997 is where things get interesting. Throughout this period I had the opportunity to do some serious thinking and investigation concerning Christianity, as well as religious belief in general. Before this year, I have never given such matters much thoughts; in fact, I dismiss them straight away and would have nothing to do with religious matters.
By the end of 1996 I have completed all the requirement for my double degree in Commerce and Law at the University of New South Wales, Australia. The usual path is to enter the work force thereafter. Yet strangely I have decided to do a further so called Honours year in accounting. The research aspect to some extent interests me. My lack of desire to commence working life may also have something to do with this decision. Of course, there was no pressing need for me to start working and earn money.
Whatever the reason, that is not important right now. In retrospect, I now tend to think that it may be God’s plan after all: if I had not done the honours year than I may not have committed myself to become a Christian. The time, the opportunity to investigate and reflect, and the fellowship with Christians all came together amazingly to turn me into a Christian.
A significant road block in believing God is resolved largely because of one Honours class on the philosophy of science. Strange, a single class (and on a subject that is not even examinable at that!) end up having such big impact on me.
Let me go back and explain my thinking up to this point. For a long time I have been troubled by the reliability of the Bible. All my doubts can really be traced back to the reliability of the Bible. I am particularly offended by the circular logic used by people trying to preach to non-Christian. To paraphrase the typical argument: the Bible says this and because it represents the word of God you should listen and abide by it; but if you ask how do I know it is the word of God, the response would be the bible said so. Of course, during the process the person preaching to you will undoubtedly quote from all over the Bible to justify his or her point.
Yes, well, his or her point may have been supported by the Chapters and verses quoted but my concern is: can I rely on the chapters and verses in the first place? To a person who already believe in God, and who had already accepted that the Bible is the world of God, the Bible is certainly to be trusted. However, to a non-Christian it is asking too much (for me anyway) to believe in what the Bible said because the Bible said it is the word of God. In other words, how do I know that the claim that the Bible is the word of God is not itself unreliable.
So I set out to find out about its reliability. In this endeavor I spent time reading other books, particularly the one by Gosh McDowell, Evidence that Demand a Verdict . The case supporting the reliability of the Bible is very convincing. Yet I am still not fully convinced because my cynical mind makes me question whether evidence in that book is one-sided. May be part of me is after some solid proves that the Bible is what it says it is. But then what is this solid prove? Then I started to think: What am I really after? What is sufficient to convince me?
For quite awhile the answer eluded me. Then the answer hit me like an arrow. All at once, I realized I have found the missing link and how misguided my thinking have always been. And at the same time, I was also very delighted.
The event that made me came to this realization is interestingly enough the reading for one of the class for my Accounting Honours course. One of the subject is called Research Methodology and within that subject, one of the class touched upon the philosophy of science. I was doing the reading for this class, reading a book by A F Chalmers called “ What is this thing called science? ”
As I was reading one of the chapter of this book, one simple point is driven home to me: it is not possible to proof that something is true, but it is possible and much easy to falsify something that is untrue. This is a test of so called falsification: if something cannot be falsified then the chance is that it is most probably true. This is a point that I vaguely realised before, and may even have been mentioned to me by others in less eloquent terms. But until this class, and until this point in time, I was unable too fully appreciate its meaning and apply it to the issue I am cogitating.
With the logic of this way of thinking set in, I began to look at the reliability of the Bible in a different way. Because I am unable to provide, nor aware of, any convincing evidence that opposed the reliability of the Bible, my only conclusion is that it must be reliable. Notice the emphasis is that there are no convincing evidence challenging the reliability of the Bible. There are rumors, suggestions, hypothesis that seek to undermine the reliability of the Bible but they are really no match for the mountain of evidence that suggest otherwise. I will not go into the evidence here; nonetheless, overall, as a historical text, the Bible is as reliable as any historian would have wished and perhaps more.
Throughout this year, the thought of Christianity is never very far from me. Even when I am not actively thinking about it, things pop up that reminded me of Christianity.
It is rather uncanny that I have bumped into so many Christians and expose to so many Christians related materials during this time. It is far more than I have been exposed to in the past, at least as far as I can remember. It may be that at times I was actively searching. But the frequency of bombardment by Christians and Christian material were most remarkable. Keep in mind that I have spent around 5 years in university without being expose to evangelism by Christians or any other religions. For those who is familiar with university and the various religious groups around university campus, such as the very active Chinese Christian Fellowship (CCF), you would no doubt appreciate how unusual this is.
I was simply neglected all these years, and then all of a sudden, it all stated to happen. These happen at a time that I am most open to such messages. I also have the time to think. And I have the interest to find out more. The timing was perfect.
One of the most striking experience, if that is the right word, is that it was during the honours year that I met Kamal. He is a very devoted Christian. It is somewhat “weird” that I have not been expose to Christianity during my five years in uni. In all my classes in all the different subjects, no one has brought up the subject to me (at least none that I can remember), and no one has tried to talk to me about the Bible. Yet in this honours year in a class of only a dozen or so honours students, there is this Christian devoted enough to take his time voluntarily to talk to me about the Bible. We even end up studying the Bible together.
What can I say? It is difficult to put this down to pure coincidence alone. When things or events are viewed in isolation, they appear perfectly ordinary and random. There is nothing special about it. However, as soon as one shift the perspective to adopt a broader view, looking at a series of events over a period of time, things or the events are no longer that ordinary and random.
As I thought about these a sudden burst of overwhelming “feeling” came upon me. It made me shuddered in absolute amazement as to what had transpired this year or so. Words alone is not adequate to explain this. The Truth of Christianity suddenly became very real to me.
By this time, early in 1997, I was seriously thinking about whether to belief in Jesus. This is the most difficult decision in my life. To some people may be the decision is a leap of faith, and they belief as a result of some ‘feeling’ during an evangelistic event or as a result of some dramatic experience in their life. For me, my rational mind refused to allow me to believe simply on gut feeling alone. Nor do have I been through a dramatic experience as such, although to me my experience during the 1997 year was nothing short of remarkable.
In addition to the above happenings, one thing 1997 gave me is time. This is why I now considered that the decision to do the honours year in accounting is part of God’s plan. Instead of working, which would have taken up most of my time and energy, I have chosen to do further studies without me fully realizing the reason why I chose it in the first place. It just happen.
As it transpired, time was what I needed most. I need the time to do the investigation. And I need the time to cogitate about it all. I need time to understand properly what Christianity is all about. The additional year in study gave me this luxury. Whilst I have to attend university and study as well as to do research for my thesis, but there are still much time available. There were only a few lessons I need to attend each week. Research and thesis writing took time but that process is inherently flexible and I still had a lot of time available to investigate and seriously think about Christianity.
With the time that I have available I was able to reflect back on my life. I realise and appreciate how lucky that I have been compared to most people. I began to see what happen in my life as part of God’s plan. Also, I have time to consider how Christianity relates to science and to consider the reliability of the Christian Bible, which were two major stumbling blocks for me.
Some of the troubling issues that I thought about during this time:
Extraterrestrial and Religion
Reliability of the Bible
Coincidence or God at work