While I know that not everyone shares this interest, I like to learn about science. Whether archaeology, quantum mechanics, microbiology, or material science (and many others), it’s great to hear what scientists have discovered. Bringing hypotheses, experimental results, and new solutions together provides insights into the world around us, and offers the foundation for further advancements in agriculture, technology, medicine, and other elements of civilization.
However, despite gags from old cartoons, the application of science doesn’t actually create new truths. For instance, dimensional relationships in a right triangle existed before Pythagoras. Gravity existed before Newton quantified it. The universe didn’t start following principles of General and Special Relativity when Einstein arrived on the scene. Science is in the business of considering potential facts (theoretical), finding facts (experimental), and then making use of them (applied). Science is not a discipline for fiction-writers or those who aren’t interested in the facts.1
In the same way, the belief system of Christianity didn’t invent Jesus Christ. Historical and other evidence confirms that a man named Jesus lived in the first century, and taught His followers a way of life. Jesus’ teachings were recorded and distributed, and I don’t think that many people dispute that He said those things. The most significant event in His life, a resurrection on the third day after being executed by Romans, has been studied in depth, with substantial evidence. And, Jesus stated that He was the Truth. He didn’t call His followers to any less than the truth.
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
John 14:5-6 NLT
Some might argue these things (and, if so, I would refer them to others who have documented far more of the details than I have the room for), but this article isn’t written for those who don’t want to study who Jesus was, or what He taught. Instead, I would like to challenge Christians to consider what it means to take on the name of “Christian”. Followers of Jesus are called to pattern their lives after Him: maybe not His robe and sandals, but definitely His love for God and for others.
However, following Jesus doesn’t grant anyone the right to come up with his or her own ideas, contradictory to the truth. Like good scientists, we should collect information (read the Bible), analyze the data (evaluate our world, both past and present), study conclusions that have been previously considered (read from and listen to others who have followed Jesus), and seek information from primary sources (asking God for His direction). The goal is not to invent a new idea about Jesus based on random opinions or perhaps what we would like for Him to say. Instead, our purpose is to learn about Jesus and to obey His commands: both in general, and specifically to each of our unique paths in life.
God may have made you a creative person, maybe an artist, architect, or inventor. That’s great, and you should absolutely use that skill for the glory of God. However, if you don’t like something that God said, or if you think that you have a better plan for your life than Him, don’t be like the researcher who modifies data to fit a pre-conceived theory. You might feel good about getting recognition (or just getting your way), but you’d be wrong.
In the same way, following Jesus isn’t a path to calling attention to ourselves (see 2 Corinthians 2:17). It’s not about making ourselves look better, but about giving glory to God and serving Him.
You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:5-6 NLT
So, if you’re going to follow Jesus, follow the real Jesus. Don’t let evil voices and selfish interests muddy the waters. Start with a foundation of Jesus’ teachings, and talk with Him to learn more about His purpose for you. You might make mistakes, and you might misinterpret your circumstances sometimes. Keep at it, refining your hypothesis and acting on the facts that are clear. Like a well-design technical solution, good input leads to great solutions.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
- Admittedly, there are a few who call themselves scientists, but don’t really feel that their work needs to be based on reality. They may propagate a pre-conceived notion, or just make up data to publish spam and make money. I’d like to think that these exceptions are pretty rare, though, or at least that checks and balances in the system eventually weed most of them out. ↩