It's an incredible tragedy that mega-pastor Rick Warren's son committed suicide recently. Our prayers are with the family through this difficult time. His son was 27 and struggled for years with mental illness.
While many well-wishers have tried to give solace to the grieving family, others have heaped scorn---especially through the means of social media.
One person from Cincinnati posted this: "Either there is no God, or God doesn't listen to Rick Warren, despite all the money Rick has made off of selling false hope to desperate people." That same person told Warren he should "abandon primitive superstitions and accept the universe for what it is-a place that is utterly indifferent to us." Talk about kicking a man when he's down.
But is it true? Is Rick Warren and all the others who claim to speak for God just "selling false hope to desperate people"? Is the universe just "a place that is utterly indifferent to us"? Is death just the end? Is there any rational reason to believe that there is a life after this one?
As far as the notion of "selling false hope," I think the states that sell lottery tickets are selling false hope---consider the odds of winning.
But is heaven just a false hope? At the end of the day, all that counts is what is true.
The Bible is clear that there is life after this one. There are rewards and punishment---heaven and hell. There's a day of Judgment coming, and Jesus will be that judge.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through Me."
Salvation is by works---the finished work of Jesus on the cross on behalf of sinners. True faith in Jesus results in good works, but it's not our works that save our soul---His do. The urgency and importance of this message is what motivates Rick Warren and others to share it.
But who says the Bible is true?
Rick Warren et al., including me, believe that 2,000 years ago, ours became what theologian J. B. Phillips called "the visited planet." Jesus of Nazareth came into our world as a baby. His birth, life, death, and resurrection were foretold in hundreds of prophecies written down long before.
Because Jesus rose from the dead, because He actually walked out of that tomb days after the Romans killed Him, and there is ample evidence of His resurrection, we believe that everything else He taught is true.
I once interviewed Lee Strobel, who has worked with Rick Warren at Saddleback Community Church in southern California.
Strobel worked as the legal affairs editor of The Chicago Tribune earlier in his life. A graduate of Yale Law School, Strobel was an atheist for years.
He admits he had a mean streak, relishing the power he wielded in his position at the Tribune: "What I really savored was making big shots dance to the newspaper's tune." For example, he purposefully postponed calling a prominent businessman until Thanksgiving Day, just before the family feast, to inform him that the paper was going to run a major story the next day on how the man was under investigation for fraud.
But when Lee Strobel's wife, Leslie, went to church one Sunday morning, he was taken aback. "You didn't give those guys any of our money, did you?" he asked. She soon had a come to Jesus moment, and this led him to do an historical search on Jesus. He wanted to debunk Christianity once and for all: "No resurrection, no Christianity," he reasoned---which is correct.
Lee Strobel meticulously engaged in the type of careful research that had made him a respected reporter. But the more he studied, the more convinced he became of the veracity of Jesus Christ.
He was amazed to learn that hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the Hebrew prophets in the Old Testament foretold much of His story. As Strobel studied the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, he found that they weren't easily dismissed. He writes: "The more I studied them, the more difficulty I had in trying to explain them away."
Strobel says the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) gave humanity a thumbprint: "It says that when you find the person that fits this thumbprint, that's the Messiah. That's the Son of God, and throughout history, only Jesus Christ has had that thumbprint."
As he looked at the odds of any one person fulfilling these prophecies, he was stunned at the scientific evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. Strobel was shocked by the work of mathematician Peter Stoner, who proved that the chance of any one person fulfilling even eight of these Old Testament prophecies was one in 10 17 -that is 10 with seventeen zeroes after it.
If that was not mind boggling enough, Stoner demonstrated that the chances of any one fulfilling 48 prophecies were 10 to the 17th power. Strobel realized the incredible implications of that. He said it would be like finding "a single predetermined atom among all the atoms in a trillion trillion trillion trillion billion universes the size of our universe." Well, other than that…
Lee Strobel finally did the intellectually honest thing-he recognized Jesus as the Lord. He has now written such classics as The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith.
The truths that he has uncovered and now helps to promote are proof that the message of his friend, Rick Warren, are based on historical realities. Please keep the Warrens in your prayers.