The famous Samuel Johnson (1708–1784), often called quite simply Dr. Johnson, was a devout Anglican essayist, poet, literary critic and editor. He has been called “the most distinguished man of letters in English history.” He is also the subject of the most famous single work of biography in the whole of literature, James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson. Johnson observed, as reported in Boswell’s biography, “Testimony has great weight, and casts the balance.” I believe this is profoundly true with regard to our Christian faith. Let me explain.
The late Christian philosopher Elton Trueblood wrote, “If Christ is trustworthy, God really is!” He further said we have many reasons for believing in God but the one reason that is ultimately inescapable is the testimony of Christ. If Christ is the center of certitude then it is not rational for anyone to refuse to follow him into his own deepest conviction of reality. “The testimony of Christ is important,” adds Trueblood, “because thoughtful people are fully aware of a certain inconclusiveness in all other theistic evidences.”
There are good evidences that God is and there are some evidences, if taken alone, that God is not. I believe we should grant this philosophical conclusion, realizing that we can never prove God’s existence or argue someone into belief. But the use of testimony, especially the testimony of Christ himself, is an effort to use all that we have in understanding the greatest matters of all human thought and life. We cannot know exactly how the planets were formed or whether or not we will survive our own death. The logical procedure is to trust those who have already shown themselves trustworthy. Christ has shown himself to be the ultimate man for all seasons, the one we can trust completely.
Pascal once said we should examine this point: “God is, or He is not.” I agree. Since our experience is finite there is no absolute and incontrovertible proof either way. But this uncertainty is not objective fact since it lies inside of us. Why shouldn’t we simply forget the question and move on? Pascal answers, “It is not optional. You are embarked.” Indecision is to decide! At this point Pascal introduced the concept of the “wager” into his defense of God. A Christian, in this line of thought, is a person who bets his life on the reality that Christ is right!
A true theist believes that God is and that he is personal. A Christian theist further believes that God is knowable since he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Thus God is completely and radically personal. The reason I believe this to be true is rooted not in proofs but in testimony, namely the testimony of Jesus Christ. In Christ true theism reaches its climax and fulfillment.
The Christian begins with Christ and from that place seeks to know what can be known about this life and the life to come. Jesus said, “If you knew me you would know my Father also” (John 8:19). In knowing Christ we know his testimony to be the truth. This testimony satisfies us at our deepest level of human experience. This testimony is precisely what the Spirit uses to assure us of the most basic of all revealed truths about God–he is love! If God is not love then there is no hope for any of us. Our assurance rests not in proofs but rather in testimony. Let us freely admit this truth and then tell the world the story of Jesus who alone can explain God to our hearts and souls.