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Is God Real?

Posted by Joshua Claycamp on

In 1 John 1:3, the Apostle says, “...that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3, ESV).

There is so much fluff these days about Christians having God as their imaginary friend. This kind of talk saddens me because it ignores the obvious: God is not imaginary. God is real.

The assumption is that Christian prayer and Christian religion is a form of imagining God as a make-believe friend who listens to you when you talk to Him. But this assertion rests on a glaringly painful assumption. This assertion presumes that there is no historical foundation for the existence of God. But there is.

History: Why is this important?

Friends have a history. They have a past. They have ‘baggage,’ so-to-speak. Christians are convinced that the God they worship and to whom they pray is not imaginary due to the very fact that they have a history with this God. Christians are convinced that God has intervened into the history of mankind and performed certain operations on behalf of mankind. God, it would seem, has a history of meddling in our history! (Or should we call it His story?) If it can be demonstrated that God’s alleged acts in the history of mankind did not happen, then it stands to reason that God might not exist. We might conclude that He is, indeed, imaginary.

To simplify for those of you who may have gotten lost in the last paragraph, if God has not acted in history in God-like fashion then perhaps there is a strong argument that God does not exist. If friends have a real relationship with each other, then a part of that relationship has occurred in time as they have interacted and made exchanges with each other. In other words, friends have a history.

In fact, this is why we study history. This is why we ought to study history. The God who brought His people out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, was to be celebrated in the Old Testament pre-eminently as the God of History. Christians should be good historians for this very reason. Our relationship with God is not rooted in make-believe. Our relationship is not rooted in our imagination, and it is not the stuff of fairy-tales. It is rooted in history, and it is the stuff of textbooks, chronicles, annals, journals, and newspapers. So... do we have a history with God?

Our History with God

We do. Now, some of you may be wagging your fingers at me saying, “Not so fast! We don’t accept that Bible of yours as a legitimate authority on the history of mankind.” Not to worry, friend. I will try to accommodate you. Here are a couple of historians unconnected with the Bible who have given eye-witness testimony:


Josephus wrote:

About this time came Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is appropriate to call him a man. For he was a performer of paradoxical feats, a teacher of people who accept the unusual with pleasure, and he won over many of the Jews and also many Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, upon the accusation of the first men amongst us, condemned him to be crucified, those who had formerly loved him did not cease to follow him, for he appeared to them on the third day, living again, as the divine prophets foretold, along with a myriad of other marvelous things concerning him. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.

There is still much debate over the authenticity of this passage. Josephus did write something about Jesus here, but it is strenuously argued by critics that later edits were made by a follower of Christ. The parts in bold italics are those parts which are commonly believed to be later edits, because there is evidence that Josephus was not a follower of Christ. The question remains, “Why would Josephus say this about a man that he did not worship as the Christ?” I suspect that the emboldened words are Josephus’ own words, but that he wrote from political concerns. The description of Jesus as a "wise man" and and "teacher" are universally accepted. Regardless of how you look at the historian Josephus, here is indisputable evidence that Jesus Christ was a real man that existed in History.

This means that if you want to claim that Christians are praying to an imaginary God, then you have to fictionalize Jesus. You have to twist Jesus into an imaginary person who did not exist, because this is the one that many Christians believe they are praying to when they pray.


The Roman Historian Tacitus wrote of Jesus (whom he refers to as "Christus") and the spread of Christianity throughout Rome in his work Annals, approximately AD 116. He wrote:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

This account confirms the life and death of Jesus in Judea but even more importantly, confirms that his death was by crucifixion. By Tacitus' own admission, people continued to follow Jesus despite his ignominious death and were prepared to follow him even to the penalty of their own death. This account of the faithfulness of early Christians by an unsympathetic witness is powerful testimony of the historical life of Jesus.

Pliny the Younger

We also get an account of the spread of Christianity from a Roman provincial governor named Pliny the Younger in A.D. 112. Though he does not speak of Jesus directly, he does recount that Christians in his province cause trouble because they worship Christ and not the Emperor.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not to falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food—but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations.

So I conclude that there is credible historical evidence for the historicity of Christianity. This happened. God stepped into our world and has permanently altered the course of human history. Christians are not imagining God. There is a concrete person who has acted concretely in the affairs of men permanently altering all calendars, permanently instituting new holidays, and forever changing the way that mankind speaks about faith and religion. The cross is a permanent fixture in society with no possibility of going away.

Is God Real or Imaginary?

God is real. And any effort to deride Christians as having a relationship with an imaginary friend or a make-believe person must first address the historical person of Jesus Christ. The critics will have to supply a compelling alternative explanation for the statements recorded above. The critics will have to provide a compelling alternative explanation for a why a church has persisted for two millennia unruffled by myriads of atheistic claims that it should cease its existence. The critics will have to provide a compelling alternative explanation to it all.

Recently the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought hosted a conference to advocate “free thinking,” and to criticize the notion that there is a God. The chief contention of those who oppose God is that there is no credible evidence to support His existence. But there is! The weight of human history is bearing down upon the glaring truth that God stepped into our world as a real person and died for our sins.

If anyone would suggest that God is imaginary or make-believe they must first contend with the historical person of Jesus Christ. He existed. And the events of His life happened. These are facts. This is real. It is the stuff of the daily papers and evening news broadcasts. The relationship that Christians have with their God has a history. There is a ‘baggage’ to it, and if anyone would seriously and respectfully criticize Christianity then they must provide a clear compelling alternative explanation to the historical facts.

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