My sweet ride in 1984.
Regarding Stories – True or False – Fact or Fantasy
Out of school early with my own driver’s license and a car. Sure, I was headed to a doctor’s appointment for my sprained ankle, but the point was the sense of freedom I felt driving myself around. Two months of solo driving and the thrill had not worn off.
Safety was always a big deal with me. I thought of taking Long Ave, but the turn onto 199 was not a protected left. So I stayed on River Oaks Blvd. It was a big and safe intersection with two protected left turn lanes. I was in the leftmost one in the front of the line.
Green arrow, let’s go. I pulled out at a moderate pace and noticed an enormous cement truck crossing the white line in the oncoming lane. I slammed the brake pedal to the floor causing my car to quickly stop. Then, I realized that stopping wasn’t going to help. I was in his path, and he was still headed my way.
Notice, the beginning of this story.
I didn’t start it with “Once upon a time” or “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”. No, I am writing this story in a deliberate manner to convey that it is a real life, true, and actual occurrence in my life. It is fact, not fantasy. It happened in November 1984. I can’t remember the exact day, but I bet my mom and dad can.
Stories can be true or false, fact or fantasy. This is an ongoing blog series on Greg Koukl’s book, “The Story of Reality”. Get the book. Begin at Part 1. And participate in the discussion by posting comments on the various posts.
When you first read Greg’s title, “The Story of Reality”, what did you think of it? Did you automatically put it in the category of fiction or fantasy? Answer below in the comments so we can discuss it. (Remember, this is asynchronous interaction, so don’t worry about being late to the party. These internet discussions do not have any preset time limit.)
Back to my 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.
I knew I was stopped. I knew the cement truck was not. I knew it was massive. I knew this was the end.
So I relaxed.
What? How could someone relax in a situation like that?
I simply thought, “Hey, I’m outta here. I’m dead, and now I’m free, headed heavenward. No more basketball practice with Coach John Doe*. Jesus, here I come.”
I didn’t feel anything. I’m sure I got bounced around violently. I had a rectangular knot on my forehead from the rearview mirror, and my hip bent the gearshift. But after the car stopped spinning around, I opened my eyes to smoke, steam, and a destroyed windshield. The cement truck had crushed my car from the right-front headlight to the driver’s side door.
Funny, my first thought was “Crud, I’m still here.” Even funnier was my second thought, “Hey I better get out of this wreck before it blows up.” I was imagining a Hollywood style conflagration.
The door opened and dragged against the pavement. I hobbled over to the curb to sit down. Sadness ensued as I looked at my car all destroyed and smoking. I was sparkling Edward-Cullen-style with pulverized glass from the windshield.
Hours and seventeen X-rays later it was determined that I did not have a single broken bone or laceration. To play it safe, the doctors told mom to wake me every two hours because of a possible concussion. It didn’t sink in how severe the wreck was until I overheard mom reading police reports from eyewitnesses.
The woman in a car immediately behind me said, “After the explosion, I got out of my car to pull the body from the wreckage.”
The body! She thought I was “a dead body”.
Strangely, it was then that I started crying. I sobbed. It was her perspective that alerted me to the severity of the wreck that I survived.
All because I relaxed.
What are my intentions in telling you this true story?
It is NOT to brag about strong faith. I didn’t have to exert any strength or psych up extra courage.
It is NOT to make a claim that my experience proves God is real, heaven is real, or fear of death makes one weak.
My intentions are:
- To get you to consider how life-changing a TRUE story can be.
- To illustrate how being convinced is actually effortless.
Being raised in the church (specifically Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, TX), there were ample opportunities to “make my faith my own.” I did that in 5th grade when I read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and thought to myself, “uh-oh. I don’t stack up too well. Jesus forgive me.” That conviction was a gift, and being convinced of my lack took no effort on my part. (John 16:8-11)
Life has ups and downs and so does behavior. I was not an angel. I am deeply sorry for the horrible ways I treated some of my classmates and teachers. (If you remember, please forgive me.)
Back to the cement truck story.
It is a FACT that I relaxed. It is a FACT that my first thought was one of relief when considering my eternal destiny. This TRUE story affects me even today.
I do still fear airplane crashes, head-on collisions, and other painful ways of leaving this material world behind. But I still remember the crash of 1984. It wasn’t painful. It wasn’t scary. It was in FACT a hopeful experience.
What kind of God gives REAL peace? A REAL God?
[John 14:27 HCSB] 27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.”
Could it be that a REAL God exists? Could it be that Jesus was unique in all of history, and that his claims were TRUE?
A REAL God requires a TRUE story.
Greg is telling that TRUE story in his book.
I hope you will read it, discuss it, and be transformed by its message.
*I changed the name so as to not hurt the actual coach.
Robert Stanton said:
Just want to start by saying that I am really enjoying reading this book. Chapter 3 covers questions I have asked myself in the past and here in recent months. If there is only one religion that is correct, which one is it? How do we know that what we are following and believing is correct? I know that, for the most part, most Christian religions agree on several concepts. Or at least that there is a God and his son Jesus.
As the author states on page 29, ” Some stories are true, and some stories are not true”. I think of this when it comes to the bible and the different churches. How do I know that what I am reading and hearing is a “true or not true story”. Please don’t take this question as that I don’t believe in God, but take this as the confusion I have with the different religions and churches.
When I was in middle school I used to go to church with my best friend and family every Sunday and occasionally on Wednesday. I really enjoyed going to this church and especially hearing the preacher speak the word of god. Some months into going to this church I decided that I wanted to be baptized. I met with the Preacher and his wife to discuss the major step in my life. They handed me a book to read, not the bible, and was instructed to read it and answer the questions at the end of each section. I found this odd but i started reading this book and referring back to the bible for further knowledge of what this little book was telling me. About three days into my studying, I received a call from the preacher’s wife asking if I had finished the book and all of the questions that were in the back of each section. As I proceeded to tell her no, she informed me that I would not be able to get baptized or at least at that church, until I finished and met with her and her husband to go over the book. I told her that it wasn’t something I wanted to rush through and that I wanted to take my time. Everyday after that and on Sundays after service I was questioned about this book.
After several weeks I stopped reading this book and was no longer going to their service on Sundays. I still read the bible and discussed it with my best friend, but I no longer wanted to be a part of that church. I felt that just because I finished the questions assigned didn’t make me a better candidate for baptism then someone who didn’t complete this book.
As I get older and more mature I guess. Some would disagree with the second part. I have came across more questions about my faith and the church. I guess what I am asking is how do I know that what is being said in the bible is a true story or a not true story?
The last sentence in the prior paragraph is not an attempt at fueling an argument, but a question that rings deep in my mind and heart more and more each day. I do believe in God and Jesus. But which one am I supposed to believe in? Maybe, not knowing the answer to the last question is showing the depth of my ignorance regarding religion.
I have not gotten to chapter 5, but when I do I will come back to this post.
D. L. Williams said:
What a great post, Robert. I think you speak for hundreds or perhaps thousands of believers who still have good but unanswered questions.
I’m sad that the particular church created such confusion in your mind about what was “necessary” for baptism. Baptism is one of those topics that has divided the church into various denominations. I will try to be as charitable as possible with the differing views, because the disagreements stem from genuine people on both sides. They disagree about what baptism is. Speaking broadly, there are two camps:
1. Baptism is a public declaration of the believer.
If baptism is a sign, ordnance, or public declaration of belief, then it will require some fairly detailed understanding (and in some churches articulation) of that belief by the person being baptized. Simply put – belief comes first, then baptism.
2. Baptism is a means of grace or sacrament where God promises to bless the recipient with grace and forgiveness.
In this belief, God is the primary actor and the baptized believer is a recipient of salvation through baptism.
Whole books could be written on this topic, so I’ll leave it there. I have experience with many believers in both camps. I am in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod that believes that baptism and holy communion are sacraments. We would not have responded the way you describe. If you are curious, here is an explanation of our beliefs on the topic (http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=537).
You hit the nail on the head, though, when you wonder if it is all REALLY true. None of this baptism talk matters at all if the whole thing is just a man-made set of practices.
At this point in the book, Greg is making the point that “He believes the story is ACTUALLY true, and that he will make the case that it is true throughout this book.” That doesn’t mean he has convinced you. It just clarifies that he is making a very specific claim “Christianity is true” which is becoming more and more controversial.
I’m very pleased to hear your statement of faith in God and Jesus. Hopefully this book (and our discussions) will flesh out what that belief entails and will give you sound reasons for holding those beliefs.
Robert Stanton said:
Thank you for the response Dr. Williams. One of the things that I realized in the past few weeks, that I learned from your class, could be relayed into this topic.
In pchem 2 you gave us a speech about how this is the part of our college career were the Professor starts to do less and the student does more. You were trying to teach us that we needed to go and find the answer on our own and if we had burned through all other resources and still couldn’t find the answer to the question that we sought to come and ask. But in knowing that there was no way we would go through all possible resources without finding the answer.
I see religion in this way as well. I feel that this is the time were I need to stop relying fully on other people to do the research for me and for me to start seeking answers on my own. I feel that it is not just the answer that teaches but the journey to find the answer.
Once again thank you for this blog and I am really enjoying participating in this.
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Robert Stanton said:
Finally read chapter 5 and I have to say that it makes complete sense to me. Knowing the overall picture of “story” makes the read much better. I was never taught this, as matter of fact I was taught the opposite of this. The way I was taught to read a book was how we watch movies. We don’t want to know the ending because I feel it spoils the movie. But with books I feel that is quite the opposite. Knowing the general story line of how a book or “story” goes makes it much more exciting for me. The expectation of how it will all be pieced together creates an excitement like no other.
For instance I have always written down book suggestions from friends, professors, or colleagues. That is why I am reading this book. I didn’t stumble upon this book on amazon or somewhere else. But with these suggestions there has always been a description of what the story is about and how it ends. I don’t mind when someone tells me the way a story ends but I do want to read it and find out how the story comes to an end.
D. L. Williams said:
Excellent. I also like to know the full frame of the story before beginning. I think it is the same with puzzles. My first task is to complete the edges so I know how big it will be. Then I work in from the boundaries.
Life is also like that. We want to know: Where did I come from? Who were my parents? Who were my grandparents? What did they do and what was their perspective on the world? Likewise, we want to know when and where they died. When and where will we die? What will happen after we die? Even between birth and death we seek the boundaries. Is it OK if I get drunk every night? Or what about only 1 night a week? Or, can I tell a little lie? How big a lie can I tell before it is REALLY wrong? Where are the boundaries in behavior or pleasure? Are there any boundaries at all? If there are boundaries, why do they exist?
It seems all these questions are logical attempts to search out the edge pieces, and they can be categorized as four corners to our puzzle:
Christianity, other religions, and atheism address all four corners. But which puzzle picture best fits reality? That is what this book is about.
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