C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and Lee Strobel share something in common with some ancient characters in the story of the Bible. They all came to believe that they were led to Jesus. Lewis, McDowell, and Strobel all came to Jesus quite reluctantly. The ancient characters described in the Bible story made a great and unusual effort to find Him.
Lewis told his story of conversion to faith in Christ in a book entitled Surprised by Joy: the Shape of My Early Life. He had become a hard-boiled unbeliever and skeptic in his late twenties. His mother died when he was a child, and neither he, his brother nor their father handled it very well. He graduated with a “First” in two different fields of study from Oxford University. This means that he was the top of his class in these areas of study from one of the top universities in the world. He was getting a good start in his teaching assignment at Oxford, becoming more and more entrenched in his unbelief, when something upsetting and unusual happened.
Here is how Lewis described that moment of crisis: “Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. ‘Rum thing,’ he went on. ‘All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.’ To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man (who has certainly never since shown any interest in Christianity). If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of the toughs, were not—as I would still have put it—‘safe,’ where could I turn? Was there no escape?”
He reports in Surprised by Joy that there was no escape. Once he explored the evidence for himself, his atheism began to wilt and ultimately it crumbled to the ground. A new perspective had taken root and was going to grow into a large tree of faith. Or, in a timelier way of putting this, a flicker of light had penetrated the darkness and had begun to burn more and more brightly.
It was just such a light that some ancient men discovered in the sky, which in some amazing manner led them right to the child Jesus and his mother and step-father. The Gospel of Matthew (chapter 2) tells about this caste of stargazers the Greeks called magoi that somehow inferred from astronomical observations that a new “king of the Jews” would be born. They traveled a very long way, created quite a stir upon their arrival in Jerusalem, and finally found the place where Jesus lived. When they saw the child, they bowed before him in worship and presented him gifts fit for a king: gold, incense, and myrrh. That is what Christians celebrate on January 6 each year, what is called “Epiphany,” meaning “a revelation.”
People like Lewis, Strobel and McDowell argue that just such a revelation could be waiting for us. Of course, we could try to play it safe, too. But if this story is true, there is nothing in the world with which to compare it. As Blaise Pascal wrote, “Let them at least be honest men, if they cannot be Christians. Finally, let them recognize that there are two kinds of people one can call reasonable; those who serve God with all their heart because they know Him, and those who seek Him with all their heart because they do not know Him (Pensees, #194). Perhaps a personal Epiphany awaits.