Recently I had the privilege of joining six other Christians from Middle Tennessee on a trip to northern Chile, where we worked with missionary Rojelio Silva to share the gospel with the Aymara Indians. In all, 95 people trusted in Christ. Here is a report of God’s work through us in one of many divine appointments. Many thanks to teammate Rob Tudor for the photographs.
The Aymara Indian’s skull was crushed, and his twisted legs were all that could be seen protruding from beneath the wrecked SUV that lay above us on the Andean hillside. “There has been an accident,” a policeman told us. “Three people are dead. Can you help us recover the bodies?”
We were on our way to Pachica, one of 142 pueblos in the Chilean province of Camarones, to encourage new Christians and share Christ with Aymarans who have never heard the gospel. There were 11 of us on this LifeWay sponsored trip, in partnership with a Chilean ministry called “Manantiales en el Desierto” – Streams in the Desert. We got out of our vehicles and began the somber climb to the site of the crash.
The rugged mountains, steep ravines, and serpentine dirt roads carved out of volcanic rock make passage through these Andean foothills slow and treacherous, especially when, as the police explained, 14 people are crammed into one vehicle, traveling at night.
This pass is particularly devilish, climbing 600 feet in altitude through a series of switchbacks and hairpin curves. Apparently, the driver of the SUV, nearing the top of the mountain, failed to navigate one of the turns. The vehicle slid back and rolled over the edge, plummeting more than 120 feet before resting upside-down in the rocky ravine. Amazingly, 11 people survived, including a two-year-old.
The dead evidently had been thrown from the car and suffered fatal injuries, with one – an 81-year-old man – pinned beneath it. We later read his name in the newspaper and learned that his daughter also died in the crash, along with an unrelated traveler on his way to a job. We climbed the jagged rocks, helped place the bodies on stainless steel litters and carry them to the road below.
The body of the elderly man required the assistance of nearly a dozen people who tilted the SUV just enough so two of us could free his corpse. As I thrust my hands under the man’s arms and another grabbed his legs, I saw his round face, closed eyes and eerily peaceful smile and wondered whether he had been sleeping at the moment he plunged into eternity.
The policemen thanked us for our help while a photographer from the newspaper in nearby Arica snapped pictures. A few hours later we were in Pachica, and then Esquina, sharing the gospel with school kids, adobe craftsmen from Peru, and a candle salesman – all of whom found new life in Christ.
Of course the tragic accident reminds us of the brevity of life. James writes that we are “a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes” (James 4:14). And any preacher worth his salt will share an experience like this to remind unbelievers of the precarious state they are in apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
But seeing the Aymara Indian’s face brought home to me three other simple truths:
First, life is brief for all people, not just unbelievers. When Christians stand before the judgment seat of Christ we will give an account, not of how long we lived, but of how faithfully we served. On the long dusty ride to Pachica after helping the police, I prayed to be more mindful of my life’s ticking clock.
Second, our choices have consequences in time and eternity. The driver of the SUV, who survived, will spend the rest of his life agonizing over his failure to negotiate a hairpin turn. The families of the dead are grieving yet today. And the survivors are confronted with the mystery of why they made it, and what it means. The three who died, of course, passed into eternity without a chance to say goodbye or make their peace with God.
Third, God is evident in all things if only we look. Seeing the bloodied face of the Aymara Indian man, I thought how God created, loved and sustained him for 81 years. Did he know this? Coming upon the scene of the accident as we did, at the moment we did, gave us a God-ordained opportunity to help the officials who would deal directly with the injured and the grieving. But there’s more.
Two days later we were in Taltaca, a small pueblo on the other side of the mountain from Pachica. We met an Aymara woman named Veronica and six members of her family. She told us she had just read in the paper that her sister-in-law, along with two others, had died in a car wreck across the mountain. She showed us the newspaper, which said some English-speaking tourists stopped to assist the police. Looking at the photographs, she recognized that those tourists were us.
We asked for the chance to tell her about Jesus and she eagerly agreed. That afternoon Veronica and six members of her family passed from death into life (John 5:24). If ever the imprint of God’s finger on human destiny was clearer, I have not experienced it.
We hugged Veronica and the rest of her family and said our goodbyes. The dust from our wheels hung briefly in the air and then vanished in the fading sunlight as Veronica and her family waved so long. While the eternal destiny of the three crash victims is known only to God, I took comfort in knowing that through Christ’s death, eternal life came that day to the Valley of Camarones.
This is the first in a nine-part series of articles offering sound reasons to believe the Bible is the Word of God.
In Systematic Theology (Vol. I), Dr. Norman Geisler presents many lines of evidence supporting claims for the Bible as the Word of God. In unique fashion, he labels each line of evidence with a word beginning with the letter “S,” making his arguments relatively easy to follow and remember. This article borrows his headings and then incorporates some of Geisler’s research with other sources, all of which are cited.
Reason 1: The testimony of science
Much in the Bible demonstrates advanced scientific knowledge – that is, God revealed through human scribes information that only He knew long before scientists discovered these truths. For example:
- The exact order of events in the origin of all things. “In a day when the ancient polytheistic myths of origin prevailed, the author of Genesis declared that the universe came into being out of nothing by the act of a theistic God in the exact order that modern science discovered a millennium and a half later,” writes Geisler. “The universe came first (Gen. 1:1a), then the earth (1:1b), then the land and sea (1:10). After this came life in the sea (1:21), then land animals (1:24-25), and finally … human beings (1:27). This too supports the view that the author of Genesis had access to some intelligence as to how the Creator made the universe” (p. 545).
- Reproduction after each creature’s own kind. This scientific fact runs contrary to many ancient and even early modern views. Observation and the fossil record demonstrate that each type of life produces its own kind.
- The earth as the raw material of human bodies. Many ancient polytheistic beliefs claim that people cam from the gods; the Koran teaches that human beings were made from a blood clot (Sura 23:14); but the Bible explains that God made Adam from the earth (Gen. 2:7).
- Rain water returning to its source (Eccl.. 1:7). Perhaps without even understanding it, the writer recorded the process of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation long before scientists figured it out.
- The shape of the world as it hangs in space. Job (26:7) and Isaiah (40:22) make remarkable statements contrary to the ancient belief that the earth was flat, or square. Some myths held that the earth rested on the back of Hercules or on pillars, but the Bible states otherwise.
- Life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11), a fact declared in scripture more than 3,000 years ago and only fairly recently attested to in science.
- The sea’s paths and boundaries (Ps. 8:8; Prov. 8:29). The continental shelf that makes this possible is a fairly recent scientific discovery.
- The laws of sanitation (Lev. 12-15). Long before there was scientific knowledge of bacteria and germs, God instructed His people through laws of sanitation to protect themselves from diseases spread by unseen organisms.
Next – Reason 2: The testimony of the scrolls
The link above takes you to a study of world religions and cults, which some people call “alternative” faiths or other paths to God. Our stand will be on the truth of Jesus’ words in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Is this view narrow-minded and outdated, as some suggest? Quite the contrary. The words Christ speaks are “spirit” and “life” (John 6:63). To disregard them is perilous. Yet many do.
There are roughly 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide, 820 million Hindus, 400 million Buddhists, 13 million Mormons, 7 million Jehovah’s Witnesses, and millions more engaged in other false religions, or no religion at all. By all appearances, these people are sincere. They want to know the truth and believe they have found it. How can so many people be wrong? This study answers that question — and many others regarding people’s quest for ultimate truth.
Through this study, we will look at many belief systems, from Islam to Scientology. In each case, we’ll examine the background of the “alternative” faith and compare its beliefs to what the Bible says. We also will discuss effective means of witnessing to people who embrace these false religions.
Our purpose is not to condemn anyone or to assume God’s role as sovereign judge of the universe; rather, it is to compare the teachings of the world’s major religions and cults with biblical, historical Christianity so that we might be more effective in praying for and witnessing to the lost, and wiser in our ability to discern false doctrines. Every person, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, is precious in the eyes of God and is someone for whom Christ died. Our attitude as we study these false religious systems should be one of humility, love, and grace.
The words of the apostle Paul are clear: Those who are not grounded in the Word of God are subject to deceptive teachings about “another Jesus … a different spirit … a different gospel.” Every world religion and every cult that we study professes belief in Jesus and has an exalted place for Him in its theology. But without exception, each of these belief systems fails to correctly answer the key question Jesus asked in Matt. 16:15: “Who do you say that I am?” They also have false views of the Holy Spirit and without exception embrace a works-based doctrine of salvation.
Paul warned Christians in Acts 20:29-31: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And men from among yourselves will rise up with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. Therefore be on the alert …” Our prayer is that this study will help protect you, your family and your church from false teachers who proclaim “another Jesus … a different spirit … and a different gospel.”
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips