My Odyssey

I was raised as a Christian. From an early age, my mother read me Bible stories, taught me about Jesus and explained the message of Salvation. At 5 years old I was already a ‘born again’, ‘witnessing’ Christian. I spent my Sundays and Wednesday nights in church until the age of 23 when I moved to Dallas to go to work for Texas Instruments. I hired on as an electronics technician going to school at night working toward a degree in Electrical Engineering.

There I met a chemist who was probably one of the smartest people I had ever known. This guy not only had a Ph.D. but also had post-doctorate work in his particular area. We became friends. As it turned out, he was an atheist. Naturally our conversations eventually turned to religious matters and he questioned me as to why I believed in God. My only answers were:

  1. My mother told me.
  2. I had feeling of comfort and peace when I prayed.
  3. I had seen people recover from illnesses after prayer. The recoveries had no explanation other than divine intervention.

These he dismissed saying,

  1. "How could I know that what my mother had told me was true? What if she were wrong?"
  2. "Our minds can produce any feelings we want. How do I know they came from God?"
  3. "Our mental attitudes can produce amazing effects including healing processes. How do I know this wasn’t all I saw when I perceived ‘divine intervention’?"

After much debating, it became increasingly clear that I was not able to refute a single one of his alternatives. I simply could not adequately defend my belief in Christianity.

In time I got my degree and drifted away from the chemist. I found work as an engineer in another department. But the arguments he had raised stayed with me. It took some time but I finally realized that I had no reliable basis for my beliefs. I could not be sure that God existed. Of course I could not be sure that He did not exist either. This, I concluded, was the definition of an agnostic. So I figured that that was what I was.

At that time I made the decision to mentally make the transition from Christian to agnostic. But I prayed a prayer in case God were there. It went like this:

"God, I don’t know if You are there or not so I am now an agnostic. Please bring me back to You. If You are there I know that You will."

I knew that if God existed, He would honor the prayer. But it was going to have to be a rigorous proof. I had no intention of being fooled again.

For the next ten years my life was chaotic at best. I had no real goals and no real purpose. With the faith that had guided my life gone, I tried new lifestyles and assumed new attitudes. My days were spent just trying to make a living and maintain some semblance of happiness. Always in the background was the vague knowledge that deep down I wanted to know for sure whether God existed or not.

At age 33 I decided that what would really give meaning to my life was to be a marriage counselor. Naturally this meant going back to college. I enrolled in a couple of night school psychology classes. One of these classes had a teacher who turned out to be an evangelical Christian. He didn’t mention this much in class, but somehow he seemed to zero in on me. Every night he would walk out to my car with me talking to me about God and about my lost faith. I couldn’t seem to get away from him. I also couldn’t get away from the ring of truth in his sincere convictions. Because of this experience I decided I just had to know what the truth was.

At the same time I had two engineering associates who I knew were Christians. Each of them recommended a book for me to read. One of them was Who Moved the Stone?, by Frank Morrison. The other was Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell. Normally I am not much of a reader but I began a study of these two books that would ultimately change the entire course of my life.

Frank Morrison was a lawyer in the early 1900s who, influenced by the critics of the day, set out to research the events surrounding the death of Christ so as to prove that His resurrection was a myth. He hit a snag when he got to the large stone or boulder that was placed at the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. If fact it was such and insurmountable snag that he reversed his direction and wrote the book mentioned above. In this book he systematically shows how the resurrection can be nothing short of miraculous.

I was impressed but not convinced. How were we sure that the historical records of these events were accurate? What about the possibility of aliens coming to earth who had vastly superior technology, etc.?

The other book was quite modern and significantly more technical. I wound up spending a couple of years ingesting and digesting the information presented. As a scientist, I approached this not necessarily as a skeptic but certainly from the standpoint that data in the form of substantiated facts, not theories or opinions, were required for me to consider them pertinent. My intention was to reach a logical conclusion about the existence of God.

I decided that part of my focus would be the Resurrection of Christ. It seemed obvious to me that this event, more than any other, substantiated the existence of God and His nature. At the time I felt that relying on the Bible for the facts about this was ludicrous on its face. Instead, I figured that non-Christian historians of the day would tend to be unbiased. I found that there were quite a few of these. The overwhelming consensus was that the disappearance of Jesus from the tomb was common knowledge at the time. But the ‘how’ was still obscure. There were also references to sightings of Jesus for some time after the resurrection but these tended to be hearsay and not particularly reliable. Most the eyewitnesses seemed to be those who wrote the Gospels or who were their intimate associates. The Bible seemed to have all the best information.

In the McDowell book there is a large section dealing with the history, reliability, and accuracy of the Bible. Of particular interest to me was the information dealing with the preservation of the four Gospels. Without going into details because they are too lengthy, I, as an engineer and scientist, became convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the words we find in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts are reliable and accurate translations of those written by those four authors. I became convinced that the events we read about were exactly what they believed to be true. I became convinced all of the conversations and dialogs they wrote about actually took place. I became convinced that the words attributed to Jesus were essentially the words He spoke.

I now felt I had enough information to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the resurrection happened as depicted by the Gospels. But how? And more importantly why? I figured that it was possible that aliens with vastly superior intellect and technology had done all this for some unknown reason. Then I realized that the answer lay in the words of Jesus, accurately recorded by his disciples.

He said that He was God come to earth as man because He loves us.

He said He had come to save all people from the consequences of their unloving behavior.
He predicted that He would be killed by His enemies and would come back to life on the third day.
He said that He is the Way [door and safe passage to], the Truth [absence of error and method of achieving], and the Life [eternal and ongoing wellness and happiness].

This tied it together. These did not seem to be the words of an alien being. They were certainly not the words of a lunatic and there could be no purpose for Him to be lying.

I then conceived of the possible argument that the disciples had concocted a collection of stories in order to preserve the memory of their dead hero. These were dispelled by my reading a monograph by Simon Greenleaf, the famous Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University, entitled An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice. In this treatise he outlines that after Jesus’ ascension, His disciples continued to proclaim the facts they knew to be true. This they did with courage and vigor in the face of tremendous adversity, torments and horrendous deaths. They had every possible motive to carefully consider the grounds of their faith and to recant it if they did not know it to be true. If their testimony was not true, there was essentially no possible motive for its fabrication.

For me that was it. The logic was complete. I could not reasonably doubt the existence of God nor the truths asserted in the four Gospels. It has been over twenty years since that day that I knew that I knew it was true. In that time that knowledge has not wavered. Recently I was asked this question:

"Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?"

My answer, both on an emotional level and on an intellectual level, is categorically, "Yes!"

Toby Landes

For an outline of my logic and the entire Greenleaf treatise please go to