X-rays. Something we take for granted. At least I do. I’ve had my share of X-rays, and when the orthopedic doctor said he wanted to see what was going on with my shoulder, I didn’t give it a second thought. X-rays will tell my doctor (and even a novice like me) that, “Hey! That there bone is broken!” (My apologies for making my doctor sound like a hick. He’s not.)
We take the wonders of an X-ray for granted. But when the German engineer, Wilhelm Röntgen, saw the first X-ray, he thought he was hallucinating. This week marks the anniversary of this accidental discovery (November 8, 1895). Röntgen was doing experiments with a Crookes tube. Inside this glass tube, a crackle of light could be created. We know now it was a beam of electrons, but in 1895 Röntgen and others like him were trying to figure this out.
In the process of his experiments, he discovered that a piece of cardboard coated with barium glowed when he created this electron beam. OK, so? This barium-coated cardboard was nowhere near his experiment; it was on a nearby table, away from the Crookes tube he was working with. The room was dark and the tube was not leaking light, so why did this paper glow? Röntgen knew why.
He was hallucinating.
Or so he thought. He repeatedly tried to figure out why this cardboard was glowing. He blocked it with nearby objects, but when he used the Crookes tube, the cardboard still glowed. The barium-coated board glowed even when things were blocking the path. What really got his attention was when he held up a block of metal—and saw the bones in his own hand. Now he knew he was not hallucinating. It was worse; he figured he had gone mad.
Röntgen was determined he had made a mistake. He was embarrassed and didn’t tell anyone. Instead, he locked himself in the lab and worked on this problem—for seven weeks. He dismissed his assistants, ate grudgingly, and I’m assuming was in serious need of a bath. Röntgen truly thought he was mad, and his behavior began to make people wonder the same thing.
His experiments, though, were consistent. At one point, he finally showed his wife, Bertha, what he was working on. I don’t know the 1890s term for it, but when she saw an X-ray of her bones, she freaked out.
But that was good, because it showed Röntgen that he was not nuts. Someone else saw it, even though she refused to go back into his haunted lab. With that, Röntgen finally ventured out and announced to the world what he has discovered. I just hope he showered first.
The world thinks Christians are nuts—or at least blissfully ignorant and naïve—to believe in a God they can’t see. It’s wishful thinking to believe a man horrifically killed by Roman crucifixion could rise from the dead. It’s a mental issue to think there’s a God who actually speaks to you.
These objections don’t stand well. The truth is consistent and it still stands.
I’m a follower of Christ for two reasons. First, I can’t explain how the universe with all its complexity came to be without an intelligent designer behind it all. Frankly, it takes greater faith to believe that all that we see happened by chance and without one iota of purpose than to believe there is a Master Designer behind it all.
Second, I can’t explain away the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’ve discussed this in a previous blog, and there are some great books that unpack the reality of the resurrection. But for the moment, let me just stress that there are consistent facts behind the resurrection that cannot be explained away.
Just like Röntgen’s experiments that were consistent and kept pointing to the reality of X-rays, the truth of Scripture—what it reveals about creation, the character of God, and the work of Christ—is “consistently consistent” with reality.
Call me nuts, but I know the truth of Scripture still stands. And I choose to stand with that truth. Alongside this objective truth, there is one other fact no one can deny me: My life has been changed by the truth of Jesus Christ. Radically changed. My life can’t be explained away by simply growing up or turning over a new life. I am a sinner with a bent toward sinning, but Christ has forgiven me and made me a new person.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17).
And that’s the truth.
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