Dr. Joseph McRae Mellichamp is Emeritus Professor of Management Science in the Manderson Graduate School of Business at the University of Alabama and National Faculty Representative for Christian Leadership Ministries. For 25 years, Dr. Mellichamp combined successful academic pursuits with effective Christian ministry activities.
I grew up in a family of four sons. As the second son, I have always been an extremely competitive person. As a youth, I felt in order to be recognized, I always had to win, to be the best, to be first in everything. I can remember as a freshman in college thinking about the question, "What can I do to ensure that I will be a success in life?" I decided that if I set high goals for myself and then devoted all my energy to accomplish those goals, I would succeed. So I adopted this as my life philosophy.
My first major goal was to graduate from college with an engineering degree. And I was able to accomplish this, graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in industrial engineering. During my college years, I was an officer in my social fraternity, an editor of the college yearbook, an officer in the Air Force R.O.T.C., and involved in other campus activities. All of this was motivated by my goal-oriented philosophy of life.
During my senior year in college, I married my high school sweetheart. I had always thought it would be nice to have a son and daughter -- in that order. I was so committed to my goal-oriented approach to life that I made this a goal, and my wife and I were able to accomplish it -- a son and a daughter in order.
Upon graduation from college, I served for two and a half years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. After completing my military service, I accepted a position as an engineer in industry. It was a fantastic job! The company was involved in building a new refinery, and I was able to immediately begin designing equipment and processes to be used in the refinery. I could not have found a more challenging or intellectually stimulating position.
Yet within a few months, I began to have a strange, empty feeling about my life. Whenever I would honestly evaluate my life, I had to admit to myself that something was missing; it just wasn't as fulfilling as I thought it should be. I decided that education was the answer: I needed an advanced degree. So after two years in industry, I left my job and returned to the university to pursue graduate studies.
I was able to complete the requirements for a Ph.D. in engineering management from Clemson University and received an appointment as Assistant Professor of Management Science at the University of Alabama. I thought to myself, "I have arrived! Life is really going to be great from now on." I was not quite 30 years old, and I had achieved every one of the goals I had set for myself. I had an excellent job, a good income, a lovely wife, two fine children, a fine home in a beautiful neighborhood, two cars in the garage and a cocker spaniel in the back yard. I had it all.
Surprisingly, within six months of assuming my new position, the old feeling of emptiness returned. Something was still missing. I couldn't understand it. According to my philosophy of life, I was a success; but when I seriously considered my life, it came up short. As I struggled with this state of mind trying to understand it, it occurred to me that all of the goals I had set for myself were essentially materialistic -- the accumulation of things: degrees, positions, family, money. What if there was a spiritual dimension to life? What if for a person to really be successful, to be fulfilled, one had to come up with answers in this spiritual realm?
These questions lead to others. What if there was a God? What would He be like? I was not much interested in some impersonal force that was somewhere out in the universe impassively observing things. But a personal God who was interested in me; one who wanted to have a personal relationship with me -- I was interested in that kind of God. But how could one find out about God? How could one know Him?
I had always heard that the Bible was God's way of communicating with people. But I had also heard that the Bible was filled with errors and that one had to sort out truth from error. It occurred to me that a sovereign, omnipotent God should be able to communicate with His creation in a reliable, error-free, way, and I began to investigate the Bible seeking to answer the questions, "Is the Bible reliable? Is it true? Can I base my life on what the Bible says about the issues of life?"
The evidence for the reliability of the Bible can be grouped into four areas: prophecy, archaeology, science, and manuscripts. Here is a summary of what I found.
Prophecy. The Bible is a book that is filled with prophetic statements. In fact, it contains hundreds of prophecies -- detailed, very specific prophecies; prophecies about individuals, about people, about cities, about nations, about events, and about governments. In some cases, the time between when a prophecy was made and when it was fulfilled is a thousand years or more. My conclusion was that some power who knows the future and who is, in fact, in control of the affairs of men and nations is responsible for this record.
Archaeology. Much of the archaeological research in biblical lands was initiated by skeptics who were interested in demonstrating that the Bible is inaccurate in details of history and geography. Hundreds of archaeological discoveries over the past 50 to 75 years clearly prove that the Bible is extraordinarily accurate in this regard. One archaeologist has stated, "There is not one single, undisputed archaeological discovery that contradicts the Bible in any point!" My reaction to this type of evidence was that this book clearly merited my consideration.
Science. Having been educated as an engineer, I had been taught that the Bible is not accurate when it touches on what we have learned from science about our world and the universe. But when I began to check into this, I discovered that the explanation offered by the Bible as to how the universe came into existence fits extremely well with what we know from science, and, furthermore, there are numerous details in the Bible about the Earth and the universe that we are just discovering from science. Again, I had to conclude that the Bible was not an ordinary book -- it could not be explained away in ordinary terms.
Manuscripts. One criticism of the Bible I had often heard was that because it was manually copied over and over for thousands of years, there could be little resemblance between the versions we have today and the original version. This sounded like a logical argument to me. Then I learned that texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in 1947) dated approximately 200 B.C., had been compared with our earliest previously existing texts dated around 800 A.D. These texts which differed in age by more than 1000 years were described as 99 percent identical!
To me, these evidences for the reliability of the Bible were too much to discount. I had to admit that the only reasonable explanation for the detail, the content, and the accuracy I found in the book was supernatural -- that a sovereign, omnipotent God communicated this word to mankind to reveal Himself and His purposes to us.
What does the Bible tell us about God and his purposes? Briefly, four things: (1) That God loves men and women individually and desires to have a personal relationship with each of us. Apart from this relationship, we can never be satisfied or fulfilled. (2) That we have each rejected God and chosen to live our lives in our own way. This rejection of God is what the Bible calls sin. (3) That God allowed His Son, Jesus Christ, to live and to be executed to pay the penalty for our rejection of God. Jesus rose from the dead that we might have an eternal relationship with God. (4) That we must individually accept God's offer of eternal life by believing what God has accomplished through His Son.
Having considered the facts and found them reasonable, I accepted God's offer through simple faith. That was many years ago. I am still competitive; I still strive for excellence in every area of my life. But I do so realizing that success in life comes from knowing the infinite God of the universe and having a personal relationship with Him. If you have never investigated these issues, I challenge you to do so.
© Copyright 1997, Joseph McRae Mellichamp
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