Is it True Science uses Reason and Christianity only has Blind Faith?

Is it True Science uses Reason and Christianity only has Blind Faith?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Above image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One thing I am never short of is Facebook posts that denounce Christianity for various reasons. Some posts slam the Christian God, calling Him an unforgiving, genocidal, jealous, racist bully, echoing Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion.((Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006, Print.))

Others target scripture suggesting it was written hundreds of years after the life of Christ and is full of errors and contradictions. Again quoting Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, “To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.”1

Some even question if Christ was a real person, and many believe He was not an authentic historical figure. Frank Zindler, former director of the American Atheists gives us a glimpse at this, “So much for the evidence purporting to prove that Jesus was a historical figure. We have not, of course, proved that Jesus did not exist. We have only showed that all evidence alleged to support such a claim is without substance…”((Zindler, Frank. “Did Jesus Exist?” American Atheists, ND, https://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/did-jesus-exist/))

Then you have those who target the hypocritical behavior of Christians. For example, some who think they are quoting Gandhi write, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” which is not an actual quote from Gandi, but it was taken from another Indian philosopher. Nevertheless, the point is well made, Christians often don’t act like Christ despite wanting to and being told to be imitators of Him in scripture. 1 Corinthians 11:1 I certainly can relate to that, and most believers, if they are honest, will say the same.

Finally, others take a much broader path and paint most, if not all religions as foolishness and the cause of countless wars and misery.

These claims can be addressed and have been, but my focus in this post is the claim that science depends on reason and evidence while Christianity doesn’t.

Is the assertion true that Christianity is void or reason and evidence? Are Christians wishing on a star, following their heart, taking leaps of faith, or is their faith simply blind?

Let’s take a look at some examples in scripture. Luke states that his sources were ‘eye-witnesses,’ and he claims to have carefully investigated everything and is sharing them with Theophilus so he would be certain of the claims of the new Christians. Luke 1:1-4

In 1 Cor. 15:6, Paul practically dares anyone to check out his story. In I Corinthians 15, Paul lists six groups or specific individuals who were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ. Peter, The twelve, the 500, James (younger brother of Jesus), all the apostles, and finally Paul himself.

Most of these eyewitnesses endured persecution, imprisonment, torture, and finally, death. Persecution was the norm, and it certainly was not something that would compel others to sacrifice their livelihood or life for what they profess. Yet, despite their willingness to lose everything, that does not validate their belief. I think of the 911 terrorists and their belief that 72 virgins awaited them in the afterlife. Yet what is so remarkable about the early Christian martyrs is not what they believed, but what they saw; the risen Christ. The early Christian martyrs died not for what they thought to be true but what they saw to be true. 

A story shared by Lee Strobel may help illustrate my point. In 1963 Addie Mae Collins was one of four African-American girls murdered in a church bombing by racists. She was buried in Birmingham, Alabama, and for years her family returned to visit her gravesite and leave flowers. Finally, in 1998 they made the decision to exhume Addie Mae so she could be reburied at another cemetery. However, when the workers began to dig, they discovered the grave was empty. The family was understandably shocked, and several possible explanations were considered as officials started to investigate what happened, but no one ever suggested was that Addie Mae was resurrected. Why? Because an empty grave does not constitute a resurrection. Eyewitnesses do that.

Other religions begin with someone having a private encounter or vision they share with others, not Christianity. We find another example in 2 Peter 1:16, where Peter explains they were eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ and His majesty. In addition, at the end of John, he explains the signs done by Christ in front of witnesses was so they might believe that he was the Son of God. John 20:30-31. Scripture is full of examples that rule out the impression that our faith requires giant leaps or blind loyalty. Neither does Christ Himself expect that of us.

For example, when John the Baptist was in prison and struggling with doubts, so he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He was the one they were waiting for. How did Jesus respond? He promptly healed the lame and cured the blind. He then told them to return to John and report what they witnessed. Luke 7:19-22 In fact, you will find that the Gospel of Luke holds most of the eyewitness details found in the New Testament.

Classical scholar Colin Hemer fact-checked the book of Acts (written by Luke) and found 84 facts confirmed by historical and archaeological research.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004, Print.)) Believing without evidence is what we call blind faith and nowhere in scripture are believers called to that kind of faith. John 14:9-11

The above examples are from scripture, but Christians are not limited to those examples to build their faith. Believers can find substantial evidence within the sciences. Just don’t expect science to answer all your questions. The fact is, science cannot answer all our questions and never will be able to.

Suppose my daughter-in-law Annie baked a cake. If we were to ship it to a lab for analysis, we would learn much about the cake. The biochemists could tell us what elements are within the cake. Mathematicians will spell out the weight, volume, and detailed dimensions of the cake. Physicists can break down the fundamental particles and explain what temperatures she baked it. But not one of them, or anyone in the scientific community could tell us why the cake was made; only Annie could answer that question. Natural sciences will answer questions about the structure and elements of the cake, but they could never answer any ‘why’ questions.

When you think about it, the laws of nature help us describe the universe, but they explain nothing. The fact that we have laws that govern our universe is one of those why questions that can’t be answered except by the one who made the laws. One of the first questions of the year I would ask my algebra students in Jr. High was, “Is mathematics invented or discovered?” I would leave them to ponder that throughout the year.

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Laureate in physics, wrote, “…the fact that there are rules at all to be checked is a kind of miracle; that it is possible to find a rule, like the inverse-square law of gravitation, is some sort of miracle.”((Lennox, John. Can Science Explain Everything? Oxford: The Good Book Company, 2019, Print.))

Those most critical of the Christian faith often don’t ever set foot in a church, let alone read or examine scripture. They don’t study the words of Jesus and try to apply the teaching to themselves, or how His words could apply to neighbors, friends, family, etc. It is so much easier to point out the faults and shortcomings of others than to take a hard look at ourselves and compare how we live our life to the commands of Jesus. The operative word is ‘try’ because we all fall short. Someone once said the church is a hospital for sinners, not a sanctuary for saints. We are all more comfortable playing the armchair general, pointing out the mistakes of those in the trenches and how they are delinquent in living a life like Jesus than applying His teachings to our own conduct.

Anthony Flew was a lifetime philosopher and atheist. Then in 2003, late in his life, he converted to a belief in God. He said he had to go where the evidence leads, and it was the complexity of DNA that was the deciding factor for Flew. John Lennox wrote concerning the idea of following evidence where it leads, “…there are situations where we shouldn’t just give up if explanations in terms of natural processes don’t work; we should be prepared to follow the evidence where it leads, even if that involves a supernatural dimension.”((Lennox, John. Can Science Explain Everything? Oxford: The Good Book Company, 2019, Print.)) But not all scientists adhere to that because of their prejudice to a concept of a being beyond the natural.

Richard Lewontin, who is a geneticist from Harvard, displays this attitude perfectly when he wrote, “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment…to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute for we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door.”((Lennox, John. Can Science Explain Everything? Oxford: The Good Book Company, 2019, Print.))

Christians should never be afraid of science and what we can learn from it. The things that we learn about our universe, from the microscopic to the telescope, are often confirmed by the Bible when researched carefully. Science cannot answer all the questions we might have, but neither should the Bible be used as a science book. As we investigate our world, both science and theology should be used to complement and confirm how best we should live.

The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go. – Galileo

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Is it True Science uses Reason and Christianity only has Blind Faith by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006, Print. []

Can we trust the New Testament?

Reading Time: 6 minutesThis morning at church my pastor mentioned apologetics multiple times. To me, that topic acts as coffee in my system! He also mentioned some, what he called God questions. One of which was if the New Testament can be trusted. I went home considering writing a post on the topic since I had not done one in a while.

Then later this afternoon my daughter Beth shared in a text to me that a friend of her’s was questioning how accurate the bible can be if it was translated so many times through so many different languages. Beth pointed out that it is just one language to English. For example, Greek to English, or Hebrew to English. It is not as if we have to translate it from Hebrew, to Greek, to Coptic, to Latin, to English. Smart girl! So here is my answer to one of those God questions. 

Many equate bible translations to the old ‘telephone’ game where one person at the start of a line whispers a statement which is then shared quietly with the next person in line and so forth. By the time the message reaches the end of the line it is confusing, convoluted, and nothing like the original.

The New Testament authors not only support each other, but we have multiple sources outside of scripture that support the life, times, and teaching of Jesus. Ignatius, (AD 35-117), was a student of John, who is the author of the Gospel of John. Ignatius wrote at least three letters that have been preserved. Jim Wallace, in Cold-Case Christianity, reviewed some of Ignatius’ letters and listed the dozens of conclusions from those letters. Below I list only a few.

  • Jesus was in the line of King David.
  • He was, (and is), the Son of God.
  • He was baptized by John the Baptist.
  • He taught and had a ministry on earth.
  • He spoke the words of God.
  • He died on the cross.
  • Jesus was resurrected.
  • He had a physical resurrection body.1

Polycarp, (AD 69-155), was also a student of John. Polycarp became the Bishop of Smyrna in what we now call Turkey. Polycarp wrote a letter to the church in Phiippi, and history has documented this, in which he talked about Paul and the other apostles who he had met. The following conclusions can be made from his letters.

  • Jesus was sinless.
  • He taught the Sermon on the Mount.
  • He suffered and died on a cross.
  • His death on the cross saves us.
  • We are saved by grace.
  • Jesus was raised from the dead.
  • Jesus is Lord.2
    As I did with Ignatius, I only listed a few.

Clement of Rome was taught by Paul, and he wrote a letter AD 80-140. According to Jim Wallace, “Clement quoted or alluded to seven New Testament books (Mark, Matthew or John, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians) as he penned his work.” From his work, which agrees with Ignatius and Polycarp, you can conclude the following.

  • The prophets predicted the life and ministry of Jesus.
  • Jesus provided His disciples with important instruction.
  • He taught principles as described by Mark and Luke.
  • He was humble and unassuming.
  • He suffered and died for our salvation.
  • He was resurrected from the dead.
  • He is alive and reigning with God.3

All of the above men had first-hand eyewitness testimony to the lives and teaching of the New Testament authors, all within the first century, not hundreds of years later as some may claim. History has recorded their correspondence, and this recorded communication confirms the writings and eyewitness testimony of the authors and Jesus.

According to Norman Geisler, in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, we have nearly 5,700 hand written Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and more than 9000 in other languages such as Latin and Arabic. Of these nearly 15,000 documents, (some are complete accounts while others are partial books, pages, or fragments), the message of the New Testament is clear and we have more copies than any other ancient document.4

In history, the next earliest surviving copies of the original document is Homer with a 500-year gap. All of the New Testament was written within a few decades of the events they recorded. If you look at the number of copies that support ancient documents, again it is Homer with 643 compared to nearly 15,000 of the New Testament.5

Other researchers have put the total over 25,000. David Limbaugh, (yes the brother or Rush Limbaugh) just published his book, Jesus On Trial wrote, “The evidence, however, is changing all the time based on new discoveries. Geisler recounts that when he began writing on this topic in the sixties, there were about 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts…and now there are closer to 5,800. The number of New Testament translations into languages of nearby countries – Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, Latin, Coptic and others – totals about 19,300.”6 Add that to the Greek copies, then we have some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts.

Also, historical documentation is not limited to believers. Anyone who is familiar with biblical history has heard of Flavius Josephus, (ca. 37- ca. 100). He was a historian for the Roman Emperor Domitian. Josephus wrote, “At this time [the time of Pilate] there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive, according he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”7 This is coming from a Jew who became a Roman and had nothing to gain from promoting Jesus and His life.

Pliny the Younger was a Roman senator and lawyer in Rome. He was a prolific letter writer and we have copies of most of his writings. In one of his letters, he was asking for advice on how to deal with Christians who refused to deny Christ. He wrote, “They had met regularly before dawn on a determined day, and sung antiphonally a hymn to Christ as if to a god. They also took an oath not for any crime, but to keep from theft, robbery and adultery, not to break any promise, and not to withhold a deposit when recliamed.”8

I mention the Piliny example, (one of many outside the New Testament) to point out the durability of eyewitness testimony decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Romans considered Christianity nothing more than a cult, yet despite frightful persecution, it was growing and spreading all over the Mediterranean and into Rome. Pliny the Younger would give Christian’s three chances to deny Christ, yet time and time again they would refuse and he would have them taken away to be executed.

Finally in the first 150 years after the birth of Christ, if we include Josephus, we have ten non-Christian writers who mention Jesus in their works. Looking at and then piecing together what the non-Christian sources say about Jesus we have the following list:

1. Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
2. He lived a virtuous life.
3. He was a wonder worker.
4. He had a brother named James.
5. He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
6. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
7. He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
8. Darkness and an earthquake occurred when he died.
9. His disciples believed he rose from the dead.
10. His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
12. His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God.9

Keep in mind the above list is compiled from non-Christians and even those hostile to Christianity. This is a list void of anyone who believed in Christianity.

I will add as an end note, if we include the number of Christian authors who mention Christ within 150 years of his birth, and add the ten non-Christian sources, the total is forty-three sources who mention Jesus. Then if we look at the number of Christian and non-Christian sources that mention Tiberius Caesar in the same 150 year period the total is ten.

Christopher Hitchens author of ‘god is not Great’ says the authors of the New Testament cannot agree on anything of importance. You can see from the above list, even those who were not Christians and hostile to Christianity, agreed on elements of great importance, which are verified by the overwhelming number of copies we have of the New Testament.

The New Testament has documentation above and beyond any other ancient document. Not only in sheer numbers of copies that can be cross examined for accuracy, but also written within a few years of the events that took place, while other historical documents are written centuries later. The New Testament also has evidence from numerous sources outside of scripture and evidence from sources hostile to Christianity. You can trust the New Testament!

 

Sources:
1.Wallace, James Warner. Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2013. Print.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, Crossway, 2004. Print.
5. Ibid.
6. Limbaugh, David. Jesus On Trial. Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2014. Print.
7. Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print.
8. Van Voorst, Robert, Jesus Outside the New Testament, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. Print.
9. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, Crossway, 2004. Print.

 

 

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Can we trust the New Testament? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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