Demanding Proof

Demanding Proof

Reading Time: 6 minutes

21 – A disciple of Christ, Thomas, was a skeptic. He walked with Jesus during his time on earth and physically witnessed with his own eyes certain miracles performed by him such as raising Lazarus from the dead and so forth. However, after the crucifixion, Jesus supposedly rose three days later and Thomas did not believe it was truly him despite being told, prior to the incident by Jesus, that he would rise again in three days. Thomas required physical proof. Jesus allowed him to touch him and feel the wounds in his body to offer that proof to Thomas. Why doesn’t god extend the same proof to humans alive today? Those that doubt his existence are no different than Thomas, requiring physical proof and he was a disciple of Jesus himself. If Thomas had been born one generation later, or even living today, he would have burned in hell for all eternity because he would not believe for the lack of physical proof. Paul was born after the death and ascension of Christ. Throughout his life, he did not believe that Jesus was the son of God and even went out of his way to persecute and murder Christians thinking that their religion was a dangerous belief system to practice. Lo and behold a flash of light came out of the sky and Jesus Christ himself appeared to Paul explaining to him that he is actually the one true god. Jesus told him that he was persecuting the followers of the only true faith. From that point on, Paul was a converted Christian. Again, if God was willing to go out of his way to physically prove to Paul that he actually exists, why is this not done today? Why isn’t God willing to show those that doubt today the same degree of physical proof? Why should we be any different than Thomas and Paul?

I don’t know. Why should you be any different from Thomas and Paul? In all your questions, what proof do you have that if God did show himself, you would turn to Him? Have you provided any evidence that would suggest that to Him, or to who have read your 50 questions? Besides, it has been pointed out that even the demons tremble and believe, but are they followers of God or did they choose to go against his will?

If you recall, Thomas was not the only one who required physical proof. How many of the disciples stayed at His side when he was arrested? They all scattered to the four winds and went into hiding. Where in scripture did it say that twelve could be found at the foot of His cross worshiping Him? It doesn’t. Matthew 26:56 states that all the disciples abandoned him and ran away. Mark 14:50 also says everyone fled. An interesting note, in Mark 14:51 he mentions a young man who had been following Jesus, but when they tried to grab him he fled naked leaving his garment behind. Many scholars believe Mark is talking about himself. Luke mentioned that Peter followed at a distance, but then denied Jesus before the rooster crowed three times. Luke 22:54-62.

What turned these frightened and fleeing disciples around? Was it faith or was something else more significant provided to them?

Do you recall when John the Baptist was in prison and he asked his disciples to go to Jesus and ask if He was the one they had been waiting for or if they should look for someone else? Luke 7:18-23 When they went to Jesus He began to heal the blind, the deaf, the lame and cure those with leprosy. After the signs, he told the messengers from John to return and report what they had seen and heard with their own eyes. What Jesus did not do was say, “Go back and tell my cousin, doubter that he is, to take a leap of faith and believe!” No, Jesus provided evidence they could see, hear, and touch and then go back to John and report to John the Baptist first hand.

In a book given to me by Pastor Russ Peters, Carlos Annacondia wrote about the Argentine Revival. He was speaking on faith and wrote, “Now, this faith, the faith necessary to operate under the super natural power of God and with authority in His name, is not a rational conviction, nor does it require a certain religious knowledge…These things are for those who, with a simple heart, begin to put into practice the command of the Lord of going and preaching, trusting Him that the promised supernatural signs will follow.”1 With a focus on evangelism and preaching, he continued, “Then signs will confirm the truth of the gospel of Christ with miracles and wonders, just as Jesus affirmed. It is not enough just to talk about the gospel, but it is necessary to also put the gospel into practice with all of its visible and outward consequences and effects.”2

Without exception, every one of the Apostles was transformed by the resurrection event. Prior they were confused, fearful, in hiding, scattered, and some would say even acted cowardly. After the resurrection, they were bold, fearless, and proclaimed the resurrection without hesitation. Tom Gender lists 12 notable changes that took place within the budding Christian culture that was the antithesis of their own Jewish culture.

1. They held on to their monotheism beliefs but now looked at God as three distinct persons.
2. They came to believe that the promise of the coming Messiah was God Himself in the form of Jesus.
3. They understood He would come twice, first to suffer and die for our sins and then return to establish His kingdom.
4. They taught that obedience to the law was no longer sufficient, but it had to be coupled with faith in Christ their savior.
5. They no longer offered animal sacrifices because Jesus had died once and for all.
6. The Temple in Jerusalem was no longer the focal point for God to meet with His people.
7. They began to meet on Sunday’s rather than Saturday’s.
8. They began to practice baptism as opposed to circumcision.
9. They began the observance of the Lord’s supper.
10. Unclean and clean distinctions were dismissed and associations with Gentiles was acceptable.
11. They had a fervent desire to share their faith, not only within their own Jewish culture but in all parts of the known world.
12. They added new books to the Old Testament texts which we now know as the New Testament.3

Within a few decades, the Gospel spread to Europe, Africa, and Asia. Followers of Jesus gave up everything to pursue Him and share the good news. Every one of the Apostles was beaten, tortured, and imprisoned for their faith.

What could have changed their views so drastically? Views that were not only heretical to Judisam but so counter to their culture and way of life.

They saw the risen Lord, not only Thomas but all of them, consequently they became bold and fearless proclaimers for Christ. So that is a good question. Why doesn’t God provide us with direct evidence as He did for Thomas, Paul, and the others?

Yes, Thomas doubted as have others, then the miracle of seeing his risen Lord gave him reason to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:28. What did Jesus say and do just before that? He showed him the evidence and told him to stop doubting and believe. Miracles can be a divine event for the faith of unbelievers, but so can the report of miracles if the hearts of unbelievers would allow it.

Scripture tells us that unbelievers suppress the truth and Jesus tells a story of a man who wanted to be sent back from hell to warn his five brothers. How did Abraham reply to that request? They will not be convinced even if someone is raised from the dead. Luke 16:31

John Frame who wrote Apologetics to the Glory of God said, “[Jesus] wrought many miracles, but they rarely lead people to faith. Often the enemies of Jesus admitted the miracle, but still refused to believe. And even the Resurrection itself failed to convince many. Jesus had harsh words for those who demanded to see signs.”4 Matthew 12:39; John 4:48

If a God exists, then you can conclude that miracles are possible. There is overwhelming evidence for the Resurrection and how it transformed the Apostles. Not only the Apostles but millions over the past two thousand years who have given their lives to Christ, some figuratively others literally. Out of the millions who have become Christians over the centuries how many have been transformed by the witness of a miracle? Very few.

You don’t need to witness a miracle to become a believer; you just need to believe in the miracle that has already been witnessed and reported.

 

Sources:
1. “Power Evangelism Argentine Style.” The Rising Revival, Edited by Wagner, Peter. Deiros, Pablo. Renew Books, 1988.
2. Ibid.
3. Gender, Tom. “Back From The Dead.” Truth Matters, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011, pp. 126-127
4. Frame, John. “Apologetics as Proof, Proving the Gospel”, Apologetics to the Glory of God, P & R Publishing, 1994, pp. 143

 

 

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Demanding Proof by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.dev.christianapologetics.blog/blog.

Prove it

Reading Time: 5 minutesA skeptic might say, “Prove that God exists.” or, “Science has proven God does not exist.” Many of us have heard that demand or statement and may have been at a loss on how to respond. The truth is we can’t prove God exists any more than an atheist can prove He does not exist. How can anyone prove, one way or another, the existence of a non-material being?

In today’s culture, the word proof or proven has taken on a meaning that goes beyond its definition. Open any dictionary and you will see proof defined as a proposition, assumption, or an argument used to validate. When science looks at empirical evidence to see if something is true, it is often just measuring the number of trials in terms of success vs. the number of trials that were unsuccessful. When you hear the term ‘a proven track record’, it simply means someone or something has had a significant number of repeated events that help us determine or expect a certain outcome. Not an absolute outcome, but simply a likely outcome.

Every day I drive to work, I plan on it taking me an hour to drive from home to school. After years of making the same drive, I have little doubt about the length of time it will take. I have had some mishaps after hitting a few deer, a couple flat tires, running out of gas once, (yes I admit it), and unexpected snow falls, but apart from those rare occurrences, the drive is about 60 minutes long. We could not function in our world without spotting patterns and creating expectations we can plan by. William James, a psychologist in the 1800’s, called these patterns we naturally search for “a working hypotheses”. 1 I have had plenty of evidence, or proof’s, that my drive is about an hour long.

We form a working hypotheses for every routine in our lives. Every routine we participate in allows us to formulate an expected outcome. Frustration comes when the unexpected interrupts our routine. Most of us have experienced walking out to our car to drive to work, and for some unexpected reason, it will not start. Suddenly, we are in uncharted territory and are unsure of what to do next. It is our nature to seek patterns which allow us to figure out our world. When our patterns are disrupted, we have to reevaluate our proof’s.

When talking about predictions and proofs, Alister McGrath says, “Here we see the classical outline of the scientific attempt to make sense of our observations of the world. Things don’t just happen. They fit into a pattern, a bigger picture, an overall scheme of things. What theory makes most sense of what we experience and observe in the world?” 2

When someone says, “Prove to me…” often their standard of proof is often too high, even beyond what science would require. Most things can’t be proven to the extent skeptics want. Let me explain by asking a question. Can science prove that elves do not exist? No, it is not possible. Science can only claim that the observations which have been made have not come across any elves. Making the claim that elves do not exist would require omniscience, (all knowledge). Without omniscience science can only claim elves have not been found in the areas searched. Yes, of course we can come to reasonable conclusions about the existence of elves, dwarf’s, and orks, but no one can prove they don’t exist unless they have searched under every rock, in every cave, in every trunk of every car, on top of every mountain, in every closet, trash can, etc. You get the idea.

We might hear someone was proven guilty in a court of law. That kind of proof is beyond reasonable doubt, not beyond ‘any’ doubt. A few years ago, I was a juror, who along with my peers found a man guilty of inappropriate behavior. He flatly denied it, but the proof, (arguments and evidence), were beyond a reasonable doubt. When someone asks you to prove God exists, they are frequently asking for a proof that goes beyond what we require even in a court of law. They want something that is beyond any doubt and that is far and away above what science requires.

Proven

 

What does science prove in the same way that a skeptic or atheist requires of you to prove God exists? Nothing. Science works in inductive reasoning, not deductive reasoning. Science looks at hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of examples and they come to conclusions. That is inductive reasoning.

On the flip side, deductive reasoning starts with a general statement or hypothesis, and then examines the possibilities. Inductive reasoning starts with thousands of examples and then makes general or broad generalizations from those observations. 3 To know something for certain, or without any doubt, is called an ‘apodictic certainty’, and you must use the deductive method.

Someone who asks for proof of the immaterial realm, (God), often requires proof that is impossible to live up to. For one, they are asking for material or tangible evidence of God who by definition is immaterial. To put it bluntly, they are demanding tangible evidence for something that is intangible. For example, someone might ask for direct visual evidence of something that is invisible. Obviously, that is not possible. And how can they claim that science has proven God does not exist, when science can’t even prove elves don’t exist. Science can conclude that elves don’t exist, after considering the thousands of trials where elves were not found, but science can’t prove elves don’t exist.

Science is limited by its inductive reasoning. You can only test something so many times, but if we use the deductive method there are things someone can claim do not exist, and we know it to be true. For instance, I can say there are no married bachelors. I know this, not because I have searched every inch of this earth, or because I am omniscient, but because of deductive reasoning. I could also say there are not any square circles, and because of deductive reasoning, and the law of non-contradiction, I know this to be true. Don’t ever let someone tell you that science is the only way we can test things to be true. Science is actually quite limited because of its empirical methods.

There is one famous argument for the existence of God based on inductive reasoning that I would like to share. Dinesh D’Souza mentions this in his book, What’s So Great About Christianity. “Aquinas argues that every effect requires a cause, and that nothing in the world is the cause of its own existence. Whenever you encounter A, it has to be caused by some other B. But then B has to be accounted for, so let us say it was caused by C. This tracing of causes, Aquinas says, cannot continue indefinitely, because if it did, then nothing would have come into existence. Therefore, there must be an original cause responsible for the chain of causation in the first place. To this first cause we give the name of God.” 4

Ray Comfort uses reasoning when he asks the man on the street who built the building. Obviously a builder. Who built the bridge? Obviously an engineer. Who painted the painting? Obviously a painter. Who made the laws of physics? Obviously a lawmaker. Who created creation? Obviously a creator. We know this to be true not by scientific inductive reasoning and empirical methods, but by simple deductive reasoning.

Philosophy is a game with objectives and no rules.
Mathematics is a game with rules and no objectives.
– Unknown

I would say religion has rules and objectives, but is not a game.

 

Sources:
1. Lowe, Victor. “The Journal of Philosophy.” jstor.org. Journal Storage.org. 1941. Web. Nov. 11, 2013.
2. McGrath, Alister E. Surprised by Meaning. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011, Print.
3. Staff, LiveScience. “Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning.” livescience.com. Live Science. July 10, 2012. Web. Nov. 11, 2013.
4. D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008. Print.

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