what evidence do you need to believe

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Category : Bible reliability, choice, faith

……….

When I first started to believe that God was real I struggled with the idea of evidence.  I wanted something rock solid.  Some kind of proof that would show he was there.  I didn’t want to bet my lifestyle on something I couldn’t prove.  I sure wasn’t going to change how I lived for some idea that wasn’t true.

But the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t figure out what would be “real” enough.  I knew for sure dreams wouldn’t be enough.  That could just be random neurons firing.  I also realized that if I heard God “speak” that would best be treated by psychiatric medicine.

What if I met God, like Paul?  For a while I thought that might work.  But then it occurred to me – I could convince myself that even something real wasn’t true.  (Isn’t that the essence of post-modern thinking anyway?)

Eventually I realized there wasn’t a single shred of evidence I couldn’t find a way to excuse.  No matter how dramatic the event, eventually I would chock it up to my imagination.  Everything could be explained away.

I think this is what happened to Israel.  No matter how dramatic the evidence – parting seas, bread from heaven, a column of fire, victory over enemies – it would never be enough.  This is why we’re told, “In spite of all this [evidence], they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.” (Psalm 78:32)

We are a culture influenced by the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution.  Things I think are awesome.  I think clear reasoning, and evidential based thinking are great tools.  But some things can never be proven scientifically, they can only be proven experientially.  (How do you measure the smell of a chocolate chip cookie or the feel of the sea breeze on your face?)

The Bible is filled with people who risked everything based on a dream.  Joseph married Mary because of a dream.  David risked his life for a voice.  Moses became a leader because of a bush.  How easy would it have been to walk away from those things?  How easy to chalk up the experience to a poor night’s sleep?

But they didn’t.  They saw the evidence for what it was.  They recognized God.  They knew something more was happening.  We don’t need standard deviation and statistical calculations to tell us God is real.  We just have to be open to the ways he already operates and not try to explain them away.

the power of electricity

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Category : Bible reliability, God, bible, different, faith

   

R3 is currently running a series entitled “Phrases.”  Today, however, I’m going to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming.  Mostly because I lost power over the weekend (like tens of millions of people) which makes it difficult to write things on the internet.  So today, instead of business as usual, I want to just take a breath and comment on something I’ve been thinking about since 3:00 yesterday.

Every time I lose power I’m shocked (no pun intended) at just how much of my life revolves around electricity and technology.  It seems everything I do from waking up in the morning to relaxing in the evening requires electricity.  I couldn’t even spend time reading because my apartment was too dark. 

While I’m not alone in this realization about electricity, it does drive a point home for me: the people who wrote the Bible lived so differently from me it’s hard to even imagine their lives.  How can I relate to someone who lived their entire life without electricity, running water, or most importantly, Google? 

Yet they wrote of such profound truths that their advice – the wisdom of the Bible - is still relevant today.

Of course Christians would argue that it wasn’t simply people who came up with the advice, but God.  And judging by just how relevant the Bible is to modern life, I have to agree.  It’s a bit humbling to realize that God knows us so well he can predict our current behavior from thousands of years ago.  Despite all of our modern conveniences and ways we’re still the same people who rebelled against him in the Garden of Eden.  Humanity hasn’t changed, only the shape of our daily lives.  If this doesn’t drive home the relevancy of the Bible, nothing will. 

I may be without power.  And that may last a few days or a week.  But with each passing moment I thank God (literally) that his patience is more reliable than my electric company!

what i’m reading: Jesus Among Other Gods

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Category : Bible reliability, Jesus, bible, book review, feeding my brain

   

I think it’s safe to say that we live in a very pluralistic world, where ideas from a wide variety of cultures are shared and believed.  Who among us doesn’t know someone of a different faith or philosophical background?  But that pluralism isn’t limited to just religion or politics.  Choice is everywhere, including our toothpaste aisles!  Because there are so many options out there, sometimes it’s difficult to define our reality, and so we’ve all heard someone ask, “what is truth?”  

Of course it may not matter with toothpaste.  I suppose they may even all be the same.  But is religion?  Do all religions somehow end up at the same place?

That’s the question Ravi Zacharias takes in Jesus Among Other Gods.  Zacharias tackles some of the biggest questions facing religions (Is there a God?  Does God cause suffering?  Is God knowable?) and shows just how Christianity differs from Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Atheism.  In each chapter he discusses the Christian view and then compares it to one (or more) of the other major religions.  By showing that the religions believe very different things on these topics he argues that it is impossible for all religions to be the same.  Either God exists or he does not.  Either God sent his son Jesus or he did not.  If God exists Atheism can not be true.  If Jesus is not God, then Christianity can not be true.

Christianity is often presented as a religion based purely on faith.  But that’s not true.  There is certainly something to be said for “divine revelation” and “understanding through faith.”  Those things help Christians better understand the world.  But God didn’t leave us with only those tools.  He also gives us historical evidence and eye witness testimony. 

I don’t know about you, but I am very much concerned about the truthfulness of Christianity.  I want to know if Jesus was real, or if it is a hoax.  Frankly I have no desire to live my life believing in something that’s a sham.  And that’s what I enjoy about Zacharias’ approach.  He uses logic and reason to make the case for Christianity.  He puts together compelling arguments that answer tough questions.  And in my mind this book definitely proves that all religions are not the same. 

embarrassing Bible stories

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Category : Bible reliability, bible, faith

   

At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” (Numbers 16: 34)

     

God used a specific and unique event (in this case an earthquake) to punish the leaders of an open rebellion against him.  But because the people of Israel had lost their trust of God they believed they were in danger.  They either believed they would be punished by God, or else it was a natural phenomenon.  In reality it was God acting just as Moses had said he would. 

What repeatedly strikes me about the Bible is that almost everyone in it looks like a fool at one time or another.  There are countless stories where everyone from Moses to Paul looks like an idiot for doubting God. 

I find that fascinating. 

What other religion does that?  What other religion’s icons are put in such an embarrassing light?  Doesn’t this make the Bible all the more believable?  After all, if you’re going to invent a religion, why make yourself look bad? 

is the Bible real?

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Category : Bible reliability, sharing faith

   

Growing up I never questioned if the Bible was real.  That’s not because I accepted the Bible as truth, it’s just because asking that question never occurred to me.  Why would I study a religion that while I sort of believe in, never had any impact on my life? 

But life has a funny way of making you ask questions that you should.

After many years of not caring about Christianity my views began to shift.  I began to wonder “what if…?” What if the Bible was true?  What if there is a God?  And the biggest what if question I had: What if I should pay attention.

I eventually found my way to a local church.  After a few months of sporadic attendance I vividly remember sitting in a service when the person on stage began to talk about the Bible.  Ok, so that’s not totally unusual.  But they were speaking as if it was something true and real.  And more shockingly…something historical.

For the first time in my life something about the historical nature of the Bible caught my attention.  A slide was shown stating essentially this:

  author               –  gap between    –  # of copies
                           original & copy 
Homer              –    400 years         –    643
Plato                –   1,350 years        –      8
Demosthenes    –    1,400 years       –     200
Caesar              –  1,000 years        –      10
Pliny Secundus   –    750 years       –       7
New Testament  –    50 years         –   5,366

McDowell, J.  (1999).  Is the New Testament Historically Reliable? The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict ( p. 38).  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

I have always considered myself a scientist at heart – someone who was swayed by empirical evidence.  I remember sitting there in shock.  I couldn’t believe it.  There was no way the Bible could have so many manuscript copies.

As I came out of my surprise, and realized my mouth was actually hanging open, my mind raced.  Two thoughts occurred to me.  First, why didn’t someone tell me this earlier?!  Secondly, I could no longer pretend Christianity was merely a set of interesting philosophical questions.  I had to make a choice.  For the first time I realized there was actual evidence to make true/false or yes/no decisions.  I could no longer tell myself it was simply a philosophy that “sounded good.”

I won’t pretend that the historical evidence we have is 100% conclusive.  But I also can’t pretend that there isn’t any evidence to support the Bible.  So as any scientist does when confronted with an interesting dilemma I began to study the “problem.”

What you do with this knowledge is your decision.  You can embrace it.  You can disagree with it.  You can just think about it.  But the one thing you can’t do is ignore it.