A while back I made my humble debut into the world of web logs by stumbling onto what I later learned was the longest running blog in the history of MySpace - a blog run by an atheist and devoted to utterly demolishing all who were not atheists. I learned a lot from the experience... such as, some blogs are apparently not places for civil debate but in actuality are smoldering traps full of like-minded people who desperately hope and "pray" for comments from... inexperienced non-"techies" with a different opinion. Enter Josh, the neophyte blogger.
Never mind, it was really fun. I was called words I didn't know the meaning of, and hey, I'm all about freedom of speech, so I took it like a champ. For laughs, I've cut out all the really "original" titles I was given and have left instead a portion of a conversation I had with the host of the blog. It was a fascinating exchange, mainly because we explored some important issues regarding evidence of God vs. faith in God. Why is this so important? If you haven't experienced this phenomenon yet, you will eventually-- those who insist that they have all their questions about God satisfied before they will believe in Him -- which itself is a bizarre sentence! You see, it's a smoke-screen argument... because you just cannot empirically prove the existence of God conclusively...
EVIDENCE vs. FAITH
I'm fairly certain no one's ever been "argued into the kingdom of God;" as I said before, even after the best evidence, there will always remain an element of faith- and yet my fascination has gotten the best of me, so here I am.
An honestly humble observation: It strikes me as incredibly arrogant for finite minds, using finite tools to be surprised at an inability to prove the existence of something/ someone (God) who by definition is able to exist outside the realm of the created. Translation: How does one expect to find God using tools (philosophy, physics) Christians would assert He created? Is not the creator greater than the created? No matter which direction you come at it, there will always be an element of faith involved.
I agree with the comment below: If God is totally undetectable to us, why should we act as though he exists? Also, which god? If there is no evidence, it's a crap shoot between all the religions. It's a rotten trick for your God to hide from us skeptics only to reveal himself after death and torture us for eternity!
With that in mind, if God does exist, we would hopefully be able to test for his existence with science. Science is the best authority we have on the physical universe. And science shows that God does not exist.
Not to beat a dead horse, but I must insist on the importance of first conceding that God could exist and yet remain undetectable to us – before moving on to any “why” questions. If one does accept this premise, one cannot continue to hold “science shows that God does not exist”—that becomes an inconsistent statement, as science “is the best authority we have on the physical universe.” Likewise, if one believes “God is imaginary,” and this belief is based on conclusions drawn from the former statement, this too would become an inconsistent statement. The unwillingness of God to submit Himself to the laws of nature (which Christians would assert He created) is a poor foundation upon which to build towards the conclusion that He “is imaginary.” “He won’t do what I want Him to” is not a valid premise upon which to assume He doesn’t exist.
However – I’ll admit to settling first on that in order to follow up with the obvious statement a Christian would then make – that indeed, God has chosen to submit Himself to the laws of nature and did reveal Himself in a specific period of time in history and for a specific purpose: the redemption of humankind. Which of course begs the question: where’s the evidence that He lived on earth (“He” = Jesus)?
I’m sure you must have addressed these “evidences” for the existence of the historical Jesus sometime in the past but, as I’ve missed that, I wondered what your take was on the non-Christian sources that mention him? A short, “for instance” list (won’t elaborate as I’m sure you’re very familiar with these):
1) Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 AD), in his report of Emperor Nero’s decision to blame Christians for the fire that destroyed Rome.
2) Pliny the Younger, Roman governor in Asia Minor who’s letter to Emperor Trajan (A.D. 112, roughly) sought advice in dealing with those accused of being Christians.
3) Flavius Josephus (37-97 AD), court historian for Emperor Vespasian.
4) Suetonius, chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian
“In fact, we can almost reconstruct the gospel just from early non-Christian sources: Jesus was called the Christ (Josephus), did “magic,” led Israel into new teachings, and was hanged on Passover for them (Babylonian Talmud) in Judea (Tacitus), but claimed to be God and would return (Eliezar), which his followers believed - worshipping Him as God (Pliny the Younger)” (gotquestions.org).
Here’s the kicker – even assuming this evidence convinced everyone that Jesus was a historical figure who lived when the Bible said he did (I’m not so delusional that I believe this will happen), it would still require faith to believe the claims He made about Himself. It will always take a measure of faith to believe in the Gospel message of salvation. We can prove that Jesus lived - that he was a historical person that walked the earth. We can prove that he died. Some are even confident enough in the empirical evidence to say we can prove his ressurection. But despite all these, how does one empirically prove that 1 man's death is capable of paying the price for the sin of all mankind? Bottom line: you can’t discover God without faith.
There is a true story told about a man who did amazing stunts on a tight-rope strung across Niagra Falls. Countless crowds watched him walk across, ride a bike across, unicycle across, juggle across... you name it. Then one day the man asked the crowd - "Do you believe I could safely wheelbarrow a man over the tight-rope to the other side?" Everyone was enthusiastically affirmative. "Can I have a volunteer?" asked the stunt man...
With faith, there is always something at stake... or it isn't faith.
Surrounded By Grace,