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The Evidence for Belief

Page history last edited by pinkhamc@... 1 year, 10 months ago

Introduction - Is Faith Justified?

 

This is most certainly a page in progress.  As thoughts and resources come to my attention they will be added here.  I'm starting this on 2 October 2014 and what I'm putting down today is done without reference. 

 

First, let's be sure we understand evidence does not lead to proof.  It leads to persuasion, conviction, belief, and faith.  We have convincing evidence and convicting evidence

 

First, the convincing evidence:

 

The evidence for God is plentiful for those willing to consider it.  Persuasion comes with consideration of much if not most or all of the following.  In fact, if someone accepts that God exists based upon only one of the following, I would be concerned about his or her staying power.  Each one is not a smoking gun, but collectively they make a loud bang!

 

These are things I know of:

  • The Bible consists of 66 books written by over 40 authors spanning a period of 1500 years (~1400 BC-90 AD).  Its human authors came from several different cultures and numerous occupations.  Yet, it is harmonious throughout, underscoring the role of its chief editor and author, the Holy Spirit.
  • Subtle evidence that the Bible is written by the Holy Spirit found at my website dedicated to the book, "Trouble with the Trinity": https://thetwtt.com.
  • Grasping the whole of a doctrine requires time mining the information on that doctrine from various books.  Trying to mine it from one or two verses can lead to egregious misrepresentations of God's intent.  In other words, it appears to be designed to provide protection from false doctrines arrived at by selecting only a few verses and to encourage careful, deep, and complete reading.
  • The Old Testament sets the stage for the New Testament.  The stories of Abraham & Isaac, the exodus, Job, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 contain just a few of the many Messianic passages in the Old Testament.
  • Theophanies in the Old Testament.  The Ultimate Theophany from The Gospel Coalition provides a good overview. (17 04 11)
  • Jesus fulfilled many prophesies in the Old Testament.
  • Centrality and Validity of the Resurrection
    • During his trial, Mary mother of Jesus could have saved Jesus by saying, "No, he really is Joseph's son."
    • Jesus, who later suddenly appeared in a room with closed doors, could have left the grave without the stone's being removed.  It was removed as a testimony to the empty tomb.
    • The empty tomb.  All the objection hypotheses start with an empty tomb.  His body was never found.
    • Women, who were regarded at the time as unreliable witnesses were the first to see the empty tomb and Jesus.  No one making up the story at that time would have written it that way.
    • Apostles had nothing to gain from their testimony and much to lose.
    • Apostles were martyred rather than deny their testimony.
    • Two men, who were opposed to Jesus, suddenly experience a revelation that led them to become leaders of the movement: Saul, who changed his name to Paul after his miraculous confrontation with the resurrected Jesus and James, the denying brother of Jesus, after he also was visited by the resurrected Jesus.
  • The Gospels were written within years of the crucifixion and resurrection. 
    • The chain of custodianship of the Gospels was carefully documented so we can be confident that Mark, the earliest Gospel, was written only a few years after the crucifixion.
    • The early Gospels left out critical names to protect those involved.  The later Gospels included the names.
  • None of the Gospels or letters refers to the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.*--an event predicted by Jesus.  If they had been written after 70 A.D., the authors would have had good reason to reference it.
  • Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead in 33 AD to give us eternal atonement for sins through his substitutionary shed blood.  Less than 40 years later, the temple was destroyed, removing the temple as the source of annual atonement for sins by shedding the blood of the substitutionary sacrificial lamb by the high priest on Yom Kippur.  Yet, the synagogue and its substitute for atonement through rabbinical teachings was firmly established by then to take over that role for local congregants, thus ensuring the preservation of the nation of Israel and Judaism.
  • The continued existence of the nation Israel and Judaism.  This was driven home by a brief book by Anthony H. Futerman, a leading biochemist at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, "Defending the Messianic Faith with Honesty, Humility, and Integrity." This is some of what I say in "The Trouble with the Trinity," "It is the only ancient religion still followed by a significant number of people.  The best explanation for this is that God has preserved it over the millennia.  The Bible clearly indicates that the Israelite's are of great importance to Him."
  • Jesus is credited by many doubters as being a very wise person with very iconoclastic, even shrewd, thought-provoking teachings.
  • These same doubters deny his claims to be God such as his "I am..." statements in John and other verses discussed in "The Trouble with the Trinity."  As C.S. Lewis so correctly points out, because He makes these statements about His deity, He is either a lunatic, a demon, or exactly who He says he is.  The idea that He was just a brilliant person is not among the options He left open to us.
  • Genesis begins with the Creation story.  The 12 Fundamental Principles of Christianity show why it had to begin there.
  • The Gospel is God reaching down to man.  All other religions are man reaching up to God.
  • The only focus of religion used as a name in vain (a swear word) is "God," "Jesus," and "Christ."  What is so special about Him that He warrants this attention?
  • The Gospel is an example of intricate simplicity-something I see again and again in the world and talk about in Eight Phenomena Which Recur Often in Cosmological, Chemical and Biological Evolution That Suggest a Creator.
  • A deeper understanding of the human mind & condition revealed in the Gospel that far exceeds the understanding found in all other belief systems.  By this I mean that the Bible recognizes that each of us is able to interact intimately only with ourselves (we are with "ourselves" 24/7) while interacting with others requires us to get outside ourselves.  Meanwhile, interacting with God requires something more like what happens when we interact with ourselves than when we interact with others.  I am not saying we should look at ourselves as God or gods, but that God has arranged it so that we can have direct access to Him the same way we have direct access to ourselves.
  • The "God-shaped vacuum" in our mind.  Riches, drugs, knowledge, fame, crowds of admirers are some of the many things we try to fill it with.  None of them brings the Satisfaction and sense of completion that only God brings when He is allowed to fill it.
  • The conviction upon the instant after conversion (crossing the line) that you, the new believer, have just made the most significant decision in all your life as the Holy Spirit indwells you.
  • The role of the Holy Spirit in the "lives of the believer" resulting in too many coincidences to be just chance.  For an example of our "Godincidences" see The Holy Spirit in Our Lives below.  Ask any serious believer who's walked with the Lord for some time and you'll find a similar collection of unbelievable events.
  • The alignment of his World with his Word through the phenomenon of natural revelation (the alignment of natural revelation and supernatural revelation)
  • The Shroud of Turin.  I am not convinced all the evidence is in on this yet.  I suspect when it is, it will be proven to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus that captured the moment of resurrection.
  • Archaeological/historical support for much in the Old Testament and New and the growing examples of archaeological finds supporting the historicity of the Bible from before the Babylonian exile.  Many articles in Biblical Archaeological Review that present this extrabiblical evidence.
  • The suggestive way over 1000 references to the Trinity scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments logically bring together deep insights into the Triune nature of God to form a symbol significant to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

 

A good question to ask when witnessing, "Why?"

------

*a possible exception is Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, 2:16.  But this letter is widely regarded as being written around 50 A.D.

 

Now for the convicting evidence:

 

Convicting evidence refers to that which leads to the moment of truth when it becomes undeniably obvious that each of us is a flawed person, far from the standard of goodness we strive for and much farther from the perfection God demands of us.

 

  • The realization that protecting, favoring, or pleasing our consciousness over that of others is somehow inherently wrong.  See What is Sin? found under Witnessing Tools for more on this.
  • The perspective provided by the bell-shaped curve of human goodness found under Witnessing Tools,
  • The realization that if we fail to keep even one of the 10 Commandments in even a minor way, we have failed the demands of God.

 

The Holy Spirit in Our Lives

 

  • Chris' "chance" meeting of Roy Bair on a flight to Northfield before the move,
  • The development of the Wallo'Water at the time to our call to obedience giving us a source of hope for our future,
  • The rental house in Northfield with the Pinkham shelf:

Chris and the boys had been in Northfield for several months living with her dad and caring for her mother.  It was becoming clear that having a mother with dementia and three energetic boys in the same small house was getting to her dad and besides, we knew eventually we would have to live in our own house.  She had been looking for a place to rent.  We had to be careful about what we paid because we knew I had no income upon my joining her unless something was provided by God.  Then one day I got an excited call from her.  She had heard about a house just 1/4 mile (and three houses) up the road from her dad's house so she would have a brief commute.  To make the deal even better, the owners wanted only $300 a month rent.  That was something we could likely afford.  But to prove this was God's house for us, she said she was looking around in the kitchen when she looked up at the shelves on one of the walls.  These were shelves made with brackets attached to the wall to hold wooden boards.  There, burned in the end of one of the boards for us to see was our name!  "Pinkham"

  • The start of Norwich Christian Fellowship  (Go to that link for that story.),
  • Colossians 3:21,
  • the new jobs each semester that kept us solvent,
  • the gifting of the Good Shepherd Bookshop to Chris,  The Romanian Bible,
  • the little red Bible,
  • His presence with Chris when her father died,
  • The Oxford Invitation,
  • His clear answer to prayer with Kevin's situation,
  • Finding a yod in middle of Northfield immediately prior to having my book accepted for publication,
  • The robbery at our house immediately after having my book accepted for publication that resulted in a miraculous apprehension of the robber and its consequences.

 

Concordance versus Accommodation-Will the Twain Ever Meet?

 

Let's first define terms:

 

Concordance:  The concept that words and descriptions in the Bible accurately convey scientific truths.

 

Accommodation:  God comes down to the level of knowledge possessed by the author of a particular Biblical book to convey the truth He is revealing, much as you would describe sexual intercourse to a child.  God uses words, terms, and concepts familiar to the author (and his audience at the time of his writing) as symbols.  God is not so concerned with whether the symbols accurately represent physical truth; He is concerned that they accurately convey spiritual truth.

 

Needless to say, these views appear to be in line for confrontation.  In many places, they, in fact, are, as we look at what the words literally say and what we now know to be true by the tremendous weight of the scientific evidence.  But remember, accommodation is God's way to draw our attention away from the physical meaning of the words to their spiritual meaning.

 

I would propose there is another way to reconcile the two.  If God, did indeed, author the Bible through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit working with minds and ideas firmly established in the middle eastern world 4500-1900 years ago, we should not be dismissive of the possibility that God also influenced those ideas and hence there may be buried in their wording "clues" to a reconciliation between God's Word and science.

 

I have many examples to include, here is the first one.

 

Genesis 1:1-3 says, "1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

 

I see at least seven clues in these words that the beginning (as we now understand it) was witnessed by the One who inspired them.  Since there could be no witnesses besides God, they had to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit (see The Author of the Bible HAS to be the Holy Spirit under Natural Revelation), something all believers would agree upon.

 

First, the beginning as science now understands it, occurred in a singularity called the "Big Bang."  (more to follow)

 

Here is another:

 

In Ephesians 3:17-18 we read, "17... And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ," (NIV).  Could this strange use of four adjectives be a subtle way to describe a world of three dimensions (wide, long, high) and a fourth dimension of time (deep)?  Interestingly enough in science, we describe the long age of the earth as "deep time."  Is that a coincidence or something more?

 

For more examples of these "clues" see "The Author of the Bible HAS to be the Holy Spirit" under Natural Revelation.

 

Controversies

We often encounter controversies in the Bible. Sometimes they are between conservative and liberal interpretations. Sometimes they are seeming contradictions from one part to another. We do not hide from the controversies. We do not deny the controversies. We do not condemn the controversies.

 

Being serious about our faith is founded in our conviction that the Gospel message begun in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New, is so strongly supported by theological, archaeological, historical, cultural, literal, psychological, philosophical, and scientific evidence that it can be nothing but the Truth.

 

So controversies are not to be feared, instead, we embrace them as challenges that force us to dig more deeply into God’s Word with broader reliance on theological, archaeological, historical, cultural, literal, psychological, philosophical, and scientific understanding to discern God’s Truth.  This is hermeneutics in its purest and most perfect form.

 

This task requires much more effort than relying on blind faith and is what God yearns for from His children.

 

I am reminded of Isaac Watts who went against the prevalent thinking of the Church at that time (late 17th and early 18th centuries) and wrote hymns that reflected Biblical truth without relying on Bible verses directly.  Consider, for example, “The Mighty Power of God.”  Everything in this hymn is taken from the Bible.  Nothing in this hymn counters science.

 

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