[Note to readers: Other than this note and minor edits this is the second post from a short-lived, now-defunct blog from 2011. The first post is here. While working on the next set of new long form posts, I will re-post what ended up being only 3 apologetics-focused posts from 2011 each Saturday. I’m considering adding in some similar work to the new site – let me know what you think!]
John 12:28 – [Jesus said] “Father, glorify Your name. Then a voice came from heaven, saying “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”
Have you ever heard a voice from heaven? If you did, how would you know to believe it?
When this voice spoke, the hearers still had to decide whether or not to believe it. In John 12, not everyone on the scene had faith that this voice was actually God. Not everyone who heard it decided that this God deserved their obedience. As in my last post, these people were eyewitnesses to a supernatural event that many today would be thrilled to see, to “prove” God’s existence.
Suppose someone on the scene looked up at the sky and said: “Who do you think you are? I don’t know who this ‘Jesus’ guy is, and I sure don’t know who you are – why should I follow you?” The voice from heaven responds with a bolt of thunder, and this poor man is now a dead smoldering heap.
Now, the man next to this one could be thinking: “I really should follow this Jesus person, because if I don’t, the next bolt could be for me.” Perfectly rational, a solid example of reason. But, this reason is not the same as faith. This man’s other response could be: “Jesus really is the Son of God, and deserves my loyalty. I’m grateful that He is willing to accept me as I am.” Did the lightning really provide convincing evidence of this? Are there still other alternatives? Could the voice have been some other deity trying to gain followers? Perhaps, so therefore this second response is more like faith than reason.
Even faced with overwhelming evidence, “reason” does not power a decision to truly make a decision, “faith” does. Reason can lead a horse to water, but it can’t make him drink. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8) (Not to have a predestination argument here, but I think most Christians would agree that faith would be meaningless without grace, and vice versa – and that either or both come from God to one who does not deserve or earn it)
Claims contrary to Christianity also require a supernatural faith (albeit one without a source), and here are two examples:
1) “There is no God” – Some say that if he exists, he should show himself. Of course, as we have seen, even those who claimed to know Jesus Himself and witness his miracles say this would not convince a skeptic who decided not to believe. Also, how does one prove God does not exist? Europeans used to believe there was no such thing as a black swan because they had never seen one – until they traveled more of the world. They could never prove that black swans did not exist, but they could (and did) believe it. To prove it, they would have to be personally present in all parts of the universe at all times simultaneously – in essence, they would need to be God to prove that all swans were white. “There is no God” cannot be proven by reason, but a skeptic can claim that they have not witnessed God in their experience, and that they have faith that God does not exist outside their experience.
2) “Man is the result of purely natural processes” – If “natural” is that which science has explained, and “supernatural” is everything else, it turns out that this is a claim about the supernatural, not a claim that there is no supernatural. If you change “observed” to “observable” in Merriam-Webster’s definition of “supernatural” (“of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe”), you see this distinction. Merriam-Webster takes for granted that all things “supernatural” will become “natural” through scientific advancement in the way the current majority thinks they will. The consensus in Galileo’s day was that everything revolved around the earth – but the consensus was proved wrong. Proving that man is purely natural requires that the current thinking on evolution is correct, and that nothing outside of current knowledge could ever possibly over-turn it.
However, in the words of GK Chesterton, “Science knows nothing whatever about pre-historic man; for the excellent reason that he is pre-historic.” The “evidence” for one species changing into another is based on deductions from historical fossils, not on eyewitness accounts. In modern labs, we have seen species mutate and acquire new traits, but we have not yet seen lab results of a monkey (or anything else) mutating into a man. The theory of human evolution makes a lot of claims about the history of mutations across species. It takes the observed changes within a species, and assumes that over millennia these mutations lead to one species changing into another, then another… It claims that future evidence will inevitably support current evidence, in spite of the fact that evidence for evolution has been overturned repeatedly in history. What I was taught in middle school was different than what I was taught in college. If the historical track record is not that good, why have faith that the future track record will be perfect? Evolutionists refer to the process of discovery by trial and error consistently as “progress”, but is it always? Unless you already know beyond any shadow of doubt what you are progressing toward, how do you know you are progressing?
I’m not claiming to have dis-proved evolution here, but only to show that to prove it beyond a shadow of any possible doubt is beyond the power of reason. It’s another black swan.
So, the claim that there is no supernatural, is a claim about the supernatural. These are claims that would require supernatural means to prove. They require seeing the future and the past. To believe a supernatural claim without supernatural evidence requires faith. It is beyond reason and proof. To me, the evidence and the logic do not live up to the claims they want to support.
Some may say I’m stretching here, and providing a no-win situation for the materialist, but even if scientific advancement somehow demonstrates in a lab everything that evolution claims, evolution still falls short because it is not really a theory of origins. It is a theory about how the current inhabitants on Earth grew from previous ones. But where did the original ones come from? Why does the universe follow certain patterns and laws? Where did those come from? Scientists would simply have moved from taking evolution on faith to taking these answers on faith, and making assumptions about the future evidence.
There will always be such a thing as the “supernatural”. Although science will continue to advance, the amount of total knowledge in the universe will always be larger than the quantity of human understanding. All people speculate about what’s out there in that realm we can’t reproduce in a lab. Many people have dogmas about what’s in that space – evolutionists believe that everything they do not understand yet will confirm that there is no God; religious people of all types believe that there is enough evidence in the world we’ve already observed to warrant the possibility of a God.
All people have faith – just in different things. Materialists fail to explain how man, as a mere complex set of materials and chemical reactions, consciously and intentionally goes about his life pondering deep thoughts about the origin of himself, while an earthworm does not bother. Christians – even the authors of the Bible – fail to explain how some consciously and intentionally choose faith when in the presence of miracles, while others do not (other than to say that “God did it”).
On the one hand, you have the supernatural claims of natural men. They claim two things: 1) that they (and you) are the accidental result of millennia of chemical mutations, and that these chemicals follow rules that they do not know the origins of (yet); and 2) that the chemicals in their brain “believe” without a doubt that they can predict that what they do not know will confirm what they currently know and believe. This future evidence will prove their current belief, which was itself the result of a chain of accidental chemical reactions (but apparently under the purposeful control of some unknown thing that seeks to convince you of your mere natural chemicalness).
On the other hand, there is a written record of a man who claimed to be from that supernatural realm, who sees the future and the past, who knew there were black swans. How many there were. Where they were. And that the Europeans would eventually find them. This man asked for your belief – which set of claims is more reasonable?
“Come near to God and he will come near to you” – James 4:8