Ok, week 2 of my new commitment to learn a scripture each week and already I am feeling stretched.
The next words of Jesus in the Gospels are:
This is part of the passage where Satan is tempting Jesus to hurl himself from the top of the Temple so that he can prove He is the Son of God as God would send angels to the rescue.
Jesus’ reply shuts that line of conversation down. He will not do something needless to prove himself. Also Jesus knew His future ahead would include suffering and death. Being the Son of God did not mean He would be protected from pain.
I have been reading a message board this week that turned into a debate about whether there was a reason at all to believe Jesus existed. Some people were adamant that there was no ‘proof’ of a historical Jesus, despite the fact that the vast majority of secular historians don’t dispute that there was a Jewish preacher named Jesus whose followers began Christianity.
In the discussion people of faith were called stupid; believing what they want to believe without applying any critical thinking. Which I don’t think is fair.
I think the problem is how do you define ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’.
In science proof is gained by being able to get repeated anticipated results under specific conditions. The method and results have to be rigorously critiqued by qualified peers. Scientists take every measure possible to discover the true facts.
In a court of law two opposing sides often use the same collection of evidence to try and convince an impartial jury of two different stories. The jury have to decide which story is best backed up by the evidence.
Historians and archaeologists search the world for evidence and then compare it with evidence previously found to build up a picture of the past. They look for the most likely explanation of the evidence but accept there will always be an element of uncertainty.
Then there is the general thought process that we make every day. Taking in information through our senses and making judgements.
When it comes to faith in God we apply a mixture of these approaches. We look at history, our own experiences, the opinions of others, and in the end we have to each decide what we think because definitive answers are hard to come by.
It is good to question, to explore, to consider opposing views, but at the same time we also have to accept there may not be absolute proof.
There isn’t a way to test once and for all whether God is real, it’s much more complex than that. In the end it comes down to faith. In the meantime we have to remember to credit one another with intelligence and respect as we tackle the big questions.