Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Convincing Proofs

Luke the physician, author of the New Testament Book of Acts and the gospel named for him, was apparently an evidentialist. Even in Luke’s day doctors were required to be skilled diagnosticians able to observe and report carefully. We are unsure what sort of medical training physicians received in the days of the early church. We assume physical effects were linked to causes in Doctor Luke’s office even in those nascent days of medical practice.

The King James version uses an interesting phrase to support belief that Christ rose from the dead: “…he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3 KJV). Translators have used “infallible proofs” in Luke’s account of Christ’s resurrection. Faced with doubt and disbelief many were startled by Christ’s resurrection. Early followers of Jesus needed reassurance that the event really happened. Most people trusted numerous eyewitness testimonials cited by Luke. Other modern translations such as the NIV use the term “convincing proofs” instead of “infallible (not subject to error) proofs.” The meaning is very clear. Luke’s evidence for Christ’s resurrection is convincing.

Romans 10:9 attributes the resurrection of Christ from the dead to the work of God. The miracle of resurrection from the dead is a transcendent miracle, perhaps the most “spectacular” sort of miraculous event, surpassing more common transformational and sustaining miracles. Transcendent miracles supersede established physical laws by which the world operates every day. When we believe in a transcendent miracle, we also believe in the God who performs the miracle: “That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Roman 10:9 NIV).

In Bible times we encounter many people who did not believe in God. Even the miraculous works of Christ did not persuade them. Luke 16:31 refers to people who would not believe or repent even though someone were to rise from the dead. Such a miracle may persuade a non-believer to become a believer. However, there is no guarantee that witnessing a miracle, or many miracles, is sufficient to convert from  non-belief to belief. Free will, one of God’s surpassing gifts to man whereby we choose to believe or disbelieve, is still operative in every human.

Our science/faith blog assumes that for many observers, faith in God is strengthened by knowledge of wonders revealed to us from the world of science. Others believe many interrelated phenomena are to be regarded as events that “just happen.” This is the view of naturalism, that “nature is all there is,” and that God does not act. Intuitively many observers conclude that God is the author of our spectacularly ordered universe.

There is no guaranteed path to faith even in the face of the best reinforcing evidence for belief in God from the world of science or any other world. As Doctor Luke stated, we have confidence in “convincing proofs” as we study evidence for the transcendent miracle of Christ’s resurrection. The degree of our confidence in the proofs depends on our personal willingness to believe. We study the evidence of sustaining, transformational, and transcendent miracles. Then we decide whether or not the evidence tilts us toward belief in the reality of God and the reality of creation events spoken of throughout scripture.