RESPOND blogs: Why I Believe in the Supernatural

It has been said – Miracles are simply the stuff of fiction.

Belief in Miracles – or the Supernatural – can be traced back to an ancient, pre-Scientifically enlightened world. A world where Vikings looked at the sky and believed a wolf chased the horses that dragged the chariot that contained the Sun across the sky. Great imagination there, guys!

Thanks to the work of David Hume in the 1800’s, many people today think everything that happens MUST be the result of natural processes. Because the Supernatural does not exist.

Someone who claims a Miracle is frowned upon in our culture today.  Because the claim is understood simply to be the result of us not understanding the natural processes involved in the event.

In other words – people who believe in Miracles are simply ignorant.

But here’s a thought – it IS possible to embrace and be inspired by the wonder of Scientific discovery (cosmology included!) while still believing that God can do Miracles if he sees fit.

Now our culture may cock a condescending wink at me as I say that. But you’ve got to admit…there are some pretty amazing historical events that are difficult to explain by natural processes. Take the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, for example.

Now miracle cynics don’t claim to have all the answers. So they usually cover their bases by saying this. If a Miracle WAS to take place…then that event should have MUCH MORE evidence for its Supernatural cause than we would normally expect from any other mundane event. Show me that amount of evidence and you might convince me.

How does that work? Well – take the milk that appears on your doorstep every morning. It’s a recurring mundane happening. We don’t need much evidence to believe that the milkman delivered it! But say someone claimed to see their milk carton appear out of thin air on their doorstep one morning. That would be Miraculous, wouldn’t it? And very, very unlikely!

The point is – a Supernatural event is SO unlikely  that in order to be treated seriously…our culture expects vast amounts of evidence to back it up. For a start…who saw the milk appear with their own eyes? We need more than the one witness…who might have been drinking in the pub late the night before. We need a crowd of witnesses to verify the suddenly appearing milk!

So – let me question the prevailing wisdom in our culture today. Is it reasonable to demand extraordinary levels of evidence before we claim Miracle?  It sounds reasonable. But in actual fact – the people who use this argument against Miracle are extremely selective with how they use it.

Take Jesus’ Resurrection again.

Christians believe, based on the interlocking historical accounts in the New Testament, that God Miraculously raised Jesus from the dead. He was really dead on Good Friday – but he was physically raised from death as part of God’s plan and purpose the following Sunday. God stepped into the normal flow of natural processes that unfold in our Universe and he fed a very special event into our reality. Jesus…back from the dead.

And we might think to ourselves…well that’s not very likely…is it? So we expect masses of evidence to prove it beyond doubt.

Well, hang on. Just because something is unlikely…does not mean that the proof for that unlikely event requires in feasibly large amounts of evidence. Not at all. We don’t actually use that standard in our everyday lives. So it’s unfair to take that approach with Jesus’ Resurrection.

What do I mean? Well – take the UK National Lottery as an example.

It has been estimated that the odds of winning the National Lottery are 1 in 14 million.  In other words, take the entire population of Scotland, 3 times over. One of them has a winning Lottery ticket that…if you find it…wins you a million pounds. Now – you’ve got just one chance to select a person at random. What are the chances you will choose the Scot with the ticket? (not to mention your chances of prising it out of his hand) It’s very, very unlikely that it will happen! Yet this one unlikely event happens for someone most weeks in the UK. Someone wins the National Lottery and becomes extremely wealthy. It’s an unlikely event…but it is frankly a routine event! You can almost set your watch by it.

My point in this. We don’t demand extraordinary evidence to prove that a person has won the Lottery. If the Camelot Group announces this week’s winners on TV, their website, and on Twitter…then we just believe it! Why? Because we have extraordinary evidence? No! We have no evidence beyond Camelot’s say so. We believe it because we have good reason to TRUST the Camelot Group. We trust what they are telling us. Even though the National Lottery win is extremely unlikely for the winner.

We don’t doubt the TV when it announces the winner.

I don’t doubt the historical reports in the Bible when it tells me Jesus was supernaturally raised from the dead. I don’t need extraordinary evidence. I trust the Bible; and God for that matter.

But even though I don’t need it…God has already given extraordinary evidence for Jesus Resurrection. How about the multiple billions of people who have believed in Jesus down thru the centuries, and seen Him transform their lives?

That’s pretty compelling and consistent and repeatable evidence for a single unlikely event…don’t you think?

Respond blogs: An Empty Tomb

Image

It stands unique and alone across all of human history.

Many important people have come…and gone.

  • Some have started religious movements
  • Some have been business leaders or political touch stones
  • Others have been celebrities who dominate popular culture

Yet they all have something in common – one day they all died. The time came when a decaying corpse was all that was left of them.

And then there’s Jesus. What did he leave behind?

AN EMPTY TOMB.

Contemporary Roman and Jewish history recounts the events surrounding the empty tomb.

About this time there was a wise man whose name was Jesus and he was known to be good and do works of justice. Many people among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die, but those who would become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he appeared to them on the third day returned to life. Accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians so named after him have not disappeared to the present day.

Josephus, 1st Century Roman Historian

Neither the governments of Rome nor Israel counted Jesus as a friend. They conspired to get rid of him. But they could not honestly ignore the result of their attempt.

AN EMPTY TOMB.

Some have examined the evidence and put forward “common-sense” explanations:

“His tomb was empty because…he didn’t die on the cross. He walked out of the tomb alive.”

This would be miraculous in itself, given Jesus’ expert Roman executioners whose own lives were on the line if he survived his execution. Have you ever seen Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ”? There’s just no way he walked out of that tomb alive.

“His tomb was empty because…his disciples stole the body and disposed of it privately.”

Yet this does not fit the psychological profile of the defeated and rejected friends of Jesus…mourning his passing one day…and then suddenly becoming world changing action men the next. People who go to their graves spreading the exciting news that Jesus resurrection means hope for us all!

“His tomb was empty because the Jewish or Roman authorities stole the body and disposed of it privately.”

This is the oldest explanation – it’s mentioned in the New Testament account itself. Yet why would Jesus enemies inflame a growing legend about the troublesome Jesus? They wanted him disposed of…not proclaimed from the street corners. Any conspiracy around Jesus remains would have resulted in his corpse being produced to quell the growing excitement around his resurrection. And yet no historic account of such an event exists. Why? Because they had no body to produce.

“His tomb wasn’t empty. People just forgot where he was buried…they went to the wrong tomb.”

His friends knew very well where he was buried. There were Roman Guards posted at the tomb. And anyway – if the outpouring of grief at his death had confused his friends as to the whereabouts of his remains…the Jewish authorities would have had no such confusion. They would have hauled out his remains for all to see given the first opportunity. But they couldn’t. Because they had no body to produce.

No. Jesus’ tomb…the one loaned to him for a short while by Joseph of Arimathea…

  • Contained his corpse on the first Good Friday
  • Was empty by the first Easter  Sunday.
  • And his subsequent appearances, alive and well, during a brief window of time have been recorded for us in the pages of history.

Archaeologists have unearthed the unsettled reaction by the Roman Government at the time.

An edict from the Roman Emperor – warning that anyone found tampering with tombs in and around Jerusalem – would themselves be subject to the death penalty.

Unsettling as it was, Jesus wasn’t naturally raised from the dead. God raised Jesus Christ from the dead at that specific point in human history. There was purpose behind it. All the authorities could do in the face of such a seismic event was to pass a pointless law to prevent “bodies from ever getting stolen again”.

Too late.

The Resurrection had already occurred.

And our world would never be the same again.

Most Precious Thing in the Universe

Naturalism.

We live in a society that increasingly assumes Naturalism. It’s like the lenses thru which we view everything that happens.

Now – you might be asking – what is it? Well is not the same thing as Naturism (!).

Naturalism is the assumption that our universe can be completely known by studying the laws that operate within it; the matter that exists within it; the energy that is used within it.

Naturalism, and the Scientists who wear those glasses, say the universe is just an intricate machine. So too are people and animals and all life. We’re just biological machines. When things wear out…and when people wear out…the machine stops working. We’re gone – kaput – and that’s it.

“There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence. Only the religious – among whom I include not only the prejudiced but the under informed – hope there is a dark corner of the physical universe…that science can never hope to illuminate.”

– Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University

It is smart – we are told – to hold a naturalistic view of our world. It is stupid to think anything different.

Well I’m not going along with this. I’m putting my hand up and asking questions.

Why must a smart, intelligent view of our universe demand naturalism? I challenge that assumption for many reasons. But let’s choose just one reason. Let’s choose scientific reasoning. The approach so many scientists say is wedded to a naturalistic world view.

The more we understand about life’s complexity – the less likely it is that we are a result of blind chance and natural forces.

Let me come right out and say it – Science points to a bigger thing than just Nature. Science points to a God who created it all.

At the very center of each piece of matter I am composed of, you don’t find a random jumble of chemicals. No – each cell that constructs my body is a busy, complex biological machine in its own right. So far so good for the Naturalist. But at the center of that hive of intricacy…in the nucleus of every cell…is the most precious thing in the universe.

DNA? Yes it’s there. But I’m not describing DNA as precious. I’m saying the INFORMATION that DNA conveys is precious.

INFORMATION doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of a CREATIVE MIND. Someone thought up life’s instruction manual before it could be written down and appear in our bodies.

Think of it like this – have you ever had to write an essay before? Ever sat in front of a blank laptop screen? You need to create…but it takes thought…it takes work. Eventually your essay is ready to hand in for marking. Two thousand words on the page that started in your mind. You crafted those words carefully – not just following spelling and grammar, but bringing together concepts you’ve learned, topics you have studied.

Information is ALWAYS the result of a creative mind at work. It’s found on the pages of your essay. Information is also written through your body, one cell at a time.

INFORMATION is also PRECIOUS. Ever had a long distance conversation with your family when someone’s said to you…”Miss you…love you.” How does that feel? It’s not the words that give us a lump in our throat and tears in the corner of our eyes. It’s your loved one’s thought that is precious. That’s information.

As our knowledge about the details of the universe grows…the evidence for a designer grows with it. And the naturalist exclaims – “How wonderful that life in the universe looks designed”.

Take the glasses off, look again.

It IS designed.

I think Science points to the existence of God.

Just before he died, Anthony Flew changed his mind. He lived eighty years, militantly convinced that there was no God. Yet – it was scientific discovery around Information at the heart of life that changed his mind. The blind forces of nature and random chance aren’t enough. Life had to be created by someone.

“…we still have to come to terms with the origin of the laws of nature [information]. And the only viable explanation here is the divine Mind.”

— Anthony Flew, How the Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind

Faith in God has its reasons. Biological Information…created in a mind…precious beyond words…it is a big one.

But it’s only the beginning…

Only the good reasons are mine…

Human beings.

We’re an inquisitive lot…don’t you think? I’m convinced that is why Facebook and Twitter are so popular…they give us so many opportunities to poke our noses in other people’s business. Er, I mean keep an eye on people. I’m not nosey if I follow you online…I’m just inquisitive. Honest.

I find that people are inquisitive about people of faith. Whether its faith in a political party…faith in a leader…faith in scientific progress…faith in themselves…or faith in God. It’s fascinating to speak to someone who seems to be able to live their lives with a sense of confidence in something…or someone…bigger than themselves. Respond to me. Answer me the why question? How does it work? Does it always work for you?

Wait a minute – on second thoughts…people who have faith ONLY in THEMSELVES really put me off. Pride has a certain…odor… doesn’t it?

Anyway – this blog is for the inquisitive among us…it’s all about reasons for faith.  I don’t mean faith in mankind. Or faith in a higher power. I’m going to be really specific.

This blog is all about reasons for faith in the God of the Bible. Reasons for being a Christian…why there are good reasons for it. And why those reasons make sense.

They are not all going to be MY own reasons for faith in God. Only the good ones are mine. The rubbishy ones…I’ll do my best to pin on someone else.

Why write about reasons for faith in God? It’s not that I think faith in national leaders is a bad thing. And Science? I love it. It pays my mortgage and has brought me more technology in my life than I can poke a stick at!!

But I’m not writing a blog about faith in those things. Why? Because faith in God is so much more rewarding, at the end of the day. And I want to reward you, faithful reader. I don’t intend to waste your time.