Be warned, this is no hard-core apologetic on the proof for the existence of Jesus laid down as a challenge, as one might assume from reading the post’s title – there are plenty of those around however should you wish to read up more on that. These are just a couple of thoughts I had these past few weeks on the above mentioned topics and an invitation to share your thoughts on these matters. It’s rather a look into something we need to prove before we even begin considering the existence of any form of deity and how we finally decide which evidence is sufficient to satisfy our search for true reality.
In this instance I actually do mean ‘two things’ by saying a couple of thoughts.
First, there is this general notion heard from time to time from those stunned or irritated by the fact that one believes in the existence of a very specific, relatively well-defined and personal God, suggesting one must be able to ‘prove with evidence’ the existence of It, or more specifically Jesus (through which I claim God revealed Himself most definitely) and the level of validity his claims to being God-incarnate carries. (Not sure how often people of other faiths are asked to prove that which they believe in? as I hovered between a broad range of Christian-related beliefs and agnosticism before eventually settling in Christ)
That aside, what does happen from time to time in my personal faith life however are ‘coincidences’. Or, what people generally refer to as coincidences anyway, which are often also described through words like Providence, a miracle, a supernatural act, etc. But these ‘coincidences’ I’m referring to are however not so much ‘unexplainably coincidental’ and therefore ‘in need of a quick explanation, generally satisfied by the above mentioned categories’ but much rather prophetic in nature, which in effect means coincidence is not the correct term for describing this phenomenon at all. To be more specific*, it would typically be a case where either myself or someone else, or both at times, obtains pre-knowledge on or pre-thoughts regarding a future event which then plays out in a manner, frighteningly similar to what was ‘witnessed’ in advance. These have typically happened through the practise of my faith through prayer, in community with others who practise my faith (which is why I so easily equate that the two correlate) but it has also happened to me before I came to this faith and does certainly happen to others using alternative ‘doors’, ones other than The Door, who also interact with what we consider ‘the future’. But this look into ‘the future’ could in actual fact merely be communication through an agent from a realm not restricted to the time sequence which our physical one is so clearly subjected to, or one within our very own realm but not restricted to the time sequence we as human beings are restricted to?
Some readers may still suspect I am necessarily busy putting forward an argument (proof) for Jesus but actually my story is working towards another question, perhaps also doubting many other people’s beliefs about who and what we are, or perceive ourselves to be, existentially speaking. As mentioned, a full-on investigation into the life and credibility of the witness of Jesus is something to look into on another occasion. Before we consider Jesus and others claiming to be portals to God, we need to prove something else.
Not sure how many of you are familiar with The Truman Show? The film starring Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, a man who has been chosen before his birth to star in what would be a ‘real’ reality tv-show, compared to the ‘fake reality’ ones we’re used to, with him being the only one in his ‘world’ not knowing cameras and an international (I guess) audience will be following his every move, 24/7 – able to watch every breathing moment of his.The situation is thus of such nature that although he is a man partly practising freedom of choice, every other person around him, and those ones speaking into his life, is potentially guiding his life and thoughts into a certain pre-planned direction. Other than that, if he really wanted a red bicycle with flames ingrained into the frame and made mention of his wish or committed a moment in (audible) prayer to it, he could very likely, ‘coincidentally’ receive it. But what if he never communicates such a wish towards anyone in any way and never did so in a way which could be picked up via the cameras following his every move?
That is what I was referring to above – things I remained silent about but received foreknowledge about. For me it was not a red bicycle however, it was things way more specific and way more unusual and perhaps unlikely. Reality is, The Truman Show planted a seed from which paranoia could very easily spring forth in the minds of a whole generation of movie watchers: what if my life is a ‘Truman Show’? Psychiatrist Joel Gold even diagnosed some of his patients suffering with schizophrenia with ‘The Truman Show Delusion’. Now, I was never convinced that I’m most definitely in such a show but certain events have lead me to strongly suspect the possibility at times – as the only reasonable alternative to actual intervention from and communication with ‘the other realm’. Someone has also suggested to me, from a naturalistic perspective, that perhaps we are through our natural, biological functioning able to connect with one another in the manner we normally refer to as telepathically.
The question I have been trying to get to this whole time was simply: How can we be certain we are not part of a Truman Show? A Peter Show? A Serv. Show? Etc. Is there evidence for that? Is there proof? And what does such evidence and proof look like? Can we know? Or do we simply believe it based on that which is experientially available to us, affirmed by opinions from trustworthy sources?
(This question is in some ways similar to the more popularly asked one of ‘How do you know you’re not just a brain in a jar?’, and more so ‘A brain in a jar being fed information registered as ‘undoubtedly real’ experiences?’)
So, before we move to demanding proof for ‘God’ or Jesus, are we even satisfied with the proof available from which we deduct whether we are able to accurately discern reality ‘as it is’?
*I am purposefully not giving detailed descriptions of these happenings as their content is not what
I wish to discuss but rather that which follows in the above discussion.
My second thought, or question, I will share straight away: Does more or better evidence necessarily mean someone will accept something as truth more easily – or could the opposite be the outcome of exposure to more evidence at times? Or differently put, if evidence is lacking, are we not tempted to fill in the gaps and create that which we believe in in such a way that makes it a bit easier to digest a difficult concept, such as God?
I mean, how does a finite being such as a human swallow or truly comprehend One which is infinite anyway? And what if that thing or concept does not present itself as we initially hoped it would? But wait!, you might say, Jesus did come in the flesh, the infinite taking on finite form while perfectly representing His infinite self through it? And He came ‘in the name of love’. What more do we want? Jesus came and fulfilled prophecies pre-dating himself by centuries down to a tee, He confirmed His divinity over and over, finally even encouraging those who still struggled to believe him, to physically touch him and his wounds after His resurrection. And He came so that peace between man and God can once again be established. ‘If I witnessed him in the flesh, doing all those crazy stuff, I would surely have been more likely to believe’, is what one is tempted to say. Yet, there remained those who did not believe. Some people believed then and some didn’t, some people believe now and some don’t. Is the evidence or lack thereof really the issue here?
I’ve sat through a few theology lectures this past while during which I gained a more accurate understanding of who Jesus, and in effect God, truly is. My created image of Him was somewhat shaken, and then having been exposed to both ‘more’ and ‘more accurate’ evidence and understanding, accepting Him for who and what He is became more challenging or, a further ‘renewal of the mind’ had to be undergone, to explain it in Biblical terms.
It is easy for me to believe based on historical and experiential evidence in the here and now, living in a post-incarnation world within a largely Biblically shaped culture containing Jesus-inspired virtues and values, but what if I was a person from a privileged class, similar to the one I belong to today, and a man from the ‘wrong’ side of the train tracks claimed he was God, which necessarily meant I ought to be worshipping another human being? What if I was Jewish and He challenged everything I faithfully stood for? Would hard evidence have persuaded me to move beyond my own pride, in a time when humility was not a virtue as it is today, and honour him as king?
Is it truly evidence we seek or are we looking for an explanation we are willing to live with? Do we only accept those ‘truths’ we are willing to swallow? Is it the lack of evidence that keeps us from believing something or rather the presence of an accurate understanding of the evidence and the inconvenience it may bring which leads us to shout ‘not enough evidence!’ ?
Or could it perhaps be so, that this thing we demand evidence for is in fact like light shining into darkness and from our position of darkness we cannot comprehend it? And the brighter it shines, and the more the reality of what it truly is in essence is exposed, the more difficult it may become for the darkness to comprehend?
These thoughts may have become repetitive ramblings at times but I trust you understand what I’m grabbing at here so please, do share any contributing thoughts below in the comment section.
For further interesting reading and consideration, here Prof. Brian Leftow explains why he believes a mere ‘testimony’ could often times be proof enough for the existence of…well, anything: