Recently, some of my old postings on Christianity have seen a revival in comments from two readers. You might want to read the posts and the comments
The latest reply I did to a reader named Stephen is so long, I might as well post it as a new entry (so you other regular readers don’t complain that I haven’t been posting often enough ;D).
It touches upon why I can’t prove the existence of God to a non-believer, yet I continue to believe in Him.
You seek the proof in a particular aspect, and then I have to be honest – I am afraid whatever proof or stories I might write here may not convince you at this juncture.
Like you, I’m always skeptical of miracle cures – I don’t believe in mass sessions of faith healing (eg. a preacher comes and proclaims people sick of their lifelong illnesses, lays his hands on them and they start walking after being disabled since birth and so on).
In this modern age, I have yet to see and hear of a real example of truly fantastical miracle by everyone’s (believer and non-believer) standards.
Yet, the Bible tells that when Jesus came to earth, he was able to pull off such sessions with ease. So one of the tough questions for Christians today is – “Why don’t these great miracles happen today?”.
So back to your point – no, I (and many other Christians) don’t believe that a girl with her legs blown off can regrow her leg again by a mere prayer. But doctors can give her a prosthetic leg that lets her walk again. That is only made possible by man’s intelligence, which we celebrate fully. And Christians believe that man’s intelligence and scientific achievements comes from God. On the other hand. evolution doesn’t really answer why only man is so ridiculously smart as compared to the rest of the species.
That nun you speak about – her claim is most probably hogwash (though hey, you’d never really know right?). And that is the very sort of thing that Christians like me do not depend on to share about Christ’s work. People in general are more willing to believe that Christ rose from the dead after 3 days than a nun re-growing her heart.
Some Christian folks die today because they refuse to seek medical treatment and fully rely on the belief that prayer alone can heal everything. But they seem to forget that one of Jesus’ apostles Luke was a doctor himself, and nowhere in the Bible does God say :”Don’t bother with doctors.” Christians in general believe God gave man science, and that we should not hesitate to seek man-made remedies while seeking God’s grace.
So if I catch a flu, I’ll be foolish not to take flu medication. But if God wills it, the flu might just kill me. That I can accept as well as a matter of faith and it’s not something I’ll get worked up about over.
Neither do I believe in speaking in other mystical stuff like “speaking in tongues” (a disbelief, which one fellow Christian has said in the past, will condemn me to hell, can you believe it) that is a big thing with charismatic and new evangelical churches. I personally think it’s just babbling for the sake of it.
I also agree with you that it shouldn’t take a personal tragedy for people to become a believer.
Yet that happens all too often, only for the simple reason that when faced with a dire situation, people are forced against the wall to re-examine their belief system, their humanity and their life in perspective.
I learnt to believe in Christ because of my mum’s illness (I believe God saved her against all odds after a desperate plea – she was at Stage 4 breast cancer and honestly, she should have been dead in 1992 but she survived for another decade), but today, I continue to believe in Christ because my mum is long gone and the memory of her suffering is but a faint whisper, but I continue to struggle with sin and my humanity daily and still see his redemptive work in my life and others. That, my friend, I find difficult to describe to you because we all lead different lives with different struggles.
When it comes down to it, I understand you are seeking for definite, empirical proof of God by man’s standards.
I’d be branded a fool to say that I can give you that proof, because I don’t have it in a white paper, a box or several paragraphs. Scientists spend decades trying to prove the existence of God, but their instruments won’t show you the results, nor can they even agree on what specific prerequisites it takes to determine the existence of God.
I’m probably as big a cynic as you, because I demand proof in everything in my daily life.
This especially so in the workplace (I work in Microsoft, where only tangible results count in my appraisals and it’s a really demanding environment), As a newspaper journo in the past, I demanded that every story have at least two to three different verifications before it can be deemed publishable. As a press photographer when I was young, I refused to Photoshop any image to thwart the reality I had snapped with my camera. The photos were the proof.
So I might appear to be an hypocrite by saying that with God, I cannot show the proof you want. A case of double-standards by man’s measurements. Yet the Bible says in Romans 1:18:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
In other words, everything that we see around us – the trees, the stars, the mountains – demonstrates quite convincingly the existence of intelligent design. That’s God’s evidence for us. We feel amazement at the ecosystem of the universe, we appreciate the beauty of nature and we ask “how is it that we know this is beautiful?”
But man, even if he feels the sense of wonder in his heart, rejects that idea, rejects the evidence laid before him. And with his intelligence and leadership of all species, decides it is best to put himself in the centre of the universe.
Never mind the fact that he can drop dead any second for all proclamations of power, because his fate is not really in his hands. Man decided to put his faith wholly in science, and make evolution – which is still a collection of loosely linked and not fully verified theories (see how many revisions the scientists make on their theories all the time) – the only answer to everything. If science and statistics are right, we cannot possibly be the only intelligent species in the universe – yet why is Planet Earth so terribly unique in the scheme of things?
Christianity is one of the most criticised things in the world, largely because of the sins of so-called believers (eg. Crusades, the Inquisition, and lately, the war on Iraq and Afghanistan) who killed unjustly in the name of God, as well as overzealous folks who insist on hitting people’s head with a Bible (figuratively speaking) all the time. As a non-Christian for most of my life – I loathed all these things about Christians, and today, I still do. Christians forget that they need to communicate better in order for our message to be understood. A lot of misconceptions about Christians and Christ continue to be perpetuated by Christians themselves and it is not going to be changed any time soon.
The only thing I can do on my part is try to be honest about what I believe in. Again, it seems double standards for me to demand real facts in the secular world, and simply rely on “faith” when it comes to God.
But that’s the ONLY thing God really expects man to do – to simply believe that Jesus once did come down to earth in order to redeem man’s sin forever. Nothing we can do on our own effort and capability will redeem our fallen state. Here, the Bible states in Romans 3:
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
It’s so simple a process it seems foolish to be a Christian. “Simply believe in Christ and live forever? You’ve gotta be kidding me.” But that has spurred so many people to seek the answers for themselves, and later, for many of them to come believe in Christ.
And being a Christian doesn’t mean having to follow all sorts of weird procedures or impossible demands. For example, the Ten Commandments (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+20&version=NIV) are pretty easy to understand and follow. And Jesus’ “Golden Rule” is so simple in concept – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – and while tough to practice, it is possible to carry out.
God expects us to use our intelligence to question everything that we do, not follow any commandments blindly because we’d be no better than robots. That’s why every Christian needs to continually question his faith in order to renew it, not be a slavish follower of whatever a preachers says at the pulpit. If a preacher tells me to speak in tongues today to prove that I’m a believer, I’ll ask him why should I – it’s not what God says I have to do be saved. But so many others happily follow the preacher, and not God’s Word.
Hope that clarifies some more things for you.