Mar 092015 11 Responses

You Can’t Prove Jesus

“You can’t prove it,” he said.

I didn’t disagree with his statement. We were having a political discussion and he was irritated at my interjection of a Biblical belief into what he thought should be a secular discussion. He couldn’t understand why I would “waste” (his word) so much of my life on something you couldn’t prove.

It’s a fair question, especially coming from someone who chooses not to believe.

The Christian faith is not something you can prove. There is no single fact I can give you or picture I can paint or story I could tell which would forever prove the truthfulness of the gospel story.

This unproven quality is so real that Christianity would actually claim doubt is part of the story. Without some element of doubt, faith may not be possible.

The story that God saves sinners is such good news that grace almost creates doubt because it simply doesn’t seem real. (See: What I Mean When I Say ‘You Are a Sinner’)

Many people I know are close to becoming followers of Jesus, but they are waiting for one more piece of information which will finally prove faith. Sadly, they will wait forever because the final piece of proof will not be given.

My friend was right, “You can’t prove it.”

But he was also wrong.

Like many, he had come to the conclusion that since Christianity cannot be fully proven, it can be ignored. Why waste time considering the possibility of God if his existence can’t be proven? He has quickly brushed away Jesus, the Bible, and the church, especially the church, assuming it is all a waste of time.

He has made a dangerous mistake.

While Christians have to admit Christianity cannot be fully proven, others must admit it is undeniable that Jesus was born, that he lived, he died, and then something happened. (See: ‘God Is Love’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think)

You don’t have to believe:

  • the virgin birth
  • the deity of Jesus
  • His miracles
  • His perfection
  • His resurrection

But you can’t deny:

  • His birth
  • His life
  • His death
  • And that something happened

What that something was defines everything.

Clearly something happened. After the death of Jesus, his doubting disciples became bold proclaimers of his message. A famous persecutor of Christians, Saul, became the Apostle Paul, playing a vital role in the founding of the church. Christianity became a massive movement which has transformed much of human history.

Something happened.

But what? (See: Don’t Tell Me Every Religion Is the Same)

Historians have long offered three primary explanations for what happened after the death of Jesus.

  1. His followers concocted a lie in order to save face after the death of their leader.
  2. His followers had a mass psychosis because of their grief, making them think Jesus actually rose from the dead even thought he didn’t.
  3. Jesus rose from the dead.

While there might be other options, those are the main three. Everyone has to make a decision regarding which they believe. What they decide will determine their faith and define their lives. Not to decide is actually a decision.

The first option is appealing, but I have a difficult time believing that many people would individually give their lives without a single one of them backtracking the story in order to live.

The second option is more difficult for me. While I understand the trauma of grief, it’s hard to imagine several hundred people suffering from the same psychosis.

The final option is not easy to believe because it is outside of my experience, but it does make the most sense of the evidence we have.

I believe Jesus rose from the dead because it makes the most sense based on what has happened.

You don’t have to believe it, but you will make a decision about it. (See: Stop Whining About the Church)

Here is the problem with proof:

We are all trying to answer the big questions of life–Who am I? Why am I here? Does my life matter? Is there life after death? Is there a God? What must I do to be right with God? But we don’t have the ability to prove our answers.

I say there is a God. You say prove it. I admit I can’t.

You say there isn’t a God. I say prove it. You must admit you can’t.

I say our decisions matter, this life matters, and it will have eternal consequences. But I can’t prove it.

You might say our decisions don’t really matter, this life doesn’t matter, and there is no eternity. But you can’t prove it.

None of us can fully prove the most important aspects of what we believe. We all have evidence to which we point, but that evidence may not lead to the same conclusions by others.

One thing we do know, what you decide about the resurrection also defines what you believe about Jesus. As C.S. Lewis famously said, “Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.”

He claimed to be the only way to God. He promised he would die and rise again. He ensured eternity with God to whomever believed in him. If Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, he either was the greatest swindler of all-time, or he was sadly insane.

Either way, you can’t deny the resurrection and claim he was a good teacher. You can’t ignore his commands, but still assume God is the loving God of which he taught.

Either Jesus was God or he wasn’t. Either he rose again or he didn’t.

I can’t prove which is right, but time clearly will.

11 Responses to You Can’t Prove Jesus
  1. […] You Can’t Prove Jesus, by Kevin Thompson […]... brandonacox.com/links/2015-03-16
  2. Gary M Reply

    News Alert: Scientists have proven the Bible False

    And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. –the Bible

    The ancient Hebrews and therefore the early Christians believed that above the earth, God had created a “firmament” or domed ceiling, upon which he hung the sun, moon, stars, and planets. Heaven was directly above this “ceiling”.

    Let’s now look at the story of the Ascension of Jesus:

    When he (Jesus) had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” -The Bible

    If you lived in the first century AD and believed that heaven was just on the other side of the firmament or “ceiling” above the earth, then it would be very consistent with your worldview to believe that if Jesus was going to return to heaven, all he had to do was to ascend past the clouds and he would soon reach the “ceiling” of the firmament, to which are hung the planets, the sun, and moon, and he then would pierce the firmament to enter heaven. And if one can look up and see the planets and stars, then these heavenly objects must be within a day’s travel time. You would know this by common sense: if you can see a mountain in the distance, chances are you can reach it in a day’s time. So believing that Jesus could ascend to heaven, at a speed slow enough for his disciples to watch him ascend into the clouds, would be completely consistent with this world view.

    The problem for the Bible, and for Christians who believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of the Creator, is that this worldview has been proven absolutely false by modern science. There is no firmament. Jesus could not have reached the outer reaches of the universe to enter heaven moving at a speed at which humans could watch him ascend. Scientists have demonstrated that for a rocket or space ship to reach the next closest galaxy to our own, the Andromeda Galaxy, it would take two million LIGHT YEARS to get there!

    Unless Jesus entered a tractor beam once he got into the clouds, a tractor beam that “beamed him up” to heaven like Captain Kirk would regularly do on Star Trek…Jesus…at this very moment…is in outer space, putting along, somewhere between earth and the Andromeda Galaxy. Bombshell! Jesus hasn’t made it to heaven yet! Jesus is not sitting at the right hand of God the Father as the Bible claims.

    Thus, scientists have proven the Bible false.

    Trust science, my friends, not the scientifically ignorant superstitions and legends of ancient peoples, nor their holy books, full of preposterous supernatural claims.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Gary, Thank you for reading and commenting.

      I whole-heartedly disagree that science has disproven the Bible. While I love science, I believe it has tremendous limits and is unable to answer the question questions of life–who am are, why are we here, is there life after death, what is the meaning of all of this. Science is great, but I’ve never been asked a scientific question while watching a parent bury their child or while praying with a family as their loved one just received the diagnosis of a terminal disease. It is, in part, because of science that I believe. The complexity of this world, the limited knowledge which we posses, compels me to believe there is something more.

  3. […] Only Jesus could make Friday good. (See: You Can’t Prove Jesus) […]... kevinathompson.com/make-friday-good
  4. apologeticsminion Reply

    At the risk of seeming like a troll (I agree with your thesis) “liar, lunatic, or Lord” was Josh McDowell’s paraphrase of C.S. Lewis.

  5. TheThirdHelix Reply

    Science has not “disproven the Bible.” Science has disproven the mental images many people form from a superficial reading of common translations of the Bible, but when you read the Bible on its own terms without projecting ideas onto it, and make allowances for limitations of language and translation, you’ll find that there’s far more harmony than conflict between the two.

    To address the two points made here, if you look outside, you’ll find that the sky is blue precisely because there is a literal *dome* of water enclosing the earth. “Firmament” is an unfortunate translation, because it has connotations of solidity, but the text itself doesn’t explicitly demand that element, and it certainly doesn’t read that God “hung” the sun, stars and moon in the dome– that’s something you’ve projected onto the text rather than read within the text. And when you consider that there were only a few thousand words in the ancient Hebrew language, compared to the more than one million words in modern English, it’s a literary miracle that they were able to say so much with such simple language.

    And, when you read it on its own terms, you’ll find we haven’t left the Bible behind through science– we’ve begun to catch up to it. That the universe had a beginning is one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs harmonizing with the Bible. Also, there are verses that suggest both biological evolution (Genesis 1:24) and the relativity of space/time (Genesis 1:3-5 and 14-19; Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8).

    Regarding the Ascension of Jesus– from Ephesians 4:10, it’s clear that the first generation of Christians understood his ascension to be dimensional rather than merely spatial.

    Regarding the resurrection, and the proof thereof– I have to stridently disagree with you, Mr. Thompson. Instead of saying “You can’t prove it,” I would say, “You can prove it as well as you can ‘prove’ anything.” As in, the shortcoming is not in the resurrection or in the evidence thereof; the shortcoming is in the nature of “proof” itself.

    There’s an abundance of evidence for the Holocaust, but you could never “prove” it happened to someone with a prior commitment to deny it– say, somebody from Iran. There’s always some wiggle room to dismiss the evidence as fabricated by western interests in pursuit of an agenda. The same goes for the moon landing– Russians today commonly think it was a hoax filmed on a studio like any episode of ‘Star Trek’ as propaganda to upstage the Soviet space program, and no amount or quality of evidence will ever compel Vladimir Putin to officially acknowledge that it happened.

    Likewise, if someone is dead-set agains the Resurrection of Jesus, you’re right– there is no “proving” it. But, the evidence you’ve mentioned can be marshaled to prove that the only reason to reject is a prior commitment to atheistic naturalism.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      My point is that while Christianity is logical, one cannot be fully argued into to belief. It still requires faith. It’s not blind faith, but it is faith.

      • thethirdhelix Reply

        Yes, but that’s true of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. It’s nothing peculiar to Christianity and the resurrection. We all form beliefs based on information reported to us by other people, and we accept that information because we have faith in their competence and credibility. Whether or not we believe the moon landing actually happened or if it was all filmed on a sound stage as anti-Soviet propaganda hinges entirely on how much faith we put, most immediately, in the writers of American textbooks and news reports and, ultimately, in the people at NASA who first reported it to them. The vast majority of people who believe it have absolutely no firsthand knowledge of it: we only know what we’re told and what we’ve seen in photos and film– all of which can be faked (we have photos and film footage of the starship Enterprise, too, after all), but we trust it, because we trust the people who delivered it to us.

        And it’s entirely logical to trust them, but if someone is invested in and committed to another narrative– say, a narrative of Soviet supremacy in the space race– no quality or quantity of argument will compel someone to believe something that threatens that narrative, because people tend to be far more committed to their own cultural and social identities (and the attitudes attached to that) than they actually are to truth, whatever it is. That’s why Jesus said, “Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

        However, the more those people are exposed to the evidence, the more apparent it will be that their rejection of the moon landing is based on a dishonest commitment to a competing narrative. So it is with the resurrection. That’s why Simeon said Jesus was “destined to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”

        And I don’t mean to be argumentative or belabor the point too much, but the reason I’m so strident about this is that I think the word “faith” should never be spoken of within Christianity as an epistemology. It’s unbiblical, and it has destructive implications, not just for our epistemology, but for our soteriology and our ecclesiology. In fact, I would say every single systemic problem we have within western Christianity today intersects at our misuse of that word, and (not to put too fine a point on it, but) I think you’re furthering that misuse with statements like “while Christianity is logical… It still requires faith.”

        The word has been mutilated beyond recognition with regard to the biblical use of the word… which is really no different than our use of the word in a non-religious context. When we tell another person “I have faith in you,” it doesn’t mean you’re suspending disbelief about them or bypassing or even SUPPLEMENTING reason and logic and empiricism. Rather, when you put your faith in another person, it’s based entirely on the evidence of your past experience with them– experience that tells you they’re trustworthy and credible and worthy of your confidence in them.

        When the Bible speaks of putting our faith in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t mean “believing things *about* Jesus,” like the resurrection– doctrinal correctness alone is not Saving Faith. Faith is trusting Jesus Christ personally to the point that we obey him– not because there’s a doctrine of hell that says “do this or else,” but because we love him and trust that he knows and wants what is best for all of us.

        According to the apostles (1 Peter 1:21; Acts 17:31; Acts 2:36-38), we don’t believe the resurrection because we have faith. Instead, we have faith because we believe the resurrection– a belief rooted in evidence and reason.

  6. thethirdhelix Reply

    Sorry… that was long.

    In the event of tl;dr, just read the following:

    According to the apostles (1 Peter 1:21; Acts 17:31; Acts 2:36-38), we don’t believe the resurrection because we have faith. Instead, we have faith because we believe the resurrection– a belief rooted in evidence and reason.

  7. kelly Reply

    Amen! Thank you thethirdhelix, I have never heard anyone say it better

  8. jay Reply

    How does the secularist prove any person existed in the past and said and did things? How do they prove it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.