Evidence for Faith

What if someone came up to you and told you that there was a dragon in his or her garage? That’d be a pretty crazy thing, and if you were told that, you would most certainly wish to see it in order to validate this assertion. However, when you inquire upon the dragon’s existence by looking into the person’s garage, you don’t find the dragon. You then decide said person was lying, delusional, or just wrong for some other reason. After telling the person your conclusion, the person tells you that you can’t see it, the dragon is invisible… Oh great, you’ve run across a nut job. There is no way in this world that there is an invisible dragon inside this person’s garage, it being invisible is just a cop-out. There is no way you would believe this person.

Carl Sagan gives an argument for the burden of proof on Christianity and theistic belief using this analogy. The analogy is a chapter in his book The Demon Haunted World, and one can find it here. However, I believe he missed congruency to Christianity’s claims for faith. I think it would have gone further. Something like this…

After telling said person you are still skeptical, said person goes and grabs a book. The book is old and talks about the dragon throughout its entirety, describing it as an invisible dragon that lives in people’s shelters. You still don’t believe that person, but you do find it very strange that someone would believe in an invisible dragon because of some old book. You explain that you’re still not buying it, and decide to leave. But he has more.

The guy goes on to tell you how this book was written not by one person, but 40. The book was composed over the course of 16 centuries by people that all lived in one nation, but were not writers for a job. Not only that, but the book so impressively tells a story about how this dragon both helped and destroyed these people over and over again… This guy is still a wacko.

The guy tells you that there are documents that prove that at least parts of this book existed centuries ago, and that many parts of this book are archaeologically and historically accurate. Not only that, but other pieces of history talk about people who kept this dragon in their home. He tells you that the people were at one time seen as a cult, persecuted, and viewed unfavorably by the public, but everyone still talked about the invisible dragon they kept… Okay, so there’s something else going on here than just a delusion. He’s just reading too much fan fiction, conspiracy theories, or something like that.

The guy continues on in his explanation about how trustworthy the book is due to ancient manuscripts, historical documents that are corroborating evidence, and the sheer depth of the book. He goes on and on and ON about this book, and how because of this book he believes in this invisible dragon. He goes on and on about how he can trust this book. In the end you walk away kinda rubbing your head at the insanity you just heard… An invisible dragon. Come on, you can’t be serious.

And indeed I’m not. The analogy above is a rough demonstration of what would have been a more accurate comparison, than Sagan’s,  however it is still lacking a fundamental piece: it’s God not an invisible dragon. The reason I make the story conclude with the person still not believing in the dragon is not because one should come to the same conclusion about God’s existence. The reason the conclusion is drawn is because it’s an invisible dragon. The evidence given is not one that would be an abundance of convincing evidence for something like an invisible dragon, Peter Pan, or Santa Clause. No, but the evidence given is much more convincing for something that also scientifically and philosophically makes sense.

Scientifically, the existence of God makes sense due to the Law of Biogenesis, which (attributed to Louis Pasteur) is the observation that living things come only from other living things. Mathematically, the existence of God makes sense (see Godel’s Ontological Proof and Cantor’s Absolute Infinite). Philosophically, a God existing makes sense because of motion and the need for something to have set everything in motion. Nothing does not set something in motion. Something has to set something in motion, and philosophically is makes sense that there is a stopping point at the existence of something creating something. In other words, you have to decide at some point that there was something that was never created or you run the risk of ad infinitum. There has to be something that just was or just is or both (this is a rough sketch of the Cosmological argument). Therefore, there must be something that just Is just as the Christian God said His name was, “I Am.” Philosophically, there has to be some supernatural being. Here’s the point: there is more than just a book that tells a story with evidence to back it up; there are logical reasons to believe in God- unlike an invisible dragon.

Let’s take a look at the evidences outside of science, math, and philosophy.

Internal Evidences

The Bible by itself has a considerable amount going for it. The book is rather immaculate. Except for some small differences between the Gospels (that amount to nothing in the grand scheme of things) and maybe some small (and I mean really small) translation errors, the book is essentially perfect. The book contains several complex motifs and and all points in one general direction throughout its entirety, and for that reason it is a wonderful piece of literature. However, what makes this book even more than a wonderful piece of literature is how different it is than other works. Not only does this book make the claim to be true History, but it does so with great historical accuracy. Moreover, the book in all of its greatness was not organized by some author or group of men sitting around trying to make the most amazing story ever. The Bible contains 66 books, written over the course of 1500-1600 years, and by 40 different authors who were not all of the same walk of life. They even had a variety of different situations and events in which they dealt with and grew up in. All this time period and all the different authors, and the whole book still points to two common themes displayed over and over again in various ways: what God says matters and the problem of sin versus salvation. The book is simply beautiful due to its complexity and unending source of knowledge.

Another interesting thing to note about the internal evidences of the Bible are the prophecies. From the third chapter of Genesis to the end of the Old Testament there is prophecy after prophecy of the coming Messiah, and Jesus fulfills them all. The Old Testament contains foreshadowing after foreshadowing of the great things to come in the New Testament. Moreover, there are many prophecies that are so accurate to History that it amazes the reader. For instance, there is the prophecy of Daniel’s in which he foresees the coming of 3 kingdoms after the Babylonian Empire. Daniel explains that 3 kingdoms will rise up and in the time of the third kingdom the kingdom of God would come. Turning through the pages of History you find that the Medo-Persian Empire took over the Babylonian, the Greeks took over the Medo-Persians, the Romans took over the Greeks, and in the time of the Roman Empire there comes Jesus proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus, the one that was killed for being a heretic by the people who were supposed to know and understand this prophecy, and thereby giving reason to believe that it was rigged by the people. This is just one good place to start, but there are so many prophecies to look into in which the foretelling was so precise.

Historical and Archaeological Evidences for the Bible

I mentioned that there are historical evidences for the Bible. I have a short list of things, but one can find a plethora of items in books such as The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and a simple search through Google. The few evidences I want to mention are not necessarily pieces of history that align with stories of the Bible, but rather pieces of the Bible found in history and pieces of archaeology that mention Yahweh.

Two famous pieces of the Bible found elsewhere besides the whole canons used so often are the 4Qflorilegium from the Dead Sea Scrolls[1] and the LXX Septugent. The Dead Sea Scrolls piece comes from around 300 to 100 B.C and contains several pieces of Old Testament scripture. the LXX Septugent is from around 280 to 100 B.C and contains many books of the Old Testament. These manuscripts are profound and excellent pieces of evidence because it can verify that many, if not all, prophecies really did get written down before Christ’s existence.

A few archaeological pieces one may find interesting are the Ebla Tablet, the Tel Dan Stele, the Mesha Stele, and Pilate Dedication stone. These are all just some pieces that validate the historical accuracy of the Bible, and they are also just pretty cool.This is just a place to start.

There are far more pieces than this if one takes the time to do the research. One can easily find a lot of History that agrees with the Bible and a lot of archaeology that confirms the Bible.

Oral Tradition

Many of those that are skeptical of the Bible and at least halfway have a reason why will know that the Bible heavily relied on oral tradition for what is estimated to be 20 years after the time of Jesus’ presence on earth. There are some sources that will dictate that this time period exhibited a fluctuation of literacy between 5% to 20%. For this reason, the skeptics feel completely confident in concluding that the story of Jesus can’t be right because we all know how the game of telephone works.[3]

However, the game of telephone, much like Sagan’s analogy, is a bad one. One reason why the analogy is bad is because we live in a completely different culture than them. It is known that many rabbis of that time would memorize the entire New Testament. This may seem impossible to us, but that’s because of the age we live in. We live in an age in which memorization is hardly needed because we have all information at the end of our fingers. Moreover, we have lived in a time of written text so we can always go back to the source. I think a good comparison for then and now with memory would be math before calculators. Because of the increase in calculators, many struggle to do double digit multiplication in their head and sometimes on paper. However, before calculators people had to do such things and could do it much more efficiently and accurately. This is the way our memory is compared to then. We don’t use it near as much as they likely did, and for that reason we likely don’t have as apt of a memory as those that would pass these stories on.

Another reason why the telephone analogy is a bad one is because in the game of telephone you hear something once, don’t get to ask what it was again, tell someone, don’t get to repeat it, and then don’t get to check and see if they have it right. In the world of oral tradition, one person would have told someone something, and then it would have to be repeated back at least by the second person. Moreover, the people who originally told the story would have been around and could correct those that were telling it wrong.

Another reason why oral tradition can be seen as trustworthy is because about 80% of Jesus’ sayings, when translated back to Aramaic, use mnemonic structure This implies that things were said, written, and used in such a way that it was easy to memorize. It’s sort of like how my 70 year old grandfather can still recite a poem to you that he gave in eighth grade, but he probably doesn’t recite it but once a year. Moreover, there is evidence to support that oral tradition wouldn’t have been oral only, but also complemented with the use of text. The stories very well may have been kept up with via small notes and reminders of certain parts of the story.[3]

Another thing to think about is the comparison of the Bible to Homer’s Iliad and Alexander the Great’s history. If one does not trust the Bible and is consistent about not trusting oral tradition, then one must completely throw out what we know about both of these things. The reason being that there are about 1000 years between the supposed origin of Homer’s Iliad and it being written down, and there are about 200 years between Alexander the Great and written manuscripts containing his history. However, there is only about 20 years between when the New Testament is thought to have begun its process of being written down, and only about 100 years before we find the first manuscripts of the Bible. This means that the oral tradition of the New Testament would have lasted a lot shorter of a time period than Alexander the Great’s history and Homer’s Iliad. Therefore, if the skeptic is to be consistent in his distrust of the Bible due to oral tradition, the skeptic must also refuse to believe Alexander the Great’s history and Homer’s Iliad as being kept close to the original state. Seeing as how the Gospel’s span of time without documentation is so much shorter than most of historical, odds are in its favor for accuracy over many other documents.[1]

Reason to Trust the Manuscripts

Another skeptical argument against the Bible has to deal with the lack of original documents and all of the translations and such. Well, the lack of original documents really goes back to the last point I made, are you going to complain and not trust the History of Alexander the great? Moreover, the lack of the originals is made up for by the vast amount of documents we have that all agree. We have some documents of the Gospel of John going back to the second century, about 306 documents of a specific type of Greek written in capital letters coming from around 350 A.D, about 2856 documents (in another style of Greek) coming from around 800 A.D, and a totality of about 24,000 manuscripts to work with. Furthermore, these manuscripts all agree more than most historical documents of that day and age (According to philosopher Norman Geisler and scholar William Nix, the manuscripts are 99.5% pure. Take that as you wish).[2]

An analogy I would like to make in order to help someone comprehend how a copy of a copy is worth trusting is as follows: you trust a yard stick, a scale, and a measuring cup. All of these things are just copies of copies (Fun fact for ya, the definition of a kilogram actually exists and is stored in Paris under international agreement). You really have no reason to trust these standards except for the fact that they are all you have known for your whole life. You’ve really never even had the opportunity to compare these standards to the original standard to make sure they were accurate. However, because all of these copies of copies are so precise and so close to the same size, you feel obligated to trust them. One might even say that you believe the people who copied such things would have had a high amount of integrity in copying them. You feel validated in trusting them for these two reasons, but if you’re honest it’s just the first one. This is just like the Bible. It is not the original, in fact it is copies of copies of copies. However, because all the manuscripts from different geographical locations and different languages coming from different times all agree to such a precise amount, you ought to be justified in trusting them. Moreover, the integrity of the copiers was to the extent of being killed for their pursuits. This wasn’t just in the very beginning, but even when Catholicism was spreading by the sword it was killing those who were trying to have it made in English rather than Latin. There was a large amount of integrity in the copiers, from the beginning to the King James Version.

So we have a large amount of manuscripts dating back to the second century (for the New Testament), we have a small gap between the story and the manuscripts of the Gospels, we have a large amount of manuscripts with a lot of precision involved in the creation, and we have the sincerity of the copiers. There is enough evidence to trust the manuscripts of the New Testament. Therefore, there is no reason to doubt here.

The Persecutions

One of the skeptical arguments about Christianity is that it only grew by the edge of the sword through the Roman Empire. Now, I’m not going to deny that happened; however, the skeptics are ignoring the part of history in which Christians were the ones persecuted, not persecuting. Why did they grow during that time? There is an answer.

One of the primary books used as a skeptical analysis of Christianity’s persecution is The Myth of Persecution by Candida Moss. Her argument is that the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire is blown out of proportion and relies too heavily on Eusebius’ (who claimed to be a Christian) claims (who is debated by the skeptics as not being a good historian). Moss argues that the Roman Empire persecuted Christians for only 10 sporadic years from Jesus to the Edict of Toleration in 311 A.D. One of the first persecutions of Christians came around 64 A.D by Nero, and this is documented by Tacitus (not a Christian), a respected historian. There were some sporadic killings by the empire involved, but there was also the Diocletian persecution of the Christians around 303 A.D (some sources make the claim of there being over 20,000 Christians killed). The Diocletian persecution is the persecution that involved the killings in the Coliseum and it was brutal. There is no denying of that anywhere. However, Moss claims that the 10 years of persecution is not enough to matter or affect the growth. Maybe so. At the very least we can say the Empire persecuted them 10 sporadic years.

I’m not going to argue the point about the actual amount of persecution by the Roman Empire because I am not a historian. All I know is that Eusebius, a Christian Roman historian in the late 200’s and early 300’s. Still, I did notice in my studying of Moss’s work the lack of arguments about Christians being persecuted by the Jews and the Pagans as the time. It is known that Christians were not liked. They split up homes, were viewed as cult, were rejected, and persecuted by Pagans and Jews. There is no reason for them to grow at a time like that: when persecution isn’t just not being able to tell your parents your change in life, but the fear of being an outcast by society or stoned by your family. There is no reason why a staunch group of Jews (keep in mind their segregation between them and the Gentiles) would leave that religion, join Christianity, and have to start accepting the Gentiles all while becoming outcasts, getting killed, and having to split their homes because of it. There’s just no reason unless they had some sincerity involved. Some motivation that goes to the point of death.

The Bible isn’t true because of these persecutions, but these persecutions ought to cause a skeptic to raise an eyebrow about why a Jew would do such a thing. About why a Corinthian would leave the liberty of partying to the devout prudishness of a Christian. The why is what gets me. It’s some strong evidence in favor of the Bible’s truth.

Corroborating Evidence

Briefly, I would like to make note of three historians that are widely accepted by skeptics and Christians alike: Tacitus, Josephus, and Pliny the Younger. Josephus was a Jewish (not Christian Jewish) historian of the first century, Tacitus was a senator of the Roman Empire that was also a historian writing around 115 A.D, and Pliny the Younger who governed the persecution of many Christians and wrote in 111 A.D. These are all significant because they are not biased towards Christianity in any way shape or form, but all give evidence towards the existence of Jesus, the rapid spreading of Christianity, the sincerity of faith even in the face of persecution, and some of the teachings of the first century Christians. Corroborating evidence is huge, and this gives the Bible some extra credentials for being a book to trust for accuracy and truth[2]

Conclusion

It is important to note at this point that I am not a historian, nor am I an encyclopedia. I am also not intentionally dishonest. All the facts that I have given are from the things that I have read and discovered over the past few years. This is also not where one should stop if wishing to know about evidences for faith. My knowledge is very limited, but I have given a good starting place for various evidences that I have found through an honest inquiry on the subject.

Due to the philosophical, mathematical, and scientific reasons, combined with the provided evidence that the Bible is trustworthy, I find it reasonable to conclude that there is not a burden of evidence in which the Bible must fulfill. Instead, I conclude that I don’t need reason to believe (because I have been given plenty), but that I need reason to doubt.

My earnest desire is for the readers of this to be open minded. My inquiries in this particular area have been primarily in the direction of defense for the faith; however, I have not shielded myself from reading skeptical articles, watching skeptical videos, and even talking to several skeptics myself. If you are a skeptic reading this, my hope is that you will genuinely consider this claim for faith in the Christian God and many more.

I firmly believe that God has created a world in which there are people with mental faculties capable of honestly searching and finding Him to be true. I hope that you have found this interesting and/or helpful in your search for truth.

Subscripted Sources:

[1] Chapter Three of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

[2] Chapter Four of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

[3] Chapter Sixteen of True Reason by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer

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