How and Why We Can Afford to Give
Disbelievers Their "Best Shot"

By Rod Hemphill

Regarding my commentary entitled,  "The Tomb of Jesus . . . and Mary and Son Joseph," one reader wrote:

There was one part that has bothered me.  Where [you wrote] that you would "view [the evidence] objectively because my goal is to view the evidence wherever it may lead." 

This sounded to me like you felt that there could be the possibility of some truth to this.  I try to think that I'm open-minded in most things, but this is where I am proud to say that I am most narrow minded.  There is no looking objectively as far as I'm concerned.  If the Bible says it, then it's true.  Period. Otherwise, everything that I have ever read in the Bible and believed, and been taught and have based my life on cannot be trusted.

I know that the Bible doesn't tell us everything so that just because it doesn't specifically say Jesus didn't get married, doesn't mean he didn't; but it does specifically state about his tomb and the resurrection.  If they are claiming to have his bones, then that is enough for me to know that this is FALSE!!!!!!!!  Also, as a mute point I do believe that such an important event in Jesus's life (as his wedding), his disciples would have mentioned it in their writings.

I really appreciate this reply, not only because it gives me an opportunity to explain this further, but also because it opens the whole issue of how we deal with reality and with those who have positions opposed to ours.  It is necessary that we have confidence in the whole of God's truth -- such confidence that we have no hesitancy in following the evidence, for true and factual evidence cannot contradict the faith delivered to us by the Lord and his apostles.  No other religion or philosophy can have this confidence because they are all inventions of man.  But we worship the Creator, the author of reality, and whatever we discover in reality cannot contradict its Creator.

So whether we are talking about contested archaeological discoveries, scientific discoveries or any other such thing, our confidence is not in the accuracy of our faith as we understand it, but in Him who created it and gave it to us as the only reality there is. 

In this, I am reminded of 1 Peter 3.15, "Always be prepared to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that lives within you."  This means a rational answer, an answer that makes sense, an answer that will be meaningful to the inquirer and perhaps be used by God to turn him to faith in the living Lord!  It may be a testimony of how the Lord has dealt with you, or a testimony of how science demonstrates that all creation exalts its Creator, or it might be a repudiation of fraudulent claims by exposing them to the facts of reality.

The basis of one's ability to look at all this objectively is the fact that God is the author of all truth and the Creator of all there is.  When we believe this, we already know the reality and can afford to be objective.  We are accepting reality as it is and need not always be inventing new "realities" as disbelievers do in order to justify their atheistic positions.  This does not mean that we always see reality clearly or correctly, let alone having an all-encompassing understanding of reality.  Sometimes our understanding of reality may be flawed and more information or new discoveries may correct that or round out more fully our understanding.  This is what science is all about. 

But this is a pursuit of developing a fuller understanding of God's reality.  Therefore, this is not at all similar to the sophism of disbelievers whose starting point is not God and the reality he has created, but rather their (unwarranted) presumption is the absence of God, and their starting point is life as they want it to be, or life interpreted with inadequate information, with the result that they have to invent false or distorted "realities" to explain and justify those points of view.

Being objective means giving the opposition the right to take their best shot.  After all, this is what we ask them to do in considering the truth and reality of an authentic Biblical faith.  It is our confidence that when (or actually, if) they have the daring to actually do so, their world view will crumble and they will discover the Biblical world view to be where reality is.  If we expect this of them, they have a right to expect it of us.  God is the Creator of the only reality there is.  But in the presence of conflicting claims, the question is, what is this reality?  Since God is true, and reality is of God, there should be no hesitancy on our part in meeting disbelievers on common ground.

It is a common misunderstanding that atheists are devoid of faith and accept reality as it is.  Atheism is actually an untenable philosophy in the face of reality.  Moreover, atheism is every bit a matter of faith as is belief in God.  And since their claim has long been that atheism is based in fact and religious faith is based in superstition, we are now holding their feet to the fire, so to speak, and when we do, it becomes readily apparent that there is no reality to support atheistic positions, and that the Biblical faith is really the only belief system consistent with the realty in which we live, and alone gives this reality meaning and purpose. 

This does not mean that we believe in God because science has "proven" that he exists and is the Creator.  The physical evidence for God is for many of us the starting point or our introduction to God.  But then we go on to discover that God and our relationship with him is not contained in or limited to our understanding of the physical world and its cosmos.  Granted now the presumption of God's existence, and that he is the Creator of all we can discover, we go on to pursue the logic that a creator creates with a purpose, and in particular, discerning his purpose in creating man.

From this basic presumption of God (versus a presumption of no God) our faith is further informed by the scriptures of the Judeo/Christian faith, which are unique among the religious writings of all the world's religions in terms of their veracity, consistency, and revelation of truth which corresponds to the facts of history and the human experience, especially in contrast to all the ineffective explanations and unsupportable assumptions upon which disbelievers attempt to explain the Biblical scriptures.

By the time we have reached this point in our consideration of reality and things spiritual, we have gone far beyond believing in God simply because our scientific discoveries and our observation of reality all point inescapably to God.  Our presumption of God has long since become an actual faith in God and is supported chiefly within the personal relationship we are experiencing with God.  And now instead of using the created reality to demonstrate the existence of God, our starting point is the existence of God and his involvement in the lives and affairs of mankind, and we see in him the explanation of why all things of the created order are they way they are.

Unlike the unstable faith of an atheist, our faith is founded upon a rock and this Rock is God, especially as we know him in Jesus Christ.  He is the Creator, the author of reality. 

[He] is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.  He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see--such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.  Everything was created through him and for him.  He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.  (Colossians 1:15-17)

All reality has to be consistent with its Creator, so we can accept whatever reality shows us, knowing that it will only confirm our faith and glorify God.  It is the disbeliever -- not the believer -- who has reason to tremble with uncertainty when the true and verifiable facts of archaeology or scientific discovery are being presented.

The problem with confirmed skeptics is that they are unwilling to follow the evidence wherever it leads, because when they do, it points unequivocally to a Creator.  I agree that religion should play no part in scientific inquiry, but eventually one reaches the point where the subject of this purely objective scientific inquiry shows the unmistakable evidence of having been intelligently designed, and it is at this point--and only at this poin--that science merges into the metaphysical, and it is here that it is appropriate to attach the presumption of a Creator to one's scientific inquiry.  To refuse to do this is a refusal to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and is an unintelligent, unreasonable acquiescence to a pre-determined atheistic agenda, regardless of the facts found in the scientific inquiry.

The awkward position this puts atheistic scientists in -- since they cannot refute the scientific evidence -- is seen in the pathetic explanations they offer as alternative explanations, explanations which are pure speculation (as opposed to science) for which there is no (read that as none, zero, zip) evidence.  It is illustrated in scientists such as Carl Sagan who, confronted with the cosmological, biological, and statistical evidence demonstrating the sheer impossibility that life arose by purely random, unguided evolution, offered a "scientific" opinion devoid of any evidence (read that as pure speculation) that life probably arose from "seeds" of life distributed throughout the universe by some alien civilization.

Even without considering this as something totally "off the wall," and that it explains nothing inasmuch as it only pushes the answer back another level -- if earth received life from some alien civilization, what or who gave them life? -- the point is that even when faced with evidence that points incontrovertibly to intelligent design and hence to some kind of creator, some of these men of science would rather abandon science and seek refuge in pure unwarranted speculation rather than follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Understand that there can be no contradiction between the true and verifiable findings of science and our faith because all science is is an inquiry into how God's creation works.  It is from this secure position that we can with confidence follow the evidence wherever it leads -- and require our atheistic opponents to do the same, if they are to retain professional respectability and credibility.

And while I have discussed the physical sciences, this all equally applies to the social sciences as well, including history and archaeology.  The facts buried in times past remain facts for all eternity, and all we need to do is to discern the fraudulent misrepresentations of them or their significance.

So to return to your question, we should and can with confidence follow the evidence wherever it leads, and we know it's not going to lead to the bones of Jesus, or any supposed wife Mary Magdalene or sons Joseph or Judah.  Go ahead, give them their best shot.  Follow the evidence without bias.  We already know how it will all turn out.

Remember, "Make sure in your hearts that Christ is Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have. Be ready to give the reason for it. But do it gently and with respect."    (1 Peter 3.15 NIRV)

Other Articles by Rod:
How to Take Over a Country Without Firing a Shot
We Can Pray Specifically
Teaching the Bible in Public Schools! Yes - Really

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