The Hard Questions Have Already Been Asked

As I wrote on Wednesday, I believe strongly that Christians do not need to be afraid of hard, honest questions about the Faith.  One reason is because the hardest questions have already been asked, by Christian theologians themselves.  Often, in fact, the people asking those questions were the theologians of the ancient church, people like Origen and Augustine.  (Origen, to cite one example, took on the opening chapters of Genesis and wondered–15 centuries before Darwin–whether the biblical account was meant to be taken literally.)  There are many good, hard questions that you and I haven’t ever considered, but I guarantee you that someone else has considered them.  So the next time someone asks you a hard question about faith, don’t panic, but say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”  Then, hit the library and find out what the ancient church had to sat about the matter.

 

 

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A Faith Unafraid of the Hard Questions

I believe very strongly that the Christian faith has nothing to fear from hard questions.  If what we believe is True, then it can withstand even the most intense cross-examination.  In fact, I think we ought to welcome hard questions, because hard, honest questions are often used by God to bring people to faith.  This was certainly the belief of the great missionary and evangelist E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973), friend to Gandhi and missionary to India.  In his missionary work Jones often fearlessly debated with people who were hostile to Christianity, and in his most famous book he explains how he came to be unafraid of even the hardest questions about faith.  Facts, he realized, are faith’s friends.

 

In his best-selling book The Christ of the Indian Road (1925), Jones writes:

“I have found a good many nervous Christians since coming home who are afraid that this whole thing of Christianity might fall to pieces if someone should get too critical, or if science should get too scientific. Many of the saints are now painfully nervous. They remind me of a lady missionary with whom I walked home one night after a very tense meeting in a Hindu theater. She said, ‘Mr. Jones, I am physically exhausted from that meeting tonight.’ When I asked her the reason she said, ‘Well, I didn’t know what they were going to ask you next, and I didn’t know what you were going to answer, so I’ve been siting up there in the gallery holding on to the bench with all my might for two hours, and I’m physically exhausted!’ There are many like our sister who are metaphorically holding to their seats with all their might lest Christianity fall to pieces under criticism!

I have a great deal of sympathy with them, for I felt myself in the same position for a long time after I went to India. The whole atmosphere was acid with criticism. I could feel the acid eat into my very soul every time I picked up a non-Christian paper. Then there came the time when I inwardly let go. I became willing to turn Jesus over to the facts of the universe. I began to see that there was only one refuge in life and that was in reality, in the facts. If Jesus couldn’t stand the shock of the criticism of the facts discovered anywhere, if he wasn’t reality, the sooner I found out about it the better. My willingness to surrender Christ to the facts was almost as great an epoch in my life as my willingness to surrender to him…. I saw that [Jesus] was not a hothouse plant that would wither under the touch of criticism, but he was rooted in reality, was the very living expression of our moral and spiritual universe—he was reality itself….

The only way to kill Christianity is to take it out of life and protect it. The way to make it shine and show its genius is to put it down in life and let it speak directly to life itself. Jesus is his own witness….

I am therefore not afraid of the question hour, for I believe that Jesus underlies our moral and spiritual universe deeper than the force of gravity underlies our material universe.”

from The Christ of the Indian Road, by E. Stanley Jones

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Why Is the Bible So Difficult?

Why is the Bible so difficult to understand?  Anyone who has ever tried to read the Bible has probably wondered why God didn’t just make the whole thing a lot clearer.  The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis wondered the same thing, so you and I are in good company.  Here’s his answer.

 

In his fine little book Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis writes:

“We might have expected, we may think we should have preferred, an unrefracted light giving us ultimate truth in systematic form–something we could have tabulated and memorised and relied on like the multiplication table….

“[However] we may observe that the teaching of Our Lord Himself [i.e., Jesus], in which there is no imperfection, is not given us in that cut-and-dried, fool-proof, systematic fashion we might have expected or desired.  He wrote no book.  We have only reported sayings, most of them uttered in answer to questions, shaped in some degree by their context.  And when we have collected them all we cannot reduce them to a system.  He preaches but He does not lecture.  He uses paradox, proverb, exaggeration, parable, irony; even (I mean no irreverence) the “wisecrack.”  He utters maxims which, like popular proverbs, if rigorously taken, may seem to contradict one another.  His teaching cannot therefore be grasped by the intellect alone, cannot be “got up” as if it were a “subject.”  If we try to do that with it, we shall find Him the most elusive of teachers.  He hardly ever gave a straight answer to a straight question.  He will not be, in the way we want, “pinned down.”  The attempt is (again, I mean no irreverence) like trying to bottle a sunbeam.

Descending lower, we find a somewhat similar difficulty with St. Paul.  I cannot be the only reader [He’s definitely not alone in this, as I have asked this EXACT same question many times!  –AF]  who has wondered why God, having given him so many gifts, withheld from him (what would to us seem so necessary for the first Christian theologian) that of lucidity and orderly exposition….

“Since this is what God has done, this, we must conclude, was best.  It may be that what we should have liked would have been fatal to us if granted.  It may be indispensable that Our Lord’s teaching, by that elusiveness (to our systematizing intellect), should demand a response from the whole man, should make it so clear that there is no question of learning a subject but of steeping ourselves in a Personality, acquiring a new outlook and tempter, breathing a new atmosphere, suffering Him, in His own way, to rebuild in us the defaced image of Himself.”  [My emphasis.  –AF]

from Reflections on the Psalms, by C.S. Lewis, pp. 112-114

In other words, the Bible is not so much to be learned as to be experienced.  Perhaps the truth that the Scripture conveys can’t be truly learned in any other way.  Perhaps the difficulty is part of the point.

So, the next time you stumble across something in the Bible you don’t understand, don’t give up: God is trying to tell you something important.

 

 

 

 

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A Framework for Understanding the Bible

I’ll be the first to admit that the Bible is a difficult book.  One of the reasons it’s difficult is that it’s not really even one book, but rather a collection of books.  (That’s what “bible” actually means: a collection of books.)  Over and over again people will say to me, “I’d like to read the Bible, but I just don’t understand it.”  I hope the following simple framework helps you get a little more clarity and understanding.

All of History in 3 Acts

The Bible tells the story of the great drama of History in 3 acts, with a prologue at the beginning and an epilogue at the end.

Prologue

Subject: Beginnings.  Adam to Abraham.  The Prologue tells us why the world is the way it is.  After a beautiful beginning (“And there was light….”)  the story quickly becomes a story of blood and betrayal: Cain kills Abel, and we’ve been killing our brothers ever since.

Scripture: Genesis 1-11

Act 1

Subject: Israel.  The Lord’s plan to save all of humanity begins with one man–Abraham–and it culminates in one of Abraham’s descendant’s: Jesus of Nazareth.  Act 1 is about God’s chosen people Israel, and Israel’s slavery, exodus, kingdom, exile, and return.

Scripture: Genesis 12-Malachi

Act 2

Subject: Jesus.  Act 2 is all about Jesus, from his birth to his death to his Resurrection.

Scripture: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Act 3

Subject: The Church.  Act 3 is about how the church is God’s means to redeem the world.  It begins with a small group of disciples in Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday and it’s still going, right up to and including the present.  We are living in Act 3.

Scripture: Acts-Revelation 20

Epilogue

Subject: Forever and Ever Amen.  The Epilogue is about History’s culmination, when Jesus returns and all the bad things come untrue and evil is finally ended.

Scripture: Revelation 21-22

Conclusion

I realize that the above doesn’t answer most of our good questions about the difficult parts of scripture, but it does give us a framework within which we can at least get our bearings when reading scripture.  Keep reading–it’s worth it.

 

 

 

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Who Cares if Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Lots of folks are asking that question these days, and though it is an important question (and one that I will not be answering in this post), I don’t think the question is as helpful as other people seem to think.

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Some people say yes, and these people imply that Christians are therefore under obligation to show compassion to Muslims because of their theological commonalities.  After all, aren’t Christians and Jews and Muslims all “people of the book?”  (That phrase comes from the Qu’ran.)  And, since we are all people of the book, shouldn’t Christians treat Muslims with compassion?

I do not agree with this implication.

The Problem With Saying Yes

As Mark Tooley points out in Newsweek, if you stress that Christians are obligated to show compassion to Muslims because they are theological cousins, you are inadvertently implying that Christians are not under the same obligation to show compassion to other peoples with whom they don’t have any theological commonalities.  Hindus, for example, are not “people of the book,” and yet that fact should not affect Christian treatment of Hindus (or Sikhs or Jains or Buddhists or atheist communists, etc.)

A Christian’s compassion for another does not depend on that other’s theological commitments.  Whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the same God is completely irrelevant to the issue of whether a Christian should show compassion towards his Muslim neighbor.

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?  What if the answer is no–should that change how a Christian treats her Muslim neighbor?

Love Isn’t Conditional

Christians are not required to only love people with whom we agree (or partially agree).

Jesus, after all, told his followers to love their enemies.

 

 

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In Death’s Dark Valley

Our community was shocked last week when we heard the evil news that an 18 year-old young woman named Zoe Hastings was found murdered.  What do we do in the face of this kind of loss?  I don’t know the Hastings family personally and I don’t presume to have any idea of the hell through which they are walking.  But, I have been thinking about loss, and I humbly offer the following thoughts to anyone struggling with the question, “What do we do in the face of evil, death, and suffering?”

We Grieve

When we experience loss, we grieve.  It is appropriate and necessary to be filled with anger or dread or numbness.  It’s okay to scream and cry.  When someone you love is taken away, anything less than grief would be an obscenity.  And, because grief comes in all different forms and in different ways and at different times for different people, whatever you are feeling is fine.  Don’t analyze it.  Just grieve.

We Resist

When we experience evil and loss we want to scream out “Why?”  When evil comes upon us, it is always inexplicable, but for some reason we still feel the need to offer an explanation.  Don’t.  One of the wisest things I ever heard my father say: “Resist the urge the explain.”  We don’t know why Zoe Hastings was murdered.  No one knows.  “Why?” is a useless question, and do not attempt to offer an explanation or a platitude–however well intentioned–to someone grieving.  Resist the urge to explain: it won’t do any good.

We Hope

I may not have an answer to the “Why?” questions, but there is something else that I do have.   Please know that I mean no offense in sharing the following, as I am aware that not everyone reading this shares my faith.  But, as a Christian, in the face of evil, pain, and loss, I have hope.

Now, Christian hope is not wishful thinking.  It is not a vague sense that we should think positively or put a sunny gloss on our grief.  Wishful thinking has nothing to offer to those who grieve.

No, Christian hope is certainty.  Christian hope is based on the fact that Jesus is risen; Christian hope knows that the Resurrection proves that evil will not win and that everything sad will become untrue.  Christian hope is the certainty that God will ultimately right every wrong.

That is the hope I have.

So, in the face of evil, death and suffering, we grieve.  And we wait until the day when God will make everything new.

And we hope.

Lord, help our unbelief.

 

P.S.  One of My Favorite Bible Verses

Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

Why Did God Permit the Charleston Murders?

We don’t know.  “We don’t know” is the honest answer to any question about why God permitted Dylan Roof to murder the Charleston Nine.  No one knows.  But though we will never have a definitive answer this side of the grave, a strange parable Jesus tells does offer an interesting perspective on the perennial “Why?” we ask whenever innocent people suffer.

Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

Today’s Eat This Book Portion

The Eat This Book campaign at my church provides folks a scripture reading schedule to follow.  Right now, we are reading through the Gospel of Matthew (about a half chapter a day), and today’s reading comes from Matthew 13, one of my favorite passages in scripture.  Reading the strange parable of the wheat and the weeds this morning has got me thinking about last week’s murders in Charleston.

The Wheat and the Weeds

wheat-fields-nature-landscape-sunrise

Surrounded by a crowd by the shore of the Sea of Galilee one day, Jesus told the following parable:

 ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn….” 

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man;the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!'”

(Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

Parables are meant to unsettle, to make you think.  So go read this strange parable again, slowly.  (In other words, don’t scan the way you normally do on the Internet.)

Some Quick Observations

  • Jesus points out that evil and good are so tightly mixed together in this world that no man or woman can perfectly separate one from another.  I know this is true, because I know it is true in me.
  • Jesus reminds us that, though evil seems to be growing stronger, so is good.  This is an evil world, but evil is not stronger than good.
  • Jesus says that, this side of Judgement Day, it is impossible to root up all the evil in the world without also destroying the good.  For reasons only known to God, if there is to be good in the universe, there must also be the freedom for evil.
  • Jesus makes it very clear that evil, though it seems strong today, will one day be utterly destroyed by God.
Emmanuel AME Zion Church member Kevin Polite helps members into the church for the service on 6/21/15 [David Goldman/Getty Images].

Emmanuel AME Zion Church member Kevin Polite helps members into the church for the service on 6/21/15 [David Goldman/Getty Images].

Let Me Know What You Think

I find this parable strangely comforting.  What about you?  What do you think this parable is about, and how might it relate to the evil that was done in Charleston last week?

 

 

What If Creationists and Atheists Are Both Wrong?

What if the way you’ve been thinking about God is all wrong?  If so, you’re in good company: according to Ric Machuga, both creationists and atheists also tend to think about God incorrectly, and both groups have been thinking about God incorrectly in the same way.

Dr. Machuga is professor of philosophy at Butte College in Northern California, and the author of Three Theological Mistakes: How to Correct Enlightenment Assumptions about God, Miracles, and Free Will.  In a recent article in Books and Culture, he argues that both creationists and atheists often make the same mistake when thinking about God.  (The article is behind a paywall; I subscribe to the print journal.)

Is God Like a Divine Watchmaker?

Does God exist?  Creationists say yes, and atheists say no.  However, we need to more specifically define what we mean by “exist:”

[Medieval philosphers] Moses Maimonides (Jewish), Thomas Aquinas (Christian), and Ibn Rushd (Muslim) all understood that ‘existence’ was not a simple Yes/No matter.  While God certainly ‘exists,’ they all insisted that God’s ‘existence’ was fundamentally unlike everything else’s ‘existence.'”

Creationists, Atheists, and Even Isaac Newtown….

In our scientific culture, we tend to think of God as a divine craftsman, a heavenly watchmaker who made the universe and set it ticking.  Creationists fight hard to defend the idea of God as divine craftsman (using Genesis 1-2), while atheists fight hard to discredit the idea of God as divine craftsman (using biology, cosmology, and paleontology).  But what if God isn’t like a watchmaker at all?

The watchmaker's bench

Professor Machuga points out that thinking about God as the ultimate craftsman is a logical mistake.

Watchmakers and watches both exist.  And though they are very different in many ways–watchmakers are conscious, intentional agents; watches are not–their ‘thingness’ is precisely the same.  Contrast this with the difference between Shakespeare and Hamlet.  While both the author and his character ‘exist,’ they certainly don’t exist in the same way.  Shakespeare existed as a human being.  Hamlet only ‘exists’ as the fictional character created by Shakespeare.  Yet, the difference between Shakespeare’s existence and Hamlet’s existence is far less than the difference between God’s existence and everything else” [emphasis mine].

Isaac Newton thought that the physical laws he uncovered were “not only consistent with the existence of a supernatural Craftsman, but that they required such a God.”  Unfortunately, Newton, for all his brilliance, made a mistake in thinking about God:

Of course, in one sense, Newton knew that God and his creation ‘existed’ in different ways.  Breadth, height, and weight are common to all material objects, whereas God is a pure spirit with neither breadth, height, nor weight.  Nevertheless, to speak of a ‘very skilled mechanic’ [Newton’s phrase] intervening to prevent planetary chaos presupposes that God and the planets exist in the same way and in the same universe” [italics in the original].

But, God and the universe do NOT exist in the same way.  God is not a just divine craftsman, and thinking of God in that way points us in the wrong direction.  A better direction is to think of God as a divine playwright, because God’s reality is utterly distinct from the reality of the universe he created.  If this distinction seems confusing, just think about Shakespeare:

Because Shakespeare is not contiguous with the world of his creature, he can have a reality, endurance, stability, and ‘otherness’ that far exceeds Hamlet’s.  Without Shakespeare, Hamlet is literally nothing.  But without Hamlet, Shakespeare is still something, even if his glory is slightly diminished.”

God Isn’t a Divine Watchmaker, but a Divine Playwright

God is not simply the largest, greatest, and strongest part of our reality; God is another reality, distinct from us.  God is not a divine watchmaker who sets the universe ticking; God is a divine playwright who wills us into existence from his imagination.

We Can’t Prove or Find God, Unless….

This means that the only evidence for God that can be found in our universe is evidence that God deliberately places here.  It means that we shouldn’t expect to be able to prove God’s existence any more than Hamlet could prove the existence of Shakespeare.  It means that unless God shows up, we can never ever find him.

And it means that the Incarnation changes everything.

Did the Resurrection Really Happen?

Did the Resurrection actually happen?  The Apostle Paul, writing in sometime in the 50’s A.D., had this to say: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).  In other words, Christianity rises and falls with the Resurrection of Jesus.  But, the issue for many modern people is that though the Resurrection seems like a nice story, we know that dead people stay dead and that it couldn’t possibly have happened.  So, did the Resurrection happen, or not?  I think it did, and here are three reasons why.

(By the Way: It Wasn’t a Spiritual or Emotional Resurrection)

As a way around the difficulty of the Resurrection, some people say that what the Gospels report is some kind of spiritual or emotional sense that Jesus was still with his disciples after his death.  This view does not at all match what the Gospels themselves say, namely that after the Resurrection:

The Gospels are very clear: the Resurrection was a bodily resurrection, and not a vague spiritual sense that Jesus was still alive.

So, what reasons do we have to believe that the Resurrection happened?

Reason 1: The Women Witnesses

All the canonical Gospels agree that the first witnesses to the empty tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus were women.  In our world, that detail doesn’t surprise us, but in the ancient world this would have been a shocking detail because women weren’t considered reliable witnesses in the ancient world.

If you were making up a resurrection hoax in the 1st century Mediterranean world, you would never say that women were the first witnesses of your story.  So, why do all the gospels insist that women were the first witnesses?

The simplest reason for the inclusion of the women witnesses: because the Gospels are merely reporting what actually happened.  The inconvenient truth of the women witnesses is a detail that argues for the plausibility of the Resurrection.

Reason 2: The Deaths of All Involved

Many people have died for lies that they believed were true, but groups of people do not die for what they know is a lie.

Virtually all the disciples of Jesus were martyred for their faith in him.  If they were making up the Resurrection, then they would have recanted their stories at the point of death.  But they didn’t.

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson [image credit: http://goo.gl/iDpjun]

Chuck Colson, one of the Nixon men involved in the Watergate break-in, had this to say:

I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

Chuck Colson

The martyrdom of the early Christians is a strong argument in favor of the truth of their claims.

Reason 3: It Was Testimony, Not Legend

Modern people will say that the Resurrection is a legend, a folktale that took shape over generations and that consequently grew in the telling, like George Washington and the Cherry Tree.

The problem with this theory is that it doesn’t fit the facts: the letters of Paul began to be circulated around 20 years after the death of Jesus, the Gospel of Mark within 40 years, and the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John within 60 years (at the latest).  In other words, Christians were publicly talking about the Resurrection within the lifetime of its witnesses.  Anyone who wanted to investigate the truth of the Resurrection merely had to talk to its witnesses.

A legend takes generations to develop, but the Gospels (and other New Testament materials) were written down and circulated within a generation or two of the events of that first Easter Sunday, i.e., way too soon a time for a legend to develop.

Rather than being a legend, the Resurrection was testimony.

Miriam Ziegler, 79, Paula Lebovics, 81, Gabor Hirsch, 85, and Eva Kor, 80, point themselves out on a photo taken at Auschwitz at the time of its liberation

Miriam Ziegler, 79, Paula Lebovics, 81, Gabor Hirsch, 85, and Eva Kor, 80, point themselves out on a photo taken at Auschwitz at the time of its liberation. [image credit: http://goo.gl/80LkhW]

Testimony is a valid form of historical memory.  People who experienced the events say, “I was there.  I saw it.”  January was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and there are thousands of people who lived through the Nazi concentration camps who can still testify today to their experience, 70 years later.  One of the reasons Holocaust deniers have a hard time gaining a hearing is because there are people who can point to their blue tattoos and say, “No, it did happen: I was there.”

US survivor Jack Rosenthal shows his prisoner number tattooed on his arm as he visits the former Auschwitz concentration camp

US survivor Jack Rosenthal shows his prisoner number tattooed on his arm as he visits the former Auschwitz concentration camp. [image credit: http://goo.gl/80LkhW]

Just as the remaining Holocaust survivors’ testimony is available to anyone wanting to investigate the Holocaust today, so the Resurrection witnesses’ testimony was available to anyone wanting to investigate the Resurrection at the time that the New Testament was taking shape.

Conclusion: the Resurrection is Plausible

The Resurrection cannot be proved in a laboratory.  But, we can examine the facts and decide that it is more plausible that the Resurrection happened than that it did not happen.

Now, some people will accept the above and yet still insist: “We know that dead people stay dead, and therefore the Resurrection could not have happened.”  The problem with that position is that history is full of events that seemed impossible and that actually happened.  I admit that the Resurrection is unique as an historical event, but that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily impossible.  In any historical inquiry, we have to look at the evidence and see where it takes us.  In this case, I believe the evidence argues in favor of the Resurrection.

The reason discussions like this are important are not because they can bring anyone across the threshold of faith (only God can do that), but because I’ve found that some people won’t even approach the door of faith if they believe that the claims of the faith cannot possibly be true; arguments can’t cause someone to believe, but they can knock down bad reasons for not believing.

Here’s hoping this little post might help someone somewhere come a bit closer.

 

Did the Red Sea Event Happen?

The miraculous parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 14 is one of the most dramatic events in all the pages of scripture.  It is also, for many people, a stumbling block: they read about the walls of water on either side of the Israelites as they pass through on dry ground and think, “This is why I’m not religious–how could anyone believe this stuff?”  So, did it actually happen?  What are modern, thinking people supposed to think?

"Parting of the Red Sea," by Julia Kuo (http://oldandnewproject.com/portfolio/parting-of-the-red-sea/)

“Parting of the Red Sea,” by Julia Kuo (http://oldandnewproject.com/portfolio/parting-of-the-red-sea/)

I Can’t Prove the Red Sea Event Happened

I can’t prove to you that Moses stretched out his hand and that the Lord then drove the waters apart, turning the sea into dry land (14:21).  But, even without “proof,” this miracle (and other Old Testament miracles) don’t worry me, and I’m able to accept them as spiritually formative and important indicators of the power and nature of God.

And Natural Explanations Don’t Work For Me

Any explanations that use the natural to explain the miraculous, along the lines of “maybe there was a strong wind that made the waters part in just that way?” don’t really work, because this is a miracle, and miracles are, by definition, supposed to be supernatural.  Ancient people knew how the world worked, and they knew that large bodies of water don’t just part and allow people to walk between the walls of water.  In fact, that’s the reason the Red Sea event is such a big deal: it was considered out of the ordinary course of events, a miracle.  So, the Connecticut-Yankee-in-King-Arthur’s-Court sort of explanation just doesn’t work for me.

Instead, I Start with Jesus

I don’t start with Old Testament miracles.  I start with Jesus.  Jesus trusted the Old Testament (the only scriptures that existed in his lifetime) in his devotional and worship life.  We know this because he quotes from the Old Testament extensively, even quoting from the Psalms when he’s on the cross: the Hebrew scriptures were central to his life.  Jesus also references Moses several times.  This means to me that Jesus received and accepted the Hebrew scriptures as formative and important.  If he didn’t need to worry with historicity–i.e., did this actually happen?–then neither do I.

And I Believe That the Resurrection Is Plausible

If Jesus is risen from the dead, then I can accept his word about everything.  If he accepts the Old Testament as formative and important, than so can I.

But If Jesus Stayed Dead, Then Who Cares?

If Easter morning didn’t happen, then who cares what Exodus says about the Red Sea?  But if it did happen, then I can accept the Old Testament miracles as spiritually nourishing and important and not get caught up in some kind of modernist obsession with proving that they happened.  Because, if Christ is risen, then there is nothing God can’t do.

What do you think?