If Only God Would Show Himself

It is one of the most basic statements, and assumptions – “I would believe in God if he showed himself”.  I wrote this article in a for those of my non-believing friends who ask this question.  Let me know what you think!

If only God would show himself.

It is widely assumed by many people today that they would of course believe in God if only they had the evidence. Most people like to think that they are reasonable, honest people who like the late great atheist philosopher, Anthony Flew, will ‘go where the evidence leads’.   The question then becomes, what kind of evidence would you accept?   I have asked that question many times and often the question is met with a shrug of the shoulders. But for those who answer, the most common response is, if only God would show himself. Well, here is the surprise….He has. This is what Christmas is all about.

One of the technical theological terms for the birth of Jesus is ‘the incarnation”. That just simply means God come in a human body. In other words the great promise of Christmas is that God has come to us. He has revealed himself to us. Jesus is Immanuel – ‘God with us’.   The Bibles claim is that if you look at Jesus you see God. If you hear Jesus you hear God. And what Jesus does, God does. The Bible says that In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews ch.1 v.1-3). It’s an extraordinary claim. But is it true? What is the evidence for it? Lets ask some basic questions.

Did Jesus actually exist?

In recent years there has been a developing myth promoted by people who are known as mythicists that Jesus did not even exist. As a historian I find it really difficult to take this seriously but in this post-truth world, I find that people believe whatever they want to believe. Even an anti-Christian scholar like Bart Ehrman declares that Jesus “was a real person and we can know some things about him” and that the evidence for Jesus is “overwhelming”. John Dickson, a historian from Sydney, makes the point clearly “Profs Gerd Theisssen and Annette Merz of the University of Heidelberg in Germany – leading critical scholars and by no means advocates of Christian apologetic write ‘the mentions of Jesus in ancient histories allay doubt about their historicity”. Suffice it to say, that the main reason that people will not accept the overwhelming evidence for the existence of Jesus is that they just really do not want him to exist. Lets just assume and accept the overwhelming evidence for the existence of Christ.

Was he born of a virgin?

Larry King was once asked who he would like to interview if he had his pick from all history – his answer?   Jesus Christ.   ‘What is the one question you would like to ask him? “ “ I would ask him if he was indeed virgin-born, because the answer to that would define history for me”.  Surely King was right. If God really did come in human form in a woman’s womb, then the whole of human history is changed.

I have to confess that I have never understood why the virgin birth was seen as such a stumbling block. If human beings can manufacture a situation whereby a woman can become pregnant without the necessity of sexual intercourse, why should we consider it impossible for an Almighty God to do so? He does not need IVF or a turkey baster! The trouble is that people start off with the pre-supposition that such a God does not exist and therefore a non-existent being cannot perform such a miracle. This is the ultimate in circular and irrational thinking. To claim that a virgin birth cannot happen because the Being who could make such a thing happen does not exist, really says nothing, other than about the prejudices of the person making the claim.  GK Chesterton points out that whilst Christians believe in miracles because we have evidence for them, atheists refuse to believe because they have a doctrine against them. I am NOT stating that merely claiming it did happen makes it true. However I AM stating that by definition it is not self-evidently impossible that an Almighty God could do this one small miracle!

Can we trust the Gospel accounts?

There are a lot of myths that get around. Especially in this age of instant information (which is not the same as instant knowledge, instant wisdom or instant understanding) it is far too easy for people to have an opinion and then Google for bits of information that confirm that opinion.   It’s called confirmation bias. You filter out the information that does not confirm to your pre-judged bias and only accept that which does. Which is why the myth has got round that, as one man put it to me, “there are hundreds of Greek, Egyptian and Roman myths about babies being born on the 25th of December, why should we believe yours?”.  This was something he had read on the Internet and it is complete rubbish. Whilst there are ‘accounts’ of ‘gods’ giving birth to or creating humans, there is nothing that corresponds with the extraordinary story of the young teenage Jewish girl, Mary, giving birth to a child who then went on to perform miracles, teach as no-one has ever taught, die and be raised from the dead..

It’s not just atheist unbelievers like the late great Christopher Hitchens who argued against the Virgin birth, there are many ‘sophisticated’ clergymen who are stuck in a 19th Century paradigm of ‘miracles don’t happen’ and so do their best to dismiss it as untrue or unimportant. Tony Jordan, a scriptwriter for the BBC series Eastenders did an excellent miniseries on the Nativity. He describes his experience in researching this – “I sat with these men of the cloth, these were organised religion. They were all explaining to me about the Nativity and about how it never happened. And they were saying, ‘well of course, Mesopotamia….mumble, mumble – there was always the legend of the virgin birth’ And I’m thinking, ‘What? Hang on a minute! You’re on the wrong side, that doesn’t work.’ So I despair of them” (Tony Jordan – interview in Christianity Magazine March 2012) . Indeed.   The ‘evangelical’ liberal, Rob Bell, likened the virgin birth to one brick in a wall of theology. “What do you lose if you lose that one brick?” To which the best reply was that of Mark Driscoll – “nothing, except Jesus”.

Turning Christmas into Mythmas – Why we shouldn’t ditch the virgin birth

The virgin birth of Christ is one of the key doctrines of Christianity and without it you do not have Christ. It’s a bit like the man who goes into the local fish ‘n’ chip shop and announces ‘I’ll have a fish supper, without the fish’! Christianity without the virgin birth of Christ is Christianity without Christ.

Evidence that Demands a Verdict

It all does make sense. So much so that there is an increasing trend amongst those who once thought sceptical atheism was the only way to fly, to turn or return to the fold. AN Wilson was one of the most famous atheists in the United Kingdom. In 1992 he wrote a famous book entitled Jesus: A Life in which he argued the conformist position of the time that the Gospels were just legends. 17 years later one Saturday afternoon, I was doing my usual, lying in the bath, drinking a coffee and reading The Spectator when I had one of those ‘Eureka’ moments. I almost shouted for joy to read an article by the aforementioned Mr Wilson, renouncing his atheism and his return to Christianity.

One of the early disciples, Paul wrote a letter to a church in Greece (in Corinth) in which he described Jesus as God’s indescribable gift. At Christmas when we give and receive gifts perhaps we need to think about this indescribable gift. What does it matter if the virgin birth is true? If you read the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke’s gospel you will find out why it is so important.   Jesus was announced as the Messiah, the Lord. His name means the Saviour. He was given this name because he came to save his people from their sins. With the gift of Christ, comes forgiveness, new life, eternal life and ultimately the renewal of the whole earth.

backlit-cemetery-christianity-415571

Magnificent Obsession

41JzZ5JLVGL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_I was once speaking in a bookstore talking about who Jesus is and the love of God that was shown to us in him, when a lady stopped me this and said,” David, I’m not saying that’s true, but if it is, then it’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever heard!”. She got it spot on. If the Christmas/Easter story and everything in between,  is true then it is the most extraordinary thing you will ever hear and offers you the most incredible opportunity you will ever get. Why not investigate for yourself? Why not try and find out something more about the child in the manger and the man on the cross?  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if you would like a copy my book about Jesus, Magnificent Obsession at theweeflea@gmail.com  or just go to your local bookshop or Amazon…

 

 

8 thoughts on “If Only God Would Show Himself

  1. well written, well argued. However I think what people mean when they say that they will believe in God if he shows himself to me is that they are saying that they do not believe in him but if he exists then he should do as they say and appear to him like he did to moses because that is what they want and if God wants them to believe then God will do as he is told. Unfortunately that says a lot about them and their attitude and takes no account of the fact that God is holy and if he did appear like that then we would be consumed. Even moses only saw his back and god warned him about his holiness.

    I take comfort in that all that the father calls to christ will come.

  2. Everything you have said is true. But the clincher for me, not when I was converted 58 years ago, but since I started researching for my own book Magna Carta R.I.P? in 2014. I was already convinced that fulfilled prophecy must be irrefutable evidence that demands a verdict, when I discovered via the much-vaunted Google oracle that a university professor has calculated the odds of the accuracy of even a small number of the Bible prophecies of Jesus’s first coming up to the Cross and the Resurrection:

    From my own chapter ‘Evidence that demands a verdict:

    “The Old Testament records more than 300 prophecies about the first coming of Jesus. Some prophecies are repeated two or three times. After the repetitions are removed, the Old Testament still records at least 108 specifically different prophecies about the first coming. The following facts are from RaptureReady.com:

    THESE 108 SPECIFICALLY DIFFERENT PROPHECIES WERE LITERALLY FULFILLED!

    Peter Stoner, Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, calculated the probability of one Person fulfilling just 48 prophecies to be (1 with 127 zeros):
    1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000!

    THIS AMOUNT OF PROOF IS OVERWHELMING. With the odds being so great for one Person to fulfil just 48 prophecies, one must wonder what the odds would be for one Person to fulfil all 108 prophecies. Fulfilled prophecy is indisputable proof:

    • That Jesus is the Messiah.
    • That God knows the end from the beginning.
    • That God is in control.
    • And the Bible is the Word of God.
    If prophecy of the first coming of Jesus is so astounding what can we say about what the Bible foretells about the future? World governments currently have no viable solution to its multiplying problems but yet to be fulfilled Bible prophesies show God had it all worked out before the Creation. Someone has counted 1500 prophecies of the second coming, five times more than there were of his first. What does that tell us about the primary importance of his coming again and, based on the pinpoint accuracy of those already fulfilled, what are the chances that these will all come unerringly true?”

    Atheists and sceptics surely cannot get around proof/evidence so powerful and fail to seek for our awesome Creator who promised “Seek and you shall find”:

    “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye. shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh. findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened”. Matt 7:7-8.

    In all my years of regular church-going I never heard this and am still not hearing it or seeing it on Christian websites today when the end-times fulfilments are coming thick and fast in plain sight!

  3. This is a marvelous post that indeed demands a verdict. God’s Word is true! I am re-blogging in hopes that others will read and come to faith in Christ.

  4. I expect that the majority of the faithful come to their belief through many different ways which really have very little to do with evidence and then “find” the evidence afterwards.

    1. I agree, John. In my 45 years as a Christian it is my experience that most people arrive at faith through all avenues besides apologetics. In fact, I only know personally one friend who came by being persuaded first by the evidence, & I’m eternally proud to have played a part, & even more that he is today recognised as one of Australia’s top Christian writers. His name is Roy Williams, & his first book, “God, Actually”, written over a decade ago now in response to books by atheist writers such as Dawkins, Hitchens & Harris, is one of the very best I’ve read, but in part it also deals with his own coming to faith.

      So I’m definitely all for apologetics as a means of communicating the truth of our Christian worldview. In fact, I would say that, in the context that the apostle Peter used the word, being prepared with “a ready defence”, I sometimes despair at the absolute lack of knowledge of most of the Christians I know in relation to these issues. I could wax darkly lyrical for paragraphs regarding the complete lack of any ability in the average Christian in Australia to answer the simplest of questions like, “But hasn’t science proved there’s no God?”. So I think the lack of ability to debate apologetically is tragic.

      But conversion is a matter of the heart, not the mind, & when your hear people’s testimonies it is a bit like the miracles in the Bible: you never see the same miracle done the same way twice.

  5. You focus heavily on the virgin birth. I understand why of course. It is there God becomes man. However, i think the focus should be holistic on Christ. I’d want to focus on all that makes Christ extraordinary and beyond human invention.

    In fact, I’d start a step back. I often told people who claimed to be agnostic or atheistic that they were trying to deceive themselves and that really they know there is a God. They know through both the objective revelation of creation and the internal revelation of conscience and spend their lives trying to suppress the truth that they really know. This is to my mind Romans’ 1.

    I would refuse to get caught up in cosmology arguments insisting that they are red herrings.

    I would then point to Christ as the Ultimate proof of God. I would try to outline his uniqueness and his fulfilment of history but once again I’d want to get to the point where I say that we do not reject Jesus and claim there is no evidence for God because the evidence is lacking. We reject him (and creation and conscience) for moral reasons not intellectual ones. We reject him because we do not want ‘this man to reign over us’.

    You make this final point and I think it’s important because it takes the conversation from the abstract to the personal, from the merely cerebral to the conscience which is where the real obstruction lies.

    You do show an ‘indefatigable’ energy which I admire, though the word has gained a certain notoriety in recent times.

    1. Jesus’ divinity, authenticity, death and resurrection have all been disputed by many though many others have testified to their truth. Believers have proved in their daily lives and experiences the reality of a living relationship with Jesus as saviour over the 2000 years since and millions today testify to the abiding reality of a personal walk with God’s Messiah (this is why I included in Appendix 1 of my 2015 ebook ‘Magna Carta R.I.P?’ some of my own undeniable adventures in faith since conversion). It seems that however much evidence is put before us, the human condition is biased towards scepticism and rejection, particularly as we all veer in the direction of self-rule, not politically, but in our own personal life. Aldous Huxley in his 1937 book ‘Ends and Means’ gives his disarmingly frank admission which resonates with many

      I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; I
      consequently assumed that it had none and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption…..for myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.

      Whether our own sense of liberation in rejecting any semblance of God in our lives is for the same reasons as Huxley’s the fact remains that our natural state is to want the control over our own lives. Until our eyes are opened spiritually, we will either outright reject God or construct a way of life that makes us feel we are gaining, if he exists at all, his grace and favour.

      Many biblical verses recognise this natural tendency of man to reject God as an inconvenient truth as here in John 3:19:

      This is the judgement, that light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light for their deeds were evil.

      Like so much of the Bible, statements like this offend us. How can the one who we also read is a God of Love speak to us like this? The other side of the coin is that ‘God commends his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8). There is, undeniably, a tug-of-war going on and it really should not be difficult for any of us to recognise that it is between good and evil. The Bible is very honest about how hard it is for us to change our tendency to do wrong as even Paul recognises in his New Testament writings. Even for those who believe in God and want to please him we see the dilemma in his words in Romans 7 on his own inner conflict:

      “For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

      21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

      It is clear that Paul found that we cannot, through trying our best, or by self-improvement, or sacrifice, please God our maker. God designed us to live in relationship with him. The uniqueness of the message of the Bible then is that, paradoxically, we need his help to have any chance of pleasing him. Paul’s references to ‘the law’ reveal the other side of the
      coin – that there are eternal laws that are immutable but just too hard for us to consistently adhere to. The Bible says that failing to keep his law even by the slightest of margins puts us in the realm of sinner and it also makes abundantly clear sin leads to death and separation from God as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. Paul discovered God’s only remedy was to be rescued by The Lord himself, Jesus Christ.

      This is just a part of ‘The Evidence that Demands a Verdict’.

      The preaching and teaching of the amazing fulfilment of prophecy (as in my earlier post on this thread) has surely been a major omission of the church since the apostolic age!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *