By the Revd Dr Peter Sanlon
There are many evidences that the claims of scripture are true and reliable. Given the many reasons we have in our pilgrimage to doubt and fear for the future— it is good we are reminded of them.
We recall the many manuscripts of ancient pedigree that enable us to ascertain the words originally written – far more in number and far more ancient than any other writing of comparable times.
We peruse photographs of archeological sites — and can even visit some today — where we can see with our own eyes locations visited by Jesus and sites where God’s people encountered the Lord.
There are many remarkable prophecies fulfilled from Old to New Testaments, and eye-witness corroboration that would convict any reasonable court. People with much motivation to not present evidence for Jesus’ resurrection found themselves compelled to so do – and even on pain of death.
For myself one of the most compelling evidences that Christianity is true is the historical ripple argument. That grows out of the observation that a stone thrown into a pond causes ripples. So a historical figure causes ripples. We look at the many things which ripple out from the person and claims of Jesus – the impact on the disciples at close proximity, the spread of the Church to take over the Roman Empire in early centuries and the two millennia of contribution to culture and care that flows from admiration and faith in Jesus — worldwide. One asks what could have caused all these ripples through history? It is difficult to come up with a plausible answer other than that Jesus was indeed the God revealed in the pages of the New Testament. Could a fraud or delusion have had the ripple of effects on future lives that Jesus did? Surely not — only the divine saviour could have done it all.
These and other evidences of the truth of Christianity are valuable to us – we should to allow ourselves or the next generation to believe the lie that our faith is irrational or based on weak intellectual ability. All that said, however — it is important to see that no amount of historical evidence or rational argument can convince us that Jesus is God for us. Our faith in the final analysis is a supernatural gift wrought in us by God’s Spirit. It is neither sub rational nor irrational — but it transcends rationality. John Clavin put this well when he wrote:
‘It is clear that faith is much higher than human understanding. And it will not be enough for the mind to be illumined by the Spirit of God unless the heart is also strengthened and supported by his power. In this matter the Schoolmen go completely astray, who in considering faith identify it with a bare and simple assent arising out of knowledge, and leave out confidence and assurance of heart’ (Inst. 3.2.33).
So we are thankful for reassuring evidences granted a reliable faith, but we treasure the supernatural faith given to us by God’s Spirit, as we journey onwards.
Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon is rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells: www.emmanuelanglican.uk