Jesus was speaking to his disciples in John 14 just after washing their feet,
“‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”
A week from today our senior youth are starting our study on Faith, Science and Reason, and it has become clear to me that our first discussion needs to be a study in history. Without an understanding of how we–that is, humanity, or at least, the Western world–have shifted in our conception of truth, finding truth and the existence of truth, there is no foundation or common ground for this discussion to happen.
Largely, the difficulty that people have with reconciling modern science with the claims of the Bible comes out of a way of thinking born in the Enlightenment. The Lexham Bible Dictionary says this, “Before the Enlightenment, reason had been seen as a custodian and servant of revelation–one submitted one’s reason to the authority of Scripture and of the church. The Enlightenment reversed this, making revelation the servant of reason–one examines posited truths with one’s own intellect, and decides for oneself what is true or false. The Enlightenment thus presented a direct challenge to scriptural authority, and thus inspiration.”
Rather than fact checking our findings to Scripture, we began to fact check Scripture against our findings, which is problematic because our findings change. There was once a time our findings told us that the Earth was flat and that the universe revolved around us, and that we could cure illnesses with leeches, etc.
Really, this is the same thing that humanity has always done, sort of like how every iPhone is ‘revolutionary’ even though it’s pretty much the same thing as the last iPhone (but look! there’s no headphone jack in this one, OOOoooooOOOOO). This is humanity placing itself as the ultimate authority. The first humans did this, Israel did this, and today, we’re still doing this.
As well, Empiricism, the notion that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience, slipped into our collective thought process; the idea that for anything to be true it must be verifiable by repeatable testing.
For example, I can prove that Earth’s gravity is relatively consistent by testing it (fun fact, gravity around the Hudson Bay area is actually slightly weaker than the Earth norm, and scientists have no idea why). In a sense, I can ‘prove’ gravity by dropping items to see if there is a consistent effect (which, there will be. It will accelerate at approximately 9.8 m/s^2 toward the ground) and by testing it enough I can prove that it’s true pretty much all of the time, and thus a theory of gravity is born.
Miracles stand in contention of this way of thinking. We can’t repeat and test the resurrection of Christ or the parting of the Red Sea. Miracles are a suspension of the natural order, and the natural order is what empiricism seeks to understand. So if you require something to be able to be empirically proven in order to be deemed true, miracles will never have a place in your worldview.
Initially, when I was planning this history lesson, I thought that that would be where I could end, because largely that’s where we find ourselves. Most leading people in academia will have a modern empirical mindset. The problem is that our youth aren’t interacting with ‘leading people in academia’ today, nor is my own generation. Both Millenials (those born ~1980-1995) and Generation Zs (those born ~1996-today) seem to define reality differently.
The folks at the Oxford dictionary gave a great example of this with their word of the year for 2016: “Post-truth” which is defined as, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
The idea of a real, effectual, objective truth is rapidly fading away from popular thought. There seems to be a sense that ‘if it’s good for you, then it’s good’.
Like a hiker deciding that whichever way they point a stick is true north, our world has told us that our own experience and opinions are our guide to truth. That’s the mess we find ourselves in today.
The Bible offers, I think, a strong response to both of these worldviews.
We’ve heard from Christian apologists like John Lennox, William Lane Craig, C. S. Lewis, and so many others that Christianity is a convincingly reasonable faith (Lewis described himself as coming to the faith ‘kicking and screaming’, knowing that it was the truth yet describing himself as the ‘most dejected and reluctant convert in all England’ in Surprised by Joy).
And we know that the faith is incredibly experiential. I remember something that my Bible teacher taught in high school: that barring a handful of people like Lewis, your average person will come to faith by an experience of the Holy Spirit convicting rather than being convinced by some argument. This is why I’m very interested in the way that our young people (my own generation included) are coming to find truth because we’re promised an exceptional experience by our Lord later in John 14: