Have you ever been in that awkward situations where someone in a group announces a particular belief as if everyone in the group holds to it? “Everyone knows that (fill in the blank) is good and (fill in the blank) is bad.” The person assumes everyone will nod in agreement, and most seem to. Yet there are times when I watch as everyone nods, and I want to stand up to say, “I object! I don’t agree with what you are saying.” Sometimes I do, but sometimes I let it go because of the situation. No matter what, it can be uncomfortable.
Over the last few weeks I have tried to engage readers with a number of arguments and ideas in order to create conversation about truly important topics. Everyone has an opinion about everything; however, sometimes we spend our time discussing futile things instead of the most important things. I think perhaps we are afraid to find ourselves in an uncomfortable, argumentative situation. I don’t want us to fear this; instead, I encourage thoughtful reflection and civil dialogue. Just because politicians can’t seem to pull it off doesn’t mean that we, as a community, can’t give it a go.
One reader wrote of an objection commonly made when one makes a claim that entails the supernatural; namely, that feats beyond the natural world are scientifically impossible. He writes, “I don’t have reason to believe that anyone has ever walked on water, due to my understanding of gravity, water and walking, and to never having seen anyone walk on water.” A fair question.
I will admit that I agree, walking on water seems completely outlandish and simply impossible! However, I’m not sure that the reasons presented for dismissing the Biblical claim that Jesus did indeed walk on water holds up to further investigation. I would like to provide three primary ideas behind my reasoning.
There are many things which people have never seen that they believe are true, including facts about historical events and people. Can you prove to me that Julius Caesar existed without using records or ancient writings? How can I be certain that the Revolutionary War really happened and the government didn’t simply fabricate a genesis story of the country in order to drum up patriotism? Obviously, these are silly questions, but I think that is the point. Just because I have not seen something does not alone rule it out as true.
Secondly, yes, our observations of the physical world do seem to preclude anyone ever walking on water. However, how many times have scientific, inquisitive minds halted particular theories because they seemed to upset previously held notions? My reading through the history of science has shown me that many times new ideas cause others to be thoroughly reassessed. As I was reading through theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s book recently, I came across this admission: “Many scientists were unhappy with the universe having a beginning, because it seemed to imply that physics broke down.” In other words, they didn’t like the theory because it messed with their current understanding of the world. Likewise, our knowledge of gravity, walking, and water does not, in itself, mean that the Bible record of Jesus walking on water is impossible. All one could deduce from current knowledge of gravity, walking, and water is that it doesn’t seem possible.
Finally, I think that people begin in the wrong place when they try to use the miracles recorded in the Bible as an objection to Biblical truth. They are miracles! Of course they are hard to believe and are not part of the natural order of things. Even a cursory reading of the text shows that those who originally witnessed the miracles were amazed and, at times, disbelieving.
Additionally, one must look at the foundation behind the miracles before considering them. Try to explain an airplane to a person in a jungle, who has never seen one. “I flew through the air in a giant metal tube with wings to get here!” They might respond, “Metal is too heavy to fly in the air! Do you think I’m some sort of fool?” Jumping right to a “flying metal tube” with someone who has no knowledge or foundation of the physics behind air travel would make an airplane seem crazy and unbelievable.
Similarly, the Bible begins with an all powerful, all knowing, Creator who brings everything into existence by His mere word and will. If then, the self-existent God can create all things, it follows that He can do whatever He wants in and through His creation. Nothing stops Shakespeare from doing whatever he pleases in the worlds he creates — including supernatural events and characters that are not normal in everyday life.
The God of the Bible is the ultimate author and artist. He is able to act in ways that are beyond the normal constraints of the physical world as we know it, and He has the right to do so! Therefore, while miracles are hard to believe, I can readily accept them because of the God who is bringing them to pass. In fact, anytime a miracle occurs in the Bible, they are done for the purpose of showing that only the true God can do things are beyond the natural world. Examples can be found here: 1 Kings 18:16-45, Isaiah 44:6-11, Mark 2:1-12.
You see, objecting doesn’t have to be awkward. Nor does responding to objections. I still believe we can have important discussions about highly polarizing subjects in a civil and constructive manner. So please, let us read, think, and grow together in our understanding of the world, of God, and of each other as we consider these various topics. Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to AskPastorJones@gmail.com.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ