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Authors: Pamela Binnings Ewen

Tags: #Christian Theology, #Apologetics

Faith on Trial

BOOK: Faith on Trial
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Faith on Trial, Digital Edition

Based on Print Edition

Copyright © 2013 by Pamela Binnings Ewen

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

978-1-4336-8005-2

Published by B&H Publishing Group

Nashville, Tennessee

Dewey Decimal Classification: 232

Subject Heading: LAW \ RELIGION \ HISTORY

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995.

Citations marked
hcsb
are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.

Citations marked
rsv
are from the
Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
copyright © 1946, 1952, 1971, 1973.

Citations marked
kjv
are from the King James Version.

To:

Scott, Andrea, Lex, and Lucia

Preface

T
his book was written for those on the outside looking in—those who seek the comfort that religion offers but who also need a rational foundation for belief. It is the result of a fifteen-year search for truth, which I began as an agnostic.

Imagine yourself looking through a window at a garden. You’ve seen this garden before many times, and it is dull. Flowers bloom everywhere and yet they have no color. That does not disturb you because, actually, life is like that too, you think. You’ve always seen things this way. But later when a friend mentions the same garden, remarking on the dazzling colors of those flowers—the depth of the red, red roses, the daffodils so yellow shining in the sun, and the deep lavender-blue of the morning glories—to you this sounds absurd. You smile and shake your head. She’s a dear friend, but your own eyes and consciousness have told you otherwise. Her perception of that garden was pure whimsy.

Still, you do wish the flowers had colors, as your friend describes. You want to believe.

But the
will
to believe is not enough to overcome one’s perception of reality. The heart will not accept what the mind rejects. And then one day, casually, the friend mentions that when she was looking at that garden, she’d lifted the window to see clearly. It was merely the glass obscuring your view, she said—the glass was clouded with a substance like old smoke, a shield obscuring the light.

The heart won’t accept what the mind rejects, but through
reason
doubt can be cleared away and truth illuminated. Perhaps you, too, can see those colors.

My hope is that this book will help you lift that barrier or assist you in helping a friend or loved one do the same. Here is a new way to look at religion. The evidence set forth in this book was left for us and preserved over thousands of years, I believe, to provide a foundation for belief for those who doubt—a start. Perhaps after all, those colors do exist. As you turn the page, we’ll begin to search for illumination together. We will carefully examine the evidence on which Christianity is based, as if this is a trial and you are the jury, measuring each link in our chain of proof against standards applicable in a court of law in the United States of America.

Introduction

F
aith is a wonderful gift, but it was not given to me. At the point that one begins to wonder what life is really all about and when the music will stop, this becomes an unacceptable state of affairs. Without faith in a loving God and eternal life, we must eventually face our most primal fear—that this is all there is. Are we merely here for a meaningless moment? Perhaps it really is true that our days on earth are like grass, that like wildflowers we bloom and die—the wind blows and we are gone, as though we had never been.

But all that I have implied is a
desire
to believe in God and life after death. You cannot will yourself into a position of faith, but you can open your mind and search for the truth. A search like that will lead you to fascinating avenues of information—science, the arts, archaeology, medicine. All contribute small pieces of the puzzle, which together present an intriguing picture of the Alpha and the Omega; all contribute to the formation of a rational basis for belief that something greater than the treasures of this life exists.

Mysteries surround us today in science, in art, and in nature. The Sloan Foundation has granted millions of dollars over the years to researchers in fields such as economics, oceanography, historical linguistics, computer science, population genetics, cell biology, and anthropology to study the “unknowable.” The president of the Sloan Foundation stated the reason for encouraging such research: “We are all taught what is known, but we rarely learn about what is not known, and we almost never learn about the unknowable.”
1

In science we have questions raised by the unknown and the unseen like primordial black holes, cold dark matter, and quantum particles. In computer science philosophers and scientists continue to attempt to recreate the ability of human consciousness to understand and reason, to capture through artificial intelligence the elusive intuition and essence of human nature that is not yet understood.

In the arts we have the paradox of sublime music and pictures created by people who cannot, of themselves, provide explanation for the creation. Take for example the paradox of Mozart and his music. Mozart was perhaps the greatest composer who ever lived, but the clarity and brilliance of his music are completely contradicted by the disorder of his life and personality. Much of his sense of form and structure was clearly learned, but much of it appears to have been almost instinctive, reflecting an insight into beauty and human nature that was never apparent in his own personal life in any manner. The question that must be asked of Mozart is this: Can this music have arrived from a source other than the physical mind of the musician, a source that transcends our physical limitations?

In nature mysteries abound. Consider one illustration, the dance of the honeybee. Scientists have discovered that when a honeybee locates a particular flower that contains a source of honey, it will return to report the discovery to the hive. The information is communicated through a strange but stylized geometric dance performed by the honeybee, which evidently traces a pattern providing exact directions to the source. The pattern implies the existence of more dimensions in space than we have experienced. How and why this happens is not understood; we just know that the dance is performed and the flower is identified by the swarm.
2

These things provide the mystery—hints that there is more to the universe than we understand. They give us hints, but they don’t really satisfy. After sifting through the evidence presented by science, the arts, nature, and the study of human consciousness in my search for truth, I have found that one source does exist to provide
direct
evidence for the existence of God and life after death—if the evidence sustains the assertions.

That source is the testimony of four witnesses as set forth in the four books referred to as the Gospels of the New Testament. The core facts of the Gospel narratives are that two thousand years ago a man named Jesus lived, died, and returned to life. It is not necessary to examine each story in the Gospel narratives to find evidence of the existence of God and life after death. If only that testimony pertaining to the actual existence of Jesus, his death, and resurrection can be shown to be credible and believable under objective standards and the details can be corroborated, then proof of those unique events will necessarily provide a rational foundation for belief. The remainder of the message of the Gospels attains credibility from the truth of the resurrection.

In law the key to proof of a case is the evidence—the stronger it is, the better the case. Direct testimony of an eyewitness is not required to prove a case; evidence of circumstances that combine to lead to a conclusion can also be convincing. But testimony of an eyewitness who is found to be credible is extremely convincing, and the statements of two credible eyewitnesses that are consistent in material respects, if not expressly controverted,
require
belief. If the testimony of the Gospels represents credible eyewitness testimony, under the standards of the law, it constitutes the strongest possible evidence.

In order to assure the integrity, or believability, of the evidence, however, it must meet certain tests of objectivity and verifiability. The same standards by which evidence is measured in a court of law can be applied to test the evidence offered in support of the truth of the Gospel testimony. Courts in the Western world have accepted the basic premise of the necessity for an objective standard and have therefore established rules governing the offer of evidence to prove a fact or an assertion.

This book sets forth for the reader’s consideration the evidence that is available to support a case for the testimony of the witnesses—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. That evidence is then tested to see if it would stand up in a court of law. My purpose is not to diminish the rich message of the four Gospels or to reduce it to the shallowness of a few facts. But the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, if they can be established to be historical fact under the rigorous standards of proof required in a court of law, provide us with a rational basis for belief in something beyond the physical world—the key to understanding the revelation and value of the full message.

If the testimony of the four Gospels can be established as true, then the value from that truth far exceeds the beauty of the quicksilver melody of Mozart’s music.

Chapter One
■ The Key Questions ■

(The Issue and the Standard of Proof)

T
he life spirits of two small boys abandoned their bodies on a warm summer night in 1996. The children were five and six years old. A bloody nightshirt, a serrated bread knife, the wrong words spoken in a frantic telephone call to the police all led to the conviction of their mother for the murders.

Darlie Routier was to all appearances a normal, loving person in the prime of her life. The cumulative impact of evidence, which was solely circumstantial, was enough to overcome an initial presumption of innocence in the case. Circumstantial evidence is the type of evidence that requires the use of reason to reach a conclusion. In the
Routier
case, no eyewitness ever appeared to support any portion of the prosecution’s story, and yet she was convicted, sentenced to die by injection, and now waits on death row. Even advances in DNA raised on appeal have not changed the status of the jury’s decision as of this date. Her family believes in her innocence; they maintain hope that somehow, some way, she can still be proven not guilty. The burden of proof has now shifted, however; at this point, without the introduction of relevant new evidence, she will face the executioner.
1

Darlie Routier, like many others, was convicted solely on circumstantial evidence. Do you think her family would still hold on to hope if an eyewitness had testified at the trial? If a person of credible character, whose testimony was corroborated appeared before the court to say, “I saw her kill them. I watched as she raised the knife over and over and stabbed each one”? What if two such witnesses appeared to so testify? In such a case, even with one eyewitness, surely with two, all hope of innocence would be extinguished for her husband, her mother, and her friends. Testimony from a credible eyewitness is almost impossible to overcome.

The
Routier
case was built on “knowable facts.” This young mother would not be on death row if the case were built on speculation or theories. The occurrence of an event such as murder is provable by putting together a case based on evidence that is shown to be reliable in a court of law under objective standards provided to protect the integrity of the proof.

Today, in the new morning of the twenty-first century, we face a situation where knowable facts regarding an event so important that it could change each of our lives have been greatly obscured. The evidence to support the truth of these facts is stronger than the evidence presented in the
Routier
case, stronger than that required to send a young woman to her death. And yet today this evidence is being all but ignored.

BOOK: Faith on Trial
11.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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