It was the Breaking News that turned the world upside down. As the news headline spread, everyone in the region and eventually in the world would have heard the claims of hundreds of eye witnesses. A following would develop that would become the preeminent movement in the world based only on this news. This historical event would be the most discussed and most transcribed event of its era yet many would deny its authenticity. Skeptics would challenge the historicity of the event years later claiming that it couldn’t be proven scientifically. This headline would have all of the same limitations for scientific proof of other historical events because categorically, it’s very difficult to scientifically prove historical events. Sir Karl Popper, perhaps the greatest philosopher who ever lived would later say, “You cannot prove history scientifically.” Taken to its logical conclusion, if one refuses to accept the historicity of a past event based on its lack of scientific evidence then all of history comes into serious doubt. Necessarily we’re led to doubt everything that happened before the invention of YouTube.
The truthfulness of History is most often proven by the eyewitness accounts of people who have observed and documented it. The Gospel Writers: Matthew (aka Levi), John Mark, Luke the Scientist and John the Apostle either witnessed or interviewed witnesses of the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was not a secret event with limited publicity. Instead news would have spread to everyone in the region even during the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension into heaven. Saul of Tarsus, Simon Peter son of John and James the Just would also write about their first hand encounters with the Risen Christ. Very few doubt the main events in the lives of historical men like Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, yet many doubt the most important event in the life of Jesus Christ. Yet the resurrection of Jesus Christ has greater textual attestation than any event in antiquity.
If Christianity was illegal and you were accused of being a disciple of Christ, how would you plead? If admitting to the accusations would cost you something that you hold dear: your life, your freedom, your job, your reputation, your savings, how would you plead? Secondly, If you were accused of being a follower of Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict you in a court of law? Could the prosecution find enough evidence to support their case and bring the jury to the place of rendering a guilty verdict?
The prosecution would seek to convince a jury of the truth of the accusation that you are a True Christian by proving its certainty beyond a reasonable doubt. http://www.lectlaw.com defines reasonable doubt as:
The level of certainty a juror must have to find a defendant guilty of a crime. A real doubt, based upon reason and common sense after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence, or lack of evidence, in a case. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore, is proof of such a convincing character that you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in the most important of your own affairs. However, it does not mean an absolute certainty.
What kind of evidence would they present to prove you are a Christian? Evidence would be produced which could prove the affections of your heart: your love for Christ, your love for His Church and your love for people along with evidence that would prove your Christian virtue, morality and theological beliefs. They would present bank accounts, credit card statements, charitable giving records, personal calendars, travel and cell phone logs and even internet history. But weighing heaviest in such a case would be the witnesses they would present (remember the prosecution is seeking to prove that you are a Christian.)
Taking the stand to provide testimony would be people who knew you best: relatives, neighbors, friends, fellow church members, employers, employees and those with whom you have conducted business (your spouse can’t be forced to testify against you and it is highly unlikely that your children would be mandated- do these realities help your case or not?) To establish the credibility of a witness several criteria would be used:
- Is the witness honest?
- Is the witness able to give testimony to what he had actually seen?
- How many witnesses are there?
- Is there consistency in their testimony?
- Does the circumstantial evidence fit their claims?
- Does the witness have a bias or partiality?
But there is another type of witness who if produced, could give the prosecution the strongest case possible: Your Enemy! Your enemy is a person who hates you, he’s your #1 critic, your personal adversary, he magnifies and exaggerates your weakness, foibles and inconsistencies. He continually and cynically questions your motives. If your enemy told the whole truth and nothing but the truth about you what would he say about you?
A 2008 U.S. survey of unchurched adults found that 72% of them believed that the church ‘is full of hypocrites.’ I blogged yesterday, (see The Church is full of Hypocrites) that the design of the church is a “mixed body” consisting of both the righteous and the unrighteous like wheat and tares growing and coexisting side by side in the same field (the church) that will ultimately be separated from each other at the time of harvest (judgment). But the charge given by the 72% in the survey is still unfair for lots of reasons. Here’s one:
While some in the church are pretending to be something they’re not, others are just a “work in progress” like me and perhaps like you. I am under no illusion that I am perfect and am quite aware of my shortcomings and my need to grow into the image of Jesus Christ who saved me. While my goal is to be like Christ, He is engaged in this chiseling, refining work on me that takes a lifetime and is not completed until glory. I often tell friends that there should always be a circumference of orange cones and yellow warning tape surrounding me with a sign saying, “Pardon My Progress,” for the snapshot reality of my life is actually quite messy. I am a “work in progress” but not a hypocrite.
Charles Spurgeon commented,
The Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers… The Church is the nursery for God’s weak children where they are nourished and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family.
He was a chameleon who lived under the pretense of virtue and faith. Publicly, he was one of the Twelve, faithful and devout following the King, but privately his only love was money. And nobody saw it coming, nobody except the One who sees everything. Jesus knew from the beginning that His betrayer would come from among His inner circle. Should we be surprised that one from among the inner circle was a hypocrite? This is likely the most popularly stated reason of unbelief given by those who reject the Christian faith, “The Church is full of Hypocrites!”
Augustine referred to the church as a “mixed body” consisting of both the righteous and the unrighteous. His interpretation of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30) saw the church like a field where good seeds of wheat along with the bad seeds of weeds are sown and grow side by side. They would ultimately be separated from each other at the time of harvest (judgment) but until then, the weeds and wheat would coexist together in the same field (the church).
There is no such thing as a perfect church, one only with righteous good seed. There will always be people in the church with bad motives, those associating for wrong reasons and those whose relationship with God is only outward. There will always be people who claim to love Christ but whose heart is far from Him. Some are in church for show, some to be seen by others as spiritual, others are there for a social outlet or a business network. Many, Jesus says, will say on that day, did we not do this or that in your name? Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” Those of whom Jesus speaks are people who sat in local churches, many of whom are baptized, have made professions of faith and have personal testimonies. But the mere existence of such hypocrites in the church is neither an excuse for disbelief in Christ nor rejecting His Church.
To those who like to base their claim of unbelief on the existence of hypocrites in the Church, I would say, “You wouldn’t deny the existence of lettuce just because there are weeds in the garden, would you?” Or perhaps I would ask a person with such reasons for unbelief, “Do you carry money in your wallet? Don’t you know that there are people who create counterfeit money yet you still accept that genuine dollars still exist? We need not deny the existence of the authentic based on the evidence of some counterfeits. In fact, the presence of a counterfeit is, in some ways, evidence of the existence of the genuine article because no one counterfeits the invaluable or inherently false. The entire concept of counterfeiting is based on the reproduction of a reasonable facsimile of something that is both genuine and valuable.