Does Science Disprove the Supernatural?

Does Science Disprove the Supernatural

scientific microscope
Stanislav.nevyhosteny (Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

One of the major reasons why Millennials are skeptical of Christianity is the issue of science. Many Millennials have the idea that science has disproved Christianity. They may think that it shows the miracles in the Bible to be exaggerations or falsehoods. Skeptical Millennials aren’t the only ones who see science as making Christianity outdated—lots of older people feel much the same way.  So here’s my answer: science really isn’t the problem. The real issue is whether the supernatural exists or not.  Many Millennials assume that the physical world is all there is.

What is science?

So why is science the thing skeptics point to as their ultimate proof?   Because many of them have not thought deeply enough to realize that science isn’t the issue.  What is science? Science is just a tool. To be more specific, it is a procedure for gathering reliable information about the natural world. The scientific method begins with observations of how things work, whether its chemical processes, the laws of physics,  or biological functions. Observations lead to hypotheses—working models for what is happening. These hypotheses are then tested through experiments. If the experiments confirm the hypotheses, then we say that scientific facts have been discovered, or that a solid theory has been established. From there, the facts can be applied to practical issues like building better computers, or making better medicines.

Are science and Christian faith in conflict?

Understood like this, science and Christian faith are not in conflict at all. Science is a method for understanding the physical world God has made. The problem is when people try to elevate science to the level of religion. People do this when they say that science is the only reliable tool for understanding reality. In other words, the scientific method can tell us everything we need to know about everything there is.

So we are back to the real issue, which is whether the supernatural exists or whether the natural world is all there is. The answer to that question is always a matter of faith. Modern skeptics have faith that the natural world is all there is. Religious believers, including Christians, have faith that the natural world is only one part of total reality, and that the supernatural realm is just as real.

Science cannot say whether the supernatural exists

So, since the scientific method is a tool for gathering reliable information about the natural world, it really has nothing to say about anything in the supernatural realm.  It like saying that a thermometer is the only measuring tool we need. Thermometers are great for measuring temperature, but they are of no use in measuring length, or humidity, or speed.

To understand the supernatural, you need something other than science. Does the supernatural exist? Humans from all times and cultures seem to think so. Certain things that happen regularly to us as humans seem to defy ordinary explanation. But although we may sense the supernatural, we don’t have the tools for understanding much about it. What we need is someone who is from the supernatural realm to explain what we need to know about it. That someone is Jesus. John 1:18 tells us, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

Jesus makes God known

Of course you can accept that Jesus and the Bible give an accurate picture of reality, or you can reject that belief. Personally, what I see is that every time Jesus speaks about what we humans experience, he is right on target. He is right about what happens in the natural world and about what we seem to sense about the supernatural world. I choose to trust him. How about you?

Michael Bogart

What to Do when Millennials Reject Jesus Because of Christians

What to Do when Millennials Reject Jesus Because of Christians

One of the reasons I founded Aspect Ministries in 2013 was to help people understand why so many Millennials are leaving organized Christianity. According to experts on this generation, Millennials are young people born in the 1990s and later. Helping people understand and reach Millennials wasn’t the only reason I started this ministry, but it was one of the key reasons why I did.  Of course, there are a number of factors why Millennials reject Christian faith. One factor that comes up frequently is some sort of bad experience with Evangelical Christians.

I know that being treated badly by Christians is sometimes is just an excuse for rejecting Jesus.  I know that sometimes it turns out that the Christians may not have done anything unkind at all.  That said, it is undeniable that Christians have said and done things at times to hurt people and to give them an excuse for rejecting Christian faith.

My Background

Before I go any further, I need to say that I myself am an Evangelical Christian. I chose a life of following Jesus in my second year of university in 1972 during the height of the Jesus Movement. Since then, I have earned a master’s degree from a theological seminary and am finishing up a doctorate. In the last 40 years, I have been a campus minister, a pastor and a trainer of Christian leaders. I have also taught college part time for the last 25 years. During my ministry, I have met and worked with many kind, intelligent and amazing people. On the other hand, certain negative experiences during my ministry have caused me to step back a pace or two in recent years in order to see Evangelical Christianity more objectively. So, I bring both of these perspectives—- the positive and the not-so-positive—to whatever insights I may have on this subject.

Who are these Evangelicals?

So, who are these Evangelicals and why do some people react so strongly against them and their faith? Despite what outsiders may assume, Evangelicals are not uniform in their backgrounds, beliefs or personal views. Many Evangelicals come from families that have practiced Christian faith for generations. Others came into Evangelical Christianity at some point later in life, embracing its beliefs, attitudes and culture. As with any group, Evangelical Christianity includes warm, gracious people and mean-spirited people; broad-minded people and narrow-minded people; generous folks and self-centered individuals.

While Evangelicals do share a common core of biblical beliefs, they differ widely in terms of important issues, such as how Christian faith applies to contemporary life. For instance, some are more isolationist, while others are much more socially engaged. They sometimes disagree on how far the presentation of the Christian message should accommodate current culture in order to be relevant and accessible. They may also disagree about how much things like status, power and wealth should be sought and used to further the gospel and enhance personal life.

Along with these differences, Evangelicals may disagree on various secondary points of Christian doctrine, spiritual practices and on specific political and social issues. For instance, White middle-class American Evangelicals are well-known as favoring the Republican Party on many issues. On the other hand, equally committed African American Evangelicals have tended to sympathize with the Democratic Party on many, though not all of its core positions. Because of these differences, it is difficult for anyone to speak about what Evangelicals believe or why the do what they do. Any attempt to do so will probably be a an oversimplification.

What to do when Millennials are Hurt by Christians

So what can people do about Millennials and others who reject Christian faith because of real or perceived offenses by Evangelical Christians? Here is what I suggest:

If you have offended someone and given reason to reject Christian faith, you need to sincerely apologize.  Then do what you can to make it right. If you really don’t think you were wrong, then do what you can to restore the relationship. In other words, you need to make the move on your end to heal the relationship if possible.

If you weren’t personally involved in the offense, then acknowledge their pain, admit that sometimes Christians don’t represent Jesus very well, and gently remind them that Jesus never hurt them.  Make it clear that Jesus is the real point of Christian faith, not Christians or their behavior.

Disillusioned and bitter Millennials who reject Christianity need to hear some truly good news. The good news is that Jesus deeply loves them and is committed to making them the best and most fulfilled people they can be. Let’s be clear: in no way does God condone or accept sinful attitudes and lifestyles—either in unbelievers or in believers.   But according to Romans 8:28 he is for anyone who is willing to love him and trust him. If Millennials will consider Jesus for who he is, and are willing to trust him, he has promised to be for them and to make them new from the inside out.  That really is good news!

 

 

The Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection: You Decide

The Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection 

Was Jesus' resurrection real?
Was Jesus’ resurrection real?

The subject of Jesus’ resurrection is a perennial feature on talk shows, articles in popular magazines, blogs and newspaper columns. These venues often cite experts who claim that the historical evidence refutes Jesus’ resurrection took place. Using various arguments, they claim that Jesus of Nazareth remained dead after the crucifixion and that what is left of his body still lies in an obscure tomb somewhere in Jerusalem.

While some may dismiss this assertion as merely one point of view, the discussion highlights issues of enormous weight.  After all, if Jesus really rose from the dead, then Jesus is more than a moral teacher and the core message of the Christian faith should be taken seriously. On the other hand, if these scholars are correct in claiming that Jesus never rose from the dead, then the central teachings of Christianity are just wishful thinking.  So the resurrection of Jesus is the key to whether the hopes of millions of Christian believers are real or imagined.

Jesus’ Resurrection and Other Religions.  Other religions can survive the deaths of their founders.  Buddhism admits that the Buddha is dead without being threatened because its teachings are built around the man’s ideas, not the man himself.  Muslims are not disturbed that Muhammad died in 632 AD because it is the legacy of the prophet that is important, not the man.  But when it comes to Christianity, everything stands or falls upon Jesus’ resurrection.  His physical resurrection from the dead has always been the prime argument of the claim that he is the Son of God. So, here are some lines of evidence that the early Christians presented to prove their announcement of Jesus’ resurrection:

The Evidence.  First is the evidence of the women who visited Jesus’ tomb. According to the gospel accounts, a group of Jesus women followers hastily prepared his body for burial on the Friday afternoon of his death. Then early on Sunday morning they went to the tomb to finish the burial preparations. As they made their way to the tomb, they seemed to have no notion that the body of their beloved teacher would be missing. Upon arrival they found the massive stone that had sealed the tomb cast aside from the entrance. The guard placed there under Roman orders was in shock and the tomb itself was empty. The women were understandably bewildered by what they encountered and could only conclude that perhaps someone had removed Jesus’ body without telling them. The women then reported that they were visited by angels who told them Jesus was alive. On their way to do so, some of the women actually saw and touched the risen Jesus.

Secondly, the evidence of the twelve disciples confirms the report of the women. They did not have a clue about Jesus’ resurrection either. So when the women relayed the news, the disciples dismissed it as female hysteria. Nevertheless, Peter and John decided to check out the situation and ran the short distance at the tomb in order to investigate. Like the women, they saw the stone removed, the Roman guard dispersed, and the tomb empty. The account has Peter actually going inside and finding the linen strips of cloth, which the body had been wrapped in, still in place and glued with the spices—but empty of the body. This still did not convince these men that Jesus was alive. It was not until later that Jesus appeared to them personally and urged them to touch him.

Thirdly, the soldiers who were charged with guarding the tomb against the possibility that Jesus’ followers might fake a resurrection by stealing the body were in shock. They knew that abandoning their mission would result in execution.  Even so, they left the tomb unguarded after less than 36 hours and reported to the Jewish Council that the tomb was open and empty. According to the gospel accounts, these men were bribed by the Sanhedrin to spread the story that the disciples had indeed stolen the body.

Though this version of the story is popular among critics of Christianity, the story falls apart under examination. It boggles the mind that the disciples, who were clearly terrified for their own lives, could overcome a guard of experienced soldiers, enter a sealed tomb, remove the body, and make sure to carefully re-wrap the burial cloths. The disciples then supposedly concealed the body elsewhere without anyone noticing.  All this so that they could fake a resurrection that they that would ultimately die for!  Yet it seems that the story that Jesus’ body was stolen was the best explanation that could be invented by critics on the spur of the moment.

Consider this as well: the early church preached Jesus’ resurrection in the weeks and years following these events in the very place where they occurred. There were many people still alive who testified to having actually seen and touched the risen Jesus. The empty tomb was a matter of public knowledge. It could be verified by anyone who wished to do so. If the body had been removed and hidden, surely someone would have observed it. The soldiers or other eyewitnesses could have tipped off the authorities to the hiding place and the body could have been produced as evidence.  But no body was ever found, which is hard to imagine given the very public and sensational nature of these events. Unless of course —the resurrection really happened. Tens of thousands living around Jerusalem in the years following these events rendered their verdict by believing in Jesus and paying the high price of that belief.

Finally, for those who still have doubts, consider the evidence of history. What is the explanation for the millions of people whose lives have been changed by the power of a risen Christ? Wishful thinking? Pure indoctrination? How about the willing martyrdom of the very men and women who supposedly faked a resurrection they knew never happened, or the almost inconceivable survival and spread of the early church under extreme persecution?

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is extremely compelling. In view of such strong evidence, the sarcasm and ridicule of skeptics today is a small price for embracing the truth.  Michael Bogart