The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

It's More than Just the Facts

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“The story you are about to hear is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”  So began the prologue to the popular television series “Dragnet” (1952–1959), starring Jack Webb as Joe Friday who often used the phrase “All we want are the facts, ma’am” when questioning women in the course of a police investigation. But are the facts always enough when dealing with issues related to the Christian faith (or anything for that matter)? We can never assume that “facts alone” will be enough to confirm the validity of God’s Word to someone whose interior logic begins with naturalistic presuppositions. Jesus performed many miracles before many eyewitnesses, and still some did not believe. For example, the Sadducees, “who say there is no resurrection” (Matt. 22:23), heard every reasoned claim of a resurrection but filtered the information through an anti-supernatural hearing device. Why did those in Athens “sneer” (Acts 17:32) when Paul spoke of the resurrection before they heard his account of it? The very idea of a resurrection did not fit their naturalistic worldview. All talk about the “facts” of a resurrection would be discarded because an anti-supernatural worldview cannot (will not) account or make room for any supernatural claim. There must be an uninvestigated naturalistic explanation, deception on those reporting the story, superstition of those hearing the story, or wishful thinking on the part of those who perpetuate the story.

Jesus deals with the reality of governing presuppositions in His story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Rich Man appealed to Abraham to resurrect Lazarus and send him back to his five brothers—“that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment. ‘But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” But [the Rich Man] said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But [Abraham] said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead’” (Luke 16:27–31).

Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and yet, the scribes, Pharisees, and the synagogue officials looked past this miraculous deed and saw it only as a way to accuse Him (Luke 6:7; 13:14). When all the evidence pointed to Jesus being raised from the dead, the chief priests paid the Roman soldiers to say that the disciples had come “by night and stole Him away” (Matt. 28:13). Even when the evidence was right in front of them, they would not believe.

There is an active discounting of certain evidences in order to maintain the structure of an operating naturalistic worldview. With the evidence of God’s existence all around them, some “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). Ultimately, unbelieving thought is a problem of the heart which affects the mind. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul writes, “This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (4:17–18). The mind must be “renewed” (Rom. 12:1–2) in order for the truth of the gospel to make sense. “Jews ask for signs” (1 Cor. 1:22), and when they see them, many still don’t believe. “Greeks search for wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:22), and when they hear it, some sneer (Acts 17:32) and others attempt to dispute it (1 Cor. 1:20; cf. Col. 2:8).

It’s not that the facts for God’s existence and miracles aren’t compelling, it’s that they do not fit within the parameters of a naturalistic worldview. That’s what makes them unintelligible to the materialist. In fact, to believe in supernatural events is irrational given naturalistic presuppositions. “For a naturalist, the universe is analogous to a sealed box. Everything that happens inside the box (natural order) is caused by or is explicable in terms of other things that exist within the box. Nothing (including God) exists outside the box; therefore, nothing outside the box that we call the universe or nature can have any causal effect within the box.”[1] It’s only within the context of a Christian worldview that so-called supernatural events are reasonable. (In reality, nothing is supernatural for God.) If as a naturalist I get to define the limitations of my worldview, then anything is possible or impossible as determined by me. But who gets to draw the lines? That’s the question. As Douglas Groothuis observes:

If one presupposes naturalism metaphysically, then one will rule out all miracles a priori. Any naturalistic explanation will trump any supernatural explanation; no evidence for the supernatural will even be considered.[2]

A similar point is made by Louis A. Markos when he argues that by treating facts as “neutral” and “self-interpreting” Christians end up “fighting our battles on ‘their’ turf.” We must “shift the playing field from the theories to the competing assumptions that underlie those theories.”[3]

A court in Italy is hearing evidence in a case where atheist Luigi Cascioli claims Jesus never existed. He wants “just one proof, of the historical existence of Jesus.” Facts offered in defense of the historical reality of Jesus’ life will not be enough for Cascioli. He will dismiss all facts as non-facts because his presuppositions won’t allow him to accept them as facts. He is no different from those who saw sight given to the blind and the dead raised. Nothing has changed in 2000 years.

Endnotes:

[1] Ronald H. Nash, “Miracles and Conceptual Systems, In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, eds. R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 121.
[2] Douglas Groothuis, On Jesus (Wadsworth, 2003), 93
[3] Louis A. Markos, “Myth Matters,” Christianity Today (April 23, 2001), 32.

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