Thursday, March 12, 2009

Prediction, Power, and Proof

Isaiah 48:3-5 says:
The former things I declared of old;
they went out from my mouth and I announced them;
then suddenly I did them and they came to pass.
Because I know that you are obstinate,
and your neck is an iron sinew
and your forehead brass,
I declared them to you from of old,
before they came to pass I announced them to you,
lest you should say, "My idol did them,
my carved image and my metal image commanded them."
The heart of the scientific method consists of forming a hypothesis, making a prediction, doing an experiment, and seeing whether the prediction is fulfilled--or not. Without fulfilled prediction, science has no proofs.

As Isaiah shows, this doesn't just apply to science. He insists that God's power is revealed through predictive prophecy. This isn't just an Old Testament thing. The Apostle Paul relied upon the power of God to prove his message. In I Cor. 2:3-5 he said:

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul and Isaiah (and the rest of the prophets and apostles) commanded their hearers to respond with faith, but not with blind faith. Time after time, the Bible stories show an individual who (1) believes in a God of power and then (2) takes a risk based on that faith. When that risk is visibly rewarded, others see and (often) believe. Ideally, their belief results in them stepping out in faith, too, leading to more result--and more believers.

One particularly dramatic example of this cycle was when Peter got out of the boat and walked across the water towards Jesus. Matthew 14:27-33 tells the story, beginning with a boat full of weary disciples in the middle of a stormy lake late at night. Something unusual approached them across the surface of the water, and they panicked.

Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come.”

So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

There's a lot to be said for this cycle of "risky faith rewarded." Although it has a tendency to make the believer look and feel like an idiot, it's safer, in its way, than playing it safe. If there really is a God who answers prayers and fulfills prophecies, why not act like it? And if there isn't such a God, why say there is? Wouldn't it be better to get out of your boat, sink, flounder back to safety, and then go back to fishing? Peter spent the rest of his life talking about his crucified Lord and died, crucified himself, for all his pains. That makes perfect sense for a man who walked on water--but it's not a wise career path unless you've met the Living God.

On a broader scale, this cycle has the potential to slowly fill the earth up with believers if there really is a God of power. And if there isn't such a God, the Darwinian consequences of taking major risks should soon wipe out these faith-filled fools.

If you love Truth and believe in God, get out of your boat and try walking on water!

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