Monday, February 19, 2007

Can’t Handle the Proof

We demand the evidence,

A clear and certain sign,

We show no bit of reticence

Ask God to please divine.

Here a little miracle,

Or there a stellar light

To shine upon our darkness

And give us all insight.

But what if God’s not hidden,

Not remote or too aloof,

What if we’re just blind

And cannot handle proof?

What if all the world’s a stage

And the play’s long been going on,

But we’re not paying attention

Or listening to the song?

What if the heavens shout ‘glory’

And the rocks and all the trees

But we’re too damn distracted

To fall down on our knees?

What if believing leads to seeing

Not the other way around,

What if believing’s our 3-D glasses

To see the more profound.

In a world of truth decay

We perish for lack of hope

We settle for compensation

For that which helps us cope.

A visionary person

Is one who believes the most,

She sees the path before her,

But she trusts the Holy Ghost.

If you ignore all the evidence,

Then you cannot handle proof,

Only open hands receive it,

Only open minds find truth.

BW3 2/17/07


Brother Marty said...

I, personally, found inspiration in that poem. Open minds...something to think about.

Peleg said...

Very good. Post this over at Internet Infidels and you'll see the message of this poem displayed before your very eyes.

Bethany said...

I just wanted to say thanks-- this is unrealted to your poem, which is beautiful by the way...
I just started listening to a lecture series by Bart Ehrman about the "historical Jesus" and was disturbed by his factual claims that seemed at odds with my education on the historicity of the Bible.
So I decided to jump online and find out about this man and his aims...
It is a relief to have his criticisms put into a more truthful light. I appreciate what you say.
Thanks and God be with you---

Ben Witherington said...

You are welcome Bethany. I wouldn't pay any attention to that man if I were you. He is now an agnostic who has denied his previous Evangelical faith and is trying to exorcise its influence out of his life.


John Wesley said...

Dear and Gentle Reader,

Since I last had the pleasure of visiting ye, I have had many thoughts upon ye and your work. Keep hold the faith and continue to run the race! We will praise God for what he has done through your ministry and I cherish your words in this poem.

Who knows but it may please God to make ye an instrument in His glorious work? In effecting an union among the labourers in His vineyard? That He may direct and bless you in all your steps is the prayer of my heart.

Your affectionate and obedient servant,

Ben Witherington said...

Well John, you are looking remarkably well preserved for being about 304 years old just now. Thanks so much for the encouragement. I hadn't realized you had retired to Savannah your first American parish.

We miss you :)

Ben W.

Sean Kennedy said...

Ben - I find your assessment of Bart Ehrman somewhat immature. Your poem about Proof is
an abhorrence to Christianity. Proof? Proof? What proof are you talking about Ben? How can you explain to Bethany about our 'Christian' president? That he fails to trust God. That apparently God can't handle the business. Your theology would fall apart if pushed far enough and you don't do that. And I do mean theology because you have no real faith in God.
But then again maybe I missed the subtleties of your poetry (which reads like poetry 101). Maybe you were being ironic. Maybe the internet infidels will pick up on it. Ben do you have any sense of shame when you write "I wouldn't pay any attention to that man if I were you". You clearly give him a great deal of attention. In some sense I admire him. Agnostic means to not know. And in some sense, though he himself doesn't fall for God, not knowing is beautiful. To know there is a God? That is malarchy. To believe in God is beauty. Bart is talking about proof. Proof is for those who don't believe. What is your poem about? Proof. Looking around and seeing? Seeing what? The wealth of Christians who vacation to luxurious spots around the world while the wealth is heading one direction and not the other? Proof is for children and Bart's work is not spiritual and in his lectures he addresses this immediately. So if Bethany wants to know more about the Bible from a historical perspective she began in the right spot. Ben your Christianity disappoints me.

Daniel said...

I think the last line of Sean's post should have read, "Christianity dissapoints me." That's fair, Sean, and you certainly are within your rights as a thinking human being to come to that conclusion. However, I wonder why you are not satisfied with this conclusion. Why the need to attack others who feel differently? I am secure in my faith and your lack of faith and do not feel the need to taunt you or attack you about our difference in opinion. If only your enlightened views about Christianity and morality were practiced in your own behavior, you would have some type of moral high ground from which to speak. Obviously you do not.

Steven Carr said...

Heroes of faith demand proof.

In Judges 6, Gideon demands that God produce a wet fleece while all around is dry.

God does so.

So Gideon immediately demands another sign, and demands that God make the fleece dry while all around is wet.

Why does God produce sign after sign on demand for so-called 'heroes of faith', while the rest of us have to work out God's prescence from his creation of HIV, smallpox, cholera and rabies?

Peleg said...

Steven Carr,

I would suggest you read through the Gospels and see how God through Jesus performed a glut of "proofs" to people who were anything but heroes of the faith. The vast majority still would not believe. They wanted a magic show. I'll leave you w/ the words of Jesus at the end of the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man.

"Luk 16:29 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'
Luk 16:30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
Luk 16:31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"

I pray that you will open your ears to hear.

Steven Carr said...

Of course, the reactions of people in the Gospels are totally unbelievable.

The disciples supposedly saw Moses himself return from the dead, never to die again, believed it was him, yet still deserted Jesus.

I'm not even Jewish, but if believed I had seen Moses return from the dead, my life would be utterly transformed.

Meanwile, a thief on the cross sees a crucified criminal and immediately shows more faith than the disciples.

The disciples , remember, had been given the power to cure all illnesses, they had been given the secret of the Kingdom of God (Mark 4), and had personally been given the power to raise the dead (Matthew 10)

And still the disciples show less faith than somebody who seen no evidence whatsoever.

This just makes no sense.

Modern-day Christians are living proof that the disciples could not possibly have had the lack of faith that the disciples are supposed to have had.

Despite not having been given the power to raise the dead, many modern day Christians show far more faith than people who knew Jesus personally.

That says a great deal to me.

Peleg said...

Steven Carr,
LOL, you're right about that! Few could read the Gospels and not wonder what kind of blockheads the 12 were. To you this is reason to doubt but to me it makes them more believable. More genuinely human not some mock ups to sell a good story. They weren't shown to be supermen just ordinary folks. But there lives, what they suffered and how they all died w/o much in the way of worldly gain attests to their growing faith but most of all to God working through them and them being willing and mostly faithful. That's always God's way, pick the weak, untalented, unremarkable etc. and do great things through them. That shows that it's God doing it not the person. Don't you wonder if these super churches and Christian organizations that are built around one person if it's really God or just this person's charismatic leadership, that's natural to them, making the organization great?

One more thing, for those always asking for more proof, Jesus gave a warning: to whom more is given, more is required. There's enough there my friend, just stop questioning and open your heart a little.

Steven Carr said...

The disciples were just 'ordinary folks'?

Hoe many 'ordinary folk' have been given the power to raise the dead? (Matthew 10:8), and yet still have less faith than Peleg?

Anonymous said...


The problem with your question is twofold:

1. In your worldview, it is impossible to evaluate what one would do if they had the power to raise the dead, because, in your worldview, the supernatural is not an admitted alterantive.

2. The disciples do not act upon Jesus' teaching in Matt 10 until after Pentecost. It was prior to Pentecost, of course, when some of the disciples betrayed and denied Jesus. In other words, your argument only has the potential to make sense if, following the exercise of their gifts, they did not have faith. As we know from the book of Acts (and the early fathers), they were solid from that time on.


Steven Carr said...

Time to quote the Bible...

Jesus commands the disciples in Matthew 10 'As you go, proclaim the good news, - The kingdom of heaven has come near - , cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.'

And the disicples went.

So why does Peleg deny that Jesus told the disciples to go and raise the dead, long, long before Pentecost, and long before they thought tales of Jesus rising from the dead 'nonsense'?

Peleg said...

Steven Carr,
Where in the world did you get the idea that I deny Christ gave them the power to raise the dead and such?? Your not listening just ranting. My point was that I don't see it as unbelievable that after having done all the miracles that they did the 12 were still very human and whose faith often failed them or proved to be weak...just like modern Christians, myself included. Remember, there was quite a lot that Jesus was saying and doing that was at odds w/ their ideas of what the Messiah would be like and a lot of His teachings were also at odds w/ their beliefs. I think they were kinda off balance quite a bit of the time. I think your ideas on how folks oughta act in their circumstances is a bit whimsical. For you to say that your life would be utterly transformed if you saw Moses is pure speculation. This is the standard line of skeptics. They always want the next miracle and then they'll believe. There's more than enough proof you just refuse to Ben's poem says.

Steven Carr said...

If I believed I saw Moses return from the dead, my life would be transformed.

And I am not even Jewish.

The disciples were Jewish, had been given the secret of the kingdom of God, they had been given the power to raise the dead, they had seen Moses and Elijah return.

One of them had even walked on water.

And still they had less faith than Peleg.

And less faith than the thief on the cross (the guy who hadn't spent 3 years with the true Messiah)

This makes no sense.

Peleg's rationalisation is that they didn't expect Jesus to be the Messiah, presumably in the same way that converts to Mormonism couldn't understand how God would reveal new scriptures.

Even afer seeing Jesus raised from the dead, the disciples go back to their old dau job of fishing.....

Steven Carr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Carr said...

For you to say that your life would be utterly transformed if you saw Moses is pure speculation.

Peleg thinks nothing of calling non-believers liars, even when he has never met them.

Such is the lack of respect shown by the poem and the comments.

I repeat, I would be as transformed by seeing Moses return from the dead as I would by seeing ET appear in my garden.

Perhaps Peleg doesn't think I would believe in extra-terrestials , even if a flying saucer appeared in my garden ?!?

Daniel R said...

This is an interesting debate that has arisen. It seems to me the central problem is "faith"; this is no surprise to me at all. In modern times, it seems to me that most people equate faith with mere belief, and most certainly put an intellectual spin on it. But what, exactly, is faith? As I've studied it, the faith spoken of in the Old and New Testaments is much more than merely believing evidence. Though I do not believe anyone could furnish a complete definition of faith, I think that the best definition I have come across goes something like this. Faith is the acceptance of a person and their claims, and according trust in them. Notice how this includes not only the intellect, but also the will and affections, and that it is personal. If that is closer to what faith is, then what the Bible says makes complete sense.

If faith is merely intellectual, then it doesn't make any sense that disciples who spend 3 years with Jesus believe in him more poorly than a thief about to die on a cross. On the other hand, if faith is far more than intellectual as I have posited, then the disciples can spend 3 years of their life without really fully accepting Jesus' claims and trusting in Him accordingly, though they have presumably learned far more about him than the thief. The thief, on the other hand, can submit to and trust in an instant the person dying before him (and we don't know what he heard of Jesus beforehand, mind you; clearly he heard something). After all, acceptance and trust only require that their object is properly presented, as is the case with the thief.

This, of course, leaves every skeptic with a question. "Is it that I can't believe the presented evidence, or that I can't accept the evidence?" And professors of faith are not spared either. "Do I truly have faith, or merely belief?" The Bible does say, after all, that faith without works is dead.

Furthermore, in my experience of human nature, what is recorded in the Gospels is entirely consistent with what people often do. Were it not "cognitive dissonance" would not even exist. It is also interesting to note that it is analogous to the incredibly poor faith displayed by Israel after the exodus, who continue to rebel against God even though they could see His visible presence on a daily basis. Clearly faith is more about acceptance and choice, and less about blindly following the evidence presented.