How would you prove that something is true, morally right or good? What authority would you cite? Or, what authority would you accept? Centuries ago Jesus was confronted with a question concerning the legitimacy of His mission, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21:23). Jesus responded by asking them about the source or authority behind John’s baptism (21:25). In that question Jesus summed up all authorities into two categories. Either a teaching or practice has originated from men or the source behind such teachings is from God (21:25).
Obviously science can be very useful when it comes to discovering truth. Science should be useful, for God is the designer not only of the universe but equally of all the laws that govern this universe (Colossians 1:16). Therefore, genuine science will always support the viewpoints of the Creator. Yet, the God who designed the scientific laws that govern this universe also designed them with some definite limitations:
- By observing the universe and the laws that govern it we can see that a Creator does exist (Romans 1:20). Yet the laws of science were never designed to answer some very important questions. For example, such laws were never designed to tell us what to do to be saved, or how to worship God.
- Another example is that science can tell us a number of things about death, but science cannot tell us if death is “good” or “bad”. I must go to Scripture to find the definitive answer to that question. According to Scripture, death is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Over the years I have cited various scientific studies and yet such studies have limitations as well.
“The next time someone tells you something as gospel truth, and then backs it up with the assertion that ‘scientists agree’ on this issue, try responding with this statistical gem: ‘Scientists also agree that 43 percent of the time that someone claims agreement among all scientists, no such agreement exists’… The extent of our gullibility was highlighted in an April 17 column in The Wall Street Journal, headlining the question ‘How Bad Is the Government’s Science?’ Pretty bad, say writers and researchers Peter Wood and David Randall. Both work with the National Association of Scholars. Wood and Randall suggest that at least half of all articles appearing in peer-reviewed scientific journals fall just flat short in the conclusions they draw. The proof of that charge is that the research behind such reports simply can’t be reproduced… Wood and Randall say the pattern is probably worst in the social sciences. A 2015 article in Science cited researcher’s efforts to replicate 100 prominent psychology studies; only 39 attempts confirmed the original findings” (World Magazine, “Scientists Say”, Joel Belz, May 12, 2018, p. 3).
The writers also point out some of the factors that can undermine the validity of such studies:
- Scientists can make arbitrary decisions about research techniques, even changing procedures partway through an experiment.
- They are susceptible to groupthink and aren’t as skeptical of results that fit their biases.
- Negative results typically go into the file drawer.
- Exciting new findings are a route of tenure and fame and there is very little reward for replication studies.
One common “authority” or “proof” that many people have appealed to over the years has been their own personal experience.
My Moral or Immoral Experience
The Bible condemns fornication (sex prior to marriage), adultery (sex outside of marriage) and homosexuality (sex with the same gender) (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Thus, the Bible does not play any favorites in this area, and it is no respecter of persons. Yet some people will argue that their participation in such things have not been a bad experience for them, and thus their own experience overrules or is more authoritative than Scripture. I have seen this in the following areas:
- Their divorce and remarriage violated the terms of Matthew 19:9, but according to them they are in a much better marriage now, far more happier, therefore their experience proves that Matthew 19:9 is wrong or is not truth for them.
- They are involved in fornication, adultery or homosexuality and they claim that it is or was a wonderful and loving experience for them, therefore the Bible is wrong about such things.
What Has Convinced You?
My answer for people in the above situations is something like:
- What has convinced you from the Bible that your practice is right?
- What has convinced you from the laws that govern this universe that your practice is right?
- What has convinced you from the teachings of Jesus that your practice is right?
- Or, is your proof at the end of the day your feelings and the feelings of other people who are involved in the same thing?
- If your life depended upon it, if your eternity depends upon it, would you be willing to bet everything on the truthfulness of your position or the legitimacy of your feelings and opinion in this area?
- Are you absolutely sure your position is right and the opposite position is wrong?
The Truth about My Story
One inherent problem when people “tell their story” is that they tend to edit it to suit to their purposes. This human tendency was manifested by the Israelites who were able to rewrite the experience of Egyptian bondage. All of a sudden life in Egypt had been great and luxurious where all they had to do each day was sit around by “pots of meat” (Exodus 16:3). In fact, the entire 400 years in bondage had been rewritten in about a month after they had come out of Egypt (16:1).
- I have run into people who said they accepted Jesus as their Savior and experienced tremendous change in their lives and yet were not baptized. Based on this experience they will argue that it is obvious that baptism is not necessary to be converted. Yet consider the following.
- People, religiously minded or not change all the time. Changing for the better is not necessary any proof that a person is saved. In fact, in the Bible people were commanded to repent or change prior to baptism (Acts 2:38). Men like Cornelius were changing for the better long before their actual conversion or baptism into Christ (Acts 10:1-2). Repentance or change is essential to salvation, but repentance does not put me into Christ. Repeatedly Jesus and the apostles placed baptism prior to salvation and not after it (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
Making My Story a Much Better Story
Living in rebellion to God and ignoring His will never results in a good story. Instead of insisting that I am saved prior to baptism, I will have a much better life story to tell if I humble myself and submit to what Jesus taught (Mark 16:16). Then my story will be amazing. I really thought that I was saved and yet then I encountered what Jesus said and in spite of all my feelings or what others were telling me, I decided to trust Jesus. That is a good story. See, the world has always been filled with people who insisted they were right with God and were not (Matthew 7:21-23). In fact insisted they were saved and Jesus said, “I never knew you”.
Proving It Is Right?
So when it comes to belief, practices or lifestyle, how would you prove that a belief or behavior is morally right? What did Jesus say on this point? John 17:17 “Thy Word is Truth”.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017