Does evidence mean anything these days? If I had rock-solid, easy-to-understand evidence that the Earth is flat, would you believe it? Would you even consider it or evaluate it? I'm not saying the Earth is flat. I'm just using the idea as a "what if" example. The Earth is clearly a sphere, a giant blue marble in space, end of story. But, what if I really had irrefutable evidence about something unbelievable, something 180 degrees opposite of what you have always known to be true? Could you allow yourself to believe it after a thorough evaluation? For context, I'm not talking about small truths, I'm referring to life-altering truths. A few examples would include,
- Is there really a God, did he send his son Jesus to die for our sins, and was he resurrected on the third day?
- Are we really on the cusp of the Rapture and the Tribulation?
- Is the Great Reset real and will it likely lead to human slavery for the majority of people in the world?
- Should we trust that our governments and the mainstream media are telling the truth and that they have our country's best interests in mind?
Would you be willing to throw away whatever you believed previously and accept a new explanation that has proven to be true without a shadow of a doubt? Could you do it?
In my opinion, the reality for most people is no, they could not. If you asked someone if they could change their mind, they might tell you that yes, they would be willing to change their mind with the right evidence. They might even tell you they are very open-minded. However, most if not all people in modern times when presented with irrefutable evidence that shatters their worldview will not accept it. I'm not saying they'll never accept it. Some may eventually accept it by themselves, but it will take time. However, most people would first need to be broken by some type of life-shattering event before they would even consider accepting life-altering truths that would change their lives. What types of life-shattering events and I talking about? The usual list; premature death of a family member or very close friend, debilitating disease, addiction, divorce, job loss, etc. As humans, we generally require this level of catastrophic event to break the lock on our current worldview. Only when the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same will we even consider it.
Tangent warning... When I look at the strongest, most devout Christians I know, they all have one thing in common. When I ask them how they came to have the level of conviction that they possess, there is always a story and that story always includes one of the life-shattering events I mentioned above. In fact, I have never met an amazingly strong and incredibly devout Christian who has not undergone one of these life-shattering events. Why is that? The answer is simple. Steel is forged, not cast in a mold.
I found an interesting description of the process to forge steel,
Forging is a process that is used to shape metal. The steel-making process helps determine its features. It is a method where metal is heated in a fire, and after it reaches a certain temperature, it is molded using external force.
Humans are created (molded?) in the image of God. However, unless we are forged through a trial-by-fire we do not develop the faith of steel that is necessary to become everything God has called us to be. Put a pin in the "external force" idea. We'll get back to it.
Back on topic, how does this refusal to accept the truth compare to biblical times? Are humans more open to the truth in 2022 or are humans still the same as we have ever been? Let's go to the Bible for comparison.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in John 9. It is the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. I find the complete story to be both deeply insightful and in some ways ridiculously humorous. Let's take a look and I'll add comments along the way.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. John 9:1-7 ESV
So Jesus is walking along with his disciples and they see a blind man and specifically, a man they somehow know has been blind from birth. The disciples ask Jesus an honest question based on the prevailing worldview of the time and he gives them a shocking answer. It's not this man's fault that he is blind. Neither is it his parent's fault. In biblical times (and frequently today) we humans are under the impression that we "get what we deserve". That is, we are saved by our good works and punished for our bad works. While "we get what we deserve" is sometimes true in our worldly human lives, it is never true for anything related to God. Getting what we deserve is the foundation of the heretical prosperity gospel. The idea of the prosperity gospel is that if we do all the right things God will bless us with riches and wealth and happiness in this world. If you are reading my website you probably already know that's not true. Jesus never promised we would avoid pain and suffering on this side of Heaven. Instead, He said He would be there to carry us through the pain and suffering whenever it inevitably came upon us. And it comes upon everyone eventually.
Now, Jesus' response also begs the question, did God cause the man's blindness or did he simply allow it? This is a difficult question and one I will try to answer carefully. The short version of this question is, does God cause bad things to happen to people and to the world? Like so many other people in this world, I've been down the road of unbelievably bad things happening to me. Feel free to read The Story of the Tree Man here on my site for more on my personal challenges. I'm not saying I've had it worse than others, but it was pretty bad, and that's just the worst of the worst challenges I've experienced. There are plenty more I could add to the list.
Anyway, back to the question, does God cause bad things to happen? I struggled with this question for a long time, as have just about everyone. The book of Job is all about Job demanding from God an answer to this very. In the end, God shows Job that as the "created" he is not capable of understanding the reason behind everything that happens in the world. Only the Creator understands all things. Therefore, while I am not the definitive resource, my best answer is, no. God does not cause bad things to happen. Instead, they happen because we live in a fallen world where we were given free will. He allows them to happen but he does not cause them to happen. Does that make sense? However, the more important side is the question to me is, what does God do after the bad thing happens? The Good News is God will make something amazing come from the worst things that happen in your life if you let him do so. That's why I like to think of Him as The Great Lemonade Maker.
Small side note, one possible origin of the British-ism phrase "here's mud in your eye" could be this story from John 9. The phrase is frequently used to celebrate a life-changing event. Receiving your sight probably qualifies, don't you think?
Ok, onto the next section of the chapter.
8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” John 9:8-17 ESV
When the man who was healed is seen by people who know him, they are confused. How was this possible? I'll admit that if I were in their shoes I'm not sure "confused" would be a sufficiently strong verb. For me, I would have been surprised, confused, perplexed, puzzled, bewildered, etc. All of the above. There are minor miracles around us every day. We can see them if we are looking, but we normally don't see anything like this. The neighbors took the man who was healed to the Pharisees for their interpretation because the reality contradicted their worldview so dramatically that they had no idea how to process the truth, even when the truth was literally staring them in the face.
What happened when the man who had been healed met with the Pharisees? The man told the Pharisees his story and the Pharisees immediately jumped to the conclusion that he was lying. It was impossible for Jesus to have healed him, the Pharisees proclaimed because Jesus was a sinner and as a sinner, he definitely was not from God. Why did they believe Jesus was a sinner? Simple, Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath and God would obviously never do anything like that! Is it just me or does it seem to you that Jesus has a special fondness for shaming the Pharisees? He definitely shames them many times in the Gospels (this time by healing on the Sabbath) and he does so again later in this story. However, as for having a fondness for shaming the Pharisees, I'm going to suggest (hope) that Jesus didn't really enjoy showing them how stupid they were. Instead, He was simply using shame because that's the only way he could break through their hardened hearts.
Back to the story:
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. John 9:18-34
The Pharisees did not believe the man who had been healed so they went about trying to find a way to discredit the man. When they couldn't discredit him, and since they refused to believe him, they resorted to calling him names, and eventually, they cast him out. Have you ever seen or heard anything like that today? Perhaps you or someone else was accused of being "--phobic" or some kind of "--ist"? If you refuse to "repent" from your phobia, your accusers cast you out by ignoring or canceling you. It's a sad thing to witness when those with hardened hearts won't even consider an alternative view and then instead of having a civil discussion or agreeing to disagree, triggers happen, tempers flare and the conversation turns into a dumpster fire. Is today any different than what the Pharisees did in this story?
Perhaps more correctly the Pharisees did not want to believe that the man had actually been healed. So in their effort to discredit him, they start with his parents and ask for an explanation. Feeling like the Pharisees have set a trap, the parents refuse to play along. The parents do confirm that this is their son and they do confirm that he was born blind. Other than that, they will not answer. Why? Because the parents didn't want to be cast out of the synagogue. You see there was already a rumor being spread around that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, and the Pharisees couldn't let that happen. You see Jesus being the Christ would be bad for businesses. If Jesus was the Christ the Pharisees would potentially lose all their power and privilege. Like humans all throughout history (including today) they manage to convince themselves that it was better for the status quo to remain the same than it was for Jesus to be their savior. Remarkable? Not really. If we look honestly at ourselves and our world today, we are all called by society to "look out for number one", meaning me. We instinctively believe that it is better to sacrifice having a savior than it is to sacrifice my plans for the plans God has for me.
I want to be careful here about sacrifice. When I'm talking about sacrificing my plans for God's plans, the God plans I refer to are those plans that clearly align with God's will. Satan is a tricky one and he constantly twists the truth for his benefit. He is the father of lies. It's what he does. One of the weaknesses of the church in general and Christians, in particular, is we are sometimes too willing to go with the flow. We want to be part of the solution and not part of the disruptive problem. Sometimes we can be tempted to sacrifice God's plans for something worldly that seems really important. When that happens, Satan wins...temporarily. For example, during the COVID lockdowns, many countries and states declared that churches could not meet in person. Churches were not considered "essential", even though some other highly questionable locations such as alcohol stores were considered essential and they were allowed to stay open. In many of these locations leaders of vibrant churches rejected the call for lockdowns and they continued to meet in person, even when persecuted. Some pastors were even arrested. These churches believed that the Gospel is so important that they refused a worldly order. Did these churches that fought to remain open make the right decision? If that's what God was calling them to do, then yes. Joseph Farah at WND makes the point in his recent article, Should Christians always obey government? that a careful reading of Romans 13, in context, does not say Christians should never disobey the government. Conversely, history shows that only tyrants say Christians should never disobey the government.
I can say that the Methodist church I attend resorted to streaming and Zoom. We got through it, but at what cost? My church is now only a shadow of the vibrant church that it was before. Perhaps by being compliant, my church inadvertently agreed it wasn't essential. You know the saying "If someone tells you who they are, believe them." Maybe that's what my church did and that's why we lost the vibrancy that was present previously. So, be careful.
Last section of the chapter:
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. John 9:35-41 ESV
Two points about this final section. First, in verse 40 we see the Pharisees just can't leave it alone. They open their mouths to try and justify themselves, only to have Jesus quickly embarrass them even further. Word of advice here. When we argue with Jesus we will not win, but that's okay. All we do is delay your inevitable coming to understand the truth. The good news is Jesus is not out to crush us in our debates with Him. He only wants to soften our hearts so we can begin to understand His infinite love for us. With Jesus, even when we lose we win! Who else does that?
Second, many people in the Bible asked for miracles. They said, "Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do?" (John 6:30 NLT) Unfortunately, both scripture and real-life experience show us that signs and miracles do not convince people to become believers, with one exception. What is the exception? Actually, the correct question is, Who is the exception? The exception is the person who received the miracle. Think about the miraculous healing stories in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. The people who were on the receiving end of a miracle were people who were absolutely desperate and without hope. They were spiritually (and literally in at least one case) dead and then raised to life. When Jesus touched, healed, and forgave their sins (the external force) these recipients (and sometimes their immediate family) were reborn into a new life both physically and more importantly spiritually. They were born again and made new. After being born again their passion for Jesus leaps off the pages of the Bible as you read. These people were touched by the Creator of the Universe it made all the difference. The people who unconditionally accept Jesus are the people who have been driven to their knees by life and they don't have anywhere else to turn. For those who were not directly touched by Jesus, the miracle may have strengthened their faith or at least made them question their non-belief. However, only those who were raised from spiritual death to new life and that's what made the difference!
Have you ever been the recipient of a miracle so big that it made all the difference in your life? If you can't think of one, let me give you a hint.
The gift of salvation that God gave to us (we didn't earn it) is greater than any miracle that Jesus performed when He was here on Earth.
When you think about it, all of Jesus' earthly miracles were temporary. Everyone who was healed, including Lazarus, eventually died. However, the gift of salvation is eternal, it lasts forever! Therefore it is by definition Salvation is a greater miracle than any miracle that Jesus performed during his earthly life. I'm not saying this to downplay any of Jesus' miracles while he was on Earth. Quite the opposite, I'm pointing out the absolutely unbelievable magnitude of the gift of salvation! Salvation is so much greater than the biggest thing we can even imagine that it is impossible to comprehend. That's what makes it so difficult for our tiny human minds to understand and appreciate.
Regarding the question in the title of this article, "Are Humans More Open To The Truth in 2022 Than During Biblical Times?", I have to say no. Yes we have far greater knowledge and we do many amazing things, but at our core, we are still the same. Inherently we are sinful, egotistical, selfish creatures who will do just about anything to avoid acknowledging the Creator of the Universe.
But God, for some crazy reason still loves us anyway.
And he has given us the external force of the Holy Spirit to forge our lives for Him.
To that, may we all say...Thanks be to God, Amen!