Don’t believe everything you see

If there is a God who created us, how would you expect him to reveal himself? Since sight is one of, if not the primary way we humans take in information, we naturally would want to see him. But if he created the entire natural order, then he is outside of it and, safe to say, totally “other” in being. So it’s reasonable to assume that we may not even have the capacity to see him as he really is.

Atheists and skeptics sometimes question God’s existence because they’ve never seen him and know of no hard evidence that anyone ever has. They may or may not allow for the believability of the historical Jesus, but certainly don’t ascribe to the notion that he was God in the flesh. Some even find it convenient that he lived in a pre-technological era, before video cameras were around to record the feeding of the five thousand or the healing of the man born blind. Or his torturous crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. “Maybe if I saw him perform a miracle on the evening news I’d believe,” they seem to be saying.

In this post I presented a fictitious scenario with the suggestion that the written word was the most logical method for jesus-on-televisionGod’s revelation of himself. And I would maintain that the Bible is believable not in spite of but because it was written in ancient times, and the record of Jesus just as valid, if not more than, because he came before the invention of photography.

There are obvious problems with visual recorded evidence. As everyone living in today’s digital age knows, “reality” can be manufactured and images doctored. A while back I ran across a video of a man supposedly getting struck by lightning twice in about 5 seconds. It looked very believable. Turns out, this video had been making the rounds for a few years and had already been debunked as a fake. You can see the evidence here.

More recently, advances in artificial intelligence provide almost limitless ways to manufacture visual “virtual” reality beyond the average person’s capability to detect. See here for a startling and sobering example.

If Jesus had been born in the 20th century, and say we had film from the 1940s of him changing water into wine, wouldn’t the skeptically-inclined suspect some Disney animation-type alterations? Or of him healing a paralyzed man so that he stood up from his wheelchair and walked. Would that be enough to convince most folks that he was God? Would we not question whether the man was truly unable to walk before, and even if medical records were found to corroborate his paralysis, wouldn’t we suspect that they had been faked?

Or suppose there was footage purported to be of his death, by electric chair, most likely. And then of him walking the streets three days later. Faked. Staged. Altered. The challenges to its authenticity would abound, just like they do today for the written accounts.

But the written accounts are reliable precisely because of their ancient “hard copy” format. No one will ever know the multiple changes I’ve made in this composition, but it’s pretty difficult if not impossible to selectively remove ink from papyrus or parchment without leaving evidence of the deed.

But, of course, what survives today are copies of the original manuscripts, not any originals themselves. So one might ask, why should we believe that the original documents were copied accurately? We have very good reason to, and I outlined those reasons in this post.

So seeing is not always believing, if we are wise. Fakery abounds. But if we combine sight with reason, and a healthy skepticism that nevertheless does not rule out what cannot be seen, we can discern an “actual” reality that can be believed.