Unshaken Faith in Shaky Times
— A few months ago, news agencies around the world ran with a story about an ancient tablet that was recently investigated and found to make reference to a resurrection of a messiah figure, three days after his death. With the prompting of some scholars and archeologists, ambitious news editors ran with the story, approaching the discovery from a salacious angle—is the story of Christ’s resurrection a recycled part of Jewish tradition?! Does this tablet disprove the Gospel?!!
Time ran a story provocatively titled, “Was Jesus' Resurrection a Sequel?” Beliefnet ran this story: “Will ‘Gabriel's Revelation’ shake our view of Christianity?” Fox News teased readers with this question, “Jesus’ Resurrection Foretold?”
All the buzz (which, a few weeks later, didn't really amounted to much in terms of a story with legs), surrounded a 3-ft. tablet being called “Gabriel’s Revelation.” According to some scholars who have studied the stone, the writings date back to before the birth of Christ, and some believe it may have been part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. But one sentence in the 87-line stone made a big stir: "in three days you shall live.” The somewhat creative interoperation of the line (in the context of the entire apocalyptic prophecy) suggests that a resurrection after three days was already part of the Jewish tradition, and was not original to Christ (that is, according to proponents of the controversy). As the Time story points out however, this reading of the tablet is a little bit of a stretch, and many Bible scholars say it does nothing to disprove the Bible.
But regardless of the dissenting voices, the story really should have made more of a splash … shouldn’t it have? As editors across the Net gave the story of the stone premium placement (with bold proclamations about how it could shake the foundations of the world’s largest religion), the story came and went, and within just a few days, it was just another passing link on yesterday’s Google News Reader.
Maybe it was a “hot mic” incident that bulldozed less sensational headlines out of the way along with saucier Drudge Report political season links. Maybe Da Vinci fatigue is finally settling in and people are just getting tired of anti-religion conspiracy stories (remember the flack from James Cameron’s “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” documentary?). Or maybe (and hopefully) news editors have been reading the public all wrong. Maybe people don’t want to read stories proving or disproving faith—because maybe they realize religion is just that … faith.
In a world of sensationalized headlines, 24-hour news cycles and international religious tensions, stories that attempt to prove or disprove the crux of organized religion are inescapable. Whether it’s the latest archeological discovery that questions a traditional view of biblical history or medical research that attempts to debunk the supernatural, if what you think about God is solely based on the latest physical "proof", then you may be in for some shaky times. Anyone can believe in something they see; but Christianity is about faith—and about the things unseen.
Interestingly, with all of its miraculous stories and accounts of supernatural events, the Bible also showcases why it’s important to have a rooted faith.
The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Adendnego is a Sunday school staple. Three followers of Christ are to be thrown into a fiery furnace by the evil King Nebuchadnezzar for worshipping God. While in the burning pit, the Angel of the Lord appears and saves them from the flames. But there’s a line in the story that is often overlooked. Before being thrown into the furnace, the Bible says that the trio said this to the king:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If the God we serve is able to deliver us, then He will deliver us from the blazing furnace and from Your Majesty's hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:16-18, TNIV, emphasis mine).
Sometimes it’s easy to forget about that statement “even if He does not.” Of course, God does rescue the three faithful worshippers, but there are plenty of times in the Bible where God doesn’t “show up” (at least in the way we expect Him to).
We learn that of the 12 men originally called by Christ, 11 of them (not including Judas who killed himself) died violent deaths, and the 12th died in exile. God could have come down and rescued the apostles (like he had many other times throughout the scripture), but his physical absence did not shake their faith. Because their faith was based on more than physical proof and the things we can see.
It’s important to know apologetics and understand why you believe what you believe (especially in light of research that shows a stark lack of knowledge of doctrine among professed Christians), but as the old adage goes, “18 inches” (the distant from your head to heart) is an important distant when it comes to faith.
It’s likely that we’ll see more news stories about archeological discoveries, scientific breakthroughs and new interoperations of history. But being grounded in faith requires a balance of knowledge (and seeing how science and history actually confirm what you believe) and that intangible element that draws the line between belief and faith.
Know that God will show up in your life, but remember His ways are not ours. So “even if He does not” appear like you think He should (whether it be through a personal sign, a “groundbreaking” news story or just in daily situations), know that He is there. And all that takes is a little bit of faith.
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Jesse Carey is the Interactive Media Producer for CBN.com. With a background in entertainment and pop-culture writing, he offers his insight on music, movies, TV, trends and current events from a unique perspective that examines what implications the latest news has on Christians.
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