Miracles, divinity, presence. Say it again with me, miracles, divinity, presence. These are three separate categories which would appear to incite skepticism within many open but cautious inquirers into Christianity as well as into the world’s religions at large.
Contrary to what some folks may think I am actually quite ready, willing, and open to meet my maker if in fact it is accurate to think about my existence in those terms. I am not opposed to a good God existing, but I am also not in favor of giving credence to such beliefs if I cannot gain a reliable foundation from which to build certainty.
When I used to identify as a devoted Christian I was under the mistaken impression that doubt was a terrible trap to fall into for too long. It took a little time for me to adjust to the fact that being skeptical is yet another useful tool in the arsenal for discovering and highlighting what is true.
As it pertains to claims about miracles, the divinity of Jesus, as well as the idea that God is present, more specifically, in the form of the Holy Spirit residing within a person, it would appear that there are good grounds to question whether there is sufficient reason to believe that these claims are inherently reliable.
What makes this project challenging is that I am presenting a case for the Christian to reevaluate how he or she is presently building their own foundation for sufficient certainty. My argument is that Christians do not have sufficient means from which to conclude that miracles, divinity, and presence are reliable avenues from which to gain certainty. I would equate gaining a sense of certainty to forming a belief that Christian claims are in some way reliable.
I will first focus on the nature of these claims and what they appear to require from the Christian in order to solidify belief. From the very onset Christianity requires assumptions that are not necessarily legitimate to accept as it relates to making a solid case for inherent reliability.
- At most it would seem that one can only assume that miracle claims are inherently reliable. Assuming that a historical Jesus literally turned water into wine, walked on water, and rose from the dead is not a clear indicator that he actually did. The question remains, would beginning with this assumption actually merit a belief that such claims can be understood as reliable? This brings into question whether gaining a sense of confidence about this issue is warranted in light of an inability to discern what is factual?
- At most it would appear that one can only assume that Jesus was divine by accepting Christian doctrine. This does not establish whether he was actually divine. Again, this brings into question what is actually contributing to one’s belief that such claims are even reliable to accept in the first place? How is the Christian bridging the gap between the assumed reliability of this claim, a form of reliability that cannot be guaranteed, and their belief that it is in fact true? Assuming reliability does not actually show that the claim that Jesus was divine is legitimate in its essence. If not even the Christian can gain insight into the inherent reliability of the claim that Jesus was God, what exactly does a Christian understand as their own source of assurance? What rests at the foundation for properly forming one’s beliefs?
- Let’s narrow in on the claim that a Holy Spirit resides within a person. How is it that a Christian gains certitude about the reliability of this claim? Could it be just as likely that a Holy Spirit does not reside within a believer? That it may not even exist? How would one attempt to discern the difference? How does one evaluate and conclude that such a claim is trustworthy?
It is fair to note that not everyone thinks in the same way. That being said, I am trying to honestly inquire into how an assumption about the inherent reliability of miracles, divinity, and the presence of God in one’s life leads to a sense of assurance? My honest evaluation is that this appears inconsistent. In other words, it appears insufficient and not well supported given what can be known about these matters. I don’t see how assuming reliability should further lead into a belief that these claims have shown themselves to be legitimate in their essence, especially as it relates to these three very questionable categories.