Professor John Lennox, who was Professor of Mathematics and now lectures on the History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford University, is fond of saying that the only area in which absolute proof is possible is in his own field of mathematics. In every other discipline of science and learning, the only proof possible is what he calls “forensic proof”, that is, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Just as in a court of law, we judge by the available evidence, and we make a decision based largely on faith in the direction the evidence is pointing. As he is fond of saying: he cannot prove scientifically that his wife of almost fifty years loves him, but he believes it. After all, he has almost fifty years worth of evidence! Forensic proof.
Of course, to make an informed decision, you have to be informed, and to base a decision on evidence, you have to be acquainted with the evidence: this is obvious, you might think. But, in reality, most of us are quite content to take a further step of faith by trusting those who assure us that the evidence is strong and the conclusion logical and rational. But, when it comes to the really important issues of life, such as God, death and whatever comes next, it is surely irresponsible to allow others to make decisions for us.
I firmly believe that no issue is more fundamental (pun intended) for all of us than the question of whether there is a spiritual reality, and a God, or not. Christianity not only says that your life can be eternally changed by knowing God, but also that this present life is but a short moment in that eternal reality that lies beyond space and time. Is this true? Have you ever really thought about it, or examined the evidence? Or do you just take somebody else’s word for it?
This is just as important a question for those who call themselves Christians as it is for non-believers. Peter, the Apostle, gives this advice: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. [1 Peter 3.15] John recounts how a Samaritan woman, convinced by Jesus of the truth of who he was, told her neighbours about him. They came to listen to him, and then reported to the woman: “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.” [John 4.42]
Do you believe because of someone else’s word, or because you, individually, have come to know. That word, “know”, is really central to the New Testament. It constantly applies it to each believer, and emphasises the need for each to come to know for themselves. What is there to know? The letter to the Hebrews quotes Jeremiah to indicate what God’s plan was, and is, for each of us: “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” [Jeremiah 31.31-34; Hebrews 8.10-12]
Just read what Paul and John say to you, as a Christian: “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” [2 Tim. 1.12]
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life… We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.” [1 John 1-4]
Too many Christians do not have that certainty, that personal assurance of what they claim to believe. And so they cannot give an answer to others, because they have not found it for themselves. Theirs is second-hand news, not Good News. It is not enough to depend on anyone else for this knowledge, this assurance. No-one need come between you and the Father. Look again at Jeremiah’s prophesy, the promise of the Father: “because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest”. This is God’s will for his people, that they come to know him, personally, individually, and to enjoy his love, forgiveness and life eternally.
Don’t waste your time on second-hand news: go straight to the Source and ask to know him. This is his will for you. Remember what James said: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” [James 1.5] And Jesus himself commanded us: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” [Luke 11.9-10]