Why Believe? How does the Bible compare to science? (John 20:19-29)

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One of Disney’s recent movies celebrates the identity and bravery of females with the fictional character named Moana. Moana is an island girl who has grown up sheltered on an island, but she has an explorer’s heart. As she adventures beyond the island, she meets a demigod named Maui. Maui thinks she’s a fangirl and he sings the infamous song, “You’re Welcome.” I won’t torture you with my singing and leave you to Google the song if you’re unfamiliar; d but essentially Maui claims to be able to explain every natural phenomenon, including the heat of the sun, the harnessing of wind, the wonders of the entire world, and even the island tides, the grass, and the ground – Oh that was Maui just messing around… “You’re welcome.”[1]

As you know, Moana was not impressed with Maui and many people today are not impressed with similar creation stories. They prefer to explain creation phenomena with scientific method, believing human science as the opposite of divine design.

Today’s passage will briefly explore a relationship between the facts of science and the faith of Christianity. Specifically, we’ll examine John 20 and the validity of the resurrection as the lynchpin for why we believe.

EXAMINE           Why Believe? How does the Bible compare to scientific proof? (John 20:19-29)

John 20:19-29
19  On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
21  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
22  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
23  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
24  Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
25  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26  Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
27  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
28  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
29  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Thomas

  • The disciple known as Thomas often gets a bad reputation as he’s called “Doubting Thomas.” In fact, this phrase is labeled as judgment against those who are hesitant or resistant to believe. 
    • Feel bad bc if we say/do something foolish we get embarrassed for about 30 minutes and something gets remembered in brief moments or hopefully forgotten. When Thomas spoke about his not believing unless he can see, it’s written down in Bible and read by billions of people for the next two-thousand years. 
  • Thomas name means “twin” (Jn 11:16) Aramaic word; Greek word is Didymus.
  • Life or calling is unknown… After resurrection, Thomas went fishing with Peter & John, so it’s possible he too was a fisherman.
  • In all, John’s Gospel shows us how Thomas is an example disciple to us in at least 3 ways

Thomas is an example that science has shortcomings.

After Jesus died, the disciples scattered. Everything they had been learning with Jesus seemed to be pointless. Their Messiah was murdered, their strength was sapped, and their hope was vanquished. The disciples were behind a locked door for fear the Jewish religious leaders would penalize and persecute them for being a follower of Jesus. They were also afraid of Roman soldiers seeking to crush an uprising.

Absent from disciples was Thomas. He is grieving the death of Jesus in his own way. Some seek comfort with company while others prefer quiet. Thomas needed to be alone with his thoughts and reflect on all the events. Thomas was not an unbeliever – he still loved the Lord Jesus, he stilled was devoted to the disciples, he still wanted to believe, but Thomas’s heart and faith experienced turbulence when Jesus died on the cross.

When someone dies, it would be arrogant to tell the remaining loved ones, “Life is a random assortment of molecules that exist for a season and then decompose. Since the beginning of life as we know it, 50 billion species have gone extinct, and extinction is the engine of the evolutionary process to prune the poorly adapted. The inevitability of death is the only constant in life. Take heart in your fellow humanity.”

You see, science has shortcomings. It can give us theories about life’s existence but not about meaning. Science can give us information but not inspiration. Thomas, like the other disciples, were overwhelmed at the death of Jesus and no normal/natural data could help them deal with this reality; only supernatural evidence of the resurrection could renew their joy and restore hope.[2]

Robert Jastrow[3], “[My fear is that] for the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peaks…as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

In all, Christianity is not opposed to science. In fact, many Christians were the first to develop modern science to enhance their understanding of the Creator and His creation.[4]  

C.S. Lewis[5], “Our dissatisfaction with time argues for the fact that we were created for eternity: Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or, if they did, would not that fact strongly suggest that they had not been, or were not destined to be, aquatic creatures? We long to step out of the sea of time onto the land of eternity!” … If I find in myself a desire which nothing in this world can satisfy, the best argument is that I was created for another world.”

The fact that science has shortcomings does not decrease our awareness of the world but increase our appreciation for both the mundane and magnificent. Science can give us comprehension, but faith gives us appreciation for brevity of life and relationships.

  • Show honor and help with those when it is within your power to extend it (Prov 3:27).
    Start today with 1) Mother’s Day… 2) Baby Bottle Campaign 3) Neighbors

Thomas is an example that faith is based on facts.

These events happened in evidenced time with eyewitness testimony: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week”. Jesus appeared and showed his hands and side to the disciples. Jesus breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit. The disciples told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” “Eight days later, Thomas was with the disciples and Jesus appeared among them, saying, “Put your finger here and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

  • Thomas’s faith was firm and fearless. He was willing to die for Jesus, believing Jesus was establishing a military resistance to Roman kingdom (John 11:16).
  • Thomas’s faith was loyal and loving. When Jesus explained He was going away, Thomas wanted to know where He was going and how he could continue following. Jesus told Him “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6) – in other words, one must have a personal relationship with Jesus. Thomas was a man of deep and lasting affection for Jesus, with the thought of separation from His Lord being paralyzing. And Thomas’s worst fears were realized when Jesus died on the cross.
  • Thomas was a man who did not easily fall for tricks. Thomas needed to see with his own eyes before he believed with his heart. (Jn 20:25)
  • Thomas was an independent thinker rather than a second-hand believer. His faith wasn’t just on the fumes of another’s passion but based on verified data. He was not guided by emotion but let his emotions be guided by facts and truth.


Agnostics or atheists like to ask, “What is the evidence for God’s existence?”

  • What kind of evidence do you want?[6]
    • Logical evidence (view previous message or Sunday AM seminars)
    • Documentary evidence? (Come back next week as we explore “Why trust the Bible?”)
    • Historical evidence, eyewitness evidence, archeological evidence, forensic evidence????

For Thomas, his faith was based on evidential facts. He was not a skeptic unbeliever. His doubts were not academic but circumstantial. There is a difference between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is an issue of the mind, having insufficient information. Unbelief is an issue of the heart, having willful waywardness. 

  • It’s one thing for a person to search for answers, and another thing to wish for an argument. Some people choose to not believe or follow Jesus because they don’t want to give up being their own god.
    • Pharisees wanting another sign/miracle but wouldn’t believe resurrection (Mt 16:1-4)
    • Crowd: “Come down from the cross and we will believe” (Mt 27:42)
    • Agnostic Alduous Huxley, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption… The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics; he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation… from a certain system of morality.”[7]
    • Thomas didn’t get an explanation for Jesus’s death or disciple’s suffering. Instead, Jesus made Himself available. Today, the same Jesus is available to us and we can demand explanations or submit to revelation.

Wolfhart Pannenberg, German scholar at Tubingen “The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.”

  • Resources to read…
    • Rebecca McLaughlin Confronting Christianity, or her teen version 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask About Christianity. Also recommend Tim Keller’s Reason For God, C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity, and Josh McDowell More Than A Carpenter. 
    • Gospels (Jn 8:32 “truth will set you free”)
    • Like Zeke playing hide & seek, he wants to be found (cf. Jer 29:13-14; Mt 7:7-11 Ask Seek Knock)
  • Read not just for information but transformation. If we’re not sharing Jesus and helping others to believe then we are not Jesus’s disciples. Like the 10 (minus Judas and Thomas) with Thomas – keep persuading, pleading, and praying until they trust Jesus.  

Thomas is an example that Jesus changes everything.

Just like we wouldn’t/shouldn’t purchase a car without test driving, neither should we accept a faith that is untested. Unfortunately, many people claim to be Christians but have an unexamined and uninformed faith. The object of their faith is not the resurrected Jesus but a god in their own image.

When the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus, everything changed.

  • “they were glad” (20:20) Fear gave way to cheer. It’s why Christians are a singing people – sin forgiven and death defeated.
  • “Peace be with you” (20:21) Chaos gave way to calm. It’s why Christians never have to fear their circumstances.
    • “For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bade news, his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.” (Ps 112:6-7)
    • House founded on the rock survives the rain, floods, winds, and storms (Mt 7:25)
    • Peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Php 4:7)
  • “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (20:21) Each Gospel ends with a commission to the disciples.
    • Jesus gives them Holy Spirit to fulfill their mission. The role of the Spirit is primarily to equip the believer for mission not maintaining; thriving and multiplying, not just surviving.
    • Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor (Spurgeon).
    • There’s no such thing as an unsent Christian. Draw a circle around yourself and everyone outside the circle is your mission field.
  • “Thomas answered, ‘My Lord and my God!” Doubts gave way to devotion. The wounds that were put on Jesus were the consequence of Thomas’s sin (and ours). Thomas had failed Jesus, but Jesus did not forsake Thomas. Thomas worshiped Jesus as Lord, a title reserved undeservingly for Caesar and solely justified to God alone, is unashamedly affirmed to Jesus.
    • Contra every cult: JW, LDS
  • “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (20:29) Disbelief gave way to disciplemaking. There is considerable amount of ancient testimony that suggests Thomas carried the gospel as far as India. It is said he was buried on a hill near the airport in Chennai (Madras), India. There are churches in south India whose roots are traceable to the beginning of the church age and tradition says were founded under the ministry of Thomas. Tradition also says Thomas was martyred with a spear running through his side, similar to his Lord and God.
  • Anyone can change, they just have to meet Jesus. He’s still appearing places, especially places with locked doors, lock-downs, people who are locked up or locked out – the gospel is unhindered because God’s church is filled with the Holy Spirit and on the move to advance His kingdom until the return of Jesus Christ. Who’s ready?

APPLY/THINK

Thankfully, the tomb was open not to let Jesus out but to let us in.. there’s an invitation for us to investigate.

Thankfully, Jesus was gentle and patient with Thomas’s doubts. His grace is available for you to receive… do not be disbelieving but believing. You say, “I will eventually in my own timing.” My friend, you don’t know how much time you have. Do not delay until tomorrow what is required of you today.


[1] https://youtu.be/y5dpfFfcQ3E

[2] For role of scientific belief in supernatural, see: www.veritas.org/can-scientist-believe-resurrection-three-hypotheses/ 

[3] Jastrow (1925-2008), was an American astronomer, planetary physicist and NASA scientist, self-described agnostic.

[4] See: Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity, ch 7 “Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?”

[5] Lewis, Mere Christianity

[6] For more see: www.veritas.org/can-scientist-believe-resurrection-three-hypotheses/; http://www.veritas.org/evidence-easter-scientists-list/   

[7] Huxley, Ends and Means (1937)

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