Objective Evidence For Subjective Experience (1)
What objective evidence is there for my subjective experience of God? Does that evidence support and validate my experience? This is not about winning an argument, but rather to demonstrate that what I call my Christian experience has objective evidence to support and validate it. If this is so, then my experience should be taken seriously by other people. As Kenneson has said, “If what Christians believe is not objectively true, then on what basis could they possibly commend it to others?”
In an age when there are apparently absolutely no absolutes, one could be forgiven for being confused by the plethora of differing Christian opinions with regard to truth and reality. For example, Kenneson tells us: “I don’t believe in objective truth or relativism. Moreover, I don’t want you to believe in objective truth or relativism either, because the first concept is corrupting the church and its witness to the world, while tilting at the second is wasting the precious time and energy of a lot of Christians.”
Is there something absolute that we can believe in, or is experience all there is? Every human being has their own personal experiences of truth and reality, which are real to them; but the important question is whether those experiences are valid, and validated by other witnesses. If, as Lewis contends, “experience by itself proves nothing”, then experience which is supported and validated by objective evidence is of great value, and is worthy of serious investigation and consideration.
Little says “For me to speak of my own faith in Jesus Christ is one thing, but to present the evidence which underpins my faith is quite another; since faith is only as valid as the object in which it is placed.” Likewise, faith in a person is only as valid as the person in which it is placed. He says too, “Testing the reliability of objects of faith is rational and certainly advisable.”
Testing the objective evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is therefore advisable, if I am to assert my faith in the risen Christ. I believe that an honest and open-minded investigation of the authenticity of Jesus Christ will surprise and transform the serious enquirer, as Morrison demonstrated in his book “Who Moved The Stone”.
Little asserts that his faith is real and is solidly based on objective evidence which supports and validates his faith. “I now offer the objective evidence that validates and supports my experience, since religious assertions incapable of being tested objectively are meaningless.” One such religious assertion is the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ.
The laws of nature may well appear to preclude the possibility of someone rising from the dead, and that is why there are so many alternative explanations of Jesus’ resurrection, such as the swooning theory, the stolen body theory and so on. Yet the very existence of the laws of nature themselves is a demonstration of the fact that a higher authority has put those laws in place. The existence of the laws requires the existence of a source which brought the laws into being.
As Lewis has argued: “In the whole history of the universe the laws of nature have never produced a single event. They are the pattern to which every event must conform, provided only that it can be induced to happen. The laws are the pattern to which events conform: the source of events must be sought elsewhere.”
If the resurrection is not true, then grave questions need to be asked! The Christian faith rests and relies on the person of Jesus, his life and death, and on one supreme fact of God’s work in Jesus – the resurrection from the dead. These are at the heart of Christianity for me, and also for Sire: “I believe that the best reason for believing that Christianity is true is Jesus, and the best reason for Jesus is Jesus himself. The Gospels – the narrative of Jesus’ life, teaching, crucifixion and resurrection – are the best proof for the truth of the Christian faith.”
The resurrection life of Jesus, and the new life experienced by those who become Christians and thereby enter into relationship with God, is a new quality of life – it is not merely life after death. The resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe as Lewis describes in “God in The Dock”.
We need to distinguish between the resurrection itself and theologies of the resurrection. The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. The objective evidence for the resurrection is concerned with the fact that it actually did happen, and not so much with what it achieved and how. According to Lewis, theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how Christianity works.
The overwhelming objective evidence for the resurrection of Jesus provides the foundation upon which the new life of the Christian is based. The old life is coming to an end, and the new life has already begun. The Creator has re-created.
If God is the Re-Creator and I am his new creation, then characteristics of the Re-Creator should be evident in the new creation. Christianity is about making things new. New relationships with our Creator and Re-Creator, and new relationships with other people who are similarly re-created.
A Christian is one who has God for his Father. But cannot this be said of every human being, Christian or not? Emphatically no! The idea that all people are children of God is not found in the Bible anywhere. According to Packer, “Sonship to God is a supernatural gift which one receives through receiving Jesus.”
If I am truly adopted into the family of my Father in heaven, then the characteristics of my Father in heaven should be found in me. This is not about mere observed behavioural patterns, but the actual character of the person of God growing up in the life of another person. In this case, me.
Here, then, is a unique aspect of the Christian faith which no religion on earth can claim: Anyone in any place and at any time who becomes a Christian since the resurrection of Jesus, comes into direct relationship with the founder of the faith – even Jesus Christ himself. The characteristics of the Father in heaven that were displayed in his Son Jesus will now be increasingly displayed in those human beings who become related to Jesus by new birth.