As my mother and I were coming back to the entrance of the park after a two-mile walk, she in a wheelchair and I behind it, I heard her say, “Well, your car’s gone. Looks like somebody took it.”
“No it’s not, Mom. The car’s right there, about 50 yards ahead,” I said.
“They took yours and put another car in its place,” my mother began disclosing her theory.
“But Mom, look, it’s red.”
“They even put a red car in its place,” my mother’s theory was impervious to proof.
At this point, my fire-mist red 2006 Mazda was still too far in the distance for me to make out details. But the thing was parked where I had parked it, and it was still the only car in the lot. So although I had no hard proof that I was right and my mother was wrong, the conviction was strong in my mind that the vehicle we were approaching was the one my pocketed key would fit.
The event at the park made me think about how humans come by the “knowledge” we live by. We amass data, and bring to it past experience, as well as assumptions gleaned from a hundred thousand of those experiences. The knowledge that is accorded to man is not typically that of absolute infallible certainty. (It is not, after all, totally outside the realm of human possibility that someone could have taken my car and swapped it for another car that resembled it.) But it is a knowledge that a reasonable person arrives at and can be certain enough of to act on it.
So when people come up with theories that Jesus was just a good teacher, or that Adam and Eve did not exist, or that Hitler never killed Jews, or that there were really no Christian martyrs but it was all second-century propaganda, I listen to these far-fetched stories with amusement, as I did my mother’s theory of the car heist.
As C.S. Lewis said, nine out of 10 things upon which we act are based not on direct experience but on authority, because we were not there. And the evidence for the Jesus I believe in is based on evidence that is more varied and cogent than the evidence for the existence of Puerto Rico. I believe Jesus is the Messiah for some of the same ordinary reasons I believe the island of Puerto Rico exists.
But indeed there is an extra kind of proof I have regarding Christ that I do not even have regarding Puerto Rico, or the historicity of Julius Caesar: It is the added and existential dimension of the difference Christ has made in my life. Why not explain that using God’s own explanation? What is a better explanation than the one God gives?
I note the way the teachings of Jesus and the witness of the entire gospel and Scripture line up with what I see in my heart changes and in the world around me. Everybody needs to make sense somehow of the world he lives in. People try on different kinds of “lenses” with which to do that, but every other lens save Scripture leaves some data “hanging out.” Only the Scriptures make sense of all things.
But more than that, we have a kind of knowledge of God that transcends logic and historical evidence—it is the Spirit of God in us that gives knowledge an immediacy coterminous with our own minds, because we have “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). This erases all mediation and barriers between truth that is “out there” and truth that is inside us. The best kind of knowledge the world affords is still once removed. But the knowledge of Himself that God gives is intimate fellowship, and this grows as we obey Him.
It is fun to imagine far-fetched theories of the world, but at the end of the day all of us entrust our bodies to the solidity of a wooden chair, because we have sat in it time and time again and not fallen through. This is the same practical way in which I now trust Jesus.
My mom and I reached the car, the key slid in nicely, and we drove home without further debate on the matter.