“There’s no proof for God.” “Science proves there’s no God.” “I feel like maybe there’s a God, but there’s no proof.”
Have you ever noticed that “proof” is a silly-sounding word? It sounds like a kind of fish. But it’s a big deal to a lot of people. Empiricism is feeling smug of late. When people ask Christians to prove that there’s a God, I think they mean something like a mathematical proof. We want to see proof of a God who is predictable, who works according to certain formulas. The response is that God isn’t predictable. “Have faith,” we say. But I think Christmas shows us otherwise. There is proof, it’s just not the kind of proof we want.
I often wonder what it must’ve been like for Jesus when he was in Hebrew school. Did he know right away he was the Son of God, or did he have to figure it out? At some point, he realized that the words of Isaiah were about him. No pressure, right? The coming of Christ had been predicted for hundreds of years. He was gonna be born, pierced, and rule. It took 500 years, but Jesus came just as expected. His life wasn’t what Israel had planned, but God didn’t give them any more or less than He had promised.
If my interpretation is correct, we’re actually ruled by a very formulaic God. He’s a God who works in covenants; that’s a straightforward approach. Even when God sent down seemingly bizarre plagues on Egypt, it wasn’t random. He’d given plenty of warning and the plagues themselves were strategic. This is a predictable God. He tells you everything He’s gonna do before He does it – God would suck at poker!
So the babe in the manger is all the proof you need. There’s God, he’s laying right there.
Except it’s not the proof people want.
Two reasons. The first is that we can’t hold baby Jesus for ourselves. We can’t touch him, we can’t smell the stable. Empiricism says that if we can’t experience it firsthand, it’s not real. I experience gravity as evidenced by me falling down a lot, so that’s cleared. I never saw an angel, so it might as well not have happened. (Set aside the logical fallacy here for a moment.)
Reason Dos: we’ve got the born and pierced part down. But I don’t see Jesus on a golden throne ruling over the universe. We want the whole enchilada – now. If it hasn’t happened yet, it won’t happen. What is God waiting around for? If Christ is going to come back, why hasn’t he come back yet? He should come back now if he loves us.
I think the Jews would’ve been asking the same questions. They waited 500 years. I bet not all of them were content with waiting around for a messiah. The world is in pain, people, it’s bleeding. God needs to hurry up and make things right.
The return of Christ seems anything but formulaic. Every generation has said, if ever there was a time for God, this is it. But Christmas gives us some solace. He will come back when we least expect him. The shepherds were sitting around one night, a night that wasn’t different from any other. Maybe not comforting, but predictable.
Of course, we all know this rethinking won’t silence any critics. Luckily, it doesn’t need to. Christians can play by empiricism’s rules. We are the proof. What we experience and say, how we act, is the proof of God in our world. We are so far from God Himself, but we are not trying to be God. We’re only pointing toward God. A God who is not playing Russian Roulette with His people. Rather, a God who keeps all promises.