In January 1972 while I was pastoring in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I was privileged to hear Dr. John Whitcomb deliver a series of eight lectures at Lancaster School of the Bible (now Lancaster Bible College) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Genesis Flood, which became a seminal book in the modern Creationist movement. I encourage you to read this book. In his first lecture, he shared how he, a pagan evolutionist, became a Christian and a strong creationist. I present to you now that powerful first lecture.
To learn more about Dr. Whitcomb’s ministiry go to http://www.whitcombministries.org
I consider it indeed one of the great blessings that God has given me through the years to minister His Word on university, college and Bible Institute campuses across North America. I am thoroughly convinced that in this day of unbelief and apostasy and skepticism, particularly with regard to the early chapters of Genesis, that those who profess the name of Jesus Christ and profess to honor His Word must carefully search the Scriptures on the subject of the authority of God’s Word, even in areas pertaining to the origin of the universe, of the earth, of living things and of man.
With God’s help we would like to explore these areas together and lay a foundation on the subject of Modern Science and Biblical Miracles, seeking to see where it is that God places His emphasis upon supernaturalism, even in an age of science. In I Corinthians 15:12 Paul is writing to Greek Christians who have great problems concerning the resurrection of Christ from the dead, because the Greek philosophers of the era totally rejected the idea that the human body is important and that it has any future at all beyond the grave. Paul is dealing with a very difficult and delicate question here and yet does so forthrightly and in the power of the Holy Spirit, emphasizing the literality of the resurrection of our Lord and of the resurrection some day of all Christians.
We are living in a day in which the resurrection is by and large rejected. We are living in an age of pseudoscientism which states that nothing has ever happened in this universe, or ever can happen, that cannot be explained in principle on the basis of uniform natural laws and processes, that can, in large part, and perhaps ultimately, completely be explained through the scientific method. If that is true, then Christianity is false. And yet no leading group of scientists in the world today would tolerate the idea that a human body, a human being, having completely died will ever rise again.
Let’s consider this God’s word to the twentieth century then, as well as to the first century A.D., on the subject of miracles. I Corinthians 15:12,13 “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection from the dead? But if there be no resurrection from the dead, then is Christ not risen.” That makes sense! Christ was a human being. He died completely and His resurrection was a colossal, shattering blow to any concept of the universe which says there are no resurrections. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain.” (vs 14.)
Paul perhaps would have had a difficult time imagining a situation like that of our day in which vast numbers of theologians and pastors of the neo-orthodox camp profess to believe in the resurrection of Christ theologically, suprahistorically, but deny the resurrection of Christ scientifically and historically. We are living in a realm of doubt talk in which men out of both sides of their mouth say totally opposite things about basic truths of the Bible. But the fact still remains, as Paul clearly states by the Holy Spirit, if Jesus Christ did not bodily, physically rise from the dead in history three days after He died, then all of Christianity is false. We have nothing to preach, nothing to build our hopes on, all is lost. It is either all or nothing- you cannot have it both ways.
In the light of this fact, the pressure is on for people today who claim they do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus 1900 years ago. What do we mean by that? Simply this. What would you say if a leading modern scientist asked you this question- “How can you believe that such a fantastic thing happened in history when you weren’t there to see it and you’ve never met anyone who was, and you have no tangible, empirical evidence that meets the criteria of verification in modern scientism that such a thing ever did happen? How do you really know it did happen?” I hope your answer would not be something like this. ” I am persuaded that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead three days after His crucifixion because that is what my church has always held.” I hope your church always has held this position, but if that’s why you hold this doctrine, you are in deep trouble. I hope you don’t say ” It’s because this is what my parents taught me.” I hope they did, but if that’s the reason you believe this doctrine, you are in deep trouble. And I certainly hope you won’t say, ” I believe this really could have happened because I have heard rumors that even today people who have died on operating tables; whose hearts have stopped, have been somehow resuscitated and thus resurrection is scientifically feasible.”
Dear friend, you are leaning on a broken reed. Do you know why? Because even the Bible tells us that resurrections are not happening today. Note carefully what I Corinthians 15:22 is saying. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order. Christ the first-fruits; (the first human being ever to rise to immortal, incorruptible, glorious resurrection experience. Not resuscitation to mortal life, like Lazarus, but resurrection life, first fruits of those who died in all of history. Then when will you see the next resurrection?) afterwards they that are Christ’s, (When?) at His coming!” Not here and there, now and then, as little samplers to encourage our confidence that such things can happen throughout church history. There won’t be any more resurrections until the Lord Jesus Christ utters His voice of power and the dead are raised first, and then those who are alive will be transformed by rapture experience. If you wait until then for real proof that it can happen, it is too late.
Do you mean to say that God does not have any really solid, scientific, empirical evidence upon which I can build my confidence in the resurrection of Christ? Do you mean to say that I have to answer the modern scientists to the effect that I just sort of hope this is true, but I’m not sure? Well, dear friend, your answer to that kind of challenge will reveal a great deal about your own stability and your own maturity as a Christian. How do you know Christ rose from the dead?
Turn to Romans 10:9-10. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Did you hear that? Your heart is the key to the resurrection as the assurance of salvation. You say, that doesn’t make any sense at all. If I can’t see it with my eyes, if I can’t test it by commonly accepted, basic, scientific principles of verifying events, then how can I be sure about it in my heart? All modern scientism says with one unanimous voice- “you cannot! It’s a myth. It’s a fable. It’s a dream!”
But with one unanimous voice the Bible says that the heart of man is the target of the Holy Spirit through Words to accomplish the only real verification and assurance of spiritual reality. You see, here is the difference. Modern scientism agrees that man is nothing but an animal which has evolved through millions of years by natural processes through chance and that man has no more equipment for discovering reality than an animal does. He has five senses, that’s all. So do animals. We can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Of course, our brain is a little more complex through evolution. Our capacity to put together the result of sense experience and to analyze the relationship is what we call reason, but we don’t have any more windows on reality, we don’t have any different kind of equipment from animals. Therefore, the only way that we can ever really know that there is a God or that miracles can happen is if we discover these things by the scientific, empirical method.
But the Bible cries out from Genesis to Revelation that that is totally false. God’s Word says that man is not an animal. He was created uniquely by the living God with His image and likeness indelibly imprinted upon man’s innermost being, his soul and spirit with a God-illumined conscience, and the Spirit of God can speak to men directly to the heart, the center of the personal being, apart from sense experience through God’s Word. God can make Himself real; God can press His claims and His authority upon men apart from the scientific method. Scientism and God’s Word are diametrically opposed on the vital question about how you can be sure about the things of God.
May I say with deep humility, but with tremendous confidence, that I have had experiences on the subject of God speaking to man. Thirty years ago your speaker was a pagan evolutionist at Princeton University. I did not know God. I did not know the Bible. I didn’t care! But God in His mercy and marvelous grace, through several months of persistent prayer and witnessing and encouragement by two or three Christian students on that campus, brought me to a Bible class where I heard God’s Word expounded. I discovered that there is a God who loves me and who has made full provision for me. One night in my dormitory room, with a Godly, skillful missionary, I acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour from the penalty of sin. I took God at His Word by faith. I believed in my heart that that Saviour, the God-man, arose bodily from the dead. Do you know what happened at tht moment? Instantly I passed from spiritual death to life. Instantly the Holy Spirit moved in and made my body His temple., He dwelling place. I experienced Spirit baptism into the Body of Jesus Christ, a total and permanent forgiveness of sin, full membership in God’s family, an inheritance in Heaven, and acces to the living God on His throne in Heaven by prayer. Will you believe me when I tell you that in that dormitory room on that campus that night there was not tangible, empirical evidence at all. I did not see any strange sights in the room. I didn’t hear any strange sounds. I did not smell, taste or touch anything different at all. But no sense experience I have ever had or combinations of them can possibly compare to the reality of what happened to me that night! Old things passed away, all things became new instantly. New goals in life, new values, new attitudes, a new sense of purpose, Anxiety , frustration and despair were broken– dispelled forever.
Please, don’t tell me that God can’t speak to men through His Word by the Holy Spirit apart from the scientific method. Can you say that? Have you had a personal experience with the Lord Jesus Christ through His Word? If you have, then you will understand why it is, that in the twentieth century A.D. there is a stupendous conflict between the scientifically-oriented, unregenerate men on the one hand and a unanimous witness of God’s Word and God’s people on the other.
You say, I acknowledge that, but I certainly wish that we could have, in addition to the Holy Spirit’s testimony in our heart, some really tangible, spectacular, visible, proof of the resurrection. If I could just see one miracle, my faith would be confirmed. I used to think that myself as a young Christian, especially when I tried, often in my own wisdom and energy to persuade fellow students at the university that they ought to believe in the Bible too and make this great discovery about the living God. The witness was spurned, ridiculed and rejected! I thought, God, if we could have one visible, tangible proof of miracle, their objections would be wiped out. Would they?
If I, if they, could have been in Palestine for one day to see Jesus of Nazareth performing miracles before their very eyes, their resistance would melt, they would become believers. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? Maybe that echoes a cry that your own heart has uttered before God more than once as you’ve tried to convince people that they ought to believe in the Lord Jesus.
But the amazing thing to me about all of this is that the Bible completely rejects any such idea. The Bible actually says that even the people who did see Jesus perform miracles before their eyes rejected Him anyway. Now that is hard to take, especially when we are constantly reminded today that seeing is believing; that physical proof spells the difference between the rejection and acceptance of the things of God.
Let’s take a look for a few minutes and see what the New Testament says on the subject. John 2:23 “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.” You say, “Well there is proof that miracles did save people. It says that people believed in His name when they saw the miracles, therefore God surely doesn’t expect us to believe as readily and as definitely as they did.”
But just a minute- look at the next two verses. “But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men and needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man.” Now that doesn’t sound very good, does it? Here is a group of people who believed in Jesus because they saw miracles. But Jesus rejects them– no fellowship with them, no relationship with those people for He knew what was in them. What does that mean? John tells us what it means in the next chapter when He focuses our attention on one of those who believed Jesus on the basis of seeing miracle.
Would you like to know what it did for this man, Nicodemus? He came to Jesus by night and said, “Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him.” Now that’s an amazingly clear testimony. Nicodemus said, 1. “I am confident that your miracles are genuine. They are not sleight of hands tricks. They are not fakes at all, they are real. 2. Your miracles are not from Satan. They’re from God.” How do you like that for a testimony? This is the teacher of Israel, Nicodemus, a theologian, scholar, historian. In effect, he is saying, “I know a great deal about miracles. And about the history of God’s prophets and miracle workers and you are the greatest I have ever seen or heard about. You’re from God. The miracles are real.” Don’t you think Jesus would have said to him, “Nicodemus, it deeply warms my heart to hear a testimony from a man like you. I am frankly thrilled to have you join My group of disciples. We need men of your caliber in our group – men of prestige, of influence, of intellect, of experience. Nicodemus, welcome to My disciple’s band.”
Are you ready for what He did say? “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “You are so far from the Kingdom of God, Nicodemus, that you can’t even see it.” Jesus did not commit Himself unto him. He knew what was in Nicodemus. Do you know what was in Nicodemus? Total spiritual darkness. He was dead in trespasses and sin. But he said he believed the miracles! That’s right; but the Bible labors to informs us that seeing and accepting the reality of miracles is not equivalent to regeneration, new birth, salvation, forgiveness of sin, eternal life.
There are two levels of faith in the Gospel of John. One is to believe what you see– empirical, scientific evidence. Anybody with two eyes in his head and even a partial brain behind those eyes can see miracles and accept them. But only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction of sin and an acknowledgement of Jesus as Savior. It is a different level of faith altogether and Jesus patiently explained to Nicodemus, you need new birth, you need transformation of your heart, you need the Holy Spirit to come in and to open your eyes to see the real things of God. Nicodemus, God so loved the world (including you) that He gave His only begotten Son (that’s Me) that whosoever (that’s you) believes in Him should not perish (you are perishing) but have eternal life (and that’s what you need). It doesn’t even say that Nicodemus believed that night, but sooner or later Nicodemus did. Do you see the point of the chapter? Seeing miracles is not conversion.
Turn to John 6:2. Several months have passed now. Five thousand Nicodemuses are following Jesus by night and day all over Palestine because of these miracles. They were fascinated, they were electrified by the things they saw with their eyes. And they were not disappointed. “And a great multitude followed Him because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.” Instantaneous, spectacular healings of hopeless cripples, leprous people, men born blind; one word from Jesus and they were instantly and totally healed. They were so fascinated by this that they forgot to bring food, they forgot to provide for their families. And they suddenly found themselves desperately hungry in the middle of the wilderness.
Jesus said to a boy, ” Let Me have this lunch.– two fish and five loaves.” An hour later a whole mountain of food, sufficient to feed 5000 men plus their families with baskets full of food left over. Do you think there were any skeptics left in that group? No, look at verse 14. “Then those men when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did said, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” “We’re convinced– the greatest miracle worker in the world. — we nominate, in fact, we have just elected Jesus to be King! Anyone who can feed us with miracles is our candidate for King! Not a dissenting vote, not a minority opinion. They all agreed. Not one skeptic in the crowd.
Do you think this thrilled Jesus? No, the Lord Jesus totally rejected all of them. Look at verse 26. “Jesus said, ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, (not because you understood what they were for, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.” “The whole relationship between Me and you is mundane, physical, material, carnal level; what you can taste. What you can see with your physical senses. I am the Bread of Life. That’s what the miracle of the loaves was to illustrate. You’ve missed it. He that cometh to Me shall never hunger spiritually. You need spiritual bread and you don’t know it. He that believeth on Me shall never thirst spiritually, and you haven’t the faintest sense of need of thirst for the real things of God. But I said unto you, that you also have seen Me, and believed not.”
You say, it says that they saw and accepted the miracles and believed. What does Jesus mean when He says, “They believed not?” He is taking about that level of faith which brings salvation and eternal life. Jesus patiently explained to them that they were sinful, that He came from Heaven to deal with the sin problem, and that apart from Him they could not have the sin problem solved. They were spiritually doomed!
Do you know what their response was to this? “We are through with you! We didn’t come here to hear sermons, especially sermons about sin. We came here to be entertained. To have our curiosity satisfied; we came here to marvel at signs and wonders; we didn’t want sermons.” And one of the saddest verses in the New Testament is John 6:66. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.” “Good bye, Jesus! If you don’t give us more miracles, we’re going home. We are through.”
Jesus turned to the twelve with a heart filled with sadness and said, “Will ye also go away? Is that the basis of your relationship with Me, too?” And after a pause, Peter, speaking for the group, said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
That’s the difference. Peter believed the words of Jesus, and not merely what he saw with his eyes. He had eternal life. And, of course, the real tragedy behind that statement by Peter is that even in that day, one was an apostate–Judas Iscariot– he didn’t believe. Another was a pseudo-intellectual–Thomas– who had to have a sign in order to confirm his feeble faith. And Jesus said to Thomas after He demonstrated His resurrection body, “Thomas, you have seen Me and believed.” Miserable faith! “But blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” That’s a most amazing statement that ever fell from the lips of Jesus, especially for our day and age. How can Jesus be taken seriously when He says a thing like that?
If you think that is amazing, how do you like this statement by our Lord? “If you don’t hate your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter, if you don’t hate them in comparison to your love for Me, you are not worthy to become my disciple.” How can He expect you, 1900 years after He walked this earth to abandon your closest family ties, to go to the ends of the earth and, if need be, to suffer martyrdom in love and devotion to a man you never saw or, on this earth, ever will see? “Blessed are those who have not seen, but have believed and obeyed.”
You know what the answer is, don’t you? Jesus knew that this was possible because Jesus knew that when He went to Heaven, He would send the Spirit of God who would take the Word of God and make it infinitely more real, more persuasive, more overwhelmingly powerful than any combination of sense experiences that this world can offer. It’s the Holy Spirit who can make Christ real to the hearts of men. And modern science know nothing about that. That is the whole basis of our relationship to an invisible person, The Son of God.
Our Lord told about the tragedy of a man who thought that you could be saved by what you see– by visible evidence. As the scene opens in Luke 16, this man has already died and is in torment in Hades. Lifting up his eyes to Heaven above, he saw the father of the nation of Israel, the friend of God, the man of faith, Abraham, and with him, to his utter surprise, he saw the familiar figure of a beggar who had been beside his own gate for years, eating crumbs and garbage from his table and kitchen– a man who had nothing, except simple faith in God, and there he was with Abraham, in Heaven.
In desperation he said to Abraham, “Send Lazarus back to the world of the living that he may testify to my five living brothers so that they won’t come also to this horrible place of torment.” That was a spectacular plan for converting his brothers. What would you think of the impact on those five living men if they suddenly heard a knock on their door and opened it to see this dead beggar whom they had seen every time they went to visit their brother at his palace, alive from the dead and to hear him say, “I have seen your dead brother in torment, and he told me to tell you to repent and to believe God, lest you join him there forever.”
Do you think that might stir up interest in the things of God and increase church attendance? Abraham said by the Holy Spirit of God, “NO! They have Moses and the prophets, they have the Bible, they have the Holy Scriptures. Let them hear them.”
And the rich man revealed exactly why he was where he was when he said in response to that challenge, “No! But if someone went to them from the dead, they would repent. My brothers, you see, demand empirical proof. They have to see something tangible, they are scientifically minded. Our whole family demands evidence. We will not submit to old wives’ tales and ancient stories in a holy Book. But give us some evidence and you will see a result.”
And Abraham said to him and to us today, “If they believe not Moses and the prophets, if they will not accept God’s own Word, neither will they be persuaded though one rises from the dead.”
Do you believe that? Well Jesus proved it. He did raise a man from the dead, whose name also happened to be Lazarus and the result, according to John 11 and 12 is that the enemies of Jesus, instead of all being converted, decided to kill Lazarus too. And there is only one explanation to that and it was written 600 years earlier by Jeremiah who said, “the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it.”
Jesus confirmed it when He said, “Our of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts.” Your thoughts and your observations of the world around you do not determine what kind of a heart you will have toward God, but your heart will determine what your mind will do with the facts. Did you know that? Did you know that a man convinced against His will, (against his heart) is of the same opinion still?
Did you know that faith does not come by what your see? But faith comes by hearing with the ears of the heart, and hearing by the Word of God. Did you know that without faith it is impossible to please God? For he that cometh to God must not see or feel with tangible, experimental, visible evidence, but he that cometh to God must believe that He is. And that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Those are God’s terms.
What are you waiting for? What am I waiting for? More evidence, more confirmation, more proof, a wider consensus of contemporary, scholarly opinion concerning the Bible? If you are waiting for anything more, you will never have it and you may never be saved. You have committed the unpardonable sin; you have rejected God’s only way. The only way of assurance of the things of eternal life is by taking Him at His Word through the illumination and convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God Himself. If you reject the Holy Spirit’s witness, you’re doomed. God has nothing more to say, nothing more to offer to you forever. You will come to God on His terms only.
You don’t say, wait until I think it through or wait until I investigate a little more. Paul said, “Behold now is the day of salvation.” You come to God on His terms–unconditional surrender– or you have no guarantee you will ever make it. God’s message to our generation happens to be identical to that of the first century; that is, you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ without any visible proof whatsoever.
You say, those conditions are hard, this doesn’t meet my criteria of verification. God is not going to revise His plan for you. God’s Word stands with infinite, final authority. and man today has the same needs as men from the fall of Adam and until the end of the world. May God speak to our hearts on the basis of His own precious Word and bring us to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ in saving faith, in submissive, obedient faith, now.