Our Faith is Historically Verifiable — Or It’s Nothing

By Kathy Keller

Doveryai, no proveryai is a Russian proverb that is probably more famous in translation than in its original language. “Trust, but verify” was used extensively in various international negotiation settings, and continues to be trotted out as needed. It’s not a bad idea. Trust is good; proof that your trust is not unfounded is even better.

Where does that apply in the life of a people of faith? Some people equate faith with the phrase “leap of faith,” or, as Mark Twain is reputed to have said, “Faith is believing in what you know ain’t true.” Though cleverly put, I doubt that is true of any person of faith, however untutored. There is nothing to be gained by clinging to a myth, a falsehood, or a lie. When life is raw and wretched, the only stability to be found is the truth, wherever that may lie.

I was thinking of this today as I mused on the necessity of historical, verifiable fact as the foundation for the Christian faith. Of all belief systems, Christianity is the only one that insists that its truths must be founded on the historical existence of a person named Jesus, and that further, he historically said and did the things claimed of him. Most importantly, if Jesus did not die (really die, dead-as-a-doornail-die) and then rise again (in a physical body, one that walked, talked, ate, and resumed relationships with his friends), then, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17,19 …if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Why pitied? “If believing in Jesus is what gets you through the day,” as many a skeptic has told me, “then good for you. We all have our lucky rabbit’s foot to comfort us; if Jesus is yours then, fine. Just don’t push it on me.” The problem with that argument is that our faith is in things that Jesus did; or, if he did not do them, then the whole thing is useless. Every other faith system, even faith in science, or education, or political power, draws its significance from…

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