In this week’s Thinker Update I am going to share a little of the background for our new book, “The Evidence of Faith”. A number of films have provided discussion guides for the audience, which help people to further process the material they have seen. I knew that Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, presented a number of great topics that would be interesting for small groups to discuss. So we began to look for someone to help us in this area and eventually met Robert Noland, an experienced writer and curriculum developer. After a number of meetings and his trip to Minnesota, we partnered with Robert to produce a study guide that could be used with small groups and Bible studies.
Robert is a very talented guy and busy all the time so we didn’t hear from him for several months. Eventually, I called and asked how things were going. He had a few more deadlines to finish and asked for more time. I waited another month and called again and our conversation went something like this:
“Hi Robert, how’s it going? Are you making any progress?”
He hesitated, “ Well as a matter of fact this has been a real struggle, not so much the writing part but the curriculum study guide part.”
“What do you mean?”
He responded, “I can’t explain this other than to tell you that I really felt I needed to write a book and not just the study guide. I know you hired me to write a study guide but I just feel that I have to write this book.”
“How will you do that?” I asked,
“Well, I am taking everything you and Steve have written and all of our conversations along with the videos and I am tying it all together between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Why it’s so important to our faith that the Exodus is real history? So if you’d be patient with me, I’d like to send you the first 3 chapters and see what you think.”
I thought, why not. I trusted that Robert was doing something he was led to do, and I knew how those feelings worked in my own life. The result of Roberts efforts along with our own contributions in the process is a wonderful new book that connects faith, reason and history together. The book also works as a small group study with questions at the end of each chapter. The book will come with several hours of online video’s (due Sept 2017) that help to set the context for each chapter. These videos can be viewed alone or in a group setting.
Here is an excerpt from the Introduction of “The Evidence of Faith”.
When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.
— Eugene Peterson’
“In the beginning, God created …”
These five words are quite possibly the most crucial in any language for it is in this phrase we have the opportunity to find:
When it happened
Where it happened
Why it happened
Who made it happen
The “it” is life itself. This is, also of course, if you choose to believe the words of the Bible. If not, you certainly have a myriad of possibilities and options available. But you must eventually make a choice, even if what you choose is to not believe at all.
However, the commonality for each possible origin is that you have to take it on faith. Why? Because no one living at this time on Earth is an eyewitness who can testify to the beginning of mankind. So faith is a necessary action, even if you believe that creation was simply random. Therefore, faith is a non-negotiable to believe in any starting point of the world or any creator who lays claim to how we began.
For our purposes in these pages, we are working from the same assumption with which I began in my own life: the Bible is true, and those five words—“In the beginning, God created”—are the truth. Now, in taking this position and accepting a single-origin belief as true also equals declaring all others are not true. This then places a sense of responsibility in understanding all we can about what we believe. My own twelve-year journey toward creating the documentary film Patterns of Evidence took place out of this very paradigm.
Straight out of the gate, the Bible offers both the beginning of present reality and the starting line of history. We continue to live today in the same realm or reality that God created on that very first day and set into motion. This event recorded in the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis 1 is the baseline for the evidence of our world and mankind, the origin of our plumb line that runs throughout the human timeline right into the present. The end point is, quite obviously, located in the future somewhere, visible and known only to the Creator. If He determined the beginning, He also determines the end.
So, from Genesis we move on into mankind’s creation and eventually into a people group, a nation to which God forever connected Himself, led by men with whom the Creator spoke and interacted.
David Rohl, Egyptologist, historian, author, and, as a result of this journey, my friend, stated, “People dismiss the Bible as a work of fiction. But what happens if it’s not? What happens if it’s a real history, a history of a people we call the Israelites? Then it would become the first history book in the world. It predates Herodotus by one thousand years. Herodotus is supposed to be the first historian, but in fact I think Moses is. And it spans about four thousand years of time as well.”
World religions and belief systems are most often based upon:
• A person’s or a group of people’s developed spiritual worldview
• An ancient text written by an unknown author
• A person’s proclaimed revelation
• Traditions passed down through generations
• A combination of any of the above factors
However, the Christian worldview is different because the God of the Bible can be discovered through two crucial elements. Let’s look at Him through these lenses. The first is …
Webster defines the word history as a “chronological record of significant events; a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events.”
As the Creator, God chose to enter mankind’s realm at distinct times, creating ordained and divinely appointed moments that could be seen, heard, experienced, witnessed, and recorded. An invisible and omnipotent God could have easily made certain His presence was never traceable or documentable, but He determined to do quite the opposite so man could have the opportunity to engage and experience Him.
God chose to provide both a path (“chronological record of significant events”) and patterns (“a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events”) for us to follow.
And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:5)
And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. (Genesis 1:8)
First day and then the second—a path. Evening and then morning—a pattern.
As an infinite and omnipresent Being, God had no need to delineate the morning from the evening, one day from another day, but He knew we would. Therefore, He initiated a pattern of events, not a stream of consciousness—footprints traveling and traceable throughout time, not random bookmarks in the universe.
God created history especially for us, to intervene and communicate with us, by interjecting Himself into:
• Moments in recordable chronology in the timeline
of actual people
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” (Genesis 17:1–2)
When did God make this statement to Abram? When Abram was ninety-nine. Did He highjack his brain? No, He appeared to him in a personal experience. A pin was dropped on the timeline of a human life to be locatable and verifiable.
Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh. (Exodus 7:6–7)
When did Moses and Aaron carry God’s message to Pharaoh? When Moses was eighty and Aaron was eighty-three. A marker was placed in the lives of two brothers at a set time on their individual paths as well as in their relationship to one another.
• Geographical locations
And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. (Genesis 18:1)
The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. (Exodus 19:20)
Throughout the Bible, specific locations are recorded on a regular and frequent basis. This intentional strategy connects known events to geography on a map.
• Recorded cycles of the calendar directly connected to events
On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. (Exodus 19:1–3)
Seven full days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile. (Exodus 7:25)
In these and countless other examples in Scripture, the calendar was connected to an event that would be known by many. This is not unlike our language of making statements such as, “The accident happened last Friday, two days before his twentieth birthday.” Events are placed into a real-time context for both immediate verification and maximum comprehension.
Thank you for your interest in “The Evidence of Faith”, we will share more excerpts in the future.
– Tim Mahoney