Seeking for evidence

by Rusty Lindquist on January 25, 2011 · 21 comments

Recently the topic of evidence-seeking has come up frequently in comments on my posts, and I decided it warranted further exploration.

Is it weakness or folly to believe without evidence as Larry suggests in the comments here?  Or is it weakness or folly to require evidence to believe?

Must one have physical proof in order to believe something, or does that illustrate a crippled faith? 

Certainly the carnal man prefers evidence, as solid and irrefutable as we can get, for our minds seek naturally for such proof.  To proceed without proof, or evidence, is risky.  As such, throughout biblical history we find such sign seekers… those unwilling to believe without some sort of evidence or sign. 

But of these sign seekers we read… “And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, this is an evil generation:  they seek a sign” (Luke 11:29).  And in Mark we find that when the Pharisees came questioning Jesus, they sought from him a sign from heaven, and Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, why doth this generation seek after a sign?” (Mark 8:11-12)

So should we seek for evidence?  In Hebrews 11 (the great dissertation on faith by Paul), we find that faith IS evidence:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

Clearly, we need not see to believe. 

Verse 7:  “By faith Noah, being bwarned of God of things not seen as yet, cmoved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house;”

Did Noah require evidence before building the ark?  When God told him that it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights, did he say “prove it”?  He didn’t need to, for his faith was sufficient for action.

Verse 8:  “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Did Abraham require proof, or evidence before he acted?  Or was his faith sufficient?

What about Sarah in v.10, did she require evidence to have a child?  Or in v. 17, when Abraham was told to sacrifice his very son, did he require evidence that this was necessary, or did he move on faith alone?  In v. 29 when Moses approached the Red Sea, did he need evidence that he could part the sea or did he simply believe?

Were these people weak for not requiring evidence, or strong for not needing it.

In life we progress line upon line, precept upon precept.  While the need for evidence might be a suitable start, there needs to come a time in our spiritual progression where we graduate from the requirement of such a crutch, where our faith becomes like that of Moses, Abraham, and Noah, enabling us to act based on nothing more than faith alone.  Enabling us to act based on a witness from the spirit, and not some physical manifestation that our path is sure. 

But even those who have asked such questions are coming close without knowing it.  For as the Lord said to Thomas, who doubted his resurrection “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed:  blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Here the Lord not only confirms that more blessed are they for whom faith is sufficient, but that they themselves, having not seen Jesus, yet who believe in him, have shown themselves capable of belief without proof.

While God may find it within His wisdom to provide evidence where he may, far be it from me to require it of him. 

True faith does not require evidence.  And while the wisdom of the world might find this imprudent, or call it weak, the wisdom of the world is not what I seek, but the strength of the faith of Noah, Moses, Abraham, and of all the great prophets, for God hath made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:20).

Rusty

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dustin July 29, 2008 at 6:50 PM

I believe we dont have to see to believe, we can have faith. As we exercise our faith or experiment on the word by keeping the commandments, the fruits or results tend to be happiness, joy, love and peace. I think that those feelings, and the feelings of the Holy Ghost begin to increase that faith until it becomes a testimony. A testimony is something that you know because its something that has happened, you are a witness. You have felt the joy first hand, you have had the spirit testify to your heart that there is a God and his Son lives and Died for your sins. Having had this feeling and experienced such strong power that one can only feel through the Holy Ghost, and only through living the commandments, you can come to know, or have a first hand experience or testimony of the Gospel.

I believe that this is true with each individual principal of the Gospel. As we exercise faith in each principal, over time I we can come to know that these principals are rooted in truth, and are designed for our benifit because Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be happy. And eac h principal being rooted in truth, if lived, will bring us closer to the spirit, and bring more joy and peace to our lives.

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2 drunkdreamer8 July 29, 2008 at 11:37 PM

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hope to see you there
C.Apana

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3 marlajayne July 30, 2008 at 10:30 AM

Enjoyed reading this, especially your reference to Sarah. Lately I’ve been thinking more about the strong, faith-filled women of the Bible and how they don’t seem to get as much credit as the men…or as much notice or something. I don’t have a problem with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or any other patriarchs having top billing. It’s just that I’d like to see the women mentioned more often. When God tells Abram to leave his country and go to one that He’s going to show him, I think it had to take an enormous amount of faith for Sarai to accept this and go with him.

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4 Rusty Lindquist July 30, 2008 at 12:36 PM

Marla,

I certainly agree. I was thinking the other day about Sariah, and how dilligent and faithful she was to up and leave her home, wealth, comfort, and the friendships she had at Jarusalem and then to trek so long in the wilderness, sacrifice so much, and provide such support and strenght to that critical family unit in their important adventure.

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5 Larry July 30, 2008 at 2:22 PM

Rusty, my posts were questions whether God would give the Book of Mormon without absolute evidences for such and hold mankind accountable to it. I’m not sure how that evolved into suggesting that seeking for such evidences, has been twisted to be a sign of a crippled faith, being carnal minded, weakened, or a foolish act.

Without a doubt Abraham, Sarah, Noah, and others you mention were led through faith. Faith needs no evidence when its works are in accordance with God’s will, otherwise it wouldn’t be faith. In each of these accounts you would find God giving a command or promise followed by obedience, the evidence of faith. Was not Noah moved with fear? Was not Abraham called? Or Sarah promised? Or Moses instructed? .

Your examples cited above are not licenses to be less mindful of the natural. Rather they confirm the natural for the object of their faith is He who has provided bountiful evidences for His historical existence (Romans 1:20). So let’s not confuse real biblical faith with self glorification, where one has faith in their own ability to believe without proof. True faith requires evidence, it does not depart alone without evidence.

Likewise, your example cited with Thomas, you fail to add the next two verses following John 20:29, where I would ask “They that have not seen, how are they to believe?” They believe through the evidences that are recorded in His Word?(John 20:30-31)

When the wisdom of the world wants you to surrender your mind over to false faith, and announces you as crippled, carnal minded, weak, or foolish when you hold steadfast to evidences, beware the enemy is near, knocking at your very door.

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6 ditchu July 30, 2008 at 5:47 PM

yet again: spot on.

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7 Rusty Lindquist July 30, 2008 at 5:49 PM

You still state that “true faith requires evidence”. Yet what evidence did Moses have that it was going to flood? Or did Moses had that his staff could part the Red Sea, or did Abraham have that he should sacrifice Isaac, or did Sarah have that she would have a child?

These were only a few examples, the whole point of which is that there was no evidence required, or given, until AFTER the trial of their faith.

While we shouldn’t confuse real faith with self glorification, it’s a similar folly to dismiss faith as self glorification because that’s the easiest way for us to make sense of things.

Those who are yet unable to move by faith alone have not yet developed pure faith. The requirement of evidence is itself evidence of their lack of faith.

It’s the same thing as the Lord telling the people he was God, and them saying “show us a sign”. Is that faith, or the lack thereof.

But more importantly, tell me this… According to what you have said, if I show you evidence that the Book of Mormon existed, you will therefore believe in it. Is that understanding correct?

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8 Larry Hinners July 30, 2008 at 10:15 PM

To answer your questions, lets look at this most-often abused use of scripture you often post.

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

“There, see! No evidence required! Case closed!” Try again! Faith here is a matter of trust in a God who has demonstrated His ability to be a worthy patron, and your examples: Noah, Moses, Abraham are those clients who, knowing His ability, trust in God’s record as a patronal provider. Hebrews 11:1 therefore is telling us that faith (trust in our patron, gained by conviction based on evidence) is the substance (the word here means an assurance, as in a setting under, a concrete essence or an abstract assurance) of things hoped for (this word means expected by trust, which is something earned!), and the evidence of that which is not seen, which in context means we expect, based on past performance, continuing favor from our patron, who has already proven Himself worthy of our trust by example, and this trust is our confidence in the fulfillment of future promises. Blind faith? Not in the least! It is faith grounded in evidence.

Abraham & Issac
The “faith” here is Abraham’s loyalty to God, and an expectation, based on the evidence of his previous dealings with Him, that He will either stop the process or return Isaac to life. Abraham’s faith was not blind, but based on evidence. Probably the most amusing of those actions was the birth of Isaac to 90 year old Sarah, who laughed the previous year at the idea. This was certainly a sign of God’s power to 100 year old Abraham. Note Abraham’s repeated statements of confidence: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Your claim that Jesus was pronouncing a blessing on those who believe without evidence since “seeing” is a means by which to gather evidence; yet, in the passage Jesus commended those who believe without seeing. Though Jesus commended people for believing without seeing, it does not follow that He commended people for believing
without sufficient evidence. So how are they to believe? The evidences recorded in His Word! God does not want us to accept anything as true for which there is not sufficient evidence.

Blind faith in the Book of Mormon would be like trusting in your dog to save your soul. You have no reason for this belief, no written records, no writings dated thousands of years back, nothing. Thus if you wish to hold to the Book of Mormon and take a “leap of faith” beyond the evidence and espouse it even though there is not sufficient evidence, then at least understand that wanting others to do likewise is contrary to biblical faith.

If I show you the insufficient evidences that the peoples and cities in the Book of Mormon existed, would you therefore still believe in it?

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9 Rusty Lindquist July 31, 2008 at 4:32 PM

Thank you for such a clear explanation of your view. I don’t think you could have done it better. I still disagree with you, with how you’ve interpreted scripture, but that’s how you feel about me. Nonetheless, now both viewpoints are expressed and it’s up to others to determine which one resonates the most closely with their souls.

Regarding the Book of Mormon. It’s impossible to show no evidence, for “no evidence” is simply the lack of evidence. The lack of something is nothing, and nothing cannot be seen.

The evidence either exists, or it doesn’t. Am I mistaken in understanding that according to your clearly expressed belief, if I showed you evidence, you would believe?

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10 ditchu August 1, 2008 at 2:12 PM

Rusty and all,
This topic recentlly came up in conversation on my Blog. My stance on the subject is as follows:

I have found that evidence only comes after faith, and after evidence, what is there of faith for one knows and is no longer beiliving. No, Faith is what matters not knowledge or evidence.

Thank you for allowing me to add my 2 pence.
-D

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11 Jim B. August 2, 2008 at 7:36 AM

Rusty,

You are confusing evidences and “signs”. The “signs” you cited in Mark and Luke clearly refer to miracles. There is a difference, no?

Regarding Moses, he clearly required a sign (a miracle AS evidence) from God in Exodus 4 (the staff and the cloak) to be persuaded to act as God’s agent of liberation for His people.

I think Larry is on the right track here. At some point, most religious adherents are required to take a “leap of faith” – one cannot prove, in any kind of absolute or scientific sense, the existence or non-existence of God, or the legitimacy of a particular faith. However, if one is to embrace a religion as true – both historically and theologically – one ought not do this in a vacuum of evidence.

For example, the Bible (Old and New Testaments) is filled with accounts of peoples, cities, nations, etc. History and archaeology confirm that all these entities existed. While one will never be able to scientifically verify that God, through Moses, turned the Nile to blood, we can be certain that the Nile exists.

So, for Christianity, there is at least an evidential foundation to ground one’s faith upon. I don’t see the same kind of foundation for the LDS. Have any of the peoples, cities, nations, etc. from the Book of Mormon been historically/scientifically/archaeologically verified? Any?

God does not require a blind faith that refuses to acknowledge obvious evidences against said faith.

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12 ditchu August 2, 2008 at 11:43 PM

Jim,
How much creedance do you give to personal experience? Like, let’s say someone had a personal experience that they had a visitation from an angel that spoak of God. Or let’s look at the NDE phonoma, Some people report that they had died and came back after seeing God, or some such thing. Do you lend any creedance to these experiences? Would you classify them as “Evidance” or “Signs” for these indivisuals?

By the way, I am not being confrountational here I really want to know what you consider these experiences. I do appreciate everyone’s colabration to boil these things down so we all can understand where others are comming from.

God bless,
-D

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13 ditchu August 2, 2008 at 11:49 PM

For historical vindication of the peoples of the Book of
Mormon, we do tend to see certian corralations between the stories in the Book of Mormon and the oral tradition of the decendants of the “native americans” in central and south america. But as I am not an archologist I can not produce the physical evidances most people are seeking to estabilish this varification. As a Hoby Folklorist, However, I do tend to see the traditions and stories handed down through sacred narative to be much in the way of evidance.

As for a reference point some beleive the ancient city under Mexico city is one such city mentioned in the Book of Mormon, and some of these archologist would not consider themselves “Mormon.” But as far as that goes from me it is just hearsay at this point.

Good luck in finding your Evidance.
-D

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14 Rusty Lindquist August 2, 2008 at 11:51 PM

No confusion. This manner of sign-seeking was for evidence – they wanted to see miracles to prove that Jesus was the son of God. There’s little difference than those today, who are yet unable to believe on faith, and who require proof of everything.

Will God sometimes offer evidence? Yes. When he does, will more people believe? Yes. Does that mean he will always offer evidence? No (as I’ve illustrated above).

There are aspects of the bible that are historically proven, and as such, those historically confirmed people, events, places are evidence that the bible is a historical record. But is the Bible in and of itself evidence that Christ is the son of God? No. Apparently not. If that were the case, that the bible was irrefutable evidence of Christ’s divinity, then there would be no questioning from non-Christians. If the Bible offered such solid evidence, then why are there so many denominations? Because the fact of the matter is, that the bible is only seen as evidence to those who already believe it.

In order to believe bible is the word of God, and that Christ is the Son of God, and that he atoned for our sins, and that through him we can be saved, you have to use faith, for there is no incontrovertible evidence that such is the case. All we have is a record that we believe in, but that is not evidence. The evidence you receive by believing in Christ comes because of a confirmation of the spirit. It’s not tangible, there’s nothing visible. It’s a feeling, and while we should invest the whole of our minds to learning (as I suggest on other posts on my blog), the wisdom of the wise is nothing to God. It’s folly to suggest that Mormons are blind to believe what they do without evidence, when all other Christians are in the same boat.

As for the evidences of the Book of Mormon, if I said yes, then you have placed yourself in a position where you would have to believe in it. And the answer is, indeed, yes. I’ll post some of them.

But will you believe based on that evidence? It’s doubtful. Why? Because all those evidences show are the accuracy of the book as a historical record, not that it’s the word of God it purports to be. The same thing as the bible. Hence, evidence should not be the foundation of our faith. Rather, it’s the fruit thereof.

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15 Jim B. August 3, 2008 at 8:12 AM

Ditchu,

I give next to zero credence to personal experience in the sense you refer to. You and I could find Christians, Catholics, Mormons, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, etc. who would claim to have had fantastic spiritual experiences. Do these experiences prove the truthfulness of these various religious traditions? They cannot, because these traditions are at various points mutually exclusive. God cannot be a Trinity and also be a Hindu polytheism.

And I would very much like to see some of these supposed correlations between Native American traditions and the BoM.

God Bless

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16 Eric S August 3, 2008 at 9:56 AM

Rusty,

It is remarkable how you devalue the historical evidences for the Bible in an apparent hustle to justify and elevate the Book of Mormon. The truth remains that there is not a shred of real evidence that validates the peoples in your book.

I have as much evidence that the moon is made of cheese than you do for the Book of Mormon. Of course this statement is silly, but used only as a comparative for the value of evidences for the Book of Mormon. Examples:

The seismic velocity of moon “rock” is much closer to cheese than any rock found on earth.
The moon looks like green cheese.
For over 500 years, others have thought the same.
NASA has a picture of the surface with a stamped expiration date for the cheese. They say it’s not authentic, but how do we know for sure?
The 1st man on the moon Neil Armstrong famously said ” I love moon-cheese” and then took the 1st man made bite out of the moon.
Cheese is made up with the help of a cow… As we learned from our forefathers through traditions, the cow did jump over the moon.

In 1958, Doctor Ivan Sleazy Cheesy of the Cheesology Institute of the University of Cambridge embarked on an eye-opening investigation to find out if the moon was indeed made of cheese. His reports were so startling that there was a government conspiracy which had them used for toilet paper, so his findings were never published, until recently. Read On!

Doctor Ivan began his investigation by visiting the township of Arkansaw, Arkansas where eyewitnesses had claimed to have found cheese that fell out of the moon.

Bob the Plumber, a well-respected man in the community, recounted his version of events to Doctor Ivan who then recorded the recount in his logbook. Sadly his log book was used as toilet paper by some government officials. But an inside source – who wishes to remain unnamed- has been able to supply us with a fragmented version of the logbook. The pieces we do not have we have replaced with the word MONKEYPUFFLE.

* 7:00pm Sat down on MONKEYPUFFLE.
* 7:10pm Put the MONKEYPUFFLE on and had MONKEYPUFFLE.
* 7:20pm Watched Roseanne. – “That’s my favorite show” says Bob.
* 7:30pm Halfway through Roseanne the TV reception cuts out. Bob goes outside to investigate.
* 7:40pm (It takes Bob along time to go outside. He has a bad MONKEYPUFFLE.) It is a clear MONKEYPUFFLE and Bob can easily see the MONKEYPUFFLE. A piece of MONKEYPUFFLE falls off the roof and hits MONKEYPUFFLE. Bob discovers that it is a piece of cheese.

We can deduce that Bob the Plumber claimed that he was hit by a piece of Swiss cheese, not your average cheddar cheese or like those fancy French or Swiss cheeses.

Ok Thats Enough!!!

The historical evidence of the Israelite’s carrying forth God’s word is the wrapper that makes His word real and tangible for the reader. Otherwise all we would have are fables.

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17 ditchu August 3, 2008 at 10:30 PM

As I had thought, Personal Experience lends nothing to the “Evidance” some seek for. However as many Philosophers have attempted and failed to discern our own existance by evidance that is strictly exclusive to personal experience has come to the conclusion that reality is not extranious to the human experience but is confined with-in this experience. Taking these two perspectives we would have to conclude that there is no more evidance for the validity of the existance of Man than for the existance of God, and What/Who God is.

I would submitt that we rely on our personal experience to justify any clue or evidence we deem vindicated.Thus all evidance is still subjective to our paradigms.

God bless,
-D

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18 Rusty Lindquist August 4, 2008 at 12:20 AM

Eric S.

I’m sorry if you’ve not done enough research yourself to know of the evidences of the Book of Mormon, for indeed, not only is there a “shred” of evidence, there is much more than that. I’ll dedicate a post to it when I get to my series on the Book of Mormon. But the point of this post is just that, while I may list all the evidences already discovered, you would not be convinced? Why? Because evidence is insufficient, you must receive a witness from the Holy Ghost, if you have the courage and dedication to truly seek an answer.

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19 Tina June 8, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Dear Rusty,

Please give me the name of one renouned historian who takes the Book of Mormon serious.

Thank you,
Tina

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20 Rusty Lindquist June 8, 2009 at 6:10 PM

That’s a good question that I’d be happy to answer, and to address the overall misconception that there is little archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon. Since it’s a topic that surfaces often, I’ll dedicate a post to it tonight after Family Night. I’ve actually been looking for a good time to post on this anyway, so this gives me a great excuse.

(update: I answer this question and address this here: New archeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon)

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21 Randy August 22, 2009 at 10:47 PM

I am not sure whether to post this comment here or in the follow up post. I would like to add a couple of thoughts to this discussion. Christians have believed in the Bible for close to 1000 years without any archaeological evidence. People had faith in what they were taught and read. It wasn’t until the past 200 years that we were just looking for evidences to prove if the stories in the Bible were true or not. And because we are now in a scientific age and seeking proof of our beliefs is pretty much ingrained in our generation we believe we need physical proof of someone’s faith. No one has ever found absolute proof that God exists and yet some choose to believe in Him and others won’t because of lack of evidence of a God. The reason I chose to believe the Book of Mormon is a true record is because I believe I was prepared to be introduced to the new ideas presented in it. I already believed that people came over from the Middle East and through my studies in various religions I discovered the common elements in each of them. I wanted a Church that Christ started. I look at studying Biblical and Book of Mormon archaeology as a puzzle that needs to be put back together. I have faith that I can put it all together with God’s help and I know that the puzzle pieces are real. I have a Spirit that can guide me and help me to put all the pieces together to form the true picture of God’s hand in history. The pieces are very small and numerous so it requires a lot of time and patience and mistakes will be made. It’s like a black and white picture that suddenly was colorized or fuzzy photo with no information on it that suddenly became clear. I can see the people but not sure who they are and what they are doing. Once the photo became clear I then discovered through research that these people were once my grandparents and I learned their names. They are dancing at their wedding with other relatives. And through more research I learned more about my grandparents and their life and who the names the other people in the photo. You have a sense of belonging and you learn more about yourself and why you are the way you are. I am not sure if I am making any sense but I hope you get the point. You don’t need evidence to believe in something but it become more real and personal to you as you continue to putting all the pieces together.

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