Is history’s most compelling event the opening night of Private Lives?

I love words and old stuff, so I listen to a BBC radio program from the last century called My Word! Panelists are quizzed on words, literature, and the like. In one episode, the panelists were asked, If you could be present at any historical event, which one would you choose?

Dilys wished she could have witnessed the moment when Stanley found Livingstone. We know about the famous “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Dilys was dying to know whether Livingstone replied with something such as, “Did you have a good journey?”

Dennis would be present at the opening night of Noël Coward’s Private Lives. The play has garnered popularity over the years and is still produced, and Dennis wondered whether he would recognize its greatness at its premiere.

Frank wanted to have been there when the cities of the plain were destroyed so that he could see exactly what they did in Sodom and Gomorrah that warranted fire and brimstone. That made the audience giggle.

Antonia agreed with Frank that the Bible is full of irresistible episodes, and she would have chosen to be there when the Red Sea parted and the children of Israel escaped from the pursuing Egyptian army. She would choose that event because she loves to travel and likes the idea of crossing an international border without the bother of passports, customs, and immigration checks.

Perhaps the panelists weren’t going for significance and gravity but rather for humor and levity and even quirkiness. Maybe they didn’t want to get too heavy or religious. I can understand that. If that’s what we’re going for, I’ll pick that moment in 2737 BC, when Camellia sinensis leaves blew into the water that Chinese emperor Shen Nung’s servant was boiling for him. Let there be tea!

History’s most compelling event (IMO)

If we’re being completely serious, I’ll choose the resurrection of Jesus. How amazing would that be to witness?! Granted, not everyone believes that this event happened. But, here’s something that is definitive about this event: If it happened, it is of utmost significance to us all. The veracity of the entire Bible — all that it claims — hinges on the veracity of Jesus’s resurrection. That includes the hope of eternal life and the end of suffering.

Let’s say that someone claims that a squadron of alien spaceships has just entered earth’s atmosphere. If that’s true, it is of utmost significance to us all. What is the first thing we should do? Look for evidence to determine whether it is true. Are there unusual lights in the sky? Is NASA taking it seriously? If we find evidence to support the claim, we should Google “alien invasion handbook”. If not, we should go back to our cup of tea.

This is how we should handle a claim that, if it is true, is of utmost significance to us all. There is evidence to support the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. We would be wise to follow the evidence and see where it leads. For me, it adds up to proof. I do not say this lightly, and I have been able to say it only recently.

Do you know any of the evidence? You might know more than you realize. For example, you know that millions of people believe that Jesus rose from the dead; there must be reasons why they do. You know that a movement that has circled the globe and lasted nearly 2,000 years is based on a claim that people knew for a fact was either the truth or a lie. If it had been a lie, the movement would have been squashed before it got going. The first Christians were operating on fact, not faith.

The claim of Jesus’s resurrection deserves investigation because there is evidence for it and because, if it is true, it is of utmost significance to us all. If Jesus rose from the dead, we too can be resurrected to eternal life. Our future just might depend on history.

If you could be present at any historical event, which one would you choose? It’s fun to think about, and it provides perspective. You know what’s even better? Realizing that the future holds far more. I missed out on being there for the greatest events of history, but I plan on being there for the greatest events of the future. See you there?

Feeling inundated with information about COVID-19? Before that, perhaps it was the impeachment or Brexit or The Bachelor finale. How do you know what bits of information are true? Here are a few ways to get closer to the truth about anything:

1

Consult multiple reliable sources. See where the consensus lies. Consensus is not always an indicator of truth, but it usually lines up with other evidence.

2

Follow the evidence. Just like a detective, follow leads. See where the weight of evidence lies.

3

Use common sense. If it doesn’t sound right, there’s probably a reason for that. Don’t just automatically accept or reject information; think it through for yourself.

4

Be comfortable with uncertainty. In the absence of proof, file the information under “possible” or “likely” or “unlikely”.

5

Desire the truth. If you have a bias for what you want to believe rather than for the truth, you’re in trouble. A sincere desire for the truth — whatever it is — is the best way to find the truth.

Especially with information that affects our health and lives, it’s important to sort truth from error. In these days when we’re all being careful with where we go and what we touch, let’s remember also to be careful with information.

If you trust the Bible as a historical and holy book, what is the reason(s)? Is it any of these?

  • Because you always have.
  • Because you like what’s in it.
  • Because you have examined the evidence and found that the weight of evidence points to its trustworthiness.

If you don’t trust the Bible as a historical and holy book, what is the reason(s)? Is it any of these?

  • Because you never have.
  • Because you don’t like what’s in it.
  • Because you have examined the evidence and found that the weight of evidence points away from its trustworthiness.

If your reason is not included here, I am interested in hearing it if you’re willing to share it in a comment below. My purpose is not to persuade anyone of a particular viewpoint but to encourage people to think through their beliefs and clarify and articulate their reasons. I also appreciate understanding where people are coming from. I hope you’ll take this opportunity to think through your viewpoint on the Bible’s trustworthiness and, if you’re willing, share your reasons in a comment.

“How well do CBT [Cognitive Behavioral Therapy] and religion mix? CBT is all about rationality, and religion is often about faith. The two seem kind of opposite. … CBT is … grounded in western empiracism and rationality, and faith is something that is very much different.” (Jason M. Satterfield • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Techniques for Retraining Your Brain)

Is he right about faith, that it is the opposite of rationality, that it is not grounded in empiracism and rationality? It depends on whose faith he’s talking about. Notice that I didn’t say what faith; I said whose faith.

Consider this example. Darlene believes that Jesus died and rose again because that’s what she has believed her whole life and because it gives her comfort. Janie believes that Jesus died and rose again because she has examined the evidence for it and against it — in a sincere pursuit of truth — and she considers the weight of evidence to point toward that belief.

Even though they believe the same thing, Darlene’s belief is not rational; it is not based on evidence. Janie’s belief is.

What difference does it make?

  • Darlene is not likely to get others to respect or accept her belief. Janie is.
  • Darlene is likely to have her belief shaken when challenges come. Janie isn’t.
  • Darlene is likely to believe things that aren’t true. Janie isn’t.

Those differences are significant! They are worth reading again. Every one of us believes something, so this is universally relevant.

It might be true that, like Darlene, Janie has held this belief since childhood and that it gives her comfort. But, unlike Darlene, that’s not why she believes it. Those realities are not the basis for her belief. Evidence is.

Faith gets a bad rap in a lot of circles. Sometimes it’s warranted, and the Darlenes of the world share some of the responsibility. The Janies of the world must help redeem the reputation of faith. Faith, by definition, is belief without proof, but it does not have to be — nor should it be — belief without evidence.

What would happen if Darlene decided to be like Janie? She would shed beliefs that aren’t sound, she would build beliefs that are both sound and strong, and her belief would garner respect and maybe even some adopters. Wow! That’s powerful.

If you want to be more like Janie, I encourage you to check out my book Building Evidence-based Beliefs. It’s a great way to cultivate skills and traits that help you discern truth from error and establish a habit of building thoughtful, sound beliefs.