I saw a program on TV the other night about the validity of the story of Jesus’ miraculous birth in the Bible. They were talking about how the 4 gospels were sales pitches for christianity and how the authors may have taken some artistic liberties to make the story more compelling. It was a fairly unbalanced treatment, as you can expect, with most of the interviewees saying much of it was made up, and only 1 interviewee saying it was all real. At least the one who said it was all real was fairly intelligent and made a very strong case based on historical records and archeological findings.
To me the whole idea of finding God in an archeological dig is just strange. It brings me back to a scripture which had a great impact on my nearly 20 years ago, and has been the foundation for much of my belief-system ever since:
“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
The whole 2nd chapter of Corinthians really brings this point home, but the above verse in short says that spiritual matters and temporal matters are two different animals and must be treated differently. In short, spiritual matters must be determined with spiritual evidence, whereas physical matters must be determined with physical evidence. It is foolish to look for God in a tomb or archeological digs because the concept of God is one of a spiritual nature.
By the same token, temporal matters must be determined with physical evidence. I see no reason why temporal matters must validate spiritual matters, and vice versa. The above scripture tells me plainly that I can study the history of the world based on anthropological evidence and make logical conclusions to satisfy my temporal questions on the physical origins of mankind, while having completely different answers to my spiritual questions on the spiritual origins of mankind. The two do not have to validate each other – and when they do seem to disagree we exercise something called faith. Faith really means comparing spiritual with spiritual instead of taking the easy route: comparing physical things with spiritual. Physical and spiritual … they are like apples and oranges. I know spiritually what I know spiritually, and I know physically what I know physically, and the two do not have to agree. That’s exercising faith – also a commandment.
And what is this spiritual evidence which we use to prove spiritual matters? Obviously it isn’t a beaker, or an archeological dig – those are physical things. I won’t bore you with a dozen scriptures, but will rather put it to you plainly: spiritual evidence is when the Holy Ghost witnesses to your soul of the truth of spiritual things. I can not tell you exactly how it feels to have the Holy Ghost bear witness, because when it’s happened to me it has been so entirely non-physical as to make physical descriptions inadequate.
However I can tell you how you can experience it (through prayer, study, humility, and desire), and I can also tell you how you can know for yourself whether you’re just experiencing a self-induced trance or a very real event given you by the Holy Ghost (also, all this is in the Bible, so you don’t have to take just my word for it).
Although the experience is non-physical, there are physical side effects that occur: emotions of feeling at peace, experiencing joy and happiness, and a oneness with everything that is good around me.
It gives you a shot in the arm that you can do better and be a better person. It leads you to do good and have a realistic and invaluable hope for yourself and those around you unlike anything you’ve experienced. You can’t help it but know that your true potential is great, while also keeping your feet on the ground firmly based in reality. That’s one of the reasons why the 12-step program for treating addiction is giving one’s self to a higher-power. The spirit of truth leads you to do good, and gives you the confidence to do what you need.
And lest you’re one of those who think it’s easy to be spiritually deceived by evil influences, here’s also a great way to determine whether or not you are: by what it motivates in you. (Matthew 7:16-20)
In short, the best way I’ve heard the manifestations of the spirit of truth described is in term of a taste. If the soul had taste buds, the spirit of truth is sweet like honey. You say honey is sweet? Well, so is the spirit of truth. For me, I’ve felt like someone put a spiritual battery pumping feelings of light and exhilaration through me. Sound drug induced? No drug in the world can make you feel that way with no adverse side effects.
It can be fleeting. It seems the spirit of truth is easily offended. I once was on the cusp of making the most significant decision of my life and experienced this feeling for over half of a day. It seemed like it should have been exhausting – but it wasn’t. It left as soon as I no longer qualified for the experience, or I no longer needed it (I’m not sure which). Other than that one experience I’ve felt it for just small glimpses – a second here, a few seconds there – just enough to put me on the right path. But I can remember whenever I’ve felt it, and what it meant, and I don’t need to experience it always. I feel to request spiritual verification after it’s already been given would be disrespectful and ungrateful.
I know what I’ve experienced, and that’s why I can see all kinds of physical evidence proving or disproving the birth, life, crucifiction, and resurrection of Christ with no effect (positive or negative) on my opinion of the matter. As the above scripture suggested, I have learned spiritually on this spiritual matter and I cannot deny those learnings without being false to myself.
In a temporal analysis whether things happened literally as explained in the Bible, or only symbolically as described therein – it doesn’t matter. Yes, it’s interesting and something I look forward to discovering as more archeological findings are revealed regardless what those revelations are, but there are some things that all the physical evidence will never be able to disprove and Christs divinity is one of them.