Sorry for the delay in blogging. For this semester I’m attempting to blog, once, maybe twice a week. I have a Grad Class on church history that requires quite a bit of reading and writing and by the time I sit down to write a blog I’m tapped out. So for the next couple of posts I’m going to write about some interesting, less talked about stuff from church History.
Like Julian the Apostate.
He was an emperor after Constantine (who’ll I talk about next week) who reacted to Christianity’s growing influence by trying to destroy the Christian religion.
Now he did this in a few fronts, but perhaps the most well-known stunt he pulled was his attempt to rebuild the Jewish Temple. Before you start thinking how philanthropic Julian was, you need to know the main reason he did this was because the Christian Scriptures quoted Jesus as saying, “This temple will not be re-built until I return.”
Julian’s entire reason for spending a whole lot of Roman money was to discredit the Christian story. But here’s where it gets interesting.
Because at some point during the rebuilding process there was an explosion. This is how one of his friends reported the event:
Julian thought to rebuild at an extravagant expense the proud Temple once
at Jerusalem, and committed this task to Alypius of Antioch. They set vigorously
to work, and were seconded by the governor of this province; when fearful
balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations, continued their attacks, till the
workmen, after repeated scorchings, could approach no more: and he gave up
Now what’s interesting is how historians talk about this even. Immediately afterwards Christians began to look back on this event and saw it as a Divine Intervention. The hand of God prevented Julian’s attempt to spread paganism. But other people saw it another way.
The general take on it from Rome was that it was an earthquake. The more recent historians believe that it was a natural gas pocket that was struck by construction workers, resulting in a huge explosion that can be naturally explained.
But what if both of these are true?
There is a modern assumption that if we can just explain how something happened that we have understood why it happened. But I don’t think that’s true. Just because we can trace back how something happened doesn’t mean that we have effectively written off providence.
Donald Miller makes a profound observation in Blue like Jazz. He says:
“My most recent struggle is not one of intellect. I don’t really do that anymore.
Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in
God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and some other guys who do believe
in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being
about god a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly
I don’t care.”
I think that’s pretty indicative about the conversations that we have about faith vs. science. We talk over ourselves so much that the conversations no longer are about what we say they are about. They’re about which one of us is smarter.
But the truth is that these two sides, at least much of the time, are talking about different things. What if God used a pocket of natural gas to stop the rebuilding of that Temple. Just because we can explain what happened doesn’t mean we have the answers to what all is going on behind it.
The truth is when these two sides of interpreting history are in conversation that they both have faith. People with faith that everything can be explained by what is seen will probably gravitate to a worldview that sees God as either non-existent, or very distant and unconcerned with this world.
People who see a fireball from Heaven will probably gravitate toward a worldview that says God is intimately involved, or at least was, in human history and will tend to be religious.
But neither side is addressing the thing they think they are. Proof, Science, Evidence, Apologetics, these words talk about what happened, but nobody can explain causality, or why things happen with any certainty.
Because what they are really talking about is faith.