Proof vs. Mystery

But I said to you that you have seen me, and yet do not believe. –John 6:36

“To stand on one leg and prove God’s existence is a very different thing from going on one’s knees and thanking Him.” Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

“Prove it!” I heard that phrase numerous times when I was a small child. When children get together, there are often stories being told that would best be regarded as “tall tales.” That’s why we learn at a young age that we want proof. Don’t tell me what I should believe is real or not real…prove it! Does the neighbor really keep an elephant in his garage? Prove it! That’s how many of us learned when we were children. We wanted proof! We wanted to put our hands on it, to taste it, to see it, to experience something that was real, or else it was just a fantasy.

It doesn’t take too much of a stretch of imagination to see how the “prove it” attitude has crept into our understanding of God. If something had to be proved real when we were small, innocent and naïve, it had to pass the same criteria as we started to emerge into the adult world. For many people in the world and in our culture, unless God can be proved, He doesn’t exist. In our world, we’ve learned to gain meaning by those things that can be proved with our senses. And unless something can be proved, it isn’t real.

Yet a life in the Kingdom of God is really more about “mystery” than proof. Mystery is best explained as something that can’t be scientifically proven, yet still is very real. Mystery is something that the Apostle Paul talked about when he said in 1 Corinthians 13, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

The simple truth is we don’t know everything! We can’t prove and explain everything. For a follower of Jesus, this is okay. It is okay to trust that there is a God who, although we do not see, we know to be real because of the power, love and truth that He has released into our lives.

It is okay to trust in the miracles of forgiveness, generosity, intimacy, new life and transformation of the heart when there is no logical reason for those things to exist. That’s why for a person who loves God the best words are not “prove it” but “thank you.”

1. Try to remember some of the times you said, “prove it.” What was going on in your mind? Why did you need proof?

2. Does it bother you that we can’t prove God’s existence (conclusively)? Why is proving God’s existence so important to some people? How do you “explain” God?

1 Peter 1:3-9; Psalm 35; John 20:26-29

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Robin Dugall

A long-time contributor to HomeWord's daily devotionals, Robin is Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church of McCall, Idaho and Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church of Cascade, Idaho. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Theology at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon.

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