“Russel’s Teapot” is an argument advanced by the atheist, Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), which states that the burden of proof lies upon the individual who makes a claim which cannot be disproven. He said, for instance, if he claimed that a teapot was in orbit around the sun, it would be his duty to prove it, rather than expecting everyone to believe it. There is some sense to that.
Mr. Russell would then extrapolate to God, saying that since it is impossible to prove a negative, and therefore impossible to prove there is no God somewhere, it was the responsibility of Christians, or other believers, to demonstrate that there actually is a God.
Atheists and agnostics who seek philosophical security in their worldview often ridicule theists, those who do believe in the divine, as lacking any proof for God. They discount the idea that it is possible to have an informed faith in God, and more specifically in Christianity.
Unfortunately, many Christians, not knowing better, seem to agree with this viewpoint. They will good-meaningly tell others that faith is knowing without evidence. That may be one definition of faith, but it is most certainly not the definition being used in the Bible when the topic comes up.
Consider Psalm 19, in particular, which poetically argues that there is a double pronged Revelation sufficient to allow us to believe that there is a God and that He is the God of the Bible. The first prong of this evidence for God is the Creation itself, with its majestic design (cf. Psalm 19:1-6). Space precludes a full discussion of this topic here, but there is good reason to think that Someone made the world. The second prong of evidence left to us by God is the Bible itself, in its perfection (cf. Psalm 19:7-11), and the wise man will thus submit to the Law of the God who gave us the Bible (cf. Psalm 19:12-14).
Concerning internal evidence that the Bible is from God, there are many things that could be pointed to: its nature, its reliability, its truthfulness in all matters. Let us deal, however, with one of the most obvious and most irrefutable of evidences that the Bible is from God, and that the God we should trust is the God of the Bible. This evidence is the undeniable existence of clear prophetic writings.
There are hundreds of prophecies in the Bible, all of which were perfectly fulfilled (with a few yet to be fulfilled) and the weight of their combined testimony is staggering. But rather than using such an overwhelming approach, let us quickly point to two rather simple, clear predictions that cannot be denied.
Sometime around 603 BC, the prophet Daniel interpreted a dream for the king, Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Daniel 2). This prophecy was collected by Daniel into his book seventy years later, about 536 BC. The book of Daniel was said to have been read to Alexander the great sometime around 334-333 BC, and it was most certainly translated into Greek by 250 BC. The prophecy of Daniel chapter 2 is easily understood. Daniel, speaking during the days of the Babylonian Empire, foretold the rise of the Persians, the subsequent rise of the Greeks, and then the rise of the Roman Empire. Daniel further predicted that it was during the days of the Roman empire that God would establish His eternal Kingdom. Six hundred and thirty nine years after Daniel says that God gave Him this message, Jesus established the church in 33 AD, during the days of the Roman empire.
Even more remarkable is the prophetic Psalm of David, Psalm 22. David lived about 1000 years before Christ. The Psalms themselves were collected into their present form about 500-600 years before Christ, and, with the rest of the Old Testament, translated into Greek 250 years before Christ. This Psalm, which begins, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” not only pictures Christ on the cross, but even quotes his enemies standing at the foot of the cross (Psalm 22:7-8; cf. Matthew 27:43). This is the passage that predicted the soldiers dividing the garments of Jesus (Psalm 22:18) and which speaks prophetically of the pierced hands of Christ (Psalm 22:16). And it was written by a man who lived 1000 years before the events described actually happened. But he was able to do this because God spoke to him.
Christians do not believe in God and Christ without evidence. God has left us a witness, in His word, to His presence. If you would like to learn more about why we can trust the Bible, and more particularly, why we should trust Jesus, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.