The value of a witness

Pastor Tom Jeske

The Bible claims to be not discovered knowledge but revealed knowledge.

A TV series, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, has captured America’s attention. CSI showcases the teamwork between a sharp investigator, fast computers, and forensic medicine.

A law-enforcement team sifts a site. Often it is met with dismayingly scant and scattered evidence: two seconds of a cell-phone conversation, an impression left by a hard object in a softer material, a thread held in a tweezer, a speck of DNA. The clues must substitute for a speaking witness.

CSI: Miami might be able to answer in 60 minutes, “Who left the body on the beach?” A real-life case that won’t go away as easily is, “Where did this planet come from?”

Investigators working on this case observe, catalog bits of information, and form hypotheses. When the question is, “How did the earth get here?”, a detective works backward from the evidence. In this quest we are working without a witness. Answers found under the scientific method will always be tentative. Conclusions are subject to revision, pending new evidence or the appearance of a witness.

All of this hits home as I am standing on an observation deck at the rim of the Grand Canyon. Someone in a khaki uniform is explaining how this great gash in the earth “was shaped over a long period of time.” Wind and water are at work carving the canyon today. We can even measure how much of the canyon floor is scoured away each year by the Colorado River. Get out a calculator, divide the rift’s one-mile depth by that measurement. In a straightforward way the investigator discovers knowledge: the canyon is x-years-old.

A shuttle-bus full of German and Japanese tourists and I are indirectly asked to accept several assumptions: a) that the volume of water moving through the Grand Canyon has always been constant, and b) that the earth started out smooth, like a marble.

Reflect on that first assumption. If the Bible is correct when it speaks of a great flood, then one conclusion its reader may draw is that the volume of heart-stopping whitewater running through the Grand Canyon of the Colorado has not always been the same as it is now.

The second assumption of our National Park Service employee seems to be that the earth started out smooth. According to this theory, canyons (and mountains, presumably) were formed later under current conditions.

Viewing CSI with its labs and computers can leave one with the feeling that scientific inquiry must be left to professionals. But a fair question for a Christian—tourist, high school student, subscriber to National Geographic—to consider is, “But what if God created a canyon?”

If he did, then what appears to have been worked only by water and wind would actually have been carried through by the Word of God. Then you and I could easily be fooled by what is before our eyes. While our method of working backward allegedly discovers a very old canyon, in reality the canyon may be (geologically) young, mere thousands—not hundreds of millions—of years old. “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:9).

The Bible claims to be not discovered knowledge but revealed knowledge. It presents information about God’s creating activity that is not open to scientific proof. No human being was there to observe it. And without the Scriptures, even that ace CSI team won’t discover the truth on this one by working backwards.

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Living Hope Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE