In Defense of the Faith |

Hunt, Dave

Our monthly feature excerpted from DaveHunt'sbook of the same title.  

Is Seeing Really Believing?

Question: A famous adage says, “Seeing is believing.” Yet the Bible says, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians:5:7). These two ideas seem to be in direct conflict with each other. Which one is right?

Response: The first saying, although partially true, can be very misleading; the second is totally true. While it helps to “see” something with one’s own eyes or to witness an occurrence, one doesn’t always “see” accurately. Thus, “seeing” is not always a sufficient reason for believing. Nor is “seeing” essential for believing, because we obviously believe in much that we have never seen.

No one has ever seen gravity, though we have observed what we believe to be its effects. Nor has any scientist seen energy, but we now believe it to be the stuff out of which the entire universe is made.

Moreover, appearances can be deceptive....A mirage can make it seem that the burning sand of a dry desert is water. A stage magician can deceive his audience into “seeing” the impossible. In fact, in no instance do we really “see” what we are looking at. The reader doesn’t actually see the page and print of this book. What he “sees” is the impression made upon his brain cells of a reflection carried by light waves into his eyes and then along nerve connections to the brain. Whether that impression is precisely what the page and ink really “look” like or really “are” can never be known by mortals. So “seeing” isn’t what one thinks it is and is surely not the best basis for believing. British astronomer Sir James Jeans declared:

The outstanding achievement of twentieth-century physics is not the theory of relativity . . . or the theory of quanta . . . or the dissection of the atom . . . [but] it is the general recognition that we are not yet in contact with ultimate reality. [The Mysterious Universe (The MacMillan Company, 1929), p. 140]

The words of Jesus when He showed Himself to doubting Thomas are very instructive: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed” (John:20:29). Of the risen Christ, now at the Father’s right hand in heaven, Peter wrote: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter:1:8). If “seeing is believing,” then those alive today...could not believe in Him.

Indeed, if “seeing is believing” were true, no one could ever believe in God, because He dwells “in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see . . . (1 Timothy:6:16). The Apostle John declares that “no man hath seen God at any time” (John:1:18; 1 John:4:12). Yet we are to believe in God, and multitudes of intelligent people do so without ever having seen Him. Obviously, then, faith does not involve seeing with one’s eyes, but faith makes contact with that which is invisible. The great faith chapter of the Bible begins with “Faith is . . . the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews:11:1)....

The most important elements in this physical life (love, joy, peace, purpose, contentment, truth, justice, etc.) can neither be seen nor explained....Nobelist Sir John Eccles pointed out that the recent recognition that minds are nonphysical entities has caused the collapse of scientific materialism[With Daniel N. Robinson, The Wonder of Being Human—Our Brain & Our Mind (New Science Library, 1985), p. 54]. Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger, who played a vital role in giving the world today’s new physics, put it very bluntly:

The scientific picture of the real world around me . . . is ghastly silent about all . . . that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. . . . [I]t knows nothing of . . . good or bad, God and eternity. . . .Whence came I and whither go I? That is the great unfathomable question, the same for every one of us. Science has no answer to it. [Cited in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World’s Great Physicists, ed. Ken Wilbur (New Science Library, 1984)pp. 81-83]

“Seeing” has serious limitations and therefore has little to do with “believing” and nothing to do with “faith.” If we are to know those most important things in life—which science cannot reveal and concerning which it has nothing to say (love, joy, peace, truth, purpose, etc.)—we must have faith. Yet that statement immediately raises the serious question of how one can possibly believe in what or whom one has never seen and indeed cannot see. Faith must stand on the basis of evidence that is independent of physical sight and scientific verification but that is irrefutable.