Struggling to Disbelieve

Let us explore a topic from the news wires.

On April 5, 2006, Reuters ran an article entitled “Jesus may have walked on ice?”. The article details the new theory of one Professor Doron Nof. He alleges that it is “possible” that Jesus walked on ice, and not water, as the Bible would say.

As the article explains:

Nof, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University, said on Tuesday that his study found an unusual combination of water and atmospheric conditions in what is now northern Israel could have led to ice formation on the Sea of Galilee.

Nof used records of the Mediterranean Sea’s surface temperatures and statistical models to examine the dynamics of the Sea of Galilee, which Israelis know now as Lake Kinneret.

The study found that a period of cooler temperatures in the area between 1,500 and 2,600 years ago could have included the decades in which Jesus lived.

A drop in temperature below freezing could have caused ice thick enough to support a human to form on the surface of the freshwater lake near the western shore, Nof said. It might have been nearly impossible for distant observers to see a piece of floating ice surrounded by water.

Nof said he offered his study — published in the April edition of the Journal of Paleolimnology — as a “possible explanation” for Jesus’ walk on water, (“Jesus may have walked on ice?”, Reuters, 04/05/2006).

Science has many times tried to explain, either to affirm or to deny, many of the stories of the Bible, yet this one takes the cake for incredulity.

Let us consider the Biblical narrative of the event in Matthew 14:22-33:

And straightway he constrained the disciples to enter into the boat, and to go before him unto the other side, till he should send the multitudes away. And after he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into the mountain apart to pray: and when even was come, he was there alone. But the boat was now in the midst of the sea, distressed by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night he came unto them, walking upon the sea.

And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost”; and they cried out for fear.

But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”

And Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the waters.”

And he said, “Come.”

And Peter went down from the boat, and walked upon the waters to come to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me.”

And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and took hold of him, and saith unto him, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

And when they were gone up into the boat, the wind ceased.

And they that were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”

The divergence between this narrative and the new theory ought to be rather telling. Let us consider some of them.

  1. Notice how the article constantly uses conditionals: “could have been,” “perhaps,” etc.
  2. For the article to have any claim to seriousness, the timeframe of this event would have to be during cold temperatures. If it were during the late spring through early fall, it has no merit whatsoever.
  3. The disciples got into the boat earlier that night– where was the ice then?
  4. The boat is not really near the shore– it was many stadia away. The boat would have been no closer than a quarter of a mile. How far could that ice extend?
  5. If Jesus were on a piece of ice, how would He maneuver said ice so as to appear to the disciples to walk on the water?
  6. Furthermore, the wind was strong and the sea choppy– how would Jesus have remained on the ice without tipping over at some point(s), let alone maneuver the ice piece to the ship?
  7. If the disciples could not see the ice Jesus was on, what of Peter and him getting out of the boat? If there were ice, the disciples would have seen it.
  8. If Peter were to get out onto load-bearing ice, why would his loss of faith lead him to sink?

These are just some of the many difficulties that the theory presented simply cannot withstand. In the end, it takes far more faith to believe the article and the idea that Jesus was on ice than it takes to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and can walk on water and facilitate others in walking on water. Yet you can be sure that there will either be a special on this theory or this theory will be highlighted on some special on television, and all kinds of people will think it “possible”.

In the end, however, the article has one very telling line, one that really explains the entire situation.

“If you ask me if I believe someone walked on water, no, I don’t,” Nof said. “Maybe somebody walked on the ice, I don’t know. I believe that something natural was there that explains it,” (ibid. cit. above).

It should be clear now why someone would go to such lengths to come up with such a fantastically improbable story. He does not believe in Jesus walking on water and has no desire to believe that Jesus walked on water. Therefore he will come up with whatever he can to try to explain away a manifestly supernatural event.

This is really nothing new. After all, science has continually advocated for the theory of macroevolution, an unprovable theory that requires far more faith than the concept of God creating all things. The impulse to try to explain God out of everything is rather prevalent in our society.

Jesus considers the matter aptly in Matthew 9:12:

But when he heard it, he said, “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.”

In the end, Jesus can do nothing for those who think that they are healthy– those who think that they have the answers, those who think that they are not sinners, those who think that there is no reason to believe.

Consider the example of a person who denies that they are physically ill. If a person denies that they have a problem with alcohol, what will happen? Somehow or another, that illness will still lead to their destruction. What if a person simply denies that they have cancer? Will that stop the cancer– or will that lead to a faster death? Those who profess to be whole yet are not will always have a reality check in store.

Yet how many people are spiritually sick yet believe that they are healthy? There are many, of course, who believe that they are right with God yet are not known to Him (Matthew 7:21-23). There are many more who see no need for God– they are perfectly fine in their lives, they have a nice middle or upper class life that they have made for themselves, and they are in need of nothing. Many of these types are the very ones who, in their arrogance, deny that there is a God and do all they can to justify their disbelief. They are all spiritually sick, and we all lament the reality check that would be in store for them without repentance. Yet if they cannot realize their illness, how can there be any expectation of relief?

This article should not be considered an attack on the faith as much as the desperate attempt of a spiritually sick man to make it seem as if he is whole. Let us not fall into that trap; let us recognize that we are sinners, that we are in need of redemption, and that we look to the Physician of our souls for strength. Let us not be self-deceived “whole” people; let us recognize that we are recovering sinners, and strive to help others see their illness and the cure.


Struggling to Disbelieve

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