Sometimes I say something in a sermon where, on further reflection, I think to myself, I didn’t explain that very well. This happened recently in the sermon about blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). Commenting on the simple fact that we know his name, his father’s name, where he was from, and where he used to sit and beg, I said that these details make the account falsifiable. In fact, the gospels are filled with falsifiable data.
It struck me that “falsifiable” might be a dangerous word to use, since it comes from the word “false,” and we confess that the entire bible is true. It can be confusing.
When we use the term “falsifiable” regarding the Bible, we certainly do not mean that it is false. We also don’t mean that we expect someone will prove it false. We simply mean that it is presented in such a way that, if it were false, someone could prove it to be false. This is actually a mark of truthfulness, because it allows something to be fact-checked. It’s like when newspapers name their sources. What do you trust more? Do you trust an article based on anonymous sources or one that names them? Even if you don’t fact-check it, you trust the article that names its sources. Why? Because it’s falsifiable. If it’s false, someone can prove it to be false.
Even when we deal with ancient texts, where the sources and witnesses have long since died, falsifiability is still immensely valuable, because it could have been proven false at the time. The biblical authors had confidence to include falsifiable data, because the events they recorded are true.
Of course, falsifiability does not prove with 100% certainty that something is true. Even modern news sources can’t do that. But falsifiability demonstrates the Christian faith to be reasonable, while still leaving the need for faith. We can prove that our faith is reasonable, but it is always the Holy Spirit who gives that faith. Faith is not simply accepting the historical claims of Christianity, but actually trusting them. It is trusting that this Jesus, who healed Bartimaeus, will raise and heal us on the Last Day. It is trusting that this Jesus was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead. Our faith is both reasonable and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
May the peace of Christ be with you,