Question: How do we know that an event like the parting of the Red Sea actually happened?
Answer: As with all events that occur outside of our own experience, we simply do not know, nor shall we ever know for sure. We merely apply faith to our sources of information. All persons, whether or not they believe in God, constantly apply faith. How so particularly? When watching the nightly news we exercise faith that the networks broadcast live footage of actual events. When we read a magazine we exercise faith that the facts which support their articles are true. When we read a history book we exercise faith that such civilizations existed, that such wars occurred, and that such people ruled. When we read the Bible we exercise faith that it reports accurately, too. Why then do people-of-the-world apply less faith to God’s word—a work which has been studied, tested and proved for thousands of years—than to a magazine, which lives mere months from inception to the recycle bin? The world has become such a shallow place that its people can no longer speak the language of depth.
So, even though we could provide apologetic-based answers to questions like: Are there any corroborating histories to the Bible’s account of the Red Sea deliverance? Is there physical land-form evidence of the miracle? Have there been reports of other such phenomena anywhere else? The real question remains: “What are the evidences worth?” The case for Noah’s flood is instructive.
I’ve read many analyses of the soil deposits which speak to a global flood, but credible scientists line-up on both sides, some supporting the biblical record, and others explaining it away. The empirical evidence abounds, but interpretations of the empirical differ, a phenomenon that Paul hammers in Romans 1:20.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
The question will always be, “What do people do with their information?” and not, “Does any information exist?” The Romans 1:20 context reveals the what’s and why’s of handling data. Some people (and looking right at God, by the way) have chosen sin over truth. We shall never win these people over with archaeological data. They need to respond to the convicting pressure of God’s Holy Spirit…and we need to increase our praying for their salvation!
The nature of faith is that we live a positive life based on the facts that God gave us for such life: Salvation through Christ, illumination through the Holy Spirit, his written word, the revelation of himself in creation. Since we belong to God, we interpret soil deposits and artifacts from that point of view, but our point of view does not mean that the empirical evidence is necessarily linked to the biblical event, any more than the world’s point of view proves that it does not. The world of physical evidences might prove interesting to some Christians, but it is a quagmire—and an unnecessary war for people-of-faith.
Do not misunderstand me, I love apologetics! And I believe that its application builds a more solid faith…but it is a quite secondary skill. A prayerful, plain, and direct reading of God’s word is the primary and necessary activity for Christian people. That being said, I routinely recommend Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence That Demand A Verdict for people who are interested in apologetics topics. That volume covers many typical archaeological questions. It is both an apologetics primer and a nearly encyclopedic reference for common Christian topics.
For the more philosophically bent, I recommend RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries). Dr. Zacharias and his team minister to us all by defending the Christian faith at the “higher” levels of discussion such as may be found at university and the world of philosophical thought, publication and conversation. Find them at http://www.rzim.org/. Also, Dr. William Lane Craig at Reasonable Faith is an articulate defender of our faith. Find him at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/.
We have a world of information at our fingertips—and I mean literally—so we suffer from no lack of data. Our problem is just the opposite: we’re smothered by it! Our task, therefore, is to sift through everything and to do our own thinking...prefaced, of course, by our own praying.