Is it OK to “Just Have Faith”?
In an age where we continue to see people led to their deaths by false prophets like Jim Jones, Applewhite, and David Koresh, it behooves us to think very carefully about this problem. Charlatan religious leaders are always going on about “faith” and how we must place our faith in them. Then they kill us or convince us to kill ourselves. And if our deaths don’t interest them, then our wives or daughters, our wealth, our devotion, our opinions, and our independence do! So, it seems prudent to be especially careful about people who tell us to “just have faith.” What is faith, after all? What makes it legitimate vs. deadly?
It seems prudent to be especially careful about people who tell us to “just have faith.”
Intriguingly, our earliest Christian writers addressed this problem, insisting that as lovers of the truth, we have a duty to test various claims to our allegiance to see whether they are valid. In the most famous chapter in the Bible on faith (Hebrews 11), the writer regards faith as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” That’s faith, according to the New Testament, and notice that it is evidential and substantial. Doesn’t sound like a leap in the dark, does it?
Christianity doesn’t degrade human nature by forcing you to shelve your mind. When God makes the saint, he does not unmake the man.
Let’s pause to consider this for a moment. Loving truth requires that we earnestly apply our minds to mine out what is true from what is false. It requires intellectual industry, not laziness. God gave us our minds for a reason. In fact, the greatest commandment tells us to love God with all of ourselves, including our minds. Contrary to what you sometimes hear in the protestant ranks, Christianity doesn’t degrade human nature by forcing you to shelve your mind. When God makes the saint, he does not unmake the man. Grace never contradicts nature; it fulfills it. So, when God adds to what the natural sciences, the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts tell us about the world, he does not contradict what he gave before. What God reveals in addition complements what he already provided through nature. We call this addition Revelation. So, we ought not accept the outrageous idea that faith operates against reason. On the contrary, what is revealed through authentic faith adds to what we know from the sciences and the arts. We make whole use of human inquiry and then happily accept whatever God gives over and above.
We ought not accept the outrageous idea that faith operates against reason. On the contrary, what is revealed through authentic faith adds to what we know from the sciences and the arts.
But how does God do that? I mean, really, how can God add to what we already know? Because whatever he has to add is not something that is generally knowable already. If it were, then why would he have to add it? He’d presumably just wait for us to figure it out on our own. But some things we’d never be able to figure out, because we don’t have access to the relevant data. Like the histories of the angels. We have no angelic histories, do we? No, we don’t. Just imagine what the Library of Heaven must have on angelic history! But we know almost nothing about it. So, every now and then we get a tidbit here or that that purports to be from God, a tidbit that adds to the pretty much nothing that we know about the angels.
Fair enough. But how is that tidbit to be accessed, since we just said that rational access to the data is non-existent? And since it has to be revealed, then it must occur at a particular point or points in history. And if it occurs at particular points, then it is presumably made available only to certain people or groups of people at those times, making you wonder how the rest of us can trust it. I mean, isn’t this exactly how the cult leaders operate?
Let’s suppose that you were buying some gasoline and up comes a fellow in a great beard, clad in a robe and sandals, and carrying a big staff. He announces to you that he is the Prophet of God and that God has told him that you are to become his high priest and must follow him (oh, and of course, you will need to provide him with all your money, your wife, your car, all your clothes and furniture, your house, as well as introductions to all of your relatives and friends . . . the usual cult routine). What are you going to make of this bizarre and supposed “revelation”? Keep in mind that people are always going around claiming that God told them this or that. So, how do we know it is God? Most people who hear voices and think that it is God have schizophrenia. It wouldn’t be a bad first step to have this fellow seen by someone, would it?
In the Hebrew Bible (Judges 6) there is this man named Gideon whom God comes to see for a chat, and Gideon is seriously concerned whether he’s talking to God or perhaps is out of his mind. He constructs a little test to figure out whether this is real. He tells this “God” that if he really is God, then being the supreme creator of all things, would he mind the next morning if Gideon were to leave a dry sheepskin on the grass, would God leave the grass dry and only the sheepskin soaked with the morning dew. The next morning Gideon finds that the grass is totally dry and the sheepskin is soaking wet with the morning dew. He then realizes that a supernatural event has taken place, an event that requires a supernatural cause. But just to be on the extra safe side of things, Gideon proposes a second test in the reverse! This time let the grass be soaked with dew and the sheepskin totally dry. He realizes he may be pushing it with God, but God fully understands Gideon’s need for evidence, and sure enough, the next morning the grass is soaked with dew and the sheepskin is entirely dry.
For that’s what pulling the God-move is all about: imposition. If God is really doing the talking, we ought to listen to the message. But that provides an awful temptation to unscrupulous, manipulative people. So how do we know that it’s really God doing the talking?
Gideon’s experience is very helpful for evaluating people who claim to hear God telling them things and who then wish to impose on you severely (as in the case of the cult leader) or even moderately when your friend tells you that God told him to turn left at the intersection heading the wrong way. For that’s what pulling the God-move is all about: imposition. If God is really doing the talking, we ought to listen to the message. But that provides an awful temptation to unscrupulous, manipulative people. So how do we know that it’s really God doing the talking? It is hardly unreasonable for us to ask for the basis of these claims. On the contrary, we must challenge these claims, or else we will be subject to every charlatan and religious quack who comes along.
Jesus himself addressed this problem. One day he comes upon a paralytic, and he says to him, “Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). Now let’s stop and analyze that claim. How could anyone, including the paralytic, evaluate whether his sins were forgiven or not? He wouldn’t really know for sure until he died and stood before the divine judgment, so in the meantime, what is he to make of this claim? This is exactly how cult leaders act, don’t they, making remarkable claims for which there is no direct evidence? And in both the case of the cult leader and Jesus we can reasonably ask how do we know that this message of forgiven sins is really true, is really from God. Well, Jesus is well aware of this problem (that’s why he began by forgiving the man’s sins), and in the story he waits a few moments for the significance of what he has said to sink in. His audience knows that only God can forgive sins, and, thus, they begin to suspect him of blasphemy: who does this guy think he is, anyway? Once that’s well set in their imaginations, Jesus then says the following, “But that you may know that the son of man (himself) has the authority on earth to forgive sins—he then said to the paralytic, Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home” (Matthew 9:6). The man immediately stood up, his paralysis completely healed. Now, think hard about what Jesus just did. He vouched for his authority to forgive sins (i.e., his status as a divine messenger, as the Son of God) by offering evidence that he really was from God. What evidence? A supernatural effect, a miracle. Supernatural effects are caused by supernatural beings, aren’t they? Thus, Jesus makes use of reason to vouch for his claim to be the Son of God. It is proper to have faith in the content of a revelation only if you have good reason to believe that it really is a revelation, i.e., that the revealer is actually from God. But only reason can assess whether he is from God or not.
It is proper to have faith in the content of a revelation only if you have good reason to believe that it really is a revelation, i.e., that the revealer is actually from God. But only reason can assess whether he is from God or not.
While we cannot wholly assess the truth of the content of a revelatory message (since it contains information that we could not independently verify), we can assess whether the person purporting to be the messenger from God is bona fide, i.e., is an authentic prophet. For anyone who claims that God told him anything by means of direct communication is claiming to be a prophet. We must evaluate whether he is a prophet or not in order to tell whether we’re being duped. In the Israelite world this was serious business: false prophets were executed. It’s a grave thing to falsely represent oneself or one’s own thoughts as being divine communication.
Moses faced this problem too, first for himself, and secondly for the Israelites. You remember the story from Exodus. Moses is walking around the desert and comes upon the famed burning bush, famed because while it continued to burn, it never burned up. He heads over to investigate this marvel when a voice calls out to him identifying itself as none other than God himself charging him with the task of leading his people out of Egyptian slavery. Moses has already passed the test of his own sanity, because he has evidence of supernatural activity in the burning bush that never burns up. But he is very worried what will happen when he not only has to authorize himself as a divine prophet to the Egyptians but to the Israelites as well. He’s concerned that his own people will laugh at him as some kind of nut. God agrees with this assessment, and tells Moses to throw his stick on the ground, which he does (Exodus 4). As it hits the earth, it turns into a snake. Moses nods, yes, that is impressive. Then God says to him, but if they don’t believe this first sign, try this: put your hand in your shirt. Moses does so, and when he pulls it back out, it’s leprous. Moses hastily returns it to the shirt, and it comes out good as new. And then God says, but if they don’t accept the first two signs, try this one, and he enables him to turn water into blood, the first sign that he uses on the Egyptians. What’s the upshot of all this? God is well aware of the problem of sending someone to represent a divine message without backing his prophet with evidence that this guy really is from God. And so, God supports Moses’ status in triplicate. God does not impose upon human reason; rather, he expects us to use it. When God makes the saint, he does not unmake the man.
Faith is a rational process by which we determine whether purported messages from God are authentic, and if they are, then we believe them—even if we possess no independent evidence that the messages are true. Why would we believe them? Because God is no deceiver.
Remember that the Bible said that faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence for things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). Notice that faith is rational. Faith is not some leap in the dark. We cannot assess directly the truthfulness of the content of a revelatory message, the “things unseen” in Hebrews 11:1. But we can assess directly whether the person purporting to be a messenger from God is the real deal. Anyone claiming original prophetic status must have some kind of supernatural effect indicating that he represents the supernatural cause, namely God. It is solely by this means that we can rationally and indirectly assess the alleged prophetic revelation. We cannot directly assess the message, so we must directly assess the messenger. And that is faith. Faith is a rational process by which we determine whether purported messages from God are authentic, and if they are, then we believe them—even if we possess no independent evidence that the messages are true. Why would we believe them? Because God is no deceiver, and if God is the author of those messages, then we can absolutely trust him.
What cult leaders do is demand that we not only place our faith in the content of the messages, but that we also place our faith in the fact that they (the cult leaders) are divine messengers. Were we to do that, we’d be subjecting ourselves to utter imposition, to cult-like religious tyranny.
What cult leaders do is demand that we not only place our faith in the content of the messages, but that we also place our faith in the fact that they (the cult leaders) are divine messengers. Were we to do that, we’d be subjecting ourselves to utter imposition, to cult-like religious tyranny. If God really needs to communicate messages to humanity, he can and he has vouched for it in remarkable supernatural ways. Grace does not contradict nature. God gave us our minds to be used.
One of the Christian philosophers called God’s prophet authentication system The Miracle Cluster System. It works like this: if God expects people to trust his messengers, he must provide ample (and then some) miraculous evidence to convince people of many differing levels of sophistication and culture. Not all miracles are designed to attest to prophetic authenticity, of course—God may just heal someone of an illness miraculously. But anytime there is a major prophetic revelation, it must be vouched for. If you examine the history of world, you will find only two instances where a major prophetic revelation occurred and was also vouched for by a massive cluster of miracles. (Keep in mind that there have been lots of cases of alleged prophetic revelations with nothing but the personality of the cult leader to back them up!)
Miracle Cluster One: The Law of Moses
When God created a people for himself, he called Abraham to be the father of this new people and he also vouched to Abraham miraculously that this was a legitimate divine event (Genesis 12:1-18). But when God later called Moses to represent himself to Israel and then to pagan Egypt, God pulled out all the stops. We left off our Moses story earlier with Moses receiving the three signs to offer convincing evidence to both Israel and to Egypt. But something truly remarkable happened when Moses approached Pharaoh (the king of Egypt), demanding the release of the Israelites. Recall from your history that the Pharaoh purported to be the son of the god, Re, i.e., a divine being. The pharaohs even had temples built to themselves so that they could be worshipped long after they died and allegedly joined Re in the skies by day and joined Osiris in the underworld at night. Egypt was full of temples and priests devoted to these pagan gods. When God called Moses, he explained to him that he wasn’t interested in merely freeing Israel from physical enslavement, but he intended to take on the Egyptian deities themselves, meaning the Pharaoh and his many gods (Exodus 12:12). What follows from this is going to shock you, so be prepared: the gods of ancient Egypt were real.
When God called Moses, he explained to him that he wasn’t interested in merely freeing Israel from physical enslavement, but he intended to take on the Egyptian deities themselves. It follows that the gods of ancient Egypt were real.
Now, it is true that there is only one supreme deity, namely God himself, who is infinitely powerful, knowledgeable, and good. Very true. But God created two kinds of finite persons: angels (disembodied spirit/minds) and human beings (embodied spirit/minds). Like human beings, angels had a fundamental choice to love God or to reject him. According to Revelation 12:4, around 1/3 of those angels joined Satan’s rebellion against God and were tossed out of heaven down to the earth, where they began their mischief. We think of them now as “demons” and we imagine them tempting us to sin and occasionally doing really dark and dramatic things like possessing people. But way back in ancient times before Jesus broke the power of the demonic on earth, the demons were present within pagan religion often representing themselves as gods to the ancient peoples. They sought worship of themselves rather than the all good, true and supreme God, in order to show up God. And they occasionally backed their human representatives with power, usually political and military might, but every now and then with supernatural capabilities. The ancient myths are chock full of gods interfering in the lives of human beings, and in cases like Egypt, actually ruling the people as god-kings. While it is not always easy to tell fact from fiction in these myths, what is clear is that the demons were heavily invested in pagan religion.
When Moses came to Pharaoh’s court, he was astonished when the sorcerers of Egypt using their “secret arts”—backed by their wicked demonic gods—were able to perform the same supernatural signs that Moses was doing.
So, when God told Moses he intended to make war on the gods of Egypt, he meant what he said. He intended to bring judgment on Egypt: its demonic gods, its god-king, and its people who worshipped these gods and oppressed his people in their name. When Moses came to Pharaoh’s court, he was astonished when the sorcerers of Egypt using their “secret arts”—backed by their wicked demonic gods—were able to perform the same supernatural signs that Moses was doing. You can imagine the problem this creates for prophetic revelation! Rival sets of divine signs? How are we to rationally assess who represents the real God?
Well, if God intended Moses to be able to demonstrate both that his God was greater than the gods of Egypt and that he (Moses) spoke for the true God, then God had to back Moses with a greater demonstration of supernatural power than that of the demons backing the Egyptian sorcerers. For the true God is omnipotent, while the false gods of Egypt were merely finitely powerful. So, in Exodus 7:8-13 we find Moses and his brother Aaron standing before Pharaoh announcing that they represent the God of Israel and that God wants his people released. Pharaoh demands a miracle as evidence that they represent this Israelite deity. So, Moses turned to Aaron and had him toss his staff onto the ground. As before, it immediately turned into a snake. Pharaoh then called out his pagan sorcerers who likewise threw down their staffs, all of which also turned into snakes. So far, we have divine parity, for both sides have backed their spokesmen with supernatural power. But then the tide turned. Aaron’s staff slithered up and devoured all the other snakes, before returning to Aaron. God backed Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh didn’t care, of course, because he was less interested in the truth about God and much more in retaining his slave population.
The story continues with the famous ten plagues, with Moses launching first the plague of water turning into blood and then the second plague of the land producing massive numbers of frogs. But in both cases the Egyptian sorcerers, backed by their demonic overlords, are able to replicate the supernatural sign (Exodus 7:22 and Exodus 8:7). But then God activates plague number three, bringing swarms of gnats out of the dust of Egypt. Only this time, the Egyptian sorcerers are bested. They tried to use their secret demonic arts to bring forth gnats, but they couldn’t do it, and they came to Pharaoh and admitted, “This is the finger of God.” Of course, Pharaoh again didn’t care, because Pharaoh wasn’t interested in the truth, only in maintaining his slave empire. It’s instructive to see how evil intentions undermine intellectual integrity. From that point forward, the sorcerers of Egypt were unable to replicate Moses’ miracles. In the case of the boils (Exodus 9:11), these sorcerers were themselves struck down so severely they couldn’t even come into court and stand up before the king. But plague after plague continued, all the way until the final plague against the firstborn of Egypt when God instituted the Passover among his own people.
Why did God perform so many mighty signs in Egypt? God had a dual purpose. First, God meant to judge the Egyptians, their false god-king, their sorcerers and their demonic backers. He struck them down with massive power to demonstrate just who the real God is. But second, God meant to demonstrate to the Israelites that he was speaking through Moses and that they could trust what Moses was saying to them. Why? Because of what happened next!
Not long after the Egyptians released the Israelites, then chased them down and found their destruction in the Red Sea, God brought his people to Mount Sinai and began the first great prophetic revelation, the giving of the Law. Imagine if you were an Israelite at that time. You’d seen Moses’ first three signs when he first came back to Egypt. You then watched as plague after plague smashed into Egypt, but in each case, the Israelites were protected from the plagues. Then, when Pharaoh changed his mind after letting the people go and chased them down, you watched God protect the Israelites from the Egyptian army and ultimately open the waters of the Red Sea permitting the escape of the Israelites and the destruction of the Egyptian army. Then God led you via a great pillar of cloud by day and a great pillar of fire by night all the way to Mount Sinai. Then God descended on the mountaintop with thunder and lightning and met Moses up there. Then Moses came down with the Law.
Would it be unreasonable for you to think that yes, this Moses is indeed the prophet of God? And let’s go a step further: wouldn’t it be unreasonable for you to reject what Moses said? I mean, what else could God do to vouch for Moses?
Now, would it be unreasonable for you to think that yes, this Moses is indeed the prophet of God? Would it be unreasonable for you to believe that what Moses brought as messages from God (that exceeded what would ordinarily be knowable according to human reason) really were messages from God? No, it would not. And let’s go a step further: wouldn’t it be unreasonable for you to reject what Moses said? I mean, what else could God do to vouch for Moses?
There’s one additional point to be gleaned from our foray into Miracle Cluster One, namely, that God wasn’t interested merely in vouching for Moses to the Egyptians and the Israelites that they had enslaved. He specifically tells Moses that he performed all these mighty signs not just for the current Israelites and the Egyptians but for the descendants of the Israelites, so that they would know that the LORD was their God (Exodus 10:2). Miracle clusters happen in history at specific points, and the people who come afterward need to be told the magnitude of what occurred. The leaders of Israel who loved God over the next few centuries reminded the Israelites repeatedly of God’s mighty deliverance of their forefathers from Egypt. That deliverance stood both as a sign of God’s love of his people but also as a sign that the Law of God was authentic.
Miracle Cluster Two: The Incarnation and the Instantiation of the Church
The second and, by far, greatest miracle cluster occurred surrounding the Incarnation. From its inception of the Blessed Virgin through to Jesus’ ascension into heaven, at no point in all of human history has a greater number and magnitude of miraculous events occurred. These miracles occurred in so many different shapes and sizes so as to show even the most ardent skeptic that something astounding was going on with Jesus. After the resurrection of Lazarus, for example, Jesus’s religious enemies huddled together to plot what to do next, admitting to one another that they couldn’t deny that a miracle had occurred. They decided that their only move (since loving the truth and admitting that Jesus was the Son of God would have gotten in the way of their political ambitions) was to credit Jesus’ miraculous power to the demonic! Jesus found this ridiculous, since his miracles restored human beings and brought them to the love of God. Recall what he said: a house divided against itself cannot stand. If Satan empowered Jesus to defeat Satan, that would make no sense at all.
Imagine if you were alive during the time of Jesus. You watch him heal people all day long in between his teaching up in the hills of Galilee. No matter what the illness, he instantly and totally healed people. You watch him break the power of the demonic by repeatedly throwing demons out of the people they’d been possessing, restoring their victims to moral and physical sanity. You watch him take a few loaves and fishes and feed a huge crowd. You watch him calmly order the stormy sea to be peaceful and it does. You watch him redirect the fish of the sea to fill his disciples’ nets on the other side of the boat. You watch him pay his taxes by directing his disciples to catch a specific fish with a coin lodged in its mouth. You watch him at the top of the mountain light up with eternal glory and converse with Moses and Elijah before a voice from heaven authenticates him. During his baptism you watch as the Father and the Spirit authenticate him with divine signs. You watch him call to a man who has been dead and buried for three days to come back to life, and he does. While he’s being betrayed in the garden, you watch him heal one of his captors. And then, once he’s been crucified and killed, you watch as three days later he rises from the dead and appears to you out of nowhere. Aware of your suspicions that he might be a ghost, he assures you that he is not and eats food and offers his arms and legs for inspection to prove he is resurrected flesh. And then finally, you watch as he commissions you and your friends to tell all the world what you have seen and what you have heard from him, and while he is speaking these final marching orders, he rises up into the air and ascends into heaven.
Would it be crazy for you to believe that Jesus was the Son of God?
But God wasn’t done, because no sooner had Jesus ascended back to the right hand of the Father, then he kept his promise and sent the Spirit to inaugurate his Church. Jesus offered proof to the people that the Apostles were the authorized messengers to the world of his Gospel, for Pentecost was a city-wide event in Jerusalem, so shocking in its scale that thousands of people believed and were baptized. Again, God didn’t stop. All through the book of Acts, God again and again backed his Apostles with divine power to authenticate their authority. Hebrews 2:1-4 states: “Therefore, we must attend all the more to what we have heard, so that we may not be carried away. For if the word announced through angels proved firm, and every transgression and disobedience received its just recompense, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? Announced originally through the Lord, it was confirmed for us by those who had heard. God added his testimony by signs, wonders, various acts of power, and distribution of the gifts of the holy Spirit according to his will.”
Once the Church was founded and the Apostles laid hands on their successors (the Bishops), the Church carried out the mission it had been given of continuing to unpack and explain to generation after generation the great truths that Jesus had revealed. Additional attestation miracles were no longer necessary, because the divine revelation had been authenticated. Accordingly, we find that after the first Apostolic age, attestation miracles quickly fade out in Church history, St. Augustine commenting that by his time period no one knew what many of the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit even meant anymore.
When miracles are purported to occur, the Church (which is God’s authorized representative on earth) must carefully examine the event to determine first, if a message is being received that it accords with what Jesus has already given (for God is faithful to what he has already said), and second, what evidence, if any, exists to authenticate the event.
Don’t get me wrong: God can do what he wants. The Holy Spirit is said to be his own person, a wind who blows where he wishes. If he wants to do a miracle or perform a sign, then that’s what he is going to do. Similarly, the Blessed Virgin also has a keen interest in what is going on in the Church, and she occasionally appears in the world to encourage the faithful. But these events are exceedingly rare, and when they are purported to occur, the Church (which is God’s authorized representative on earth) must carefully examine the event to determine first, if a message is being received that it accords with what Jesus has already given (for God is faithful to what he has already said), and second, what evidence, if any, exists to authenticate the event. Sometimes the Church concludes the alleged visitation or miracle is bogus, sometimes it concludes it’s authentic, and sometimes it concludes that more evidence is needed to make a determination. Hysteria is not evidence, and it is incumbent on the people to wait for the Church’s investigative teams to evaluate the situation.
Hysteria is not evidence, and it is incumbent on the people to wait for the Church’s investigative teams to evaluate the situation.
Why? Because we are called by both nature and our Lord to be lovers of truth. Faith is the means that God gave us to indirectly justify revelation from his messengers, messengers who can be directly authenticated by the supernatural signs that God backs them with. God has only twice in human history done this on a miracle cluster scale: the giving of the Law to the Jews and the giving of the revelation of Jesus and the Church to the world. Claims by charlatans lack this sort of vouching for by God. And when we trust so-called religious leaders who lack any authenticating basis, we fall as prey to cults, potentially losing our wealth, our families, our friends, our livelihood, and even our lives, as the followers of Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, L. Ron Hubbard, Keith Ranieri and scores of others have found. The purpose of the Faith is not to turn you into a dupe but to establish you as a full human being, fit to know God face to face. Full humanity includes the mind and its key virtue: wisdom. When God makes the saint, he does not unmake the man.
The purpose of the Faith is not to turn you into a dupe but to establish you as a full human being, fit to know God face to face. Full humanity includes the mind and its key virtue: wisdom.
In summary, God created the world and created human beings as persons with the capacity to look around them and draw rational conclusions about the world. Using these rational gifts, we are able to properly infer that God exists and who he is. But God also intended to interact with us, both to speak to us and ultimately to enter into human nature. He thus specially revealed additional information about himself in the twin great revelations of the Law in Moses and of the Church in Jesus. Both of these revelations—encapsulated in the texts, songs, traditions, liturgies, art, and prayers over generations—were foundationally vouched for by massive miraculous intervention. Both of these revelations were opposed by demonic opposition, and in the first case of Moses, God defeated those counter-miracles of the Egyptian gods, and in the case of Jesus, Jesus directly confronted the demons and bound them to his divine will. Both of these revelations instantiated a religious tradition, institution, and structure to safeguard, transmit, and teach what had been revealed to subsequent generations. And finally, and this is critical, no other massive divine authentication has ever occurred for any other rival religious system or texts.