When Mighty Timbo undertook his disproof of Mormonism, the first point he offered was eyewitness testimony by one Peter Ingersoll (or Ingersol, or Ingersall, not sure why there are so many different spellings), to the effect that Smith’s “Golden Bible” wasn’t really there. When I invited Timbo to submit that article, I told him that I would look for parallels between the weaknesses of Mormonism and the weaknesses of Christianity, and this is one of them. Just as Joseph Smith had eyewitnesses who could see for himself that the Book wasn’t really there, you and I and even Timbo himself are all eyewitnesses to the fact that Christianity’s God isn’t really there. In effect, we are all Peter Ingersolls, because we are eyewitnesses to God’s manifest absence from the real world.
Let me give you an example. Here is Timbo’s argument for why the Book of Mormon was really a fraud:
An early interview of the witnesses revealed: “He [Martin Harriss] also
indicated that Joseph had prepared an affidavit beforehand and asked the
witnesses to sign it, but because they had not seen a physical object, only
a vision of them, some hesitated to sign; but were finally persuaded by
Joseph. David Whitmer also told Zenas Gurley Jr. on January 14, 1885 when
asked if the witnesses actually touched “the real metal,” “We did not.” The
witnesses handled “the plates” in a vision only, according to Whitmer.”
(Grant Palmer, *An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins)*
The “8 Witnesses” seem to have the same credibility problem:
Joseph’s brother William Smith testified about the 8 witnesses that they
were not permitted to actually see the plates saying:
“I did not see them uncovered, but I handled them and hefted them while
wrapped in a tow frock and judged them to have weighed about sixty pounds.
… Father and my brother Samuel saw them as I did while in the frock. So
did Hyrum and others of the family.” When the interviewer asked if he
didn’t want to remove the cloth and see the bare plates, William replied,
“No, for father had just asked if he might not be permitted to do so, and
Joseph, putting his hand on them said; ‘No, I am instructed not to show
them to anyone. If I do, I will transgress and lose them again.’ Besides,
we did not care to have him break the commandment and suffer as he did
John Whitmer also testified “I now say, I handled those plates; there were
fine engravings on both sides…they were shown to me by a supernatural
power”. The only reason to be shown something supernaturally is if you
haven’t seen it physically.
Makes sense, right? If it takes some kind of spiritual, supernatural perception to see something, it’s because it isn’t available for you to see by ordinary vision. So, then, how does God “show up” for Timbo? Here are some quotes from his “lost” posts, (which were fortunately still open in my browser when his site went down).
Since that time God is present on the earth through his Holy Spirit. Because that’s not a visible manifestation I know that doesn’t satisfy the skeptic, but the works of the holy spirit have often been seen through the holy spirit that have often been unexplainable outside of the supernatural…
I, along with hundreds of other people I know could offer you real-world experience that provides the basis for the faith we have today…
The reason I am an apologist is because I have tested every tenant of my faith, I have tested the bible time after time and have yet to see it fail…
I encounter that very real God in my very real life in a very real way every day…
I’m not asking you to accept the metaphysics, because I understand that you don’t.
God “shows up” for Timbo in a very real way every day—but you have to believe in metaphysics to actually see it happening! And the reason you can only see it metaphysically (i.e. supernaturally) is because it isn’t really available to you any other way. Timbo experiences the “real” God the same way the Mormon witnesses experienced the “real” Golden Bible. Which, according to Timbo, means that the Golden Bible is a fraud, but God nevertheless is real and skeptics just don’t want to admit it.
This is where God’s actual presence on earth actually comes in. So far we’ve been discussing God’s presence on the earth under the assumption that he would be like some Guy you could walk up to, hear speak and see demonstrations of power.
But the truth is God actually is present here on earth today, every second of every day: The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in every Christ-follower. The Holy-Spirit is the Christian’s connection to God and the primary way through which God acts in the world today.
Did you catch that? We’ve been discussing God’s presence as though you could actually see and hear Him (just like Timbo discusses whether the Golden Bible was present in a way you could actually see and touch), BUT the truth about how God “shows up” is really spiritual, just like the way the Golden Bible appeared spiritually and supernaturally to the Mormon witnesses.
We are Peter Ingersoll, and we’re eyewitnesses to the fact that God doesn’t show up in real life any more than Joseph Smith’s Golden Bible did. And even Timbo himself agrees that, when he says “I encounter that very real God in my very real life in a very real way every day,” he’s not talking about “some Guy you could walk up to, hear speak and see demonstrations of power.” It’s all “spiritual,” just like the Mormon visions of the fraudulent Golden Bible. That’s why you have to really believe it first, and then, if you try hard enough and believe hard enough, you can “see” it too.