If a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound? A great question but is it helpful. The better question I think is if it matters if a tree falls in the woods and makes a sound even if you do not hear it. This is where perspective plays a big role. If you do not study the science of sound, nor care about how sound affects the world around, whether it makes a sound or not does not matter because it is irrelevant. But if you studied such a thing, then it obviously is important, and, in fact, the whole fact that you did not hear it might be even more important for observation than if you were physically present to see it.
When you see the ramifications to a tree falling in the woods, naturally, we begin to see that a tree falling actually has a great impact on the ecosystem and we can posit that the initial sounds, along with the vibrations and other attributes of the tree falling are crucial for the animals and other forest things. When we see the results of the tree falling we can only assume all the details and what it was, but even if we saw the whole thing happen, our view would be limited to our location, viewpoint, and understanding.
This is crucial in understanding the Easter story. As many agnostics and atheists might ask, “how do you know that Christ was God, how do you even know that this story is true?” This is a hard question for many faithful people, but it definitely is connected to that understanding of the tree falling in the woods. Because we did not physically hear the message, we know that it happened not only because of the witnesses of those who were there, but in the aftermath of how we see God working.
As people, we often want things to be proven to us; we are often uncomfortable with mystery and when it comes to things we believe, we definitely are far more comfortable with what we see or know. This is exemplified through the story of Thomas, who despite knowing Christ intimately, doubted because he was not there when Christ first appeared.
For Thomas, at that point the sound was not important to him because he did not think it possible and could not fathom Christ coming back. But that did not mean it could not happen and when Christ confronted him and Thomas found assurance Jesus admonishes him saying, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29b)
In Christianity, there is a premium placed in not seeing but trusting and believing. We know that Christ died and was raised because we can trust in the witnesses of his follower and the promises of God. Just because we did not see does not mean that it did not happen nor does it lessen its importance. In fact, as we live, we live into the trust and direction that God lays out, trusting in the mystery of faith.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen