When should you offer evidence?

imgresTwo weeks ago I asked the question, “Is evidence enough?”  I talked about the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, and showed how their worldviews determined how they viewed the evidence, in that case — fossils. When people are totally committed to a worldview, as both Ken Ham and Bill Nye are, showing evidence is not usually a game-changer.

So when should you offer evidence for the Christian faith?

When someone wants it.

I am not being curt or sassy. I truly mean that.

There are 2 times, in my experience, when it is helpful to offer evidence.

1. To believers:

Maybe they are young and have heard about the truths of the Bible their whole life, but now as a teen or college student, they are wondering if the Bible is really a reliable document. Or maybe they have been a Christian awhile, but are now facing opposition for the first time. This was my experience. When I was faced with the challenges of my philosophy professors that I couldn’t answer, I wanted evidence. I often meet young Christians who just want to know that Jericho was a real place, that Pilate really lived, that there are non-Biblical sources written during the time of the apostles who mention that Jesus Christ lived on the earth.

2. To seekers:

One of my pastors calls the people in our lives who are attracted  to Christ in us or to the gospel — “persons of Peace.” Phillip Vander Elst was such a person.  After graduating from Oxford with degrees in politics and philosophy, Phillip met a really smart lady who was a Christian. He was amazed that someone smart could also believe in Jesus.  Up to that point Phillip says:

Religious faith seemed to me to involve the blind worship of a cosmic dictator, and the abandonment of reason in favour of ‘revelation’. Why, in any case, should I take religion seriously, I thought, when the existence of evil and suffering clearly discredited the Christian claim that our world owed its existence to a benevolent Creator?

Phillip’s lady-friend (who eventually became his wife) introduced him to C.S. Lewis. Through reading Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain, Phillip came to think that atheism didn’t even provide him a basis by which to form the question about the problem of evil:

As he [Lewis] rightly points out, we cannot complain about the existence of evil and suffering, and use that as an argument against the existence and goodness of God, unless we first believe that the standard of right and wrong by which we judge and condemn our world is an objective one. Our sense of justice and fairness has to be a true insight into reality, before we can we be justified in getting angry and indignant about all the pain and injustice we see around us. But if this is the case, what explains the existence within us of this inner moral code or compass?

Lewis’ writings convinced Phillip that Christian theism made a lot more sense in the search to understand evil in our world:

The presence within us of an objective moral law ‘written on our hearts’ points instead to the existence of an eternal Goodness and Intelligence which created us and our universe, enables us to think, and is the eternal source of our best and deepest values. In other words, Lewis argues, atheism cuts its own throat philosophically, because it discredits all human reasoning, including the arguments for atheism. “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” (Mere Christianity).

Once Phillip saw the Biblical account as a viable worldview, he then turned to examine the evidence about the Bible. You can read his complete account and about all the evidence that further convinced him here.  For now, let me just share one evidence that was important to Phillip in his journey from atheism to faith:

…the manuscript evidence for the authenticity and reliability of the Gospel texts is earlier and more plentiful than that for any other document of ancient times. In particular, the historical reliability of Luke’s Gospel and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, which is full of explicit political, legal, medical, cultural and topographical details, is confirmed by a lot of archaeological evidence as well as by plentiful documentary evidence from non-Christian sources. According, for instance, to classical scholar and historian, Colin Hemer, in his study,The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, 84 separate facts in the last sixteen chapters of the Acts of the Apostles have been confirmed by archaeological and historical research.

In summary:

If you share evidence with someone like Bill Nye, you will probably get to hear an explanation of that evidence from a different perspective.  If so, do listen and learn. But if you share evidence with a young believer or a person of Peace when they ask for it, it will likely be very helpful.

~ Betsy McPeak

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