Your atheist colleague reads your e-mail filled with neat evidence of Jesus defeating death, but doesn’t believe it one bit.
Your Muslim friend asks you to prove Jesus is the Son of God but she doesn’t believe even after you have expounded on the virgin birth of Mary.
Your uncle has experienced sharp suffering for most of his life, and refuses to accept any evidence you have given Him about the existence of a compassionate, creator God.
Do these situations bother you?
Then you may have wondered – How is evidence helpful while talking about Jesus and the Bible?
Considering these common scenarios most believers face during apologetics (apologetics is the defence of one’s beliefs), here is my answer – Evidence may not help you much in evangelism. At least, not how we expect it would make our friends turn away from sin and truly trust in Jesus Christ with their lives.
Evidence can never substitute faith, it can only further strengthen faith that is already present. Why?
All evidence is examined and understood based on a person’s presuppositions.
Presupposition: A belief that is held to be true without being challenged or supported by independent evidence.
Does anyone remember the movie, ‘The Matrix’?
A computer programmer, Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is contacted by a terrorist called Morpheus who tells him that the world as they knew it, actually didn’t even exist.
Mankind has been enslaved by machines! Machines are growing humans in large “farms” where their enslaved minds had been tricked into living under a gigantic mental illusion of a computer program called the Matrix. The real world is a dark wasteland, dominated by machines and with some remnant humans battling a bleak future.
Talk about new presuppositions!
It would have sounded incredulous to Anderson! He had been examining reality through one lens all his “life”. But soon he is thrust into a completely different worldview. With that, he began believing new, unchallenged truths– the world is a dark wasteland and “the world” inside the Matrix is not real. Based on these, he forms new convictions and values. Which is why he could now attack a federal agent, fully knowing the elaborate deception and illusion the Matrix was.
Anderson needed a change in his worldview and that could not have happened inside the Matrix. Without external help, no evidence would have helped him.
His belief system needed to be exposed to be found unable to account for reality. This is true for our dear friends and loved ones who do not believe in the Bible. This was true for you and me when we did not have life-saving faith from God.
No evidence inside their system of beliefs can give them this faith; because first, the false lens needs to be exposed because really- no belief system makes sense of our existence like the Bible does. Second, God the Holy Spirit needs to bring faith that the Bible is indeed the undisputed authority on truth. This faith, no man can produce. It can come only from God (Eph. 2:8-9).
You might have friends who will assure you that their current beliefs play no role in how they interpret evidence about Jesus. They might be sincerely wrong. Everyone has beliefs that are core to how they view life and these will be seen in their convictions and actions. Anyone who says they are unbiased, already has an opinion; including Christians. We Christians are called to commit our lives from true and right presuppositions, not to suspend belief and come to “neutral ground” for the sake of argument.
The real work is in showing that everyone actually believes in some unchallenged statements.
Examples of presuppositions
Statement #1 – One should believe scientific evidence, not what some religious book says.
Religion – Science
Response – If we should not believe “some book”, why should anyone believe the above statement?
Statement #2 – I cannot believe anything illogical.
Religion – Logic
Response – And who says we have to believe in your version of logic?
Statement #3 – You should not readily believe anything that people tell you. Be a healthy skeptic.
Religion – Skepticism
Response – If this is true, should we be skeptical about your statement too?
Statement #4 – Mankind has rebelled against God and everyone is trying to suppress that truth.
Religion – Christianity
Response – Are you saying I am a liar? 😀
Your atheist friend who believes that “there is no God”, already believes that statement. That is probably why he scoffs at all the evidence you pour on him.
The friend who has already believed that Jesus is not the Son of God, doesn’t need more evidence but words of unchallenged authority on this matter, the Bible. Evangelism can’t be helped by letting go of our presuppositions, because –
1) That means we are saying we are willing to suspend faith and talk on “neutral” grounds. I am not sure where in the Bible we are called to do that. Besides, there IS no neutral ground.
2) No one can actually suspend their presuppositions. It is who they are. If you are capable of discussing belief-systems, you have already grown into accepting some beliefs, convictions and presuppositions.
In the end, it is good to show that every single person has faith in one thing or the other.
People don’t believe in Jesus Christ because of lack of evidence, it is really them suppressing the truth that they know God exists. God’s supernatural mercy alone can give faith to an unbelieving heart (Romans 1:24,25).
What is your experience with faith and evidence? This post is open to all people. Hoping to have a great discussion here!
Coming Soon – How I spent years trying to build my faith upon evidence for Christianity. True story.
When speaking with an unbeliever, a believer cannot be content to assert: I believe and therefore it is true. He must seek grounds, not for his own faith, but to make it more acceptable to the outsider, to silence criticism, and remove all excuses for unbelief. Apologetics is the fruit, never the root, of faith.(1) – Herman Bavinck
The writer would like to thank:
Talks on presuppositional apologetics at Marg Families.
(1) – Herman Bavinck, The Certainty of Faith, St. Catherines, Ontario: Paideia Press, 1901; pages 22-23.