I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Worldviews: the Proper Place of Evidences

When offering Christian and creationist evidences, we must be sure that we make clear that these facts must be understood within the broader context of the Christian worldview. We must resist the temptation to present the evidences as self-interpreting, as though both Christians and non-Christians will view the facts in terms of the same criteria and standards of “proof.” Take the lynchpin of the faith, e.g., the resurrection of Jesus. Both the Christian and the non-Christian have the same historical data before them. The Christian interprets these data through the lens of Scripture, concluding that Jesus is therefore the Messiah, warranting the obedience and faith of all peoples. The non-Christian, however, views the same data through the lens of his naturalistic presuppositions, concluding that, since we live in a random world of chance, weird things do happen, if indeed Jesus of Nazareth came back from the dead! 
Therefore, without the context of the sweeping redemptive-historical framework of Scripture as the interpretive grid, Jesus resurrection—the crux of the Christian faith—is a fluke of nature at best and unintelligible at worst. So it is with all evidentially based arguments. We should avoid attempting to treat evidences as neutral facts open to anyone’s interpretation, and then try to move the unbeliever toward truly Christian content and understanding. Rather, we must be unapologetic in our apologetics, showing non-Christians that not only is this or that evidence or fact understandable in terms of Scripture but also every facet of human experience. 

Secondly, then, evidences have their place, but we must be careful to not give them a higher place than is warranted, when considering the conversion of non-Christians. From academic antitheists to agnostic Joe, who works down at the gas station, nearly all unbelievers present their resistance to the gospel and biblical truth as merely the intellectually respectable problem of a lack of evidence for God’s existence, creationism, Christ’s resurrection, etc. The tempting response is to begin pouring out the best information, evidences, and arguments we have; we begin trying to show the unbeliever that there are sufficient facts available to meet his rationalistic demands of proof. 

One glaring problem with this idea is that it presumes that unbelievers simply lack sufficient evidence for obedient belief in the living God, which is itself an assumption of atheism; the idea is perfectly unscriptural, even anti-scriptural. Even the most comprehensive biblical anthropology would never suggest that a person’s unbelief and disobedience is an intellectual problem, as though God has not presented each and every human with sufficient proof of his reality, his nature, etc. (see, e.g., Rom. 1:18ff). Instead, biblically speaking, man’s problem with God is a moral one. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). Unbelievers are not ignorant of God, but are “haters of God” (Rom. 1:30); he is not doing good by seeking God, since “none seeketh after God” and none doeth good” (Rom. 3:11, 12). So, if we take the biblical view of man, especially fallen man, seriously, we need to be careful to address the unbeliever’s really real problem, his sinful attitude toward Christ, rather than his perceived problem of an alleged want of evidence. The saving gospel, as set forth in the Self-attesting Word, is what the unbeliever lacks, not intellectual satisfaction. He doesn’t need new evidences but a new heart and a new mind.

All of this is easy to discuss in the abstract, but all too often, when I am personally engaged in apologetic and evangelistic conversations, it is easy to slip into the mode of moving forward as though the conclusion of an airtight argument with result in the unbeliever’s immediate concession to the truth and confession of Christ. Even if that were true, it would have the effect of his faith standing in the wisdom of men rather than the power of God, which is his original problem (1 Cor. 2:5; cf. Gen. 3)!  

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