Posted in Apologetics

Arguing from the Impossibility of the Contrary – The American Vision

During a “Gay Rights”/Juneteenth Parade in Fort Lauderdale, a man drove his pickup truck into a crowd killing one and injuring another. It was immediately denounced as a “terrorist attack” against the LGBTQ+ community. Here are some of the comments:
• 2 hit by truck that was aiming for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s car, a person is dead. “This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT community…deliberate, it was premeditated, and it was targeted against a specific person,” say authorities.
— Read on americanvision.org/posts/arguing-from-the-impossibility-of-the-contrary/

Posted in methodology

Making Muddy Waters Clear: Dealing with Neutrality and Bias in Light of Biblical Truth

The question of biblical study is one of perspective. As I have noted in my previous entry the inscripturated Word of God is clear. Murkiness does not define it. The question is not its perspicuity (clarity), but our attitude and baggage of bias that we tend to bring along with us when we attempt to decipher its meaning.

When last we met…

My reference point in my last post was Matthew 16. There we have two instances where the clarity of what is revealed of God through Jesus Christ, the incarnated Word, is muddied by the waters of the human mind. The Pharisees and Sadducees represent unbelieving thought. They understood what Jesus was saying. They’d heard Him teach. They’d been witness to His activities. They’d listened to eyewitness testimony verifying from others the signs of God in their midst. But they rejected the notion that the conclusion had to be—the Messiah, the Son of God, their long-awaited king was before them (Matt 16.1-4).

Similarly, the disciples of Christ witnessed Jesus personally; day-to-day. They were privy to the way Jesus thought and were eyewitnesses to His activities. However, there were times when they failed to decipher the intended message of Christ. This is recorded for us twice in Matthew 16. First, it was with the meaning of Jesus statement:

“Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt 16.6; NASB).1

Then, a little later, it was Jesus testimony of what must soon take place in His ministry:

“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matt 16.21).

Despite the fact that Peter (one of the twelve) rightly deduced Jesus’ true identity:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt 16.16).

He struggled with the Lord’s teaching of what that truth ultimately meant. That God’s Messiah must die. That He must be handed over and killed by Jews and Gentiles alike. That He must be raised up on the third day.

Why? Why the struggle? Why the inability to see the truth of God as it was given? Because, it did not fit the presuppositions of the audience. The truth penetrated on some level. The clarity of Christ’s message was undeniable. But it was offhandedly rejected.

Types of bias…

Being biased is unavoidable when it comes to reading, hearing and listening to God’s Word. Absolutely, without exception, having a bias in relation to biblical truth is unavoidable.

As I enjoyed a morning run this week I mulled over the subject of neutrality. When we interact with God’s Word, we need to be aware of what our attitude is beforehand. Having a bias is not wrong, but having a wrong bias is. Neutrality is not optional (not even possible), but submission (humility) is.

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given to it, except the sign of Jonah” (Matt 16.4).

This rebuke from Jesus to the self-appointed religious leaders of Israel was in light of their refusal to admit the truth before them. They’d been given signs. Signs were given to verify the validity of Jesus’ claims. They wanted more. Meaning they were biased against what they’d been given, and such a stance would not be entertained by the Lord.

The sign of Jonah…

What was the sign of Jonah? Why did the Lord make reference to it? Often times it is said that this is in reference to Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection three days later. This is derived from the fact that Jonah, the Lord’s prophet, spent three days in the belly of a fish (large enough to swallow a man whole) before being vomited up on the land; returned, as it were, to the land of the living.

I do not deny that this is one aspect of the “sign of Jonah.” And yet, I am of the mind that there is something more, something deeper, that is being pinpointed by Jesus here.

Jonah was sent to Nineveh to proclaim God’s wrath (i.e., righteous judgment) against that city. Jonah refused to heed God’s call (command). He fled to Tarshish, a location in the opposite direction of Nineveh, in order to avoid what he knew. It is at the end of his story that he confesses the reason for his fleeing:

“Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this [--the redemption of the Ninevites--] I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity” (Jonah 4.2).2

Without delving too deeply, I will quickly get to my point.

Bias on display…

The call of Jonah came through loud and clear. God’s Word of command to go to this foreign people was not murky. In fact, it was the clarity of the Lord’s message that drove Jonah to flee to Tarshish. He knew that God intended to save Nineveh. He knew that God was sending him to deliver a message that warned them to flee from the coming wrath (comp. Matt 3.7). And so, in stubbornness of heart he rebelled. This led to God’s judgment on Jonah. When God sent the fish to swallow His prophet, Jonah was as good as dead and he knew it. Thus, we find he confessed his sin to the Lord, and in so doing, submitted to God’s Word (see Jonah 2.7-9).

In the book of Jonah, we see the bias of the Lord’s prophet on full display. First, he was biased against what the Lord had spoken. Second, he was biased in favor of what the Lord had commanded of him. Finally, we see that once again he struggled with personal bias against the sign of Nineveh’s repentance.

Neutral impossibilities…

It is impossible to come to the Word of God in a position of neutrality. I repeat, impossible. It is often said that we need to be aware of our biases before we come to Scripture. There is a sense where such advice is warranted. However, it is foolhardy to attempt to come to biblical teaching as if we are a blank slate. Rather we should approach God’s Word in abject humility. Confessing our biases at the forefront, and being ready at a moment’s notice to discard them (to sacrifice them) on the cross of Christ.

All Scripture (Genesis through Revelation) is God-breathed. Therefore, it is good for rebuke, correction and teaching, so that we are properly trained in the righteousness of God (cf. 2Tim 3.16-17):

“The fear of the Lord…” (ff. Prov 1.7; 9.10).

That is the required bias of any who bear the Name of Christ. Our biases need to be changed from sinful stubbornness, to righteous willingness.

Lesson learned…

One of the things that Greg L. Bahnsen has taught me in his writings (and it has been continually confirmed both inside and outside the Church) is that men love their own opinions. They love to appear wise and knowledgeable. Yet, much of what they believe is grounded in the relative thinking of man’s mind, not the unchanging Word of Christ.

If we are to win wars, then we must be willing to lost the first and most important battle before us; by swearing our fealty to king Jesus (cf. 2Cor 10.4-5). Do this and the clarity of Christ’s Word shall shine through; making muddy waters clear. Fail to do this, and you will receive the rebuke of Peter:

“Get behind Me, Satan! …You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matt 16.23).

ENDNOTES:

1 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 95’ update (NASB).

2 The bracket section is added for the reader’s clarity. This is for those who have not read through this little prophetic book. For the one who has taken the time to study this historic piece in context, the conclusion here given is unavoidable.

Posted in Apologetics

Verification Needed: The Question of Certainty

My Niche…

Like most people I have my particular areas of interest (my little niches), but I try to stretch myself beyond my passions from time-to-time. If you will, I try to be a connoisseur of various subjects. One area that tends to hold my attention is Christian apologetics. There is a plethora of subdivisions under the heading “Christian Apologetics.” Some examples would be Classical/Thomist Apologetics, Evidential Apologetics, Historical Apologetics, and my personal favorite Van Tilian Presuppositional-Reformed Apologetics.

One area of disagreement that I have with those forms of Christian apologetics that use a methodology not founded on biblical presuppositions is that they differ very little from the skeptic. How so? They share a false sense of neutrality when looking at facts and evidences. That is to say, there is a pretended form of neutrality that says we can look objectively at “A,” and “B,” and “C” in order to come to a correct conclusion. Tied with this, both the skeptic and the non-Reformed, non-Presuppositional Apologist deny that a person can really be certain about anything.

Lite Listening…

Historical Apologetics is one such field. It focuses on the authenticity and reliability of the biblical text (Holy Bible/Holy Scripture). The problem with “historicity” is the inability to verify every fact recorded as a definite fact recorded. As I was striking some items off of my wife’s “Honey Do List” I had YouTube on playing in the background. I had stumbled upon an interview with Laura Robinson, a PhD candidate at Duke who was identified in the heading as a New Testament scholar.[1] She was offering a critique of historical apologetics and used Lee Strobel’s book The Case For Christ as an example of an error not to mimic.

In the book Strobel uses his former experience as an atheist that was eventually converted to the Christian faith as a platform. He lays out the work as an investigative reporter interviewing various expert witnesses to come a conclusion. The person interviewing Robinson admitted that he’d not read the book, but was somewhat troubled by the problems she’d highlighted in Strobel’s writing. She used this as a stepping stone of sorts to show the limitations of the historical apologetic approach.

The Subject of Certainty

What caught my attention in the dialogue with her interviewer was her comments regarding the level of certainty we have in investigating historical events. She was concerned that many of the historical events recorded in the Bible sometimes become a stumbling block of sorts to individuals that learn that the percentage of certainty from a historical standpoint is only about 30-60% certainty (perhaps in some cases 80-90%). Which she notes is troubling to some, evidenced by their leaving their profession of faith.

Limitations of historical analysis…

The problem when looking at historical documents she noted was that we are unable to get the source of the information. We cannot meet the eyewitnesses. We weren’t there, and so we cannot verify with absolute certainty the claims of Scripture on every given point.[2]

And so, for her the method that she identifies as the best method is not in trying to reconstruct historical occurrences in the past recorded for us in (or even outside of) Scripture, but in recognizing the Living Savior—Jesus.

Tickling our hearts…

I will admit that on the surface such statements seem profound. The truth of Christ Jesus resonates in us. We know Him, we cannot deny Him, and so this type of declaration is often met with an “amen” from many professing believers. Robinson goes on to say in her interview that she does not need historical evidences that her husband is real. She doesn’t look at his birth certificate to know he’s her husband, she says. This analogy of sorts is then applied to the Christian’s knowledge of the Living Savior. He, being the premiere revelation of God, knowing the resurrected Jesus and His followers (He lives through us) is all the certainty that Christians need. In fact, she seems to lean in the direction that this is really the only certainty that we will get.

Trouble stirs beneath the Surface…

So, if I understand the argument presented (and its not the first time I’ve heard it offered up as a silver bullet of sorts) we cannot be certain about the biblical text, but we can be certain about the risen, crucified Jesus. We don’t need to overly stress the reconstruction of various historical details recorded for us in the Bible, but we ought to put overarching stress on Jesus as our personal savior. This is popular in “red-letter” Christian camps. It may in fact be the reason that men like Andy Stanley don’t want to worry about the Old Testament, prefer to focus on the New Testament writings, and lean heavily on just one aspect of the Christian faith—the Resurrection—in their witness to others.

Analogous Thinking

As human beings we think analogously. This is why we preachers (**not limited to preachers) like to use illustrations when we communicate. Sometimes an analogy helps illustrate a truth that we might be slow in getting. Knowing this I don’t want to be overly harsh in my treatment of Robinson’s analogy of her husband and his birth certificate. But I do want to probe the analogy a bit.

Tentatively Scrutinizing the Claim…

Robinson claims she is absolutely certain that he is her husband because she is able to come into personal contact with him. Okay, that is true in so far as it goes, as long as her husband is not a doppelganger. But in order to marry him he needed to verify who he is to the proper authorities. How does he do this without the proper papers? Moreover, before he became her husband, he had to introduce himself to her (and she to him). There was a point in their past when the two did not know each other. Suppose he lied about his identity; how would she know if not for those documents that she so blithely dismisses in an effort to diminish the importance of the biblical record. (Perhaps “diminish” is too harsh of a word, maybe “skate” is a better one? You know, like skating around the issue, in preference for another.)

All Share a Personal Status…

There is no question that Jesus is personal to us. Either we see Him in a good light or one where we view Him with disdain, but in either case Jesus is personal to all people. All people have a relationship with Jesus, but not all who have a relationship with Him are on good terms. But how do we know who Jesus is?

We Need Something to Verify (give Certainty) to the Identity of Jesus

This is something that I encounter more often than you would think. A form of reasoning about Christ as Lord and Savior that is very inconsistent with reality. Unfortunately, there are Christians blissfully ignorant of the fact that you cannot know Jesus the person, unless you know Jesus in Scripture.

Are we to believe that we cannot be certain what the Bible says about this or that historic event, but we can be certain of the historic Jesus because He is personally alive today at the Father’s right hand? That I may have uncertainty with who and what is revealed to me in Scripture because I cannot verify it, but I can have absolute certainty with Him who I cannot observe with any of my five senses?

“But you have all these other Christians that may be used as verification for the living Jesus,” the observation comes. How can this help me in verifying who Jesus really is apart from Scripture? How am I able to recognize what Christianity (those that bear the name of Jesus) is without first referring to the standards provided in God’s Word? It is not possible.

But what about…

Now I know that Jesus told Thomas the following truth:

“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20.29b).[3]

And yet we are told that those things which are written down for us—the very historic events that skeptics and nominal Christians wring their hands and scratch their heads over:

“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1Cor 10.11)

Things that cannot be verified by human means (historicity) with absolute certainty, and yet these things (such as the crossing of the Red Sea, the eating of manna, water coming from a rock struck by the staff of Moses, and the golden calf incident, being killed by fiery serpents; see 1Cor 10.1-10) are given for our benefit.

In what way? That we may know with certainty that these events did occur and God did judge between the faithful and unfaithful, blessing the obedient and cursing the disobedient. These things the Israelites were commanded to teach their children as a witness to them for their good. Did they have a way to verify them other than by God’s Word being shared through the mouth of His servants? No.

The Old Standard Stands…

The standard that Jesus gives is merely a repeating of the standard of old:

“If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets [idiom for God’s Word], they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16.31).

I realize the weight of those words might not have the impact I’m looking for. You may be unfamiliar with why this truth is important, let alone applicable. Some may try to dismiss it altogether saying, “that’s just a parabolic teaching.”

Who were Moses and the Prophets? They were God’s mouthpieces. They said what God told them to say. They confronted the people with what had been recorded as things God said and did. Starting with Moses we find that he is called to represent God—to testify on His behalf—to Pharaoh, the Egyptian people, and the Israelites (Exod 3.9-11). In response Moses says to the Lord God:

“Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” (Exod 3.13)

God answers Moses with the following statement:

“I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you” (Exod 3.14).

“What sort of certainty Moses are you providing for us? You say that God sent you. That He is the God of our fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—but how can we be certain?” Supposing that this is what Moses was anticipating would happen when he showed up back in Egypt forty years after he’d left. The answer is the same here, as it is in Jesus’ teaching about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. Either you will take God at His Word, what He has spoken, or you will not.

Point being you cannot know for certain God exists if you fail to take Him at His Word. You cannot know for certain who the living Jesus is, without the documents that identify Him to you. While I agree with Robinson that historical apologetics is limited in its ability to provide absolute certainty of all elements of the Christian faith, I disagree that the way we come to certainty is bypassing or passing over the historical elements of the Bible in light of a mystical experience with Jesus.

The Biblical Testimony is necessary for Certainty on Both Counts

For only those who “…receive the kingdom of God like a child…” will enter in (Luke 18.17). Thus, Jesus’ prayer for His people is that they would be set-apart by the truth, which is the Word of God (John 17.17) in order to know truth from error. How can you worship Christ, how can you be for certain who He is, if you do not first see or hear Him as declared in Scripture (cf. Rom 10.13-17)? How are we to know who the Christ is, if we first do not “examine everything carefully” (1Thess 5.21), and second, do not test the spirit of every teaching (1John 4.1)?

In short, we better know who it is we Love as God in the flesh, lest we love one who is not God. We need to check the Lord and Savior’s “birth certificate” (identification papers) we claim lest we passionately serve one who is not:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord…And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practices lawlessness” (Matt 7.21-22a, 23).

While this particular concept (certainty vs. uncertainty) is often proliferated and is not unique among various biblical scholars, Christian philosophers and apologists, it is nonetheless false. If you cannot be certain of what the biblical record provides, then to be consistent you cannot be certain of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Nor is it right to assume that you can logically separate the Living Christ from His Living Word. The Christ of Scripture is one and the same as the Christ who is Lord and Savior. We must have an objective standard to appeal to, unless we desire to hold our subjective opinion up as the true litmus test.

 


ENDNOTES:

[1] Laura Robinson, “Laura Robinson: A New Testament Scholar Critiques Apologetics,” interviewed by Haden Clark, Help Me Believe, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hpdUsUpEoR8

[2] It should be noted that she does divide into two categories (1) historical evidence from those that would fall under the category of (2) miracles, signs, etc. as these would be only “spiritually” understood and accepted (ref to 1Cor 2.14). This is a helpful admission, but I would argue that you cannot truly separate category (1) apart from category (2) for even those elements of Scripture that we define as historical narratives, events, need to be spiritually discerned. For apart from this they are just foolish stumbling blocks to the unbelieving (1Cor 1.18, 23). Meaning that the teachings of Scripture (both categories) are only accepted as absolute facts pertinent to the historic record and not wild-eyed embellishments by religious zealots, by the household of faith. Regardless of the literary style (e.g., signs vs. genealogies), only those who have the Spirit will truly respect them as genuine truth: see 1Cor 2.)

[3] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard Bible 95’ (NASB).

Posted in Apologetics

The Ladder

One of the critiques that I heard from the late Greg L. Bahnsen against other forms of apologetics (those in the non-presuppositional branch) is that they attempt to build a ladder to Jesus, and then once they got an individual to him, they’d throw the ladder away. For a very long time I pondered that statement. But one day the realization kind of hit me between the eyes. Before I tell you what that realization was, perhaps I should explain what he meant by building the ladder to Jesus.

A Caveat…

The evidential or classical Christian apologist uses various arguments that are philosophically, evidence based. Actually, this is true of all Christian apologetic methodologies. All use evidences. All use philosophical argumentation. All attempt to get the person to Christ Jesus.

Motivations and Ignorance…

If that is the actual desire of the person in question, then I cannot fault the individual. They are attempting to do a noble thing. However, while the motivation may be honorable, the method or manner in which they try to point people to Jesus is an ignorant pursuit. Whether it is willful ignorance or accidental, I cannot say without having first spoken to the person in question. But to show I am not being a jerk, please allow me to explain.

How the Argument typically goes…

“Before we get to Christ,” we got to get them to believe “x.” Then after we get them to believe “x” we can move on to “y.” This process goes on until Jesus is in view. The ladder is based on the possibility of an intelligent designer. The trustworthy nature of Scripture. Not necessarily inerrant or infallible, mind you, but good enough for most people to find believable. The pursuit in reaching the gospel is an unidentifiable number of steps. How many depends upon the person to whom the Christian apologist is witnessing.

Eventually, once it has been proved (not a certainty, but a strong possibility) that there is a god, that he is personal, that he has given us a fairly reliable revelation (both inscripturated and natural), and that we are sinners (although restraint will be used with that offensive word!) in need of a savior who has been identified as Jesus of Nazareth. A man that historical, and philosophical evidences show very likely that he died on a Roman cross (he didn’t swoon), arose three days later (no one stole the corpse), as has been testified about as resurrected and ascended by eyewitnesses (his disciples who more than likely didn’t lie for they were willing to die for what they were saying; and, it probably wasn’t an illusion for over 500 shared it). Once the case has been made through evidences and philosophical argumentation to the high probability of Jesus being God in the flesh, making possible the salvation of fallen humanity if they would believe in Him, then the ladder which got them there is no longer needed.

Underlying Problem…

What’s the problem with that approach? Why did Bahnsen mock it? Because it negates the meaning of being a true Christian apologist. There is a ladder that gets us to God the Father—it is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the first rung on the ladder and He is the last. He is the beginning of the journey to God and He is the end of the journey to God—the veritable Alpha and Omega!

The Real Ladder Understood…

The only ladder that the Christian apologist has been authorized to use is the Lord. Before we offer a reasoned defense to anyone who asks about the hope within us, we are called (commanded) to set Christ apart as Holy (1Pet 3.15). Jesus made this clear to His disciples on numerous occasions. He declared that “no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14.6). He said that “no one knows the Father except if the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Luke 10.22).

We are told in Scripture that “faith [in Christ] comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ [of God]” (Rom 10.17). For God has chosen to speak through “His Son…He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1.3). His Word is the foundation (Matt 7.24) of wisdom and knowledge (Prov 1.7; 9.10; Col 2.3), and this is justified by the children of God (Luke 7.35), who are built upon this blessed cornerstone (Isa 28.16; 1Pet 2.7; also see Deut 32).

The Lord declared that evidences, even fantastic ones would not convince a person if they remained unconvinced by God’s Word (Luke 16.31). For the gospel is a spiritual truth that cannot be discerned by natural means (1Cor 2.14), but only by supernatural means (John 3.3). For it is utter folly to the world, but a demonstration of God’s power to those being saved (1Cor 1.18). And this gospel is not limited to a few select verses or a few books, but the entirety of God’s Word. The whole Bible—Genesis to Revelation—points to Christ so that those who believe might have life (John 5.39-40) by having faith in the one and only Son, without which (faith in Him and His Word), it is impossible to please God (Heb 11.6)

The Ladder of Presuppositional Apologetics…

The presuppositional method of apologetics starts with Christ and ends with Christ. The presuppositional method understands that Christ is the ladder, the first step and the last step. He is the only foundation necessary for faith. And faith is a work of God, the Holy Spirit, an act of unmerited grace and undeserving mercy upon those who are called the children of God. There is no need then to do away with the ladder which leads us to life, for that ladder is our Lord:

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim 2.5; cf. Gen 28.12-13).


Image by Gerd Altmann

Posted in Apologetics

Evidence & Arrogance: Two Strange Bedfellows

I’ll probably get myself in trouble for saying this, but it needs to be said. It isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time either. But much of Christian apologetics is a joke. Not the LOL (laugh out loud) variety, but the kind that is prefaced by an underlying arrogance.

“Arrogance, what do you mean?”

An arrogance that assumes we are smarter than the God who created us, knit us together in our mother’s wombs, and has offered sound guidance and instruction for our lives. The true God, the Lord of Heaven and earth who gives us good gifts providing for our needs. “In Him we live, move and breath,” for He sustains us by the power of His Word. He has marked our beginning, and He has established our end. All things have been set in place by Him, and all history unfolds according to the purpose of His good will.

But you laugh, you smirk, you say in your hearts “if that’s the kind of God over me, then I don’t want Him. A micromanager, an overlord who plans my steps? No thank you, very much. That’s not a loving, good God in my book.”

No doubt you have heard it said, “A little honey attracts bees.” Better to speak in flowery overtones, and butter people up massaging their already inflated egos, than a smack in the face. The fact is, whether we like it or not, we sometimes need smacked:

“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it” (Psa 141.5; cf. Prov 27.5-6).[i]

So, what is this arrogance that I speak of rooted in the hearts of many would be Christian apologists? It is found in this mantra being bled from multiple sources: Evidence, evidence, evidence.

No, they are not gathered singing this repeatedly over and over again to some enchanting melody (at least not that I am aware of). But it is the tune of the Pied Piper that they prefer.

Am I saying that “evidence is not beneficial?” Or that “evidence is a waste of time?” Or that “evidence needs to be thrown out the window like a baby’s bathwater?” No, absolutely not. “Then, how can you say it is arrogance to exalt evidence?” you ask. (Oh, how I do love an observant reader!)

The Problematic Error…

The problem is not with the evidence in and of itself, but the way in which many professing Christian apologists use it. The error is couched in phrases like these:

  • “Faith is based on evidence.”
  • “Given enough evidence and time and a rational person who is honest will more than likely believe.”
  • “Follow the evidence and see where it leads”
  • “Evidence can lead you to the truth”

“What’s wrong with those statements?” Do you mean besides the fact that they are littered with wrong assumptions and irrational conclusions?

Evidence or brute facts do not lead. Look at this rock, what does it say? Oh, right it doesn’t speak! “So how do you know where it is leading?” You don’t, well it doesn’t. It just sits there and your draw interpretations based off a variety of observations that are either real or imagined. There is not a piece of evidence, brute fact or otherwise that is not interpreted. And your interpretation is drawn from various ideas that you have already assumed about the nature of reality (the seen and the unseen).

Nor is your faith based on evidence. That is not to say that faith and evidence do not relate to one other. They are vitally related, but if you are a Christian your faith is not based on evidence. Pay Attention! Try not to get lost in the weeds of your own thoughts here. I said “based on the evidence,” which means “founded on the evidence.” The foundation of the Christian faith is not evidence: “That is not how you learned Christ!” (Eph 4.20).

“Yes, but what about Christ’s resurrection? That is a vital piece of evidence that makes or breaks the faith!” you retort.

Folly Laden Stumbling Block…

Makes or breaks the faith for who? You or the unbeliever? Let it be said that the Resurrection is a pivotal piece of evidence for the Christian faith, no two ways about it. I do not deny it! But let it also be said (and please turn on your ears for this), the Cross of Christ which entails the Resurrection of Christ is a “stumbling block” and utter “folly” to the non-believer.

If you are a Christian, do you dare deny it? If you do not deny it, do you embrace it?

Herein lies the arrogance of what I speak. Christ says, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16.31; cf. Matt 28.16). But you say, “Ah…that’s just a parable, you can’t take it literally.”

What do you mean? I can’t take it according to the literature, which is what literal means? Or I’m not to take the Lord’s words here at face value because of the figurative nature of a parable? Parable’s are taken from real life applications, but when it comes to Christ’s words here when he has refuted his enemies, I am somehow to be dissuaded from believing His argument? “Which is what precisely?” you might ask yourselves. That people who fail to believe the Word of God[ii] on spiritual and earthly matters will not be convinced even if a dead person were to arise from the dead!

Which, by the way we see happened in Jesus’ day at the raising of Lazarus (cf. John 11). Four days in the tomb and then coming out alive only convinced a small number of the witnesses, for others ran to the Jewish authorities due to their unbelief. But hey, what does the Lord of Glory really know.

The Problematic Error Up-close…

The problem with an “evidence first approach” is that it refuses to listen to what God has to say, all the while assuming that YOU know better than HE. “How so?” By denying what the Bible clearly teaches. Faith in God, in Christ, in the gospel is not an intellectual issue, but a spiritual one. These things are “spiritually discerned,” and so it makes little sense to wax eloquent with lofty speech rather than to proclaim the Word of Christ, through which faith comes. Notice that the Bible says the means (or the vehicle) for bringing faith is through the Word of God (i.e. Moses and the Prophets) and not evidence. Evidence without the proper interpretative grid leads down a road to nowhere (cf. Luke 24.13-27).

Thus, the words of the late Greg L. Bahnsen are noteworthy:


“Scripture itself should be enough to dissuade a person from depending upon evidential arguments…God’s word makes clear that man’s rebellion against the truth is morally, not intellectually rooted. The sinner needs a changed heart and Spiritually opened eyes, not more facts and reasons…The only tool an apologete needs is the word of God, for the sinner will either presuppose its truth and find Christianity to be coherent and convincing (given his spiritual condition and past experience) or he will reject it and never be able to come to the knowledge of the truth…

Although evidence has a part in the Christian apologetic, it is not the pivotal foundational part…our central defense of the faith had better be made of stronger stuff.”[iii]


Lest, it be said that I am guilty of arguing ad hominen (i.e. against the man) I will remind the reader that though this charge of arrogance is laid at the feet of the would be Christian apologist who turns a  blind eye to the truth, my position is against the method of argumentation and not necessarily the individual in question. However, the shoe fits, if you continue to wear it while ignoring what your Lord has commanded.

Pride rears its ugly head when we get so puffed up with “knowledge” and “wisdom” that we go beyond what the Scriptures teach (1Cor 4.6). By the way this isn’t speaking about knowledge and wisdom that comes from humble submission to God’s Word. Rather it speaks of the person who thinks they know better than God. In case your wondering what that looks like, take a gander back at the beginning and you’ll see where that folly got us (cf. Gen 3).

Until next time, I bid you all farewell…

ENDNOTES:

[i] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

[ii] This is what the phrase “Moses and the Prophets” refers to in Jewish thinking. There are several similar phrases found in the Bible that point the reader to the entire canon of Scripture. For the 1st century Jew this “Moses and the Prophets” would entail all that God had thus far revealed to the Hebrew nation.  Similar to our modern-day expressions of “Word of God,” “Holy Writ,” the “Holy Bible,” the “Scriptures,” etc.

[iii] Greg L. Bahnsen, “The Impropriety of Evidentially Arguing for the Resurrection,” PA003 Synapse II, Westminster Seminary, (January, 1972), http://www.cmfnow.com/article/pa003.htm.