Is there Evidence for Christianity?

Through the millennia, Christianity has faced numerous challenges.  Today, many say that there is no evidence for our faith in a Creator.  However, that is nonsense:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  No sound is heard from them, but their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.  [Psalm 19:1-4].

Nonetheless, even though the heavens themselves are compelling proof of intelligent design, our saving faith is not based on science.  This is because our belief in Jesus is based on a different kind of valid evidence as contained in the Scriptures.

The Scriptures are not cleverly invented stories, but rather they are eyewitness accounts of the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:15-16 & Luke 1:1-4).  And as judges, juries, journalists, and historians know, eyewitness testimony is valid evidence.

In fact, testimony is the foundation of all evidence, including scientific evidence.

What would happen if a prosecutor provided scientific DNA to a jury, but did not call a witness to explain what that evidence meant?  Pure science without any explanation means nothing.  A witness needs to testify that the sample was taken from the scene, that it was kept secure and not tampered with, and that it does match the defendant’s DNA.  All evidence must be authenticated with testimony, and ultimately, any trier of fact must first decide whether they believe the witnesses.

What about the gospel writers?  Are they credible witnesses?  Consider their accounts of Jesus’ death:  They all speak in a matter of fact tone.  They do not go into exaggerated detail about the pain that Jesus suffered or the exact methods of his torture, as some modern storytellers do.  But rather, they give us the facts as needed.  And that is just what we would expect from men who were actually there, from people who saw their friend crucified.

Even more compelling than their words, were their actions: their sudden change from cowards into willing martyrs.  Very rare is the circle that gives their lives for their own lies.

Truthful witnesses do more than simply tell coherent stories, they also show by their demeanor and actions that what they are saying is true.  For example, Christians would be poor witnesses of God’s love for us, if our actions did not show that we love him.

We cannot prove that Jesus loves us with mathematical equations or test tubes, any more than we could prove that our parents love us by using a calculator.  But we can demonstrate that God loves us by sharing the testimony of the credible witnesses as recorded in the Scriptures.  Science has its place, but it can not show love.  The heavens do declare the glory of God, but only the Word can testify to the love of God.  Faith “comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  (Romans 10:17).

God uses his word and testimony to convict sinners and convince us of his love.  As God says, “‘I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me.  To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here I am, here am I.’” (Isaiah 65:1).

Do we have evidence for our faith?  Yes.  It is called the word of God, the testimony of the saints, and “the word of the prophets made more certain.”  (2 Peter 1:19).  Jesus is that word, he lived a life of faith and truth, and his words and deeds are credible and convincing.  (John 1:14 & Isaiah 55:11).

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is convincing evidence of God’s love for us.

copyright © 2001, 2010 vdma.wordpress.com

Notes:  A previous version of this article appeared in the St. Peter Church March 2001 newsletter.

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6 thoughts on “Is there Evidence for Christianity?

  1. Good post, Rick.

    The person and work of Jesus Christ is, indeed, evidence of God’s love for us, and the firmest basis for giving His Gospel message a hearing. Too many Christians, however, seem to forget that Jesus life, death, and particularly His resurrection, are actual historical facts — unimpeachable evidence for which is given in the Scriptures. They are not things to be merely believed, like the life and work of the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus or figures of any other fairy tale, but actual historical events that are to be known and understood factually. St. Paul made plain that had the resurrection of Jesus Christ not occurred, there would be nothing laudable about Christianity, only pitiable. Jesus Himself, when pressed to prove His claims, pointed to His imminent death and resurrection as proof that He is the Son of God. In the Apostolic and Early Church, we see Christians frequently presenting the facts of the person and work of Jesus Christ — the fulfillment of prophecy and His miracles — as part of their Gospel preaching. The impact on the reasonable person was plain, “Gee,” one would think, “these things, fantastic as they sound, probably did happen. I think I should at least listen to what this fellow Jesus had to say!” It is this listening, or hearing of the Gospel message, through which the Holy Spirit works to produce faith.

    St. Peter admonishes us to “be prepared, in season and out of season, to give a defense for the faith that is in us.” The greek word behind this phrase, give a defense, is apologia — from which we get the English word apology or apologetics. Such an apology, or giving of defense, is not a confession of faith, not a statement of “This I believe” and “Here I stand.” Rather, it is a juridical defense, a marshaling of evidence for the finding of fact. The apologetic employed by the early Christians was one in which Christ Himself remained central — the facts of fulfilled prophecies and miracles, particularly the resurrection, which surrounded Him. We must become skilled at this, too. Reasonable people are entitled to a factual basis for listening to a message someone may have for them, and no such person has any obligation to receive or consider a message with authoritative claims that rests on the same perceived foundation as fairy tales; in today’s information inundated world, the content of such messages is rejected before their sound reaches a person’s ears. But the resurrection is not a fairy tale, nor is the life and work of Jesus Christ. They are facts, and on this basis, His message, the message of the Gospel, deserves a hearing.

    To get started, two books I recommend are as follows:

    History, Law, and Christianity by Dr. J. W. Montgomery
    Testimony of the Evangelists by Simon Greenleaf

    No Christian lawyer should be without these two works, in my opinion. Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, eminently qualified in areas of history, law and theology (and ordained LCMS…), is still regarded as the world’s foremost living Christian apologist. He is noted for an approach to apologetics known as “Legal Apologetics,” or the use of accepted historical and legal methods to establish the facticity of the Resurrection, for which Simon Greenleaf’s work still serves as foundational. Montgomery’s Law above the Law includes Greenleaf’s Testimony, and is itself very much worth reading. There are many other valuable apologetical works that keep Christ central, but like I said, these are a good start in my opinion.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post — I just had to get that off my chest…

    Freddy Finkelstein

  2. Hi Freddy. Thanks for the comment, and welcome back to the blogosphere. I’ll have to check out the books by Dr. Montgomery and Simon Greenleaf.

    Do Montgomery and Greenleaf equate the use of legal apologetics with the word of God, in the sense that we simply present God’s word in a rational and coherent manner? I have often viewed the task of the Christian, not as a witness, but rather as a lawyer during closing arguments. By that I mean that generally today’s Christian does not say what he has seen and heard (in other words, we do not tell others about our own experience and how Christ has changed our lives), but rather we tell what the real witnesses saw, put the real testimony in context, and explain what it all means for us.

  3. Hi Rick,

    Nearly so, if I understand you correctly. The testimony of the witnesses is recorded in Scripture. We have nothing to add to that testimony, we just communicate what the testimony is. From the standpoint of legal apologetics, the task is one in which the apologist (a) treats the Biblical texts as bona fide historical documents (as opposed to religious texts), establishing their veracity as such through the use of internal, external, and biographical tests, and thus also their competence as evidence, (b) uses the information in the texts to establish the testimony offered by the witnesses it records as reliable, and (c) applies their testimony to the question of whether the Resurrection can be said with moral certainty to have occurred. In this sense, the apologist is, essentially, a lawyer, and the jury, or the “finder of fact,” is the skeptic whom the apologist is addressing. The point isn’t to supplant the Gospel and perform the Holy Spirit’s work by “reasoning someone into faith,” but to confront a skeptic with the same ultimate fact that was faced by those in the Apostolic era: this man, Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh, actually returned life to Himself after he had been publicly tortured and executed. This event actually happened. Is acknowledging this fact equal to faith? No. All it does is present the skeptic with the reality that someone who claimed to be God also displayed power over life and death, and with the likelihood that He may well be Who He says He is. Thus the skeptic is confronted with the deity of Christ and a most compelling basis for listening to His message. Both Dr. Montgomery and Craig Parton (who are close associates), would say that no one should start with apologetics in the evangelical task, however. The evangelist should always start with Law and Gospel and only resort to apologetics if he discovers a barrier to hearing the message that can be addressed apologetically.

    Greenleaf’s work is a thorough examination of the accounts of the Gospels relative to the rules of evidence. He concludes: Either the men of Galilee were men of superlative wisdom, and extensive knowledge and experience, and of deeper skill in the arts of deception, than any and all others, before or after them, or they have truly stated the astonishing things which they saw and heard.

    As you seem to say, and I agree, the point of evangelism has very little to do with explaining “how my life has changed for the better, and how you can benefit from a changed life, too.” This is simply an anthropocentric gospel that in some ways approaches the health/wealth heresy. How has the life of a Chinese convert, sitting in prison for sharing his faith, improved? Is he any less saved because he has not been delivered from drug/alchohol abuse, relationship problems, health/wealth concerns, or pressing legal troubles? Am I saved because I have been delivered from these temporal issues? Is any of this the point? No. None of it is the point. Proper evangelism is to address the sinner’s hopeless condition by communicating the message of Law and Gospel. Short of this, no good news has been communicated and by definition evangelism fails to happen. Apologetics, though it is related to evangelism, is not evangelism, however. It is merely a tool to assist in the task of evangelism.

    Freddy Finkelstein

  4. To a previously stated point:

    The works of John Warwick Montgomery may be obtained through the Canadian Institute for Law, Theology, and Public Policy (http://www.ciltpp.com). Besides his books, you can purchase recordings of lectures he gave and significant debates he was involved in. Another work of interest is the Festschrift in honor of Montgomery’s work that came out a few years ago, called “Tough Minded Christianity.” You can find that on Amazon.

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