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Monday, March 07, 2005

Evidence and the Christian

The following thoughts on evidence and the Christian were typed after reading two articles. The first is a news report entitled "Surprising new study on Shroud of Turin: Simple technique could have been used to produce image" ). I was particularly impressed by what N. D. Wilson, the man who discovered this technique, said:
"I’m a Trinitarian Christian. I believe in the Resurrection and all that it means for this world. Either the Shroud is genuine or, as I believe, it is a lie about a great truth. I think Christians should want to see religious fraud exposed wherever we can find it."

The second article ("Atheist's turn to God was a 4-year process, says friend") is about the 'conversion' of famous British atheist Antony Flew, where the word "evidence" was used a few times, and where Flew said that he was just following the evidence, wherever it led.

I have always--for as long as I've thought more seriously about these matters anyway--been slightly hesitant about claims by professing Christians that they have come to acknowledge Christ on the basis of the evidence they have seen (historical, archaeological, textual, etc.). At the same time, I have also always been sympathetic with apologists who, like Josh McDowell, aim to present nonbelievers with "evidence that demands a verdict." I do believe that there is a substantial amount of evidence for the divinely inspired nature of the Bible and for the Christian faith (e.g. the Resurrection, fulfilled prophecies, the absence of any archaeological evidence that can definitively refute any part of the Bible and much that is consistent with it). There is also, in my view, overwhelming evidence in nature itself that testify to God's existence and goodness for those who will see it. To make too much of such evidences, however, to the extent of treating it like determinative court evidence in a court trial is to give to them a status I think they were never meant to have in the converting of man's hearts. The Bible is clear that salvation comes from the Lord, and that it is faith in Christ which saves a man--not trust or reliance in what the eyes can see and mind can understand concretely--but faith as it is understood properly as "the assurance [or substance] of things hoped for, the conviction [or evidence] of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

Now faith can be encouraged and strengthened by evidence that we see and touch and understand (McDowell, Lewis, and many others have advanced in their journey towards belief in Christ by such evidences, and logical arguments), but the saving faith that matters most of all has to be something that goes beyond, and which is in fact radically different in kind, from a mere trust in the credibility of compelling evidence.

The greatest of all evidences for me as Christian is my personal relationship with a living God and the accompanying presence of the Holy Spirit within my heart that assures me that I, a sinner, have been reconciled to a God who loves me and who died in my place that I might live. And how did I come to know this and come to grow in faith and knowledge of God? 1 John 5:13 declares: "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." Or, as a well-known children's song goes, "Jesus loves me this I know... the Bible tells me so!" Faith comes by hearing, and hearing (or reading) from the word of God (Romans 10:17).

"For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?" (Romans 8:24)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Elaine,

I couldn't agree with you more regarding evidences. Paul, in Romans, spoke about how God's imprint on creation leaves humanity without excuse to believe in Him. But the whole point of what Paul is saying here is that without God's saving grace, humans will always interpret "evidence" according to their sinful presuppositions. No matter how strong an argument or an evidence might be, if the Spirit does not regenerate the sinner's nature, they will never believe.
You are also right about how evidential apologetics (guys like Zacharias, McDowell etc) encourages our faith. I love to read those books just for my own encouragement.

In reference to N.D. Wilson. His father is the infamous Doug Wilson. I'm reading his book called "Federal Husband" right now, which is excellent. I read Doug Wilson's blog every day (www.dougwils.com), he's very witty - especially his stuff on postmodernism.
The Anthony Flew thing is interesting too, but I'm finding that Christians are celebrating a little too much over it. Flew is NOT a Christian, he holds to some form of Deism, and is still very antagonistic to Christianity (because of our ethical standards, surprise surprise). Though he might believe in an intelligent designer who can account for DNA, he is still a hellbound sinner in need of Christ.
It is interesting none-the-less.

Anyways, I stole some pictures from your blog and posted them on mine! http://www.livejournal.com/users/chaosandoldnite/ I hope that's alright. I gave kudos to your blog though. Hehe

God bless,

10:40 AM  
Blogger Elaine Loy said...

Hi Ian, thanks for your thoughtful comments. It's the first "serious" comment I've received on ripostes, and one of such length too! Wish more readers would leave comments. I totally agree with you concerning Antony Flew. I specially appreciate it though, when those who do not profess the Christianity (e.g. some leading biologists who call Darwinism a "belief") we believe in are the ones who concede that there is in fact good evidence for the faith, and thereby point to the heart of the matter: their own unwillingness to believe. I was recently struck by the recording of first century Jews who doubted the resurrection of Christ even as they saw Him right before their very eyes (Matthew 28:17). You are right, however, that sinful man can observe the plain facts--as it were--and refuse to any valid interpretation that hint of supporting the claims of the Bible... unless and until the Holy Spirit gives Him a new heart.

Thanks for introducing me to Douglas Wilson's blog. It will take a me a while to look through it to get a better idea of who he is and the positions he holds, but the parts I've read so far seem interesting to say the least, and I just may post something on education with a link to his blog soon. All the best with your very regularly updated blog!

"Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures..."
~ Luke 24:45

2:47 PM  
Anonymous s said...

very interesting blog! keep it up!

6:59 AM  

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