My last post was five months ago. You know, the one that I called “Part 1” and promised a “Part 2” follow-up post?
So, Seth, what gives?
Well… ever feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? Or that you have so much to say about something, but don’t want to publish a novel on your blog since no one would probably read it? Yeah, I know the feeling.
So, check this out: I make a promise to my readers to compile and discuss (in a single post, mind you) all the evidences that I believe exist for the Christian faith. Yeah yeah, I hear you skeptics chuckling out there — I can hear you thinking, “Well, that should be a short article!” Go ahead, have your moment… I’ll give you a minute or two to enjoy your cleverness….
It has also turned out to be a huge undertaking — not for the effort of tracking down evidence, but because whenever I “finished” a draft of this post, I always had the feeling that there was more that could be added. I didn’t want to leave anything out that contributed to my sense of confidence that my faith in Christ was based in reality, and this kept me in a bit of a limbo state where I always left it saying, “It could still be better.”
As I mentioned, my intention was to compile as much evidence as I could into a single post, illustrating the various evidences that I believe support Christianity and that all have, in one way or another, contributed to my assurance that my Christian worldview is a reasonable reflection of reality. For brevity, I wanted to provide a two- or three-sentence commentary for each point to demonstrate the strength of Christianity’s explanatory power as compared to naturalism/materialism (which I feel are the worldviews in opposition to Christianity that are the most likely to be true if Christianity is false).
Trouble was, even with care to keep the individual points brief, the post was becoming a bit cumbersome in its length. Plus, I was loath to “gloss over” so many meaty points and leave the detailed discussion of these topics to be buried in the comments section. This would be counterproductive to my purpose, I think.
So, instead of compiling a long list of evidences that I feel support Christianity and presenting them in a sort of “table of contents” format, I decided it would be better to give the evidences piecemeal, to allow each one to be challenged and vetted on its own. This would be a far better way to encourage discussion and collaboration, and to give everyone the chance to make their opinions heard.
However, as it turns out, having a kid changes everything.
I feel almost like a completely different person, having become a father. (My son is now nine months old — “As much time out as in,” I say when people ask about his age, which is my attempt to practice my dad-humor.) As much as I used to love blogging, I find myself now having little impetus to write in the online forum. I may someday return to blogging, but in this season I find that my attention and energy are naturally focusing elsewhere in my life.
Nevertheless, my unfulfilled promise to you, my readers, has somewhat loomed over me these past months, and in spite of my better judgment I have decided to reverse my decision to give it piecemeal in favor of just getting something out there. It’s not ideal, and if I had any certainty concerning the amount of time and energy I would have to devote to this blog going forward I would probably do it differently; however, given my time constraints lately I have decided that fulfilling my promise, even in a way that grates at my sense of perfectionism, is better than nothing. Please forgive me.
That being said, a brief disclaimer, and then (gulp) I will actually post the draft that’s been sitting on WordPress’ servers for the past five months.
So, here’s the disclaimer: This list, as published here, has two functions: 1) to initiate discussion, and 2) to answer the common claim, “There is no evidence for Christianity.”
To the former: I know that the case for Christianity does not begin or end with this list. I am but a layman, and even if I put everything down on this list in an exhaustive form, there would still be details left out. Plus, there are doubtless other evidences that others with more experiences and study could add to this list (and I encourage them to in the discussion that will likely follow). Thus, if there ever could be a comprehensive case for Christianity… it would have to come from someone more learned and more intelligent than I. Given the format (and my own ignorance), there are necessary omissions, both intended and overlooked.
To the latter: In all my experience discussing Christianity with skeptics, the one phrase that I would do away with completely if I could is the one quoted above. Saying that there is “no evidence” for Christianity is not only false, it is also unhelpful; it’s a statement that communicates nothing more than ignorance and a lack of interest in overcoming ignorance through discussion. I think a much more helpful way of getting the same point across would be to say that one fails to find the arguments for Christianity convincing. I see no reason why one would feel the need to take this sentiment a step further to make such a dubious and unproductive claim: dubious because it’s impossible to prove, and unproductive because the speaker has already proven himself immune to rational discussion on the matter, having made up his mind unequivocally.
Put another way: As can be said for any case in support of a given worldview, the argument is not airtight, and I don’t pretend it to be. I’m just putting down the evidence as I (an imperfect and relatively uneducated individual) see it.
That being said, here’s the best I can do:
- There is something rather than nothing.
This is a significant problem for the naturalist, for nothing in natural law gives us any empirical reason to believe that universes can just pop up out of nowhere. It was a less significant problem when everyone believed the universe had always existed (which was pretty much the case before the 1920s or so — Christians being a notable exception) — but now, scientific discovery seems to tell a different story (i.e. that the universe had a beginning), so the problem becomes more serious to someone who insists that it’s turtles all the way down. On the other hand, if a Creator exists (Aristotle’s “unmoved mover”), the mystery is somewhat mitigated — it is, in fact, the only logical conclusion one could draw from the fact that stuff happens today. Many naturalists insist that this is a mystery that will someday be solved by science — I’m not so sure.
- The universe seems remarkably fine-tuned to support life.
The most common response I’ve encountered from naturalists on this score has been largely hand-waving it away by relegating it to fallacy — by calling it “God of the gaps” or “personal incredulity” or something like that. While it is technically true that we can’t know what the universe could have been like otherwise than what it is (or even if it could have been different), I find it interesting how much popularity the shamelessly non-empirical multiverse theory has garnered among serious scientists — an invention to deal, exclusively, with this very problem. If this fine-tuning observation was, as some atheists claim, the same as “no evidence” for God, then I don’t see something as purely speculative as the multiverse gaining so much traction as it seems to get among scientists. Food for thought.
- Life exists.
Abiogenesis is another serious problem for the naturalist, for there’s scant empirical evidence for such an event to have happened in our world or on any other. Everyone’s working on it, of course, and most naturalists maintain a cheery outlook about the potential for scientific discovery in this arena (indeed, they have no other choice, because of their worldview) — however, some experts, looking at the ratio of progress in this field to the effort being put into it, aren’t so optimistic, and such points of view can be summed up something like this: If abiogenesis, theoretically, involves a multi-step process from A to Z, it seems the best we have been able to muster from 60+ years of fervent experimentation is, perhaps, G to H and K to L. The optimism might very well be unwarranted — and in any case, such optimism is markedly non-empirical.
- Life appears to be designed.
This is the admission of none other than Richard Dawkins, who has no love for creationism (understatement of the year). Call me crazy, but I think that if something appears to be designed, then this should be taken as evidence for a designer — perhaps even compelling evidence. There are lots of other speculations, of course, to try to skirt around this obvious inference — nevertheless, until a good, evidential case can be made that’s at least as compelling as the prima facie inference that’s staring everyone in the face (and to date there isn’t anything close), I’m going to put this confidently in the “evidence for a Creator” pile.
- DNA contains information.
To be clear, this is not merely a reference to the order found in nature (like snowflakes and all that) — this is specifically about information, which is at least an order of magnitude higher (probably several) when it comes to complexity. If, in the case of biology, information did indeed arise without intelligence, it would literally be the only example of this happening in the observable universe. Every other instance where we see information and semiotics — from scratches on the wall of a cave to words on a menu to prime numbers being pumped through space — we instantly infer upwards to intelligence. DNA is definitely evidence for an intelligent designer, and this evidence must be addressed if one wishes to make an alternative case.
- Human beings are predisposed to belief in the Divine.
This does not prove anything, of course — it could be true, as most naturalists claim, that human beings evolved a “God-sense” as a survival mechanic. However, it’s also exactly how one would expect us to be if we were created by a God who wished for us to find our way to Him. Not the strongest evidence posted here, mind you, but evidence nonetheless.
- Eyewitness miracle accounts still abound, and don’t seem to be going away.
There are scores of examples of first-hand accounts (both ancient and contemporary) of miracles and supernatural activity. Everyone has their own opinion as to where these claims originate — the popular naturalist explanation being something along the line of our brains, through some combination of confirmation bias and something like the predisposition discussed in the point above, are enough to account for these “miracles”.
- There is evidence that near-death experiences are something more than psychological phenomena.
As much as I would love to go into this in more detail (for I feel it is one of the biggest sources of tangible evidence against materialism), I will defer instead to the work of Gary Habermas, which I’ve referenced a couple times here. In summary, many people who report having near-death experiences (aside from stories of white lights, angels, dead relatives, and other things that cannot be verified) report facts that intersect with our physical world, facts that cannot reasonably have been known by the individual through any natural means and that can be (and have been) independently verified. These evidences were enough to convince Anthony Flew to reject his outspoken atheism in favor of deism, in any case.
- Religious people vehemently insist that their religious experiences are interactions with a deity.
In my experience, naturalists habitually insist that personal experience with the divine are all products of the brain, much like hallucinations and the like. And I concede that this is possible. However, I have two main responses: 1) As much as naturalists would like this to be true, they cannot provide sufficient evidence that their assessment in every case is more feasible than the prima facie conclusion that people actually are experiencing God, and 2) having had such experiences myself, I imagine I am well within reason to trust my experiences over the postulation of one who hasn’t had them. It is up to me to be skeptical about what these experiences could mean, and I’d like to think that I’ve been reasonable in weighing all possible options and explanations — yet, having done so, I still find the conclusion that these experiences are largely supernatural to hold the most water.
- There are widely-accepted historical facts surrounding the life of Jesus of Nazareth that support the claims of the Gospels.
As I mentioned before, my two go-to guys for New Testament history are Gary Habermas (on the Christian side) and Bart Ehrman (on the skeptical side). I figure, if these two historians can agree on something, it’s probably safe to accept it as historical fact. I’ve spoken before about Habermas’ “minimal facts argument” for the resurrection of Christ, which makes an empirical case for the resurrection of Christ only from these sorts of accepted historical facts. This is as close to direct evidence for Christianity that one can get — it’s certainly not “no evidence”, in any case. For those more interested in this subject, J. Warnor Wallace gives a rundown of the popular counter-theories postulated by skeptical historians in order to account for just this relatively short list of facts, and the difficulties inherent in each one. Personally, I’ve never encountered an alternate explanation of the facts that is more feasible than the traditional Christian account.
- The formation of the Christian church is difficult to explain if Jesus of Nazareth had not risen from the dead.
Again, something I wish I could go into more detail on, but for now I’ll just briefly posit that the series of events surrounding the formation of the early Christian church, like the facts surrounding the resurrection, seem to find their most coherent and elegant explanation in the conclusion that Christ has, indeed, risen from the dead. Any alternate explanations and speculations I’ve heard seem to either ignore evidence, contradict evidence, or speculate wildly beyond the evidence.
- The works of prophesy in the Old Testament are verified to predate Christ.
The popular answer (in my experience) to claims of Old Testament prophesy being miraculously fulfilled is to downplay the applicability of specific prophetic statements to the historical events that are supposed to fulfill them — whether by providing alternative interpretations of the authors’ intent or casting doubt regarding the existence of sufficient historical evidence for said events. However (and I wish I could remember where I read this so that I could cite the source), I find it interesting to note that the former, at least, is a relatively new approach — quite the change in tactic, in fact, for skeptics used to have no problem acknowledging the correlation between prophesy and their historic fulfillment and argued, rather, that such “ancient” prophesies were clearly written after Christ, seeing as how closely and uncannily they accounted for known historical facts, specifically regarding Jesus of Nazareth. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, though, was the nail in the coffin to this argument — and since then, it has been more common for skeptics instead to downplay the clarity of these prophesies with respect to Christ. Seems like backpedaling to me — in any case, I think the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy belongs squarely in the evidence category.
My Personal Experience
- I am a Christian, and not a yogi.
If you’re interested in reading about this chapter of my story, I discuss it here and a briefly here. In short, if everything that naturalists claim about religious belief and experiences being little more than confirmation bias and predicated wholly on one’s desire to believe in God, then for all intents and purposes there’s no way I would be a Christian today.
- My emotional wounds were healed only after my being baptized into the Christian faith.
This one (like anything dealing with direct, personal experience) is a little sticky. For one, it’s hard (even for me) to define exactly what I mean when I say that my emotional wounds were healed — I know something significant happened, even if I can’t necessarily put quantifying language to it. It’s also difficult to unequivocally attribute the timing of this healing to the Christian God in particular. It’s, admittedly, circumstantial evidence at best — yet, still evidence nonetheless; and, as with many of the previous points, I find postulated counter-theories to be wildly speculative and unconvincing.
- God really does seem to answer my prayers.
Again, sticky. But just because something cannot, on its own, bring one from A to Z doesn’t mean it doesn’t count as evidence. When I think of answered prayer, I always remember back to a story from when I was a teenager, and had just recently become a Christian: I listened to Christian radio a lot in those days, and there was a song that I always seems only to hear the tail end of that I thought was really neat — and, to my chagrin, the DJ never gave the name and artist for that particular song, so I had no idea what song it was or who sang it. One day, as I was getting into my car to drive home from dance class, I received a strong prompting to pray specifically for two things: 1) that the song I mentioned would play on the station I was listening to, and 2) that the DJ would give the title and artist at the end. Now, whatever you’re thinking right now, I was also thinking at the time — I was very apprehensive about everything from the trivial nature of the prayer to the dubiousness of my own ability to hear from God to “what if I pray for it and it doesn’t happen? Does that translate to a problem with the quality of my faith, or the realism of my belief in God?” Nonetheless, I couldn’t shake the feeling that God really wanted me to pray this silly prayer. And so I did — and I believed, against my better judgment, that it would happen just as I prayed. It was about a 35-minute drive home, and when I was about four minutes away from home a song ended, prompting me to think, “Well, this is it — there’s only time for one more song. It’s now or never.” Well, what do you know, it was the song. I had a faith conniption fit in my car for those four minutes as I sang along at the top of my lungs. And the moment — literally the moment — I pulled into my driveway, the DJ said, “That was Switchfoot with ‘Something More.'” Yes, it’s sort of a silly story, and I can hear Christopher Hitchens’ diatribe about the pettiness of a God (and solipsism of an individual who believes in Him) who would answer such a meaningless and frivolous prayer when children are starving to death and being wiped out by terrible diseases throughout the world. However, two things: 1) As much as I might want to agree largely with many points in this objection, it doesn’t affect the unshakable feeling I have that God really did, in that specific moment, answer a very specific and falsifiable prayer (and this isn’t the only time this sort of thing has happened to me); and 2) it wasn’t really trivial to me, because it showed me in a tangible way that God cared enough about me to illustrate to me both the reality of His existence and the magnitude of His care for me, individually and specifically. Call it arrogance of solipsism if you would like — to me, that’s just an attempt to sidestep the issue.
Oh, so much more I could add! How I hate to publish this post, knowing it to be incomplete and imperfect, knowing that with a little more time I could make it better! However, for better or for worse… [Publish]