Where’s the evidence?

by Zachary Ardern

Christians need to become more skilled at handling the evidence for our faith and in giving reasoned defences of the hope that we hold to. The ‘God question’ has been on the table in the New Zealand public square in a remarkable way in recent years. If the Christian faith is in fact true, we must take advantage of the opportunities available and engage society with the public truth of the gospel. But, how are we to do this, and what role can evidence play?

Firstly, what is faith? Faith is primarily trust in God. Saving faith is not just correct doctrinal belief (for, as James notes, even the demons have this), but requires what I think of as ‘a volitional shift’ towards God. For a fallen human being to trust in God, the action of the Holy Spirit is required, and any knowledge of God requires His gracious self-revelation. The question at issue in discussing the role of evidence is not whether an act of God is required in order to bring about faith, but what means he may use. I contend that he ordinarily operates by ‘ordinary’ means, and that the use of rigorous evidential arguments for the rationality of Christian faith can play a part in this.

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So, what is evidence? I say it is any fact that, when believed, makes a proposition appear more likely to be true than it did prior to accepting the evidence. A wide range of facts can be considered evidence. In the case of the resurrection, we have testimonial evidence from eyewitnesses, which is corroborated by a host of archaeological and historical considerations, as well as by a broader context including earlier predictions of the event, weighty events leading up to it, and the purported consequences in the subsequent development of the Church. Assessing the context in which the resurrection occurred I think provides evidence for its reality as an event of spiritual significance rather than a mere statistical aberration or inexplicable exception to natural law…

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