Why Christian parents get nervous about evidence
by Lydia McGrew
It’s been a while since we had a post on Christian evidences.
I’ve recently been led to reflect on the fact that there remains a Christian subculture that is somewhat uneasy with Christian evidences. Here I’m not referring to modernists or even postmodernists. I’m not referring to the unorthodox who don’t like evidence because they like to keep Christianity hazy so that they don’t really have to believe anything. I’m thinking of the fervent and utterly sincere, orthodox, Bible-believing Christians who nonetheless feel a bit…worried, somehow, if their young people start asking questions about the evidences for Christianity. Worried even if the young people are studying and reading and getting answers. Why might that be?
The reasons why that occurs (and if you aren’t familiar with the phenomenon, just take my word for it that it does occur) are varied, and some are better than others.
Here are a few:
1) The idea that faith is contrary to reason and that therefore it is bad for one’s faith if one has good reasons for believing Christianity. This premise is just plain wrong. It’s been discussed and addressed in many books by many people. Here, here, and here are just a few of my own posts on the subject. (More posts tagged explicitly with the label “evidentialism” are also found here and here.)
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2) The rather vaguer idea that one will be distracted from a “real relationship with Jesus Christ” if one is focusing on intellectual matters such as evidence. Now, the Devil is real, and he can, of course, use any good thing for a bad end. C.S. Lewis once wrote that he never felt less convinced of a Christian doctrine than when he had just finished defending it. (Words to that effect.) It is no doubt true that, for certain personality types, the intensity of one’s feeling of commitment to God will be lessened if one is thinking of God more prosaically–whether in terms of systematic theology, natural theology, or historical evidence.
But then again, heaven knows that there are plenty of “dry” passages in the Bible, too. And no, I don’t just mean the genealogies. I mean, for example, all that heavy doctrine in the Pauline epistles. I imagine that most of the same people who would get nervous if their college-age kids were reading, say, Butler on natural theology and Christian evidences don’t mind at all if their pastor preaches exegetically through every verse of Ephesians. Unless, I suppose, they are Pentecostals who don’t like exegetical preaching either. (With apologies to my Pentecostal brethren.)
My point here is that God Himself doesn’t seem to be too worried about our thinking about Him in a sober and unemotional fashion. Apparently He thinks that our having a good grounding and understanding of meatier matters is worth the danger that some of us might find intellectual thought a bit dampening to our emotions. Emotions, even the emotional part of our love for Jesus Christ, come and go. Facts and theology, once understood and grasped, remain and can tide one over dry periods. And emotionally dry periods in one’s spiritual life will come, from one cause or another, even if one is as uneducated as a rock when it comes to either theology or Christian evidence…