Why Christians Can’t Avoid Being Evidentialists

by Eric Chabot

Introduction

For the follower of Jesus, there is the call to “make disciples of the nations” (Matt.28:19). Any attempt to reach out to a lost and needy world will result in several encounters with people from a variety of spiritual backgrounds. Many Christians can be surprised to find out that many people from non-Christian backgrounds are incredibly sincere about their faith. Unfortunately, sincerity is not a test for truth. Many people have been sincerely wrong about many things. What about the question, “How do you know your faith is true?” In other words, if a Mormon and a Christian ask each other this question, they both may assert that the test for the truthfulness of their faith is a religious experience. In this case, the confirmation of the Mormon faith happens through the heart confirming through what is already true in the mind. In other words, the Mormon appeal to a religious experience sounds a bit like the Christian appeal to the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. Religious experience should not be taken lightly. However, the issue of religious experience brings up an interesting point in apologetic dialogue. Which revelation is true? What god is the individual encountering?

The late Christopher Hitchens said:

Since all these revelations, many of them hopelessly inconsistent, cannot by definition be simultaneously true, it must follow that some of them are false and illusory. It could also follow that only one of them is authentic, but in the first place this seems dubious and in the second place it appears to necessitate religious war in order to decide whose revelation is the true one. [1]

Let’s look at some of the claims of the major faiths of the world:

Orthodox  Christianity/Messianic Judaism: Jesus is  both God and man/Jesus is an uncreated being. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah as  foretold in the Tanakh (the acronym that is formed from the first three parts  of the Hebrew Bible: Torah (the first five books of the Bible), Nevi’ im (the  Prophets), and K’ tuvim (the Writings) as well as the second person of the  Godhead, equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 1:1;Col.1:15-19; Phil.2: 5-11).

Islam/Traditional Judaism: Jesus in not God and  man. Traditional Judaism says Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah as foretold  in the Tanakh. Jesus may be simply  regarded as a prophet or teacher but not divine. In the case of Islam, Islam’s founder is Muhammad who was forty   years old when he began having visions accompanied by violent convulsions during which he received his revelation from Allah. His writings are  called the Koran, which he claims were dictated to him directly by the Angel Gabriel. Islam states Jesus was never crucified, and therefore,  never risen. The Qur’an was written some six hundred years after the life of Jesus which makes it a much later source of information than the New Testament.

Mormonism claims to be founded on divine revelation. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, claimed to  have received personal revelation from God on the basis of two visions,(the first allegedly given to him in 1820, the second one in 1823). The Bible asserts that Jesus is that He is uncreated (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17) while the Mormon claim is that Jesus is a created being. For further reading, see Why Mormonism is not Christianity– the Issue of Christology

The Watchtower Society/Jehovah Witnesses: In the Bible, Jesus is the second person of the Godhead, equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit (John  1:1; Col. 1:15-19; Phil. 2: 5-11). This is rejected by Jehovah Witnesses.

Buddhism/Hinduism: are not theistic faiths. Therefore, they are already different from Christianity. Buddhism teaches  that Jesus was an enlightened man, but not God. Hinduism says that Jesus was a  good teacher and perhaps an incarnation of Brahman who is an impersonal, supreme being. In Hinduism, polytheism and pantheism go hand-in-hand with one impersonal Brahman and 330 million-plus personal manifestations of the one impersonal ultimate  For further reading, see Why Jesus Instead of the Buddha?

After examining the differences in each of these faiths, John P. Newport sums up the issue rather nicely…

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