If Christians Are Supposed to Rely on Evidence, Why Call It Faith?

I’ve written a Christian apologetics book that makes the case for making the case. I argue that Christians ought to embrace a more evidential, thoughtful faith that can be described as the most reasonable inference from evidence. Many people, after reading the book and thinking about this definition of “faith,” have asked, “If you believe something because of the evidence, why use the word faith at all?” Juries render verdicts on the basis of the evidence and we don’t call their decisions an act of “faith,” do we? If evidence is an integral part of “faith decisions,” what is left for there to have “faith” about?

In all the years I’ve spent in criminal trials, I’ve yet to investigate or present a case in which there wasn’t a number of questions the jury simply could not answer. Although my cases are typically robust, cumulative, and compelling, they always have some informational limit. A recent case was an excellent example; jurors convicted the defendant even though they couldn’t answer the following questions: How precisely did the defendant dispose of the victim’s body? How did he find time to clean up the crime scene? What did he do with the murder weapon? How did he move the victim’s car without being seen?

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Why Make the Case for Christianity, If God Is in Control?

I’ve written a Christian apologetics book that makes the case for making the case. I argue that Christians ought to embrace a more evidential, thoughtful faith and accept their duty to become Christian case-makers. Many people, after reading the book and thinking about this call to become better case makers, have asked, “If God calls His chosen, can’t He achieve this without any case-making effort on our part?” I also pondered this question as a new Christian, and I think the following analogy is helpful, although certainly imperfect.

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Why Christians Need to Make the Case for Making the Case

Now, more than ever, Christians must shift from accidental belief to evidential trust. It’s time to know why you believe what you believe. Christians must embrace a forensic faith. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Christians living in America and Europe are facing a growingly skeptical culture. Polls and surveys continue to confirm the decline of Christianity (refer, for example, to the ongoing research of the Pew Research Center, including their 2015 study entitled, America’s Changing Religious Landscape). When believers explain why they think Christianity is true, unbelievers are understandably wary of the reasons they’ve been given so far.

As Christians, we’d better embrace a more thoughtful version of Christianity, one that understands the value of evidence, the importance of philosophy, and the virtue of good reasoning. The brilliant thinker and writer C. S. Lewis was prophetic when he called for a more intellectual church in 1939. On the eve of World War II, Lewis drew a parallel between the challenges facing Christianity in his own day and the challenges facing his country as war approached:

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Rapid Response: “You Can’t Be Certain About the Claims of Christianity”

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone made the following statement: “No one can be absolutely certain about ancient historical claims, and the Bible can’t be proven beyond a possible doubt. The claims of Christianity are dramatic and critical. If you want me to believe these kinds of claims you’d have to be able to prove them beyond any doubt.” How would you respond to such a statement? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:

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Rapid Response: I Can’t Believe In God Because I Have Too Many Unanswered Questions

unaswered-questionsIn our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. What would you say if someone said, “I can’t believe in God (or Christianity) because I have so many unanswered questions. In fact, some of these questions can’t even be answered by Christians!” Here is a conversational example of how I recently responded to this statement:

“I’m a Christian ‘Case Maker’ and I can’t even answer every possible question someone might ask. I know other Christians must feel the same way, and they’re probably thinking, ‘If professional apologists can’t answer every question, how can we? And how can we continue to believe something when we have unanswered questions?’

Well, a lot of it comes down to what I call, ‘evidential insufficiency’. Every criminal trial illustrates answers an important question: At what point does a jury think it has enough to make a decision? We have to remind every jury that they’ll always have unanswered questions; in every case. I’ve never had a case where there wasn’t a series of unanswered (and even unanswerable) questions, because you’re never going to be able to answer every question; I don’t care how long you look at the case.

We ask jurors to make a decision in spite of those unanswered questions. As a matter of fact, that’s why the standard of proof in criminal trials is not ‘beyond a possible doubt’; it’s ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. If the standard of proof was “beyond a possible doubt,” we’d never convict anyone. There are lots of things we believe, even though we don’t have every possible piece of evidence to justify my belief. How can I be certain my car won’t explode when I turn the key? It’s happened to others, and it’s certainly possible it could happen to me. But is it reasonable? If you lived on the basis of your possible doubts, you’d be immobilized by fear and uncertainty. That’s why the standard of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ is good for us, even as Christian believers.

We need enough evidence to infer the most reasonable inference, but no more. We can’t answer every question about God. Do you really think, as a mere mortal, you can know everything there is to know about the nature of God? I doubt we’re ever going to have complete, robust answers on this side of Heaven. But we can still move, we can still act, we can still make a decision for Christ, even though we don’t have every possible answer, because guess what? No one has every possible answer, regardless of worldview.

Even when I was an atheist, I couldn’t tell you how the universe came into being, how life originated in the universe, how to explain the existence of consciousness or free will, and I also had many other unanswered questions. I wasn’t alone; some of the best atheist philosophers and scientists cannot offer answers to those questions either. Yet, they are comfortable in their worldview, even though they have unanswered questions. I think, as Christians, we need to recognize that Christian Theism is the best inference from evidence, and learn to become comfortable with those few unanswered questions we might still have. The Christian worldview has fewer unanswered questions than any other worldview.”

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