Do We Need Evidence for God?

I've been thinking about last month's post How Do We Know That God Is Real? -- including my response to many of the comments. More specifically, the comments by Rob and Vanessa have led to good meditation and reflection for me.

Specifically, this line from Vanessa was very interesting, and challenging:
"We can certainly use our evidence to SUPPORT our faith, but I think one would struggle if their faith was largely based on the historical evidence, since it can be refuted."

She's right, and her words brought me back to an interesting season of life.

Coming to and Wrestling with Faith
I had spent the summer of 1995 investigating the claims of Christianity, coming at it with the skepticism of a scientist and an agnostic Jew. My life was going fine regarding friends, academics, and athletics, and I did not feel a need for Jesus. But, thanks to the Holy Spirit working through one particular guy who poured into me that summer, I came to see that the evidence pointed to Jesus' life, death, and (most importantly) resurrection. I had to accept the facts where they led.

I started reading my Bible, praying, and got involved in a discipleship group. But towards the end of my sophomore year, I read some articles about the Jesus Seminar. Without going into details about what these "scholars" claimed, I'll just say that my faith was shaken to the core. After all, I came to faith primarily because I saw the evidences about the Resurrection of Jesus, and here were "experts" saying it never happened. Now, I was left confused.

This confusion lead to doubt and apathy, and lasted for a few weeks. I stopped seeking God, and backed out of the discipleship group. I stopped praying before meals, which was noticed by at least one friend, but I blew off her caring inquiries. I wasn't quite ready to give up on it all, but I was caught in a quagmire of questions.

But before the end of the year, in May of 1996, I was in a certain situation where I knew I had to fish or cut bait. God smacked me inside my brain with this thought: "Make a choice of what you really want. Follow me, or don't. But quit toeing the line."

In the moment, I believe I could have made either choice. But I know that the Spirit pulled me toward Jesus, and I'm so grateful that He did.

Cleverness Does Not Convict
The reason I say all this is to agree with Vanessa's point, as quoted above. While early on in my walk with God, I thought that I could convince anyone to become a Christian by reasoning with them. I tried this with my Jewish grandparents, as I sent them a handwritten, seven-page letter explaining my faith. That sort of blew up in my face, but we salvaged our relationship (especially with my conservative grandfather) with a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

I learned that cleverness does not convict. Conviction only comes by the Spirit of God, whether before or after coming to faith in Jesus.

"I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God."
(I Corinthians 2:5)

The Gospel Message
God has changed my life, including giving me joy and hope that I never had before. But we must remember the gospel, the meaning of the death of Christ. The gospel message does not focus on a lack of joy and peace; it focuses on sin. After all, whereas you can have joy and peace while you are unsaved, only the gospel can do anything about your sin.

In that moment in May 1996, when I had to choose, I knew that whether I had 100% evidence or not wasn't important. What I needed to do is determine if I would follow what I believed was true. And it's the same for me today. I need to be "all in" for Jesus, or "all out."

Let us heed Jesus' words to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:16):

"So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

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  1. Your reflections on this are much more clear than my quickly composed replies a couple weeks ago, thank you for doing a much better job of articulating it!

    We can "fact" someone to death (like the lovingly written 7 page letter) but without conviction, that evidence will not lead to faith, and the non-believer will have reasoning which they find equally convicting to support what they believe.

    It's all very interesting. As a strong believer, all the evidence makes SO MUCH SENSE, but for a non-believer or a person who is questioning, it can still sound like foolishness.

    1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT) The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say,

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
    and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”[e]

    At the end of the day, we have to remember that our belief is a God thing. The evidence and proof we have are of this world, and that alone is not enough without the heart change that comes only from God.

  2. At the end of a two year period where I had studied more the intellectual, philosophical, and reasonable side of my faith I had a crisis where I knew what I believed but wasn't really sure I believed it fully anymore (if that makes any sense). I guess it would be best to say that doubt had creeped in compromising my ability to act on my faith. It wasn't a comfortable place to be. In the end it wasn't a new argument but a personal and non-verifiable experience that jerked me back to faith.

    One of my (less favorite than Joey!) bloggers, Michael Patton, talks about a similar incident where he knew all the arguments but just couldn't believe. For him it was terrifying but only lasted a day or two. It reminded him that ulitmately faith is a gift from God (Eph 2) and he can't will it into being.

    I think apologetics has it's place because when confronted with a John Dominic Crossan/Jesus Seminar type argument it allows you to see the weaknesses that lie below the surface. In the case of the Jesus Seminar they presuppose naturalism and then dismiss all of Jesus' miracles including the resurrection. But they offer no proof as to why naturalism is true.

    I'm going through an apologetics book right now with a non-believing friend. He agrees with and sees the logic of most of the arguments but has said openly and honestly that he can't just make himself believe. I agree with him completely and have asked him to look honestly at his own bias, keep pursuing the truth, and to throw himself on God's mercy and ask him to work in his heart and reveal Himself to him.

    I think that's good advice (and not just because it's mine!) for both the believer and the non-believer. The gospel if the answer.

  3. Nice blog Joey! How faith works is something I've be grappling with the last few years.

    On the matter of evidence as it relates to faith I find two interesting cases in the new testament.

    First is Thomas. John 20:25 But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

    Second is the Rich man and Lazarus. Luke 16:31 31 "But he said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.' "

    It seems to me that evidence is trumped by faith. Thomas see's the risen Christ and faith is made apparent. Perhaps faith was there all along?

    On the other hand, the Roman soldiers at the tomb and local leaders had great evidence of resurrection and proceed to cover up that evidence.

    Faith trumping evidence doesn't make evidence useless though. I've seen evidence work in my life through some of the Josh Mcdowell studies. It seems to initiate a pursuit of God in me that wasn't there at the beginnings of my faith journey.

    Also, it should be noted that Jesus made numerous resurrection appearances. He wasn't just saying goodbye. He had His purpose with evidence.

    I've concluded for now that if faith is not present then evidence makes no difference. And yes, the Gospel is the answer.

  4. In the end, it is only God who opens eyes to the truth and gives faith. Once faith is given, I don't think he takes it back.

    Eloquent words and arguments are really of no value. (1 Cor 1:17)

    Once the soul is awakened, it will want to please our awesome God. All of this is to the Glory of God alone.

  5. The reality is that no one can be "all in" for Jesus. We are sinners. We sin, every day. We cannot rely on our ability to be "all in."

    The Good News is that we don't have to perform to earn God's favor. If we believe in the work of Jesus on the cross, and truly repent of our sins, then we have been given saving faith and are completely covered with Jesus' righteousness.

    If we ask others to be "all in" for Jesus, then we are condemning them with a form of law. This is not love.

  6. Does the Bible give evidence for God, or does it just assume His existence is a given, for to believe otherwise is just silly?

  7. I appreciate everyone's comments and insight. Most of these comments could have been a post to themselves.

    2 comments ago -- Thanks for your comment. When I said, "all in," I in no way intended that to mean that I needed to live perfectly. I should have clarified better. I meant it more of a heart attitude. The issue was weather I would "half-way" believe (if such a thing is possible), while living as I wanted to. "All in" just means that I will trust in Him and follow Him, not any level of behavior.

    Last comment -- another good point. I would say that it assumes His existence. But I'd be interested to think if someone thought otherwise.

  8. Thanks for clarifying your "all in" comment.

    I'd say Jesus was "all in" for us, but definitely not the other way around. This is the heart of the gospel.

    So grateful for this.