If you’re reading this, you likely have an interest in either finding evidence for the Christian faith, or presenting evidence to defend your faith. The endeavor to defend the faith is known as apologetics. When doing apologetics we often have a focus on presenting evidence or reasons to believe in the Christian faith. That is why you see apologetics ministries with names like Reasonable Faith or Reasons to Believe and even my own Rational Faith. In this age dominated by Science and scientism many have identified the need to defend Christianity against pervasive claims that modern minds cannot believe in the ancient claims of Christianity because many of those claims appear unscientific or outright impossible and are therefore unbelievable. After all how can the modern mind believe in a 7 day creation and a 6000 year old universe; and an original Adam and Eve when the modern scientific community is telling you the universe is some 13.7 billion years old, and humans were not created, they evolved?
Against that backdrop many of us have endeavored to show why such criticism is wrong, and why the Christian faith is true even in the face of an onslaught of scientists telling you it can’t be true. And so Christian apologists endeavor to present evidence after evidence of the truth and veracity of the Biblical accounts. Their approach to convincing you of Christianity’s truth: the presentation of various pieces of evidence. Evidence that the claims of Christianity are true. Evidence that the claims of scientists supporting the Big Bang and Darwinian evolution are false. The goal has been to use evidence to persuade people to believe.
But is that approach of presenting myriad pieces of evidence indiscriminately to everyone the best approach? After years of observing how various people respond to evidence, as well as both my formal and informal study of the Gospel accounts of how Jesus presented evidence, I’ve come to a conclusion: we’ve been going about his all wrong. Some will consider what I’m about to say foolishness. Others will no doubt conclude I’m merely returning to my roots as a preacher of the gospel. But what I hope you’ll see is in reality, I’m merely returning to the example that Jesus has set before us. And the example is this:
When conveying the truths of the kingdom of God, the presentation of evidence is for believers. For those firmly set against the message of the kingdom, the proper approach is not evidence; the proper approach is proclamation of the truth – no evidence added. To put it succinctly: evidence is for believers, not mockers. Mockers merit only proclamation. Like Jesus did in Mark 1.15 or John 8.24. Think I’ve gone off the deep end? Let me demonstrate then that this is the approach Jesus took.
As with any explanation, it makes sense to start by defining terms. By “believers” I mean those who already believe the gospel, or already believe God exists, and are looking for evidence to shore up their faith. By “mockers” I mean those who reject God exists (atheists). (When atheists deny God vehemently and with passion they move into the category of being a “new atheist”.) Mockers can also be those who consider themselves to be intellectuals and realizing the impossibility of proving the negative assertion “God doesn’t exist” opt to make a weaker one: “I don’t know if God exists” and thus call themselves agnostic instead of atheist. Many such agnostics have the same sneering attitudes of full blown mocking atheists however.
There is a third group I have not mentioned yet: they are seekers. They don’t yet fully believe either the Gospel or in God, yet neither have they rejected the idea that God exists, so they are not atheists either. Nor do they have the sneering attitude of mockers. They truly want to know if God exists. For them evidence is indeed helpful, as it is for believers. But for the vast majority of mockers, no amount of evidence you show them will convince them because they’ve already made up their minds. That’s why they mock.
So for believers and true seekers, go ahead present evidence. For mockers proclaim the truth and require belief before presenting any evidence. Notice that takes discernment (of who is a mocker). We’ll come back to that, but first – here’s why evidence is not for mockers:
Why Evidence is not for Mockers
1. It’s the way of the master
Ray Comfort has a ministry called “The Way of the Master”. It’s his method of presenting the gospel – the way Jesus did. As he presents it, that way was to use the law (meaning the old testament law) to show people they’re guilty of sin and worthy of Judgment, then present the Good News – that Jesus has taken that punishment of sin (which is death) for you. So in his presentation, he asks questions designed to show you’re sinner: “Have you ever lied, have you ever stolen, or looked lustfully at a girl, or taken God’s name in vain?” Typically the young man will acknowledge he’s guilty of all. Comfort them narrows the noose: “Then by our your own admission you’re a lying, thieving, blaspheming adulterer” explains he’s under God’s wrath, and goes on to the punishment and the solution.
But that’s not the only way of the Master. Jesus had another way, a particular method of dealing with evidence. First consider – what was among the most powerful evidence that Jesus could present? That would be miracles. Of which he did many. But notice there are times when he did not perform miracles. When was that? When people refused believe, or had a general lack of faith. Consider:
- When Jesus returned to his home town of Capernaum, we’re told,
“he [Jesus] did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (Matt 13.58)
In fact Mark tells us that Jesus was “…amazed at their lack of faith.” and because of that lack of faith he “could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” Mark 6.5-6
Notice: No evidence (miracles) for those who would not believe.
- When the unbelieving Pharisees came to Jesus demanding a sign, what did Jesus tell them?
“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Matt 12.39
Once again Jesus refused to give what is among the most powerful evidence he could give to unbelievers.
- What about when Jesus was brought before the unbelieving Herod the Tetrach?
We’re told Herod wanted to see a miracle – not that it would convince him:
“When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle.” Luke 23.8 How do we know it wouldn’t convince Herod? Because we see in Luke 23.11 that Herod was a mocker. And what was Jesus’ response to this king who wouldn’t believe, but wanted the evidence of a miracle? Not only did he not perform any miracles – he wouldn’t even speak to this sneering mocker! (Luke 23.9)
Are you seeing a pattern here? There are a number of other times when the performance of miracles (or as we’d say today – the giving of evidence) is directly dependent on the level of faith. I won’t list them all because I think you get the point.
2. You don’t want Mockers sitting in judgment of evidence
Why do mockers like to ask for evidence? They’re not interested in believing – they’ve already made up their mind. They’re not looking to be convinced, but rather they ask for evidence so they can sit in judgment of the evidence and tell you why it’s insufficient and unconvincing.
For example. The Bible indicates the universe and thus the earth is about 6,000 years old. Secular believers (in the Big Bang, Nebular Hypothesis of planet formation, and Darwinian evolution) believe the earth to be about 4.3 billion years old. So they ask for evidence of a young earth. Here’s a good one: The rock worn on the hands of many women: Diamonds. Diamonds are supposed to come from near the center of the earth, and thus are believed to appoach the age of the earth – supposedly up to 3.5 billion years old. If that were true you would expect there to be no Carbon 14 in diamonds.
That’s because Carbon 14 decays away relatively quickly by natural processes, so after about 80,000 years it is no longer detectable. Yet scientists have detected Carbon 14 in diamonds. What does that mean? It means such diamonds cannot be anywhere near 3.5 Billion years old, because after the first 80,000 years, all the carbon 14 would have decayed away. What do mockers say about this evidence? The diamonds must be contaminated. This despite the fact that diamonds are, or course, among the hardest substance in the world. How would a contaminate get in? And if it happened naturally, you’d expect the diamond to be contaminated with something harder than diamond itself – like wurtzite boron nitride not Carbon 14. And so regardless of their unconvincing saving mechanism, mockers want to sit in judgment of your evidence and say why they’re not convinced, and why it doesn’t meet their standards, and why the evidence doesn’t prove what it obviously demonstrates.
Thus they deny the evidence they claim they’re looking for. Jesus would not let them do that. Jesus required faith before he would show them the evidence that was at his command to show.
3. Evidence won’t convince them if they don’t believe
As I pointed out in the previous articles, evidence is not the end all persuasive item many believe it to be. If evidence were so persuasive, we’d all believe the same thing. But we don’t, so clearly it’s not the end all for persuasion. For more on that see here, or here.
4. It’s unwise to cast your pearls before swine
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Matt 7.6). What is he talking about? Obviously it’s not dogs and pigs. Rational people do not give dogs sacred things, nor do they throw expensive pearls to mud wallowing pigs. So what is the warning about? Jesus is talking about how you approach the task of sharing the kingdom. And he’s reflecting wisdom found in the Proverbs:
7 “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.
8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
Both Jesus and the Proverbs are making the point I’m trying to make: evidence is not for mockers. They are not interested in evidence. They are interested in their own opinions. So as the Proverb says, if you try to correct them, or instruct them, or enlighten them to the truth will they listen to you? Will they thank you for it? No. They’ll insult you (which is why you see so many ad hominem attacks from atheists), and “abuse” you as the proverb says. Who can you give such correction to? the “wise man.” That would be the seekers and the believers.
The New Approach
I suspect for most reading this – demanding belief before presenting evidence will be a new approach that they have doubts about. In spite of the reasons given above, I’m sure some will consider it foolish – as will many you present it to. To such who think it’s foolish to demand faith before you offer evidence I offer the advise of scripture via the Apostle Paul: If that is foolishness, then best to become a fool that you might gain the wisdom of God:
Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. (1 Cor 3:18)
What this approach really calls for is discernment – which is the point of Jesus’ proverb about casting your pearls before pigs. In order to prevent wasting your pearls you must be able to discern where you should not be casting your pearls of wisdom in the first place. Because of course, we’re not speaking of easily identified pigs, we’re speaking of people. And you must discern whether they are worthy of your pearls, and of the “sacred” things of the kingdom. For just as God has “…hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matt 11.25) so should we be willing to hold our tongue when the “wise and learned” are really mockers in disguise. And we must learn to identify the “little children” – the seekers willing to believe, and those who already believe. Because as Jesus said regarding children: “…the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10.14) Who are the “such as these” he is speaking of ? Not just children, but all who have the willingness to believe as a child does. To such belong the secrets and the truths of the kingdom – as well as the kingdom itself. For it is only those with the pure heart of a child, willing to believe, that will see God. (Matt 5.8)
But for mockers they will be “… ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” (Matt 13.14)
Remember this is not my assessment regarding the need to have the credulity of a child; and not engaging those who would merely mock the truth – this is the assessment of, and the way of the Master – Jesus. He sought the seekers and explained. For mockers he merely proclaimed. (How else will they have any chance to escape condemnation?) (Matt 23.33-34). They will not listen to evidence. At least warn them of their destiny if they refuse to repent.
The only question that remains for those who want to be obedient to the Great Commission (Mark 16.15-16) is will you follow His lead in using discernment? This is the approach I intend to take going forward.
1. Reasonable Faith is The Ministry of William Lane Craig
2. Reasons to Believe is The Ministry of Hugh Ross
3. Scientism is a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the types of knowledge that can be gained by science. Those holding to scientism believe science is the only legitimate way to gain knowledge which is a self defeating proposition.
4. There are a few exceptions. One notable one being Anthony Flew, a notorious atheist who changed his mind acknowledged God exists, and to tell the world why he changed his mind, wrote:
“There Is no A God” subtitled “How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind.”
New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007
5. There is a harder substance, wurtzite boron nitride, but note the diamonds are contaminated with that. They’re supposedly contaminated with the much softer Carbon 14. On wurtzite boron nitride see:
“Diamond no longer nature’s hardest material” Jessica Griggs, Newscientist.com, 16 Feb 2009,
All images used by permission
Be like children… “of such is the Kingdom of heaven” © ruskpp | fotolia by Adobe – used by permission