Lots of evidence. Christian apologetics is a vast field, occupied by multiple-degree holding scholars like William Lane Craig, converted atheists such as Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel, and thousands of people using blogs to show that the Christian faith is reasonable. These including Natasha Crane, Mikel Del Rosario, Dan Greenup and The Poached Egg. All of these apologists, while having their fields of specialty, are attempting to present well-thought out reasons for believing in Jesus as revealed in the Bible.
It may be easy for budding apologists to think that a great answer or a compelling argument stated with an attitude of confidence will be what influences an atheist to embrace Jesus. Those things may well be useful, and may in fact be persuasive, but without the work of the Holy Spirit in the atheist’s life, the apologist is just engaging in an intellectual battle.
Two rational views may be in conflict one another. There are many lines of apologetic evidence, and sometimes those lines of evidence may be pitted against one another. For example, there is, I believe, evidence that points to the universe being a relatively new creation (when compared to billions of years), but I also see evidence that gives credence to our universe being very old. In either case, I see both lines of that evidence clearly pointing to the necessity of a creator.
I have had discussions with several Christian people who think the age of the universe is of critical importance in the narrative of Christianity. Their viewpoint is such that if you can’t trust the creation account to encompass six evenings and six mornings, then one cannot trust the remainder of the Bible either. I don’t see how a billions of years old universe, or a one million year old universe, or a ten second old universe, takes anything away from the majesty of the God that created it. (Note: A Christian believing in a billions of years old universe does not necessarily mean that the believer is an evolutionist.) Images from the Hubble telescope show us the massive power of our God, the creator of everything that we can see, and even more that we can’t. As Christians, we should choose to not let this singular issue cause division among us.
Staying on point. Whether someone is a young earth or old earth creationist, keeping the main thing the main thing is important in apologetics. If using creation as a line a reasoning for showing God’s existence, I often point to the size of the universe and to DNA as my arguments. I am not likely going to be seen as credible if I start the conversation by insisting the universe is less than ten thousand years old, particularly if I am speaking to someone who is well-versed in science or engineering. Instead, I may focus on the impossibility of matter drawing itself together after a massive explosion (the Big Bang). Or I may explain that the undirected assembly of mindless amino acids into a complex molecular language doesn’t chemically make sense. By using these approaches, I attempt to make the person I am speaking with aware of the need for someone to direct these processes. And the only one who is capable of such majestic work is God.
Moving forward. God is the creator, and I point to his creation to show how mighty and creative he is. If my conversation with the nonbeliever continues, I attempt to demonstrate that the Bible accurately depicts the human condition of sin and that all of us have a need to meet Jesus. Our efforts in apologetics should be focused on showing people Jesus. When we work to simply win an intellectual argument, we are glorifying ourselves. But when we focus on loving people in their broken condition, Jesus is glorified.
Both of the images included in this post are courtesy NASA/STScI.
Have you seen instances of winning arguments being someone’s focus, rather than showing people the person of Jesus? What have been the effects of that focus?