Facts and Evidences?
By Pastor Dennis Yim
New Testament Verse:
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (ESV)
The Epistemological Dilemma
I have heard countless of times – from pastors, ministers and lay-leaders - that Christianity is true because it has been proven to be true through the facts and evidences. “Look at the evidences! Look at the facts!” To be honest, I find this argument to be quite cringy. As a natural skeptic – yes Christians can be skeptics and doubters as well – when I hear that Christianity must be true due to the facts and evidences, I can’t help but ask, “Well, if that’s the case, where are all the evidences that the events in the Old Testament took place? Where’s the road in the Red Sea? Where’s Mount Zion? Where’s the Ark of the Covenant?” I hear these same questions from my friends who are skeptics and doubters of the Christian faith. I don’t really have an answer, but I actually echo their questions. If our faith is based on evidences and facts (should I say brute facts), do we really place our trust and allegiance in God, or do we place them on the facts and evidences themselves? Are we really living by faith and not by sight?
I was once posed a paradigm shifting question from a mentor of mine: “Do you believe that the Bible is true because it says it’s true (all Scripture is God-breathed, 2 Timothy 3:16), or do you believe that the Bible is true because the facts and evidences say that it is true?” I have heard in many Evangelical churches that the Bible must be true because the facts and evidences say so. However, if that’s the case then we have made the heinous mistake of placing the validity and authenticity of the Bible on the “facts and evidences” and not on the Word of God itself. The Bible is true, the Christian faith is true because God Himself says it is true (2 Timothy 3:16). John Calvin pointedly states in his Institutes: “Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit.” It may sound circular, but it’s circular because all facts, all truths, all evidences go back to God Himself. This is the epistemological dilemma that many American Evangelicals find themselves in. To believe that the Christian faith is true due to the facts and evidences is to believe by sight and not by faith. This was the issue that Thomas the Doubter had. He was a skeptic and a fervent doubter because he was not willing to believe unless all of his factual and evidential demands were met. Thomas based his faith on sight and not by true, authentic, spirit-wrought faith.
Jesus the Epistemological Solution
But thank God the story of Thomas doesn’t end with his skepticism. It’s interesting that Jesus moves towards Thomas and even meets his demands by allowing him to touch His hands and sides. But something interesting happens here, Thomas doesn’t reach out to touch Jesus, instead he falls on his knees and proclaims that He is the Risen King. Thomas didn’t need to see the evidences, he needed to encounter the living and risen King, Jesus Christ. There are so much in this world that we don’t know with certainty yet requires faith. But we all have this epistemological dilemma; how do we know with certainty that what we know is true? That even includes our faith.
How do we doubt our doubts? We doubt our doubts by bringing them to our Risen King and wrestling with them in His Word. We are all – in some ways – a doubter or a skeptic, yet the good news is that Jesus knows this, and He walks with us in it. Obviously, there’s so much more to say on this topic, but for now this will do: in our union with Jesus Christ, we know that the Christian faith is true because 1) Jesus Christ said it’s true and He has risen from the grave and made that known to us by uniting Himself to us. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
Reflection and Prayer
Take some time to reflect with your family and friends on what you have based your faith on? Is it brute facts and evidences, or is it the Word of God itself? What are some skepticisms and doubts that you have in regard to the Christian faith? Take some time to pray and bring any doubts and skepticisms that you have to the Lord. Ask God to help you to live in His sure and steadfast union so that you may live in His certainty that is rooted in His Word and Spirit.
Lord, my God, my one hope, hear me, that I be not unwilling, through weariness, to seek you, but that I may always ardently seek your face. Give me the strength to seek, since you have made me in order to find you, and have given me the hope of finding you more and more. My strength and my weakness are known to you: preserve the one and heal the other. My knowledge and my ignorance are known to you: where you have opened to me, receive me as I enter; where you have closed to me, open to me as I knock. May I remember you, understand you, love you. Increase these things in me until you have wholly renewed me. Pray for Strength to Seek After God by St. Augustine