If you want to be able to train others — even if it’s just your own family — to be able to make the case for the truth of Christianity, you have to understand it yourself. There are plenty of resources out there that can help you do that. I will share the best ones I know of in the series of posts that follow. But before I start, I want to offer a “big picture” that you can always keep in the back of your mind as you think about the different categories of evidence. If you’re anything like me, pictures help do that. So, I have tried to simplify things in the diagram at right.
This is simply a way to organize the evidence in your mind’s eye.
Foundational Evidence For Theism
The brown categories at the bottom of the diagram offer us the basic evidence for the existence of some kind of a theistic God — a God who is real and interacts with the universe in which we live. I have boiled this down into three basic categories that give evidence for the type of God who is a personal, moral agent who must exist outside the physical universe, but is also able to act within it. The evidence contained in these three foundational categories is the only explanation for the following characteristics of our world:
- It is a world in which we all recognize that real, moral truths exist and that they are constantly being violated
- It is an actual, physical thing that came into existence sometime in the finite past
- Whatever/whoever caused the beginning of the universe could not have been a part of the physical universe itself
- It is designed to allow for, and sustain, the existence of living things
- Some of those living things are beings who have moral, mental, and physical attributes
Obviously, there is a lot to each of these topics and I will provide resources to support each of them, but the takeaway is simply that our claim to believe that there is a God is not based on some kind of wishful thinking or irrational hope. It is based on evidence — concrete evidence about the way the world actually is.
Since we have evidence that there is a God and that this God’s attributes must be consistent with the evidence listed above, it follows and that one of the theistic religions must be true. In order to determine which of the theistic religions is true, we need more specific information.
Specific Evidence For Christianity
The blue categories at the top of the diagram are what allow us to differentiate Christianity from the other theistic religions. Here, we look at data from archaeology, history, and compare the manuscript evidence from those religions in order to identify which of them is true. This is where the strength of the case for Christianity shines. No other religion even comes close to having the amount of evidence to support:
- The existence of its primary historical figure — Jesus of Nazareth
- The archaeological relics that support its story from the very beginning
- A world-changing event — the Resurrection — that is central to its claims
- The number of manuscripts that verify its authenticity and reliability
That’s the case for Christian Theism in a nutshell.
This simple diagram gives us a way to categorize the reasons we have for believing the Christian story of reality — reasons that are based in factual evidence. We can be confident that our faith is justified, not because it makes us feel good about ourselves, or because it “works for us,” but because it is actually true!
Now for the hard part.
If you aren’t already familiar with the information above, it won’t seep into your brain through osmosis. You have to be dedicated to familiarizing yourself with it. In the posts that follow, I will give you resources — videos, articles, and books — to help fill in the details of each of these categories of evidence. But remember, you don’t have to become a biblical scholar and master every subject listed above in order to prepare yourself and those you love to use them. You simply have to understand the basics and be willing to go find answers. In the meantime, here are some fundamental things to understand about what this all means and how to use it:
- Knowing “facts” gives you confidence to engage with others but, in the cultural climate we live in, citing facts will rarely convince others to change their minds.
- Your attitude may go further than your evidence in compelling others to consider what you’re saying.
- Asking questions is almost always more effective than making statements.
- Telling your story is vastly more interesting than regurgitating another person’s data.
Finally, always remember that you are not meant to convince people to agree with you. You are not the one who leads them to the truth. You are not the one who saves them. You are responsible for “giving a reason for the hope you have” and letting the Holy Spirit do the rest. You are only meant to train those in your little corner of the world to be prepared to engage people in a winsome way.
That’s your “job.” And when you’ve done it, relax … and let God do His.