Apologetics: What are the most convincing evidences for Christianity?

I am a life-long lover of apologetics. However, ever since I have lent some credence to the naturalistic culture of Biologos, I have become physically sick to the stomach. I guess the idea that I could be a Christian and yet believe that God spent billions of years doing basically nothing on Earth is kind of foreign to me.
Regardless, I’m open.
But that’s not what this discussion is about. What I’m wondering is this: In this Christian-Naturalist culture, you all still accept the divinity of Jesus and the reality of Heaven and/or the Resurrection. What are the most convincing proofs for you? In a culture inundated with Godlessness, what is it that gives you assurance against your peers that God is real and Jesus is God? What are the best books on this?
I have a list of around 70 books about defending the Christian worldview that I intend to read some day, but it is assuredly not complete.

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Superposition faith and reason @Isaac_Philo. They are completely separate magisteria that CAN be reconciled. One from the other. Once you completely separate them and hold them in orthogonal tension. You are in exalted company. Kierkegaard’s. Faith has to be invoked. Leapt to from angst. Otherwise it’s not authentic. Faith without perichoretic doubt is meaningless [; the sound of one hand clapping]. God through Christ says call me Father. Do that. Talk to your Father in the company of your Brother about ALL of this. Coherently. Openly. Fully. Politely. Rawly. Talk man to man and screaming infant to parent with God in all His metaphoric Persons. And as friend.

There are no proofs in faith but faith. Hope. Desire. Do you want the Jesus story to be true or not? Despite the infinitesimal cosmos in apparently self-caused eternity not giving a ■■■■?

Other mechanisms are available. But not to you or me.

Hi, Isaac, I think this is the first time we’ve interacted. Welcome.

Firstly, cards on the table, I am a Reformed Christian who is comfortable with A. the evidence for an old universe (and earth) and B. the evidence for evolution. However, I would find the “belief that God spent billions of years doing basically nothing on Earth” foreign to me too. It is my understanding that the Bible teaches the Doctrine of God’s Providence which states that all three persons of the Trinity are involved in creating, sustaining, upholding, and bring to its consummation all things for God’s glory. Or to put it simply, questions like “Did God create all life on earth or is it a result of evolution?” is to my mind a false dichotomy. I say, “yes” to both.

So, you see, when I look at the world, I see God conducting the greatest orchestra of all time in a symphony honouring his wisdom, power, divine nature, etc. that has been going strong for the last 13.77 billion years and shows no sign of stopping just yet.

Certainly, others will see it otherwise, and I know some Christians who have studied evolution prefer to think of God ‘preloading’ evolution so that it would unfold in the way we see it today, but this is certainly not a universal view. Be careful of unintentionally, presenting a strawman, Evolutionary Creationism is certainly not theologically monolithic. As someone interested in apologetics, I am sure that is something you would be keen to avoid.

I’m not sure I have ever heard this phrase used here on the forum, in BioLogos posts, or anywhere else for that matter. What do you think a ‘Christian-Naturalist culture’ is exactly? How would one recognise such a thing? Since I wouldn’t consider myself part of such a culture, I am not sure I can answer your questions.

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Forgive me Liam @LM77.

God has infinitely more on His mind than our mere 13.77 ga blip bubble. His immanence scales from the Planck level up to us and beyond for worlds within galaxies within universes from eternity. And then there’s the transcendent realm. That’s Christian-Naturalism to me.

I guess to start I’m in a similar boat to Liam concerning God doing nothing. I have to consider these things.

  1. God is immortal. He’s the alpha and the omega. God is here for a eternity. God was here before this universe existed. So you could go back what would be trillions and trillions of years and God was already here. As far as I know there was realities prior to ours that God was interacting with. Since God is outside of time, and is always present there are paradoxes that even 2 billion years ago he could have been interacting with reality that is 2 billion years in the future from now. I have no idea what he can do since he’s something bigger than we can completely understand.

  2. Even when I limit my scope of what he’s doing just to this one reality and time I am aware of the fact that the universe is ridiculously large. Ever expanding. We can’t even count the starts, let alone planets around all these stars. When reading scripture , take the Torah for example. It focused almost exclusively on Israel and a handful of nations. It does not mention the Chinese dynasties and all the wars and events happening there. It does not mention what was happening with indigenous tribes in what’s now known as Russia or North America. It does not mention the lives of earlier humans like neanderthals. It does not go into the thoughts of birds and ants. It has a very limited focus that it teases out a lot of life from. So with that limited perception I have no reason to assume he could not have been, or still is not , interacting with life on other planets that we may never know of until restoration and that’s even if he brings it together then.

  3. The third thing that I consider is that the new testament mentions that God cares for the flowers and birds. It means God cares about nature and he interacts with nature somehow. It mentions that nature looks forward to restoration. So I don’t know how animals feel God but I believe that in someway they feel him. Maybe it’s just the tiniest emotion , or something even less than that. Something we can’t understand. But scripture mentions God cares about these things. So before us sapiens got here there was all kinds of creatures and plants. I think God was fully connected to them and spent his time loving them.

Now to the actual question, similar to Klax’s response I am convinced almost exclusively on faith. I don’t believe there is any actual concrete evidence. I think all the evidence falls short and requires faith. So the evidence i prefer the most is that same faith in others. I like reading about the faith that others have had in God and how these disciples have done great things. Despite all the terror and evil and false faith spread on hate and by sword point, there has always been and always will be people from every group that falls in love with Jesus.

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You are forgiven :wink:.

Sure, God has other things on his mind, no doubt about that. Nor do I disagree with his involvement in everything from the infinitely small to the infinitely large. I do not believe that contradicts what I have written above :slight_smile:.

I don’t believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God because someone argued me into the position based on proofs. I believe it because I have encountered God and my life has been changed. The way I know I’m not just a crazy person is you can go all over the world and find a family resemblance between believers whose hearts have been healed and transformed by their encounters with Jesus. They tell similar stories, testify to similar experiences, and show similar fruit of the Spirit in their lives, no matter what culture, language, or time period of history they inhabit. That a single reality could transcend the tremendous gaps of time and diversity of culture is compelling to me. Of course, it could all be a mass delusion, too. Certainty is not as important to me as confidence, which I think is the heart of faith.

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Regarding what God did for billions of years, when I read Job and God’s response describing his creation, I have no doubt that God took pleasure in its development through those years.

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Throughout the infinite natural realm God has had enough to keep Himself busy from eternity one would have thought, there’s always been someone, somewhere to yearn back to, to ineffably work with, let alone what He gets up to in the transcendent, face to face with the infinity of people there, from eternity.

To sneer at a creation that takes billions of years strikes me as presumptuous. Who was there early on who knows exactly what this God can and can’t do? To presume it could have been done in the snap of His fingers actually diminishes the result by failing to appreciate the difficulties involved. I personally don’t personify a creator god but there does seem to me that the cosmos has been on a progression toward ever more complex and wondrous states. Certainly I wouldn’t presume any states in the progression were a waste of time or that it could have arbitrarily been done some other way.

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I really appreciate your response and feel largely the same way. One issue always tends to bug me with this though. Are there not countless other people in other religions who have experienced God and shown the fruit of the Spirit? How does one prioritize the historical claims made by Christianity with the plurality of religious experience? I have to honestly wonder, if I grew up in a country predominated by Muslim or Jewish beliefs, would I have been a Muslim or a Jew? It seems geography has something to say about religious beliefs. So in your view, what separates Christianity from the other religions in the world. I would not argue against them being different pathways to God and salvation, but what makes Christianity special?

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William Jame’s The Will to Believe was a seminal work for me in returning the faith long after I realized my “all of nothing” version of Christianity and the Bible was untenable and I spiraled into atheism. It was a long road back but I made it. I really feel there is no certainty. I don’t think you really prove your way into belief in God or Jesus. I know there are whole systems of apologetics like Norman Geislers that try to do this (and tremendously fail at it), but it took me a while to live in a world without certainty.

But I have to be honest. A world without God, a world where we are just animated stardust, where truth is just one chemical reaction in the brain and a lie is another. I can’t accept that. is there really free will and choice? We seem to assume so in all of our interactions yet is everything really just capable of being deterministically boiled down to pure math and physics? A purely materialistic universe is cold, harsh and devoid of meaning to me. I just can’t live like that and I think most people would be hypocritical to even try.

Correct or incorrect, everything tells me there is really “good” and “bad” in the world. There really is truth, right and wrong. I just don’t see how without God you can get any real meaning in the world. I mean a rapist might as well be a shook up coke bottle and philanthropist a shook up Pepsi bottle. They both just fizz in different ways. When we see those reactions we fizz in our own ways. How can we truly believe in real evil and goodness if all we are is animated stardust, assemblages of atoms, subservient exclusively to chemical and physical laws, with a blink of an eye existence, on an infinitesimally small planet dizzily orbiting a sun? Without God, what does it all ultimately matter? I think the majority of those who deny God live their lives under the pretense that morality is real, there is truth and goodness and purpose and meaning in the universe.

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Yes, there is certainly an aspect of enculturation to all religions. So, I am really fascinated by the many stories I’ve heard of Muslims who say Jesus appeared to them in a dream during Ramadan and gave them an address of someone who could tell them more. Or isolated tribes who hear the gospel for the first time and welcome it as the good news they have been waiting for. When you get out of the Western world, there are so many crazy miracle stories in Jesus name. Even if only a percentage of them are true, that’s something. Again, I don’t think it’s proof and I understand everything can be explained away by other narratives. But it’s compelling to me.

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I love the account of the ‘redemptive analogy’ already in place for the Sawi aborigines in Western New Guinea, who, when they first heard the Gospel story, thought that Judas was the protagonist.

More than half of the Sawi accepted Jesus Christ

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Though I’m very skeptical towards the miraculous aspect I do believe that no matter the person, tribe, or nation the story of Jesus resonates with everyone who has even a inkling of righteousness in them.

One thing that I’ve always remembered when hearing the fact that everything can be explained away is this dark example I heard once.

If you walked into a room and saw a man on the floor with a knife in his chest yelling to keep another man away from him before dying and they found the other man’s finger prints on the knife and threatening texts you could safely presume what happened.

Sure you could say maybe the man came there to apologize or maybe someone else was texting on his phone. You could argue that perhaps his fingerprint was on the knife because he was there helping to cut up some vegetables or maybe he picked it up off the ground. You could even theorize that maybe the victim was saying keep the other man away because he did not want to be seen in such a condition or that he knew the other man could not handle the sight of blood. There are several ways to explain away what happened but the most obvious is that the angry man showed up and stabbed the guy who is not afraid of him.

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There are two problems with that.

  1. I don’t believe any such thing. I am no Deist. I believe in God’s intimate involvement in everything.
  2. God is not a prisoner of the measure of time in the physical universe or any measure of time for that matter. Science has discarded the notion of absolute time. So God can use time as He chooses. If God were not interested in what was happening then there is no reason for Him to wait, just as there is no reason for there to have been an infinite time before creating the universe.

Here are my reasons for belief in any religious stuff (and how I go from there) and in Christianity in particular.

But I don’t believe in proofs, except in mathematics. Even in science all we have is evidence for what is reasonable – not proof. So I don’t find any so called proofs convincing. Proofs are not why most people believe anyway.

Oh and perhaps I should tell you that I wasn’t raised in a belief in any kind of religion. You can read more of my story here where I do a chapter by chapter review of Francis Collin’s book “The Language of God.”

I would shift the goal of apologetics to defending the rationality of Christianity – not proving it to be true.

What culture would that be?

Sounds like God as Christianity conceives Him is a prisoner of the common notion that His powers are limitless provided no logical impossibility is involved. What would count as “limitless” when the Bible was assembled was probably something far more limited since our own powers and imagination have increased so much since then.

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This would be my understanding of Christian Apologetics too.

For instance, no discussion of apologetics is complete without reference to 1 Peter 3:14-16 (NIV2011):

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone (Gk: apologia) who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

The context of giving “an answer to everyone” (a Christian apologetic) in 1 Peter 3:14-16 is…

  1. Responsive - the non-Christian is asking for a reason; the Christian provides one (v15)
  2. Defensive* - The non-Christian is asking why the Christian has hope in face of suffering and malicious talk rather than throwing in the towel and heading back to temple. Or the Christian faces public or official persecution and is asked to defend themselves against the accusations. Cf. Mark 13:11 for a similar idea. Also worth pointing out that Peter assumes the Christian has not brought this down on themselves by being an argumentative so-and-so.
  3. Reasonable - Peter expects us to provide reasons not proofs or even evidence (though reasons may appeal to evidence)

This is also what I see in ‘classic’ apologetic works like Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles, for example, which seeks to defend (among other things) the rationality of Christianity apart from appeal to the Bible. Or Justin Martyrs 1st and 2nd Apologies where he attempts to defend the reasonableness of Christianity against various objectors.

*The preacher in me is disappointed that I could not come up with 3 Rs…

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Sorry for being so idle on responding to you guys.
I would argue that the conception of God even by Old Testament standards is pretty overwhelming. There was an angel in the Old Testament that killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destroying_angel_(Bible)). Think about that. God didn’t even have to do that himself. He relegated it to a created being.

Also, assuming you guys believe in a literal Satan, and a literal imprisonment and war against him in Revelation, that was also relegated to an angel. God didn’t even consider Satan himself worthy of direct confrontation!

For those who are in (or have struggled with) a religiously-reactive atheism, I think one of the problematic mindsets that seems to most persistently linger is the notion that one religion, if it be true, must be the exclusive holder of all truth, and all-things-God. And by default, then, all other religions must just be completely wrong about pretty much everything (or at least in any areas where they disagree with the ‘true’ religion). But God, as revealed in scriptures, has already proved to be no respecter of such religious boundaries. Shoot … a pluralism between Judaism and the fledgling Christianity is completely baked into our very origins - even to the extent of being problematic for early followers trying to sort themselves out with the new gentile converts coming on board. So right away, before the New Testament has even been written, the notion of “one religion exclusively contains all of God’s genuine work in the world” is already a thoroughly exploded notion. God may make choices of certain people, families, even nations, to accomplish special things for the purpose of blessing the rest of the world, but I think the case can be made that it is unscriptural to insist that all truth about everything (even important things!) is only to be found in Christianity alone. No major system of beliefs is going to be wrong or unhelpful about absolutely everything it promotes. And even on the points where it might be, God loves to even make use of that! God seems to take greater joy in knocking down our walls and preconceptions, than helping us build them.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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