The evidence for the Christian Faith is just that – evidence, not proof. And that evidence is not manipulative. We will, when we examine it, have the freedom to decide whether to believe it or reject it. Whether to put our faith in it or not.
We exercise faith every day of our lives. When we go through a green traffic light, we are trusting the evidence of past experience that motorists facing the red light will obey the rules and stop.
Objective faith is preferable to subjective faith. That is to say, what or who I put my faith in is far more important than how much faith I personally have.
Imagine that you are hanging suspended on the side of a cliff. All you have to hold onto is a flimsy bush, growing out of the side of the cliff. To make matters worse, the bush is coming away from the cliff. Any second you will plunge to your death. A man above you lowers a piece of cotton thread. “Grab this,” he shouts, “and just believe with all your heart that it will be strong enough to bear your weight!”
You and I know that no matter how fervently you believe, the thread will definitely not bear your weight. But if he had lowered a rope, that would have been a different matter. It is not so much the faith of the subject, but the reliability of the object (who or what we put our faith in) that matters. We board aeroplanes because the statistics tell us that a fatal crash is a very rare event. We put our faith in the statistics. If one in every four flights crashed, not many people would fly!
So Christian faith does not have to be a blind leap into the dark. We do not have to throw our minds away in order to be a Christian. In fact we are encouraged to use our minds. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). So we are perfectly entitled to examine the evidence for the Christian Faith. In fact, doing so will almost certainly bear fruit.
Josh McDowell was fiercely anti-Christian as a university student. Some Christian friends challenged him to write a book proving that Christianity wasn’t true. (Of course they should have used the phrase “providing evidence” instead of “proving”.) He said, “I’ll do just that!”
The result was his conversion and a massive work called Evidence that Demands a Verdict.(1)
(1) It is now published as The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict Thomas Nelson 1999 ISBN 0-7852-4219-8