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Evidence for the Christian Faith
Evidence for the Christian Faith
I used to show teenagers two DVDs as evidence.
One was called “Changes”.1 Various surfers tell about how they encountered Jesus. The story of Chris O’Rourke, the last one on the DVD, is particularly moving. By 1976, at the age of seventeen, he was the top-ranked surfer on mainland America. Then cancer struck. He was led to Christ by another surfer, Brew Briggs. Brew had become a Christian earlier, and had tried sharing his faith with his fellow surfers. “But they didn’t want to listen!”
But facing death, Chris did. Once a Christian, he had an amazing influence on many, including his arch rival, Joey Buran. Joey knew he would never be the top surfer in California as long as Chris was fit. Describing himself as brash and cocky, he found himself seated next to a very ill Chris on a non-stop flight to Australia, with no other seat free on the plane. Chris questioned him on the fulfilment he found in surfing and witnessed to him about Jesus the whole way to Australia.
What Josh McDowell provides in Evidence that Demands a Verdict is objective evidence.
But subjective evidence, although unverifiable, can be equally powerful.
Paul’s testimony of his conversion from persecutor and murderer to preacher in little more than a week in Acts 22 is a striking example of subjective evidence. I was no murderer, but my conversion, too, was sudden.
I am very grateful for the Christian home in which I was brought up, but by the age of thirty-four I had drifted far from God. An addicted smoker (forty a day), and hiding my loneliness through busyness, I was shocked when a doctor was not able to assure me that I did not have throat cancer. Further examination was needed.
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!”
I came to real faith in Jesus through two seventeen year old pupils. They were members of my Latin class at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown. It was a Damascus road conversion.
St Andrew’s is an Anglican independent school and at that time was blessed by a wonderful chaplain, Hylton Knowles. Each class in the school had two periods a week of Divinity – what some schools would call Religious Education. The chaplain immediately gave me a class of fourteen year-olds to teach.
I was clueless. I can remember in one lesson crying out to God for help – the best thing I could have done….