How would you answer someone who says: “The Bible is corrupt. It’s been changed over the years.” Or someone who claims that Jesus never existed. Or someone who says that Christianity is a whole load of rubbish. I have a strong suspicion that many of us are not able to defend our faith. To provide evidence for it. Yet that is exactly what 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to do.
Instead, exalt the Messiah as Lord in your lives. Always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you to explain the hope you have. (ISV)
Many years ago, as a schoolmaster and a young Christian, I taught several classes of teenagers Divinity (or Religious Education, as some schools call it). This was one lesson where pupils felt free to argue with the teacher, sometimes vociferously.
“Prove that Jesus ever lived” was the challenge one day.
I was extremely flustered. I had no idea how to answer.
How would you have responded?
Then I came across Josh McDowell’s classic work, Evidence that Demands a Verdict. There I discovered that there is no such thing as “proof” in History. What we call “scientific proof” depends on being able to repeat an experiment with the same results occurring every time. For instance, we can boil water at sea level and ascertain that it will always boil at 100° Celsius.
But we cannot repeat events that have occurred in the past. Caesar was assassinated only once.
What we do have is evidence. But that is very different from proof.
So in later years when pupils issued the same challenge, I responded by saying: “Well, I can’t. But you can’t prove that J. F. Kennedy lived either.”This would really wind them up, and they would argue vehemently that they could.
“Well, there’s film of him!”
“Film can be faked. How many of you don’t believe that Apollo 11 landed on the moon?”
There were usually three in every class.
“Well, the flag waved in the breeze, and there’s no air on the Moon!”
“NASA knows that. That’s why they wired the flag, and when Buzz Aldrin untwisted it to deploy it, there was an opposite reaction.”
“The video you see where the flag’s moving is because the astronaut just placed it there, and the inertia from when they let go kept it moving,” said spaceflight historian Roger Launius, of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. The astronauts also accidentally bent the horizontal rods holding the flag in place several times, creating the appearance of a rippling flag in photographs.(1)
“Buzz Aldrin was illuminated when he should have been in shadow!”
“The dust on the surface of the moon is highly reflective. And Neil Armstrong’s space suit reflected 90% of the light on it.”
“Why were there no stars in the sky?”
“If they had not used a very fast exposure for the photograph, all we would see is glare from the highly reflective moondust.
“And if Apollo 11 didn’t land on the moon, what about 12, 14 and the others? They faked it six times? I think the evidence is overwhelming; Apollo 11 landed on the moon.”
Lunar Lander Apollo 15 (public domain)
“Of course the evidence for J. F. Kennedy is also overwhelming. But that’s the point – it’s evidence, not proof.”
The beautiful thing about evidence is that we cannot force someone to believe it if they don’t want to. It was Ravi Zacharias, I think, who said that God has given us enough evidence to believe, but not so much that we have no choice. Proof would give us no choice.
That would be manipulation.
And God does not manipulate.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version® Release 2.0. Copyright © 1996–2011 by the ISV Foundation. Used by permission of Davidson Press, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY.
(1) Quoted from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/07/photogalleries/apollo-moon-landing-hoax-pictures/index.html (accessed 21 July 2016). For a full discussion of the evidence see this website. In addition, NASA released photos in 2009 taken by their LRO of the Apollo 17 site, showing clearly the descent stage of the lunar lander. In spite of the evidence, approximately 20% of the American public do not believe the U.S.A. landed on the moon. This simply reinforces the fact that no one can be forced to believe evidence against their will.