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Only Christians are interested in evidence

In our blog post two weeks ago I drew attention to these words in John’s gospel: Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NIV)

Christian faith is not a leap in the dark; it is based on evidence.

This week, one further comment: this emphasis on evidence is a Christian distinctive. You will not find it, in the same way, in other world religions.

I discovered this some time ago when, as part of preparing some teaching, I surveyed websites speaking for the major world religions. What reasons did they give why I should believe their particular take on things? There was plenty about sacred writings and moral codes, but I could not find much presentation of evidence. What little there was (and there was a little) seemed as much about attacking Christianity as about reasoning for their own faith. Giving reasons for their claims just isn’t where the interest lies.

The contrast with Christianity is striking. The whole New Testament is constantly pointing us to evidence for the reality of Jesus’ life and mighty deeds, and the reasons for believing He is the Son of God. Over the years a great deal of fine literature has been produced by some great Christian thinkers on “apologetics” — reasons for our faith. Here in Cambridge our friends at Christian Heritage run a whole year’s full-time course in this very subject.

Why the difference of approach? Two suggestions:

1. The evidence itself is lacking for those other religions.

2. Those other religions can make or hold adherents by other means: coercion, family or social pressure, intimidation or even violence. So they don’t feel the need to use reasoned argument. (Or, putting it the other way round, one could suggest they use these methods because they don’t have the arguments!)

For Christianity, the evidence is very strong – that’s why real Christianity does not need to (and should never) use anything other than peaceful, reasoned arguments in our presentation of our message. We should be like Paul who, in the synagogue at Ephesus, spoke boldly there for about three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God (Acts 18:8).

So a question for Christians to ask friends of other faiths (courteously I hope): “Can you say why you believe what you do? And would you be willing for me to tell you why I believe what I do?”

We continue following John’s eyewitness account of Jesus, Sunday mornings at 10.00 and 11.30.

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