Scripture's Use Of Evidence In Evangelism
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The Christian faith, and our witnessing of that faith to others, is much more than just telling others of our subjective feelings about Jesus Christ. Nor is the material world in which we live an opposite of the Spiritual realities contained in our faith. It is these ideas which have led people to believe that the Gospel is somehow not as real as the everyday world in which we live, and that evolution can be true at the same time that the Gospel is true (or that the Gospel can be separated from the rest of Scripture without losing it).
The Bible itself commends the use of evidence from the world to make our case. Scripture even shows us, by example, how to confront false belief with evidence in order to make the case for Christ. Take a look at I Peter 3:15. Here sanctifying Christ as Lord in a Christian’s heart includes the readiness to make a defense for the hope that is in you. Titus 1:9 adds to this idea by telling us that this defense includes two things, the presentation of the truth (sound doctrine), as well as refuting those who contradict. In other words, God tells us that we are to challenge that which is false with the truth. Another way of putting this is that the truth of God is able to falsify that which is false. Faith is much more than a personal opinion. Faith is that which is true and which can show other ideas to be wrong.
Evidence of Christ's Resurrection
Let’s look at an example of the use of verifiable evidence to refute a falsehood as used in Scripture. There were some among the Corinthians who said that there is no resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12). How does St. Paul handle this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Let’s begin with I Corinthians 15:3. Note how Paul begins his refutation. He affirms the death and the Resurrection of Christ, and adds both at the end of verses 3 and 4, that these things took place as foretold by the Scriptures. Having presented what happened, and its unity with the testimony of Scripture, he goes into the verifiable details in verse 5.
In verse 5 St. Paul points out that the twelve Apostles all witnessed Christ alive, after His death on the Cross. In verse 6 he says that at one point over 500 people saw Him alive at the same time. Paul is stressing evidence here to say that the story of the Resurrection was not the product of a clever deception - witnesses to the fact that Jesus is physically alive are to be found everywhere. In fact, says St. Paul in verse 6, “most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.” These words are an open invitation to those who doubt Christ’s Resurrection to check with any of the hundreds of witnesses around. This all happened in the real world in which we live everyday. Christ’s Resurrection is not some sort of non-real “truth.”
The listing of physical evidence goes on in verse 7. And finally in verse 8, Paul himself says that he also saw Christ alive. Paul’s history was well known by the early church. What could have caused him to change so dramatically from a persecutor of the Church to one of the greatest in witnessing to Jesus? The obvious answer is in his claim of having seen the living Christ!
In verse 12 and following Paul then moves in to apply his arguments as a challenge against those who were saying that there is no resurrection from the dead.
Christ's Resurrection - Objective Fact
Now where would Paul have been if he had believed, as it appears that many churchmen today believe, that faith has little or no connection with the world which we see every day? How meaningful would his arguments have been if he had said that the recorded appearances of Christ were not as important to Christianity as the conviction in people’s hearts that Christ is alive (making the Resurrection a subjective feeling, rather than an objective fact)?
Scripture bases some of its main arguments on the evidence provided by the material world. Look at 2 Peter 1:16-21. Here Peter points out that the person and work of Christ is not based on the beliefs of some people about who they think He was. The Christian Gospel of who and what Jesus was and is, is a matter of what actually happened in the physical world, seen by witnesses. What happened actually happened, and no beliefs one way or the other change that. And these facts, which speak for themselves, says Peter in verses 20 and 21, verify the testimony of Scripture.
We conclude that Scripture sets a witnessing example for us that not only allows us to use evidences from the material world, but actually shows us, by example, when it is our responsibility to do so. While the truths of Christianity will outlive this present world, our faith is not so otherworldly that it is left as only a simple opinion that has little to do with this world!
Painting: Women at the empty tomb. Artist: Fra Angelico.
Copyright © 1983 Bible Science Newsletter, Pastor Paul A. Bartz. Creation Moments, Inc. PO Box 839, Foley, MN 56329 800-422-4253 www.creationmoments.com