As an ex-atheist, I have the unique vantage point necessary to say this: popular Christianity in America has failed atheists and has failed the rational seeker.
Now, I want to say that this will likely be a very cutting post, but I do mean this from a place of love, saying “We need to be better,” for our own sakes, for the sake of those who don’t personally know Christ, and for Jesus’s sake as well.
Okay, let’s dive into what I really mean.
I think that it should be a source of personal shame for us as Christians (temporary, of course) that I, as an atheist looking in – would be able to believe such a ludicrous statement as “Christianity has no basis in rational thought whatsoever.” And yet, I did.
Granted, if I had been a little more intellectually honest, I should have explored the viewpoints of the opposing side and hear their arguments for what they believe.
But, here’s the thing:
I thought that there were none. I thought that Christianity genuinely had no factual basis or any sort of evidential support whatsoever. This is the view of Christianity seen from those who have no experience with the church. I saw Christianity as something that people only believed because they got indoctrinated as children, or because it was the cultural thing to do.
This perception NEEDS to change.
Okay, maybe I came on a little strong there. But I genuinely think that this is a bona fide real problem that is affecting our witness to those around us, and which largely has the power to make or break the believability of Christianity as a whole.
The believability of Christianity is pretty damn important.
Before I continue, let me define Christianity, as its rational belief components:
- A God exists who created the universe
- This God interacts with his creation and revealed his nature to people through interactions with people, which were recorded through Scripture.
- Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived among us, and spent 3 years teaching about the Kingdom of God, performing miracles, and making divine claims about himself.
- He then was crucified by the Romans, died, and was buried in Joseph’s tomb.
- On the third day, according to the Scriptures, he rose from the dead.
- After his resurrection, he appeared to many witnesses (One of the times had over 500 witnesses) who he commissioned to be witnesses of the things they had seen and heard.
- These witnesses wrote divinely inspired Scripture as well.
- The Bible was formed as a compilation of divinely inspired Scripture, and is reliable, being the very word of God.
Okay, now I’m gonna ask a tough question. How many times have you ever heard any of these things proved to you?
Then why did you believe?
Most of us will admit that we came to Christ for emotional reasons or that we were simply raised believing this. Rarely do people offer rational, logical, scientific, historical evidence for why we believe.
Well, is there any wonder we think it’s a marvel when atheists come to Christ??
Now, I didn’t say of this to get you to doubt your faith. I said this to get you to investigate. To find reasons why you believe what you do. (Called Apologetics). And to be able to carry out the command of the Holy Spirit through Peter:
1 Peter 3:15-16 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you why you have this hope. Our go-to answer to this is testimony. Unfortunately, testimony, while a good tool, is not an effective way to convince atheists that something that they think is false is actually true.
Everyone has a testimony. Cultists have testimonies. Buddhists have testimonies. Muslims have testimonies. Heck, even atheists have testimonies.
What makes Christianity different?
Not that it works for you. Not that it fixes your life and makes you happier. Not that it gives you peace in your heart.
Christianity is different because it’s true. Now we just gotta prove it.
If that rubs you the wrong way, read this: (Truth is Controversial. So was Jesus).
There is a significant biblical case against the idea of believing with no proof. God knows that belief doesn’t happen without adequate proof.
The easiest way to prove that is to look at the word itself.
The Greek word translated as “Faith” in our Bibles is “Pistos.”
The easiest way to define Pistos is “Trustworthy.” If you have a friend who you can trust with a big secret, they are a Pistos friend. You have Pistos every time you sit in a chair – that the chair’s not gonna immediately crumble beneath you. When you’re trying to climb a rickety ladder that looks like it could fall apart at any second, the ladder lacks Pistos. You have Pistos in your credit card company that when you pay your monthly statement. You have faith that the payment’s gonna go through.
What we normally call Faith – is actually something that you have a reason to trust.
What does it mean to have Pistos (Faith) in God, then?
Well, it means that you have a reason to trust him! He’s proved himself trustworthy, since he keeps all his promises and cannot lie.
But no one ever has Pistos in something for no reason. You can’t trust something that you know literally nothing about. That’s why people are afraid of the dark! If you have no reason to trust someone, you can’t have Pistos in them. Likewise, if you have no reason to believe that someone exists, you certainly can’t trust them!
Yet God knows this, so he provides people with reasons to believe:
John 10:37-38 “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
Acts 17:2-3 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said.
Acts 18:28 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
So there are multiple different categories of proof that God offers:
- Miracles and Visions (The Gospels, Acts, John 10:37-38)
- Proving Jesus is the Messiah using the Scriptures (Acts 17:2-3, Acts 18:28)
- Jesus being the exact imprint of God’s character
- Holy Spirit empowerment to believe
And now, most lately: Scientific, Historical, and Philosophical Evidence. (Apologetics)
Okay! So, it’s not actually my intention that everyone learn apologetics.
I’m aware that Apologetics are a lot to get into – they require an affinity for knowledge and rational thought. (Which not everyone has, and I’m cool with that. God has gifted us each in different ways).
But, here’s my call to action for us: If you can, do so. Even if it won’t come naturally to you.
If you can, let the reasons you offer for believing in Jesus be ones that resonate with your audience. (For atheists, it is apologetics. For others, it may be testimony).
Regardless, this is useful to have in your toolkit. In my opinion, Apologetics makes people a lot less likely to fall away from following Christ when they hit difficult times. There have been times in my life so agonizingly awful that the only thing that kept me going and believing in Jesus were the apologetic arguments I knew – I knew he was real, and I knew Christianity was the truth. That’s what got me through that season.
Let’s circle back and end this where we started:
Let’s give atheists and the world a reason to believe that our faith is a rational, reasonable faith. We can give our beliefs credibility by presenting tangible, reasonable proof that our claims are true. That the gospel is true. That Jesus is who he says he is.
I said earlier that the believability of Christianity is crucial.
Salvation comes through faith and trust in Jesus Christ as king over our lives, and belief that God raised him from the dead. God doesn’t expect any of us to believe without proof.
That’s why we need apologetics.
Love you all,
PS: Leave a comment down below if you have any requests for my next couple posts! I’m open to new options.
5 thoughts on “Blind Faith is Not Biblical – We Need Truth and We Need Proof”
Good post, Michael, resonated with me. I definitely need to get more familiar with apologetics. Working on it. I wouldn’t know where to begin to witness to an atheist, though Ive tried occasionally when Ive gotten to know them. And i dont often so much as meet them. The hardest and longest conversation i ever had about God was with an existentialist. It’s like standing before Pontius Pilot, him asking Jesus, What is truth? They dont have the vaguest idea, its warped, and frustrating to appeal to them though they say they believe in reason. But Pontius recognized Jesus’ innocence. That’s something. The Greeks recognized an “unknown god” they didn’t want to upset. Paul used that entry point. I suppose we have to take an interest in the people we’re witnessing to, to know them better to begin with, to learn what do they want, where is a good starting point from where they’re at. Proof though? I dont know if theres enough proof to satisfy some. But my personal experience one cant deny, I was saturated by sin, stuck, hopeless, and God gave me the strength to change, and now Im not sinning in the ways I used to, and not adding other kinds of sins in their place. And it may be that we refuse to prove Noah’s Ark, for instance, as Im not sure we can, but let us reason about sin, right and wrong, and consequences, and the difficulty if not impossibility for a man to change and stop sinning, apart from God’s grace and power working through a willing man who believes. Someone said to me once, you’re crazy, you’re an idiot, God doesn’t exist, sin is a myth, it’s not real. Now, if someone ever read the Bible and came back to me and said, nothing whatsoever in this book is correct, every single sentence is a lie… I dont see how I could argue truth with them. Are you telling me you found not one piece of wisdom? Some deny all. I could find some wisdom in any religious book on the planet, I have read parts of many of these books. But they’re not of God. This person who denies all wants nothing – but only to laugh at, scorn and deride me. Not everyone is ready to hear God’s Word, or it is like He says, dont give pearls to swine, or good things to dogs, or they might trample it, then turn and tear you to pieces. Some people are perhaps ready, and if they seem reasonable and not just trying to trap you or make you out to be a fool to flatter themselves, maybe they can be reasoned with. Interested to see what you write further on this.
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Yeah dude, thanks for your comment! I think that we definitely have to define what we mean by “proof.” A lot of what we use to prove God’s existence is rational arguments that can be considered definitive proof, but with Jesus’s resurrection and eyewitness testimony, Christianity exploding in the very place where it would have its worst persecutors, Saul the Pharisee giving up his life of religion and prestige in Judaism to preach the faith he tried to destroy, women being the first to discover the empty tomb (in the 1st century, women were considered worthless witnesses. You wouldn’t start a fake religion on the testimony of women.) – these things are pieces of evidence, but there’s no scientific or rational way to piece them together.
Instead, we have to use something known as abductive reasoning, also known as “inference to the best explanation.” It’s the same form of reasoning detectives use when they’re trying to figure out if a case is a homicide or jurors use when they try to determine if someone is guilty or innocent. In other words, what’s the best explanation for all these pieces of evidence? Is it that Jesus rose from the dead? His body stolen? He never died? Etc.
The typical standard of proof for abductive reasoning is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” I didn’t mention, though “proof without a possible doubt.” That is impossible for abductive reasoning – one can doubt anything, the moon landing if you want to!
I definitely agree that there are some who want proof beyond a possible doubt, but I think that’s an unrealistic expectation for people to have. God’s laid out a court case for his existence, you have all the evidence you are gonna get for now, and you have to make a decision – does he exist, or doesn’t he?
Atheists usually need to have a conversation with themselves: “How much proof is enough proof?” I had this conversation with myself when God was revealing his existence to me but I didn’t want to believe in him.
Once again, thank you so much for your comment. One caveat to everything I just said, though, is that none can come to the Father unless they’re being drawn by him. That all we can do with giving apologetic arguments are planting seeds. God chooses whether or not they sprout – and, depending on if your theology is Arminian, people can kill those seeds if they like. However, ultimately, the bottom line is not our knowledge or persuasiveness. The bottom line is God’s spirit and God’s word. No one can be convicted of sin by scientific arguments. No one can become aware of their need for forgiveness through abductive reasoning. You can be convicted, as I was, by the unfailing, long-suffering, radically sacrificial, COMPLETELY UNDESERVED love of God.
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Awesome! Thanks for your reply and time. I’ve got much to learn. The Bible also doesn’t make many of God’s own people in it look good. Some would counter the Bible and say its just a bunch of stories, on how to be good, like these people in the Bible, they’ll say. What? No. I question whether theyve actually read the Bible. The bible continually points out that no one is good, they all fall short of God’s glory, thus showing their need for God and his redemption plan through Jesus. Jesus’s own disciples doubted, such as Thomas; or denied knowing Jesus, in the case of Peter. Solomon (occult), David (murderer/adultery), Noah (drunk, naked), Samson (the first meat head jock lol), Rahab (prostitute). Saul/Paul persecuted/murdered some earliest Jewish-Christians, does that make him a reliable witness (a murderer) in court? Not in man’s tradition. Great men and women of the bible are most usually not without serious flaws and sins. Yet, they believed God, their faith counted by God as righteous. So ive wondered, how do i become more righteous than the pharasees? Believe God, that Im not righteous by works of the law at all, but through His grace by faith in Christ whom He sent.
Perhaps i can ask your view on this. I do get confused with theology now and again. How does one know who to believe on deeper, meatier things? I really hit a wall when deciding to go to seminary and take on significant debt or not. 15-30k to be in debt, in order to serve, but where no mission org or church in their right mind would send someone in that kind of debt. And all the while, the bible says, you have no need for man to teach you, everything you need to know is here and the spirit will teach you. But how many church leaders or missionaries today actually believe that completely? Practically none, it seems to me, by their own example. Ive heard wonderful stories from visiting missionaries, they say, we lost a brother and needed one and a man stood up and asked if we’d take him. And We did. But now, when ive asked to be taken by any of these orgs, they say, no, go to a seminary first then come see us. If i grew up in a certain denomination, theyll send you to their own university, which teaches such and such particular theology. Most students seem to trust their own church denom’s affiliate seminary, so they accept whatever is taught. If they are calvinist, they teach calvin. If theyre arminian, they teach that. And so there are graduates from many seminaries who believe and teach a wide variety of theology. Other less denom affiliated seminaries teach a wide variety of theology and the student is to decide. Some choose perhaps a middle position. This all seems very problematic. Searching for a church body that follows a biblical mandate that raises up and equips disciples and leaders and missionaries is like searching for a needle in a haystack. I hear of it being done, an understudy to a pastor mentoring him becoming a pastor, or a young man or woman becoming a missionary taken by a mission org without seminary education beforehand. It just seems funny, hiw do you decide to go to a seminary to learn theology, if beforehand you dont know much of it to be able to decide whats heretical when you hear it?
I agree. The system that we have going on resembles the world’s far more than it does the biblical way of sending missionaries. (Church in Antioch led by the Spirit to send Paul and Barnabas. Apollos is literally just a smart, well educated dude who decides to start street preaching the baptism of John and is taught more about Christ later lol). I like and agree with your point on the Bible being full of flawed individuals – my interpretation? It’s accurately reporting what really happened and providing images and frameworks of how flawed humanity can relate to a perfect God.
I’m sorry that you have this catch-22 situation going on. I’m sure it must be annoying and disheartening to find that there is no visible way to take a path to serve. I’m not sure if I have any right answers, though my advice would be to find a sending agency that doesn’t focus on seminary degrees rather than incur that much debt. I might suggest Frontiers, an organization that sends people out to Muslim countries that are 95+% unreached. They have an excellent philosophy (missionaries are in charge of making decision in the field) and are biblically spot on in terms of teaching, in my experience.
Now, for theology – I honestly don’t really have the credentials to authoritatively answer this question. I’ve been a Christian at this point for less than three years, and, though I understand both Calvinism and Arminianism and know a couple of the passages that point either way (Romans 9, Eph 1, entire book of Hebrews, etc.), I wouldn’t say I know enough to be authoritative.
I will say, though, that I lean towards Arminianism because I don’t know how Calvinism can answer this question: if God desires all to be saved, and has complete control over man’s salvation, why doesn’t he predestine all to be saved?
Scripture is confusing sometimes. Sometimes, I find myself thinking that the best explanation for all of this is that the apostles just disagreed on their theology, so the Bible ends up looking schizophrenic. Yet, I’m aware this idea is totally heretical – I just want you to see that I struggle with theology too, you’re not the only one. 🙂
As for heresy, the best way to identify a fake hundred dollar bill is to know the genuine article like the back of your hand. Same with biblical teaching, which mainly comes from the epistles (letters).
I’ll pray for you dude, especially in you finding a missions agency.
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Thank you very much. Michael, is it? Only 3 years a christian? You seem to have gained so much knowledge quickly, and confidently write. Stay the course, brother. Ive been a christian 15 years, or rather on a date i returned to the Christianity of my youth and accepted and professed christ and being baptised, who i dont think i knew before then. But Lord knows Ive been obstinate, especially those first several years. I moved in slow motion throughout my 20s, I know it. But that does mean i encourage more. Because God’s patience was great, is great, Im determined to have great patience as well. Its a song lyric from M Ward, says, “The hardest thing in the world to do is to find somebody who believes in you.” They are few and far between, so I want to be that person; I believe God will work and do what he promises, and helping people believe Him, in a way, I’m believing in them to believe in Him.
I think I lean towards arminianism myself. The calvinist emphasis on God’s foreknowing and election, should also emphasize equally however, that man doesn’t know for certain whos elected or foreknown. They seem quick perhaps to judge you saved or damned if you dont repent the first time they speak to you. Thats an exaggeration, Im sure, but it seems like what they surmise. Some report i read said it takes an average of 7 times someone hearing the gospel or receiving a seed to come to repent and accept Jesus as Lord. Some more then, some less, and some not at all. So how do they lean on that? I dont know. I think God knows, being omniscient and omnipresent and not bound by time, and yet he reasons with everyone to reconciliation. He’s true to his Word. Why cant all these things said be equally true. He does wish all to be saved, and he also knows who wont. The Bible says God had much patience with Jezabel, but she would not repent. He tried, but he may have known the outcome. So nobody will be in front of Jesus at judgement and say be didnt reach out to them. Yes he did. Nevertheless and i dont claim to know why or how some reject him, and He still uses these to help reconcile to him the ones who will accept him, because he says he uses some for common and some for royal use, and nothing goes to waste, all things are used for good to them who love God according to his will. It seems to me like when we say… Grace Alone. By faith alone. Through Christ alone. And not by works, but faith without works is dead. That’s a lot of alones. 100% and 100% and 100%… = 100%? lol Its a mystery, like the trinity, we dont know how it all works. Yet we know its all by God and not us; even so man writes many books and theories on it, and has in some eras demanded men accept these as doctrine or be put to death as heretics. Oh but arent they heretics who force by the sword men to believe and or then murder them? Hypocrisy, just like Pharasees.
The calvinist seem to take too much comfort in, as well they preach it, If I dont go, someone else will, so all is well regardless. Which deemphasizes the urgency in and of the gospel to me; the time is now, study, pray, souls are at stake, be diligent, go now. And yet, whether arminian or calvinist or any other, few actually go and preach the gospel to all nations and people and tongues. The workers remain few. I wonder which of these raises more disciple makers, disciples and pastors and missionaries and church planters.
But yes, my frustration has been, to mind, that Im not taken seriously. Im taking it day by day, and eager to forgive. Oh you think God wants you to be a missionary? Why do you think that? Oh you think this weekly bible study Isn’t biblical discipleship? Dont you know that you dont Have to do anything? But you’re not anointed that I should teach you.
Say what?! Who annoints, God or man? Should I be anointed before you disciple me to make disciples? Ugh, such ignorance is hard to handle.
And neither do they help point me in any direction nor help articulate what is on my heart. And I say, who else is knocking on your door asking for discipleship, or mentorship, or to become a missionary? None? Well, here I am, and you’re not answering. Why is that? Happy enough just having me stack chairs and weed the church playground or run the AV. Pastor id known for years, when i had met to talk some things out, had the gall to say, Well, I dont know your heart but…
You’re kidding me, I thought to myself? How do you not know me by now, I wear my heart on my sleeve, Im an open book, Im here for services, and bible studies, and home groups, volunteer, take notes, im there when im needed, and stand in for the bible study leader when hes out – though hes taught me nothing about preparing to teach a bible study, and here are my fruits, look behind me a trail of sins put to death by the spirit; you can see and hear cant you? Once in a while they may agree, You’re right, this isnt discipleship or mentorship as it should be, but neither do they do anything differently or present it to the congregation. One day, God will make me know what to do and say, and I will be bold and do it. For now I feel like Im wandering in the desert, and Im ok with that, at least Im alive!
Ive seen it. If i were to go to a church and declare Im a missionary, they’d receive me like they do others who say they’re missionaries, or evangelists, apostles, or prophets. I really dont like people calling themselves by titles, it seems profane. Im just a brother, a fellow servant, call me by my first name. But if i say Im just me, a humble Christian wanting to do the will of my father and serve him by serving others in the church, without any title, they ignore me. Its as if they say, come back when you have credentials and papers and persons speaking on your behalf. So i have all but come to the conclusion that many churches are as dead in faith, they dont have fruit of their own. They hire pastors and missionaries and church planters and teachers and worship leaders and councilors and even charismatic elders who pitch tithing, to come to them and work for a wage, and then call those their own as if they produced them. But they did not. And i feel bad for saying this, not wanting to come against the church or God’s people. I hold me tongue and submit to authority. And yet I also read Paul saying as much, it hurts him to tell the churches theyre not doing as well as they ought, they’re not loving each other like brothers as Jesus commands, not giving their all and whole hearts, but he is compelled to speak up for their good, knowing it’s right.
Why doesn’t God predestine all? I dont know, who but God knows. So it cant very well be taught; what is taught but what man doesn’t intimately know? But we know his will and purpose is to save and reconcile his lost children, and only the children who respond to his call are his. So im his, your his, many are and can rest in that. Those who love him, will love him. Those who dont love him, will hate him. Nobody ignores God, they’re with him or against him. We can’t always tell the difference, but we should be better at discerning it. Those who obey the Lord, love him. Those who disobey his commands, do not. If im willing to do all he commands and serve, but am put off in a church, what should I do? Prayerfully seek another church, I guess. The ones ive gone to of late, were not even as solid as the one i was at. lol They seem more liberal and loose, lots of grace but less obedience, teaching a bit of mysticism and chasing after signs and wonders if you ask me.
Its a strange world. I just cling to God as best I can, and dont know as much as I sometimes think, Im sure. Stay the course, keep looking up and forward, keep striving, dont be discouraged, dont cease doing good.
Any way, Ive enjoyed your candid writing, keep it up. Thanks again.