Utilizing Evidence

I was making my morning blog rounds and came across a stirring exchange in the meta of a post at Expository Thoughts. The subject has to do with an evidentialist approach to apologetic methodology contrasted with a presuppositional approach, and specifically on the use of evidence in an apologetic encounter. Apologetic methodology is a subject I have written on now and again here at my blog, so I was compelled to leave a comment. Because the question concerning the proper use of evidence when engaging unbelievers is an important one for a Christian to consider, I thought I would cut and paste those comments here for the folks who may not normally stop by the ET blog.

I present them here only slightly modified:

As a presuppositionalist in my approach to apologetics and evangelism, I think the employment of evidence is sometimes a good thing. My presuppositional brethren should not be afraid to use evidence, and regrettably, in my opinion some believe they should avoid the use of evidence all together. That in my mind is disarming yourself of a potential “weapon” in our warfare (2 Cor. 10:1-5).

In order to utilize evidence appropriately, it may be helpful to examine where I think evidentialists fail in their use during an apologetic encounter. There are three broad misconceptions concerning evidence:

First, it is wrongly assumed evidence is self-defining and authoritative within itself apart from special revelation informing us. Evidentialists operate from the notion that all men, believer or non-believer, will look at the same evidence and draw the same conclusions. Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason often raises this issue about evidence when he objects to a presuppositional approach. Yet he assumes evidence is self-defining so that any one can evaluate it in the same fashion.

Second, it is wrongly assumed all men, believer and non-believer, will all interpret and draw the same conclusions about the evidence in pretty much the same way. If the evidence is already self-defining and authoritative in and of itself, then all men must have the same ability to understand it. To suggest men must have special revelation to perceive the world correctly is just irrational argues the evidentialist, because it is saying no one would be able to function anywhere in the world without the special knowledge of God, and we know people have functioned with out that special knowledge for generations.

Then third, there is an overall failure to take into consideration the impact man’s fallen sin nature has on his ability to rationalize and interpret evidence in the world, along with a misunderstanding concerning the necessity of divine regeneration to free man’s mind to think rightly. The evidentialist assumes all men, regardless if whether or not they are unregenerate, will look at all the evidence objectively and draw similar conclusions. However, the Bible tells us unregenerate men look at the evidence, but the conclusions they draw are designed to justify his rebellion against God’s sovereign authority.

A recent example is atheist Anthony Flew who became a “theist” with a little “t” a few years back (or so he says). He finds the advancement of DNA research to be a compelling argument against evolutionary descent with modification, and has allegedly abandoned his total commitment to atheism and is warm to ID arguments. The various Christian evidentialists like Flew’s friend, Gary Habermas, see his philosophical move as a wonderful example of open mindedness that follows the evidence where ever it leads. Yet, Flew is still very much opposed to God, especially as He is revealed in scripture and in Christ. In reality, Flew is in more danger now because he will be held accountable and judged for rejecting greater knowledge about God.

Now, with that stated, evidence, in spite of its short comings, if utilized correctly by the Christian through the means of a divinely inspired world view, can be an effective tool. This is particularly true when we press the unbeliever to justify his interpretation of the evidence according to the constructs of his chosen world view rooted in unbelief and rebellion against God. So for instance, the atheist, as with all atheists, has to provide a cogent, logic explanation as to how complex, self replicating biological lifeforms can come to even exist all on their own in what the atheist claims is a purely natural, materialistic world. Because, let’s be honest, the evidence does not justify such a view of reality.


4 thoughts on “Utilizing Evidence

  1. Fred,I think you have nailed it. Factual claims about the Christian faith have no value in and of themselves. They require proper interpretation. Furthermore, we might say they require divine illumination. Thus, both special revelation and regeneration are the essential components to secure the truth of Christianity for the unbeliever.

  2. Yes, the trouble is that evidence is not self-interpreting, and thus cannot be the be-all and end-all. Plus, being fallen, fallen man rebelliously rejects that evidence that does point unequivocally to the truth of God's revelation (i.e. the historical certainty of the resurrection).

  3. HH,You may get a kick out of the comments by a Calvinist evidentialist over at that post I linked above. He makes some good points. Not that I agree with him, but his objections help to refine my terminology with a bit more precision. Fred

  4. Pingback: Articles on Apologetics and Evangelism | hipandthigh

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