If you grew up in a Christian home, chances are you were taught to “defend” your faith from a young age. You learned how to argue against the Big Bang theory and lay out the points about the likelihood of one man fulfilling hundreds of prophesies as Jesus did.
And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that—knowing why you believe what you believe is a great thing. Apologetics are often important.
But I noticed a trend a few years ago that lately seems to be running rampant, especially in social media. Whenever Christians find intellectual or even scientific arguments that support our faith, we start running around like a kid on a Christmas waking everybody up to open these contemplative presents.
We gather our arguments and reasons and begin shouting that we have proved Christianity. We are right, you are wrong, nah nah nah naa naa nah na! Take that atheist, Buddhist, skeptic, and anyone else who doesn’t agree with us.
Then we wonder why people don’t take our faith seriously.
When mainstream Christianity discovered the second law of thermodynamics (entropy, that things move from order to disorder) we got out our bullhorns, hit the blogs, and painted the town red with our decided victory over evolution. How, if things move from order to chaos could a well-developed and orderly universe come into existence from some single celled amoeba? It doesn’t make sense. Therefore evolution doesn’t make sense. Therefore we are smart and they are dumb. We are right and they are wrong.
It was a compelling point, and thus it became a “proof.” The same thing happened with the ontological argument, the finely tuned universe, intelligent design theory, the moral law and any number of other arguments or points that could be used to support our faith.
We don’t just do it with science. We do it with history, philosophy and logic. If a point could possibly be made in our favor, we rally the troops and say it proves God’s existence.
Many of these points have validity. They do support the faith. When used correctly, there are many compelling intellectual arguments for the existence of God. They are valuable tools in defending our faith as they show that our faith isn’t blind, but that there is substance to support it. Understanding these arguments can give us a valuable sense of confidence and assurance in what we believe. It’s good to know them.
But it doesn’t make them proof.
We toss around the word “proof” wildly and often inaccurately, and it’s hurting our arguments. There is a difference between a compelling argument and a proof. We need to realize what we have and what we don’t have. It’s not a proof. It’s an argument. It’s a case. It’s support.
When you say proof and give someone anything less than 100 percent undeniable evidence that cannot be refuted under any circumstances, it’s not proof. When you call something proof and then offer a bill of goods instead we are insulting the intelligence of everyone else because we overstated our case.
If the argument can be made and there are still honest atheists who don’t believe because they don’t see the evidence, then what you have is not proof. Inarguably, unquestionably, if it is proof then it is rock solid and irrefutable. We need to stop saying we’ve found “proof” that God exists. We need to stop slapping it on blogs and using it as a title for YouTube videos. When we are trying to support what we believe, it’s important for us to not exaggerate the power of our point.
After Jesus was crucified and buried Mary and some of the other women went to the tomb to wrap His body in spices. When they arrived they discovered an empty tomb. If they ran back to the disciples and said, “We have proof Jesus is alive” they would be wrong. Not in their conclusion but in their assertion. They didn’t have proof. They had evidence.
When Jesus appeared to Thomas and Thomas touched the wounds on Jesus’s body, that’s proof. For Thomas, it was undeniable evidence that Jesus was alive. If we believe that the Bible is true and accurate then Thomas’s experience would be strong evidence for us, as well. However, if someone rejected the authority or the reliability of the Bible then Thomas’s story is just a story.
There is so much evidence to support what we believe that we can have confidence and certainty in our relationship with God. We don’t need to call it proof. We can admit that while there are many things about God that we may never be able to definitively “prove.” What we might find if we do so is that intellectual honesty allows us to come across as less judgmental and superior and more honest and real. What we might just find is that if we stop trying to oversell our case that people are more open to hear it.
When we try to prove God we are arguing to be right. We turn a relationship with Jesus into an intellectual debate. But we aren’t Christians because we are right and can prove it. We are Christians because we follow Jesus.
Jesus never said “They shall know we are Christians by our proof,” but by our love. He says the greatest commandment is to love. The greatest thing we can do is love. Perhaps we put too much time and energy into trying to be right and not enough into simply speaking the truth in love and loving the people we speak to.
There is no greater evidence of the existence of God than to see His character reflected in the lives of His people. The greatest support we have to defend our faith is not science, reason, history or philosophy. The greatest evidence for God is the transformed life of His people.
When we care for the hurting, defend the defenseless, love our enemies and are repay cruelty with kindness; when we treat others, even those who disagree with us, are hostile towards us or who do things we believe are wrong with love, we give all the evidence needed. Those who are genuinely looking will be won less by our arguments and more by our attitudes.
Tyler Edwards is a pastor, author, and husband. He currently works as the Discipleship Pastor of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is passionate about introducing people to and helping them grow in the Gospel. He is the author of Zombie Church: breathing life back into the body of Christ. You can find more of his work on Facebook or you can follow him on Twitter @tedwardsccc.