Thursday, March 16, 2023

Faith and Evidence


All photos courtesy of Unsplash

In many fields today, people are coming to the conclusion that decisions must be evidence-based. That is to say, they think that using intuition isn’t good enough and the fact that something seems a good idea is an insufficient reason for making important decisions that influence people’s lives or livelihoods. On the contrary, many people are keen that ours should be an evidence-based society. One of the best examples of progress in this area is in medicine. A full definition of evidence-based medicine has been offered as ‘the use of mathematical estimates of the risk of benefit and harm, derived from high-quality research on population samples, to inform clinical decision-making in the diagnosis, investigation or management of individual patients’. That’s pretty heavy, but an everyday definition might be ‘the use of the best evidence available’ in making any decisions. This then governs choices ranging from building hospitals to prescribing treatments or medicines for individual patients. 


Decisions made using these ideas of ‘best evidence’ might be different from conventional wisdom - the ideas or explanations generally accepted as true by the general public. Brave souls might stick to their guns and press for ‘evidence-based decisions’, believing that in the long run, they will be shown to be correct.  


Getting the best evidence means reading original research papers, books and other written material, or listening to presentations, etc. This is no light matter, demanding much time and effort. However, few today think that people in important positions are wasting their time doing this! 


In the same way, Christianity is also ‘evidence-based’, and Christians are people who have made important decisions about Jesus Christ based on ‘the best available evidence’ and not on mere popular opinion. They have put in the time to find the best evidence, thinking that in the long run, they will be proven true, which of course, for them takes them above and beyond time and space.


Many believe that the ‘best available evidence’ for Christianity is the New Testament, maybe as explained by others, but best read for themselves. There is plenty of evidence to show that the manuscripts involved are dependable, see for instance, the work of the late Professor Fred Bruce of Manchester University, whose book ‘The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?’ answers questions that even dyed-in-the-wool cynics might raise. 


Of course, the evidence is different from scientific evidence, which is found in peer-reviewed journals and is, by its nature, repeatable. Christian evidence comes in the form of a witness. It is not surprising that this word or its equivalent word testimony is found so often in the New Testament and was understood as people saying what they knew as witnesses in a court. Words covering this idea of witness or testimony appear over 150 times in all four gospels.


Christians believe that every one of the four gospels is necessary and that taken together, they are sufficient to give us the complete picture of Jesus Christ. Each gospel presents a selection of events in the life of Christ, with each event described from a different point of view with the aim of building up a certain picture. These pictures were taken together to give us a complete view, just as many tomographic instruments today give an overall picture of people’s bodies by putting different views together, i.e. MRI and CT scans. 


The gospel writer John at the end of his gospel said that he had selected his material from a huge record and secondly said why he wrote his gospel. First, he said that there were ‘also many other things which Jesus did’, that if he attempted to list them, ‘the world itself would not contain the books that should be written’, John 21. 25. Also ‘, many other signs . . . did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book’, but these were written in order that the readers might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that in believing they may have ‘life in his name’, John 20: 30 & 31. In writing this, he gives us an interesting insight into the purpose of the other gospel writers also. John’s gospel’s special viewpoint is Jesus as the Son of God, Matthew as the Son of David, Luke as the Son of Man and Mark as the Servant of God.


In-depth polls of people’s opinions on religion today show that while most people have a view, few base their opinion on evidence that they have looked at in depth for themselves. They simply have an agglomeration of incomplete facts, randomly collected from various sources. Few have gone back to the original documents of the New Testament and read them for themselves. We urge you to do so. If you want a free copy of the New Testament, please message me. Having a New Testament means being able to collect and judge the evidence for yourself!

Written for FTMP by a Guest Blogger


No comments

Blogger Template Created by pipdig