In today’s world, the value of Christian Evidences is under attack from two opposite directions. For the most part the secular world simply ignores the claims of Christianity. The assumption prevails that Christianity, like all other religions, is a relic from the unenlightened past that hangs on particularly among the uneducated, who are unable or unwilling to face the sober reality that there is no god, no individual human life beyond the grave and no ultimate purpose or meaning in the universe beyond what we create for ourselves. So-called “evidences” for faith are in reality nothing but rationalizations to buttress a wavering faith that cannot be supported rationally yet emotionally dare not be dropped. The most consistent secularists are quite willing to acknowledge that with the “death” of the God idea also dies any trust in our own nature as rational beings.
Nearly a century ago the secular educator, John Dewey, argued that all our truth is only our way of making adjustments to our environment; and we should not think we have arrived at any objective truth corresponding in any meaningful way to what really is. The irony of his position is that he and those who agree with him today continue to write books and have the gall to lecture the rest of us about why we ought to give up our antiquated views of what constitutes truth and how it can be arrived at.
Unfortunately in what Christians believe to be a counsel of despair, many have denied the value of evidence to support religious or Christian faith. This attack against evidence comes from those who would reduce religion (and in some cases Christianity) to a matter of feeling or, perhaps, even love with no concern about the need for truth and, therefore also, no concern about any need for evidences to Support the truth. Even some who, as Christians, are clearly committed to its objective truth claims, sometimes reject the validity and value of Christian evidence. In a sense, Christianity is reduced to a marvelous idea which can never be substantiated by evidence or an appeal to reason but is so good and helpful that we must believe it to be true.
The Biblically grounded Christian is preserved from both of these extremes. Across the millennia, however, Christian thinkers have taught with great consistency that human reason and the use of evidences have an important though carefully limited role in Christian experience and ministry. They argued, in fact, that man was created like God (Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 5:3); and this image of God included both a rational faculty (Colossians 3:10) and a capacity for fellowship with God (Ephesians 4:24). Man thus possesses naturally an innate knowledge of God and His law (Romans 2:14,15; Romans 1:19-21), not in the sense of a set of propositions within the mind at birth, but of an inner adaptability to and fitness for the knowledge of God (i.e., man’s mind is no tabula rasa but is like a violin case which just fits the instrument it was prepared to receive).
The objective evidence for the existence of God, the super-naturalness of Christianity, and the truth of Scripture is completely sufficient to lead to certainty (or to probability of a near infinite degree) for all honest unbiased minds (Romans 1:18-25; John 5:33-36; Acts 1:33; and a multitude of other pas-sages). And these evidences are to be preached in our witness to unbelievers (see Isaiah 1:18; Deuteronomy 13 and 18; and 2 Peter 3:15).
Unfortunately the minds of no man since the fall of Adam are honest and unbiased. Sin has corrupted the innate knowledge of God and has vitiated the ability of man to evaluate properly the objective evidence (1 Corinthians 1:14 and Romans chapters 1-3).
This corruption of the intellect, however, is not total. The degree to which it is destructive depends upon the closeness of the objects of knowledge to the things that are truly vital to Christianity. In the field of mathematics, for example, the natural man reasons for all practical purposes as well as the saved man (Luke 15:8). The knowledge of the existence and nature of God is tremendously more vital to the development of our spiritual life; and hence, sin vitiates the mind to a much greater degree when it attends to this object. The resurrection of Jesus, His deity, and the atonement still more vitally affect the spiritual life; hence at this point man’s mind is most darkened by sin (cf. again Romans 2:20,21 and 1 Corinthians 2:14).
Despite the effects of sin, however, the natural man often arrives at a somewhat erroneous idea of God, may know that He exists and has an eternal and infinite nature (Romans 1:20,21 and James 2:19), may know that He is to be worshiped (Acts 17:23), may know the moral law of right and wrong (Romans 2:14,15) and on some few occasions may actually know the way of salvation (Hebrews 6:4 and 2 Peter 2:21). All this is by common grace.
The ultimate unproved assumption of apologetics is that there is such a thing as truth. By truth, we mean meaningful correspondence to the standard of actuality. We have a right to assume this, because it cannot be denied (cf. Augustine to deny it is in actuality not only to affirm truth but to claim that one has it). And we test truth by showing that it is systematically coherent. It is horizontally consistent within itself and vertically fits the facts of the external world.
Truth is not something above God to which He must be brought to judgment. Truth is an aspect of God’s nature — an attribute of God. True, God always chooses to do what is in conformity with His own nature. He is always consistent with Himself because it is His eternal nature to be so.
We could begin our apologetic with God as our postulated hypothesis. If we did, we would discover, if we thought correctly, that we really would have no right to trust our reason except for the fact that God is a rational God and created us like Himself and a rational world that conforms to (is amenable to) His thought and ours.
On the other hand, if we begin with truth, we shall, if we think rightly, discover that this leads us to the conclusion that God is and the Bible is His revelation of Himself to us. This is where Lynn Gardner begins in his fine book, Christianity Stands True: A Common Sense Look at the Evidence. It represents a scripturally approved and, indeed, a divinely commanded way to carry on our witness for Christ. Unless an unbeliever’s mind has been corroded by a false philosophy, he is willing to agree that there is such a thing as truth and that it is worth pursuing.
Then, step by step, in an easily intelligible style that is both interesting and convincing, Lynn Gardner shows that many common ideas about religion and about Christianity simply do not fit the facts of the universe in which we live. If he seeks to be consistent, the non-Christian must either give up these non-Christian views or accept the truth of Christianity.
Unfortunately in our day, the church has not done an effective job of presenting unbelievers with a consistent, intelligible and interesting case for Christianity. It has not even done so to its own membership. Worst of all, it has not presented such a case to its own children. We are thus raising a generation of untaught church members — Christians, but so ill-informed they are totally unable to carry on an intelligent discussion with an unbeliever about our faith.
We can show by our life that Christian faith is worthwhile. Many unbelievers are won by it. But even more are turned off because they think Christian faith is only a delightful fantasy. It would be wonderful if there were a god who loves us and cares for us as Christianity claims, but such wishful thinking does not square with the harsh realities of the real world.
Lynn Gardner seeks to meet this challenge head-on. In simple convincing style he presents the claims of the gospel and calls the unbeliever to rethink his unexamined philosophy of life. He challenges the non-Christian to consider the facts of life and square them honestly with what he believes. He challenges the non-Christian to be consistent and to turn to a valid understanding of God, the world and man — in short to a Christian world-and-life view that is internally consistent and fits the realities of the universe about us.
In presenting this material Lynn Gardner does a remarkable job of explaining even complex problems with clarity, humor and apt illustrations that add up to a fascinating and convincing case for the truth of Christianity. Pastors, Sunday school teachers and lay persons who are concerned to meet the intellectual challenge of unbelievers will find this book invaluable. We need to be ready to give a reason for the hope within us to all those who deep down inside themselves know they need and, in fact, deeply long for the very message we Christians want to give them.
Kenneth S. Kantzer
Trinity Christian University