Christians often fight an uphill battle in defending their faith for the simple reason that it’s faith that we’re defending.

The familiar apologetics slogan, “Make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15), is spot on. We have a hope (which is a result of faith), not a scientific formula that can be empirically verified.

The goal of Christian apologetics is to defend the notion that our faith is not baseless. Christianity may be unprovable, but that doesn’t make it unreasonable.

Bill Maher (a famous atheist) was recently on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and after Stephen (a practicing Catholic) joked with Bill about “returning to the church” since Bill was raised Catholic, he added that one must “admit that there are things greater than you in the universe that you do not understand.” Bill responded with: “I do admit that…but my response to that is not to make up silly stories or to believe intellectually embarrassing myths from the bronze age….[the Bible authors] were men who did not know what a germ or atom was or where the sun went at night and that’s where you’re getting your wisdom.”

Here we have it again: the increasingly common ignorance of what Christianity actually is all about. Far too often non-Christians set up Christianity as a straw man, not bothering to acknowledge the fact that it’s about faith in the unseen, which by its very nature is unprovable!

There’s a reason that the Bible never attempts to prove God’s existence. The authors knew it would be wasted ink to do so. In a way it’s “intellectually embarrassing” to persistently taunt a worldview that’s driven by faith with the expectation that it will somehow change its nature and submit to the standards of empiricism.

Naturalists seem to forget that the Bible was not meant to be “scientific” in the strictest sense, and those parts that do not align with the discoveries of modern science in no way negates its validity. There are many mediums of truth. For instance, there are two Creation accounts in Genesis (1:1-2:3 and 2:4-2:25), but they can both be seen as valid because they describe the Creation event from different angles. They are like a caricature and a photograph of the same person: different, but not contradictory.

The message of the Bible is primarily spiritual, and that’s why science can never disprove Christianity because it attests to a reality that science can’t touch. The Bible is called a “revelation” because we could never know it without an external, supernatural “revealer” (see Rom. 11:33-34; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26).

And here’s the first hurdle for naturalists. They’d ask: “Oh, but how do you know that God is the one who revealed it? How do you know it wasn’t made up? What proof do you have for your claims?”

Now, of course many Christians believe in Christianity “just because,” but this worldview was never meant to be fideistic (believed by blind faith). It may be primarily built on the unseen (supernaturalism; 2 Cor. 4:17-18), but it also insists that the unseen has been manifested in the seen (revelation; 1 John 1:1-3). To put it differently, Christians trust that the historical accounts of supernatural occurrences (written in the Bible) are reliable.

So to disbelieve supernaturalism is to automatically discredit the historical accounts of the Bible (there should be no surprise there).

That’s why the Apostle Peter told his readers to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you,” not to “make a defense that’s empirically provable” or to “make a defense that proves the reality of the supernatural.”

And for some reason,”faith” is often equated with “wishful-thinking.” I don’t know where this notion came from but it’s certainly not an accurate picture of faith. Wishful thinking is what motivates one to hope their lottery ticket is a winner or to hope for an open parking spot at the mall on Black Friday. Faith, though, is an assurance of what is unseen/unprovable based on the trustworthiness of a given revelation.

Hebrews illustrates: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen….By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible….And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:1, 3-4, 6).

Faith requires revelation (Rom. 10:14), and yet it acts independently from it (Heb. 4:2). In other words, to experience revelation is not to have faith. Seeing is not necessarily believing (Matt. 28:17; John 6:36; Rom. 8:24b). So for naturalists to demand “proof” of Christianity’s claims in the sense that such proof would convince them of its truth is akin to expecting the impossible (which is ironic, since faith allows the impossible to become possible; Matt. 19:26).

So we are at an impasse. Supernaturalism and naturalism stand in direct contradiction. What do we do?

Naturalists, acknowledge it and move on.

Christians, acknowledge it and move on.

No compromise can be found, and so we have a standoff. What matters is that we know what we believe and continue to refine it based on new evidence and honest thought.

Perhaps it’s not too bold to suggest that, regardless of your worldview, humility should be exercised when friction arises, for, in case we’ve forgotten, we’re all human. But if there is one thing that naturalists must consider, it is that Christianity is not intellectual suicide, for faith in God is not unreasonable. And if there is one thing that Christians must acknowledge, it is that scientific inquiry is not the end of spirituality.

With that being said, I find another reason to be a theist, for this worldview allows something that naturalism cannot, and that is that science and spirituality are seen as compatible models in explaining reality. Naturalism discounts one, while supernaturalism discounts neither.

Best to keep all avenues of truth open. That sounds reasonable.

1 COMMENT

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Many people follow the path of family tradition to arrive at a faith choice and never really think about the “proof” question. Faith is just something they do because mom and dad did it. When challenged to prove God they can’t. If they also lack a real personal relationship with Christ, their tradition crumbles. We should seek a relationship not proof because as you say, “Christianity was never meant to be proven.” Luke 16:31 says: “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

    • Yes! I love that verse because it illuminates why Christianity is such a stumbling block to those who build their life on what can be proven. Even though Jesus exhibited signs for his divinity (most notably the resurrection), it was still not enough “proof” to convince unbelievers because faith is not about proof at all.

      God bless, and thanks for the support 🙂

  2. To me the problem with Christianity is not that it cannot be proved to be true, but rather what is its effect as a system to live by.
    Modern Christianity has updated its beliefs but it still has difficulty coming to terms with western democracy. Much of its teaching is discriminatory and it encourages a livestyle that excuses wickedness.

  3. Why choose to respect a belief system that causes such confusion, misinterpretation and vagueness? The very reason you have to explain your God is the reason he is getting too much praise in my opinion.

  4. In my view Christianity is provable in both logic and experience. Not easily, of course, but it would be doable for most people. It’s an unorthodox view that it can be done in logic, but defensible, and it would not be unorthodox to claim that it can be verified in experience. It would be heretical to claim otherwise in my opinion.

    I feel it undermines the whole enterprise to say that a Christian must rely only on faith. Faith would be a path to knowledge. If we do not wish to pursue knowledge then faith is the best we will do and that’s just fine, perhaps even admirable, but it won’t wash with people like religionerased here. They will want proof and sound arguments and I don’t blame them for it. I would blame them only for not bothering to properly examine the evidence, for it is there if we look. In this area, however, most people seem to prefer their comfortable opinions to the bother of doing any proper research. It is odd, since what could be more important?

  5. so I want to make sure I understand this correctly…
    you are ok with building a world view of reality and teaching it to your kids, voting and making public decisions and impacting the lives of others around you (including of course the obligatory threatening of those who don’t believe you and actually ask for proof for your claims) with absolutely no proof nor way to prove it to be actually True? are you saying the actual provability of the Truth of your faith doesn’t actually matter?
    if that be the case, what would make your particular claim to ‘truth’ by Fideism any less true than the Muslim’s claim or the Hindu’s or the Buddhist’s or the Scientologist’s? and if what you believe isn’t actually provable, why all the efforts in the NT by the writers to support what they believe by actual history, evidence and personal testimony? and how about the whole efforts of apologists with blogs like your own ‘defending’ what you readily admit to be the indefensible?
    Nonsense I say. your position is weak and without valid proof of it’s veracity and you declare by Divine Executive Fiat that it doesn’t matter. It’s True ™ whether you can demonstrate or prove it or not, then you turn up your nose and condemn all who would be so bold as to not believe your unsupported and admitted ‘unprovable’ claims as just unwilling or unable to accept it as True by Faith alone… and of course, the threat of Eternal Torture and never ending Death in an equally unprovable place called Hell is always just under your increasingly delusional breath.
    what utter nonsense and idiocy. I once thought and believed as you do. then I woke up and realized if a claim of my home being on fire can’t be shown to be literally true, I would be an idiot to call the fire department for assistance and then my insurance company for reimbursement. if it’s True, yes… it can be proven to be true. if it can’t, then you must at least entertain the possibility that it isn’t. that is intellectual honesty and sanity.
    -KIA

    • Hi KIA

      I endorse Christian doctrine and yet would completely agree with the sentiments you express here. It is an opinion that the doctrine is not provable, one that seems highly dangerous and threatens the very existence of Christianity. Christians seem often to be their own worst enemy.

      The problem is not that the doctrine is unprovable or unverifiable, but that it is difficult to do so. You have to bear in mind that many Christians declare that the idea we can actually know the truth of the doctrine is heretical, while many other Christians would say that this attitude is a betrayal of religion.

      Feel free to disagree with Alex, as would I, but don’t imagine you are disagreeing with Christianity. You would be disagreeing with an interpretation, one that is not necessary and that for many Christians would be wildly incorrect. It is one I’d like to see go away.

      • I think you both took “provable” the wrong way. Provable means: establish as true. In what sense do we try to “establish” what we claim? Christians look beyond what we see to do so, whereas naturalists don’t. This article is focusing on the provability based on empiricism (I am NOT discounting the role of rationalism and logic). What I meant was “proved in an empirical sense, as in science.” Christianity is defensible, and is able to convince people based on facts (which are ultimately interpreted based on presuppositions), and it is reasonable (no blatant contradictions to what we all experience as “true”). It in no way can force people to believe because there is always an element of faith, and that is why this worldview can never be provable. We can’t approach Christianity like a scientific hypothesis.

  6. hey alex, thx for the response, and peter too. I apologize if it seems I’m starting an intramural disagreement 🙂

    if ‘provable’ isn’t in an empirical sense or scientific sense, how can you say it is True or ‘provable’ in any epistemological or actual sense? I think you are just trying to wiggle out. -KIA

    • Christianity is based on the claims of God working, but we must ask then, how can we know if God is actually working? I think answering that question is a good starting point that will differentiate between what system (empiricism, faith) one favors.

      And to answer your question, there are arguments for God’s existence and historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, but my point all long here is to say that none of these will ever convince a skeptic. Why? Because Christianity requires faith first before the arguments take on any value.

  7. alex said… “Christianity is based on the claims of God working,”
    have you heard of confirmation bias? pure utilitarian and ‘end justifies means’ subjectivity? this is far from the claims of historicity that are in the bible and proclaimed by preachers (even me at one time) everywhere. it is either true because it is true or it’s not. if you are seeking to confirm your bias that it is true because it ‘works’, who gets to say it truly worked and it wasn’t just some presupositional mind game that you ‘decided’ it worked because the ‘evidence’ lined up the way you think it should have if it were true? circular. and you wouldn’t use this type of ‘proof’ or ‘thinking’ for anything else in your life.
    you also said… ” that none of these will ever convince a skeptic.” how do you know the mind of every ‘sceptic’? and why is skepticism of unproven and unsupportable claims such a bad thing? reality dictates we evaluate claims for truth. I think you and others who I have heard this phrase from rather like it because, mind readers that they are, assuming what they don’t have the ability to know in order to dismiss out of hand the other persons possible perpective makes it easier for them to justify their continued stance in their own position… shoe on the other foot perhaps(?) some people find reasons not to be convinced on the Christian side too. (try not to be one of them)
    you also said…”Because Christianity requires faith first before the arguments take on any value.” you are right from a Christian perspective, Faith is a substitute Truth claim (heb 11:1) which is the problem in a nut shell. if you have a belief system based on Faith, then evidence or actual Truth is not only superfluous and unnecessary, but it is actually dangerous. I think that’s the real reason you seek to distance Christianity from provability in any real world, scientific, evidential way that can be ‘proven’. the problem with your Fideism (look it up) is that the real world is all we have to examine, and if you are going to build your life, instruct your own world view and that of your children, and go to the point of teaching and preaching to others The Truth of Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, on pain of hell fire for refusal I might add, arguments for the truthfulness of those claims honestly must come before ‘faith in’ them being True. as I said before… nonsense and incoherent rambling from someone who thinks they are being spiritual, logical, and honest with themselves and others.
    I once believed, taught and preached as you do now. missions here in the US, South Korea and Mexico. many different ministry roles and I know the bible much better than most I’ve met. I was as ‘cocooned’ in the idea of the Truthfulness of our Christian Truth as much or more than you are now in my 30yrs of Christian and ministry experience. Faith being required first doesn’t ‘prove’ the truth of an argument. it presupposes the answer and finds a way for it to be yes, regardless of the truth.
    -KIA

    • I said in my article that Christianity is not fideism. When I said faith first I meant that in terms of importance, not sequential order. Sorry for the mixup. Faith works in conjunction with the external evidences, but it does not base itself solely on them. We do not believe something and then hope the evidence lines up. Most of the NT is based on what people see and experience and then faith follows. But the point remains: faith is “first” because the same thing can be experienced between two people but faith does not necessarily follow for both. “First” here refers to what is important in defining what one believes. Faith simultaneously “fills up what the facts do not illuminate” and yet “works with the known facts to open the door for it (faith) to become a reality.”

        • It’s only confirmation bias if God does not exist. You would need to prove the negative claim, “God does not exist”, before making the claim that Christianity (or theism) is confirmation bias.

          • I think you are mixing up the burdens. atheists, of which I am NOT, don’t positively claim that there is no god. and if it’s only confirmation bias if god doesn’t exist, but you have to have faith that he does before you can ‘know’ he does… that my friend IS the text book definition of circular reasoning and confirmation bias.
            atheists say they don’t believe god exists because the evidence for his existence is lacking and unconvincing.
            the theist who declares ‘god exists’ has the burden of proving he exists before he calls others to believe or burn. otherwise what you claim, muslims, hindus, Buddhists and any other person with a claim to support wholly by telling people they must believe FIRST to know can say the same thing and be equally justified (and as it happens, equally wrong)

            so, where is your ‘proof’ or evidence that god actually exists? have none? then don’t be surprised when people who actually think about these things call you out on your twaddle

          • The burden of proof is on anyone making a claim. Atheists and Christians both make claims (a negative claim is still a claim; if you don’t agree, then just say “the universe is all that exists” and you have a positive atheistic claim), so they’re both responsible for proof.

            I am not advocating a “faith first before you can know” view. My article expresses that.

            I think we’re tripping up over the terms “faith” “provable” and “evidence/proof.” Also, I think a big problem in worldview conflict is the lack of consensus about what “sufficient evidence” is.

            What position do you hold then? Agnostic? And what, may I ask, caused you to leave the faith?

          • Reasons? Basically, I found out that the bible is not historically accurate in the stories it conveys as actual history (for just one, Google search ‘exodus never happened’, read a few of the articles, consider the evidence of real history and archaeology, then ask yourself ‘why there is no truth in a book of truth?’)

          • Next, I did some study on exactly what the manuscript evidence is and how it was passed down and ‘preserved’.
            Short, the bible and the same examination of internal/external inconsistencies and inaccuracies that I did on other faiths and holy books I finally had the courage to submit my own Faith and holy book to.
            And they came up wanting as Daniel told the king

  8. Not all Christian would claim that God exists. Indeed, I would see this this claim as the claim that God is limited. This view is explained in Keith Ward’s ‘God: A Guide for the Perplexed’ and in ‘A Course in Miracles’, as well as being the classical view of God. .

    When I said that Christianity can be proved I did not mean ’empirically’. Empiricism refers to the physical senses and cannot prove anything beyond the relative world. Hence the problem of solipsism. Speaking formally empiricism cannot prove the existence of anything at all. Asking for a ‘scientific’ proof of God is not only making a category-error but shooting very low,.

    But if we are talking about logical analysis or direct experience then Christianity can be proved. The crucial proviso would be that what can be proved may not be what some people would call Christianity, since Christians vary wildly in what they believe. Many believe that they actually are God, as we all would be, such that this can be verified by ‘knowing thyself’.

    I wish atheists would drop their obsession with God’s existence. It is not the central issue. If God does not transcend existence then His existence is an incoherent idea.

    Folks like to argue back and forth, but I wonder how many have studied metaphysics to see what can be proved or not-proved but just hold an opinion, and how many study Christianity rather than imagine it is the straw man that skeptics like Dawkins and Dennet like to imagine it is.

    I sympathise with the skeptics since Christianity is a bit of a mess.these days, and has been since the Bishopric of Rome resigned from the collegiate system and started inventing its own doctrine to the horror of the orthodox church. I would be impressed by any skeptic who has studied these matters sufficiently to have a sensible opinion, since why would they do this?

    • On reflection I would like to add that nothing I have said here was intended to undermine the value and importance of faith. It is just that for me faith would be a method, a means of making progress, and not the end of the investigation or a means of deciding any of the issues. The goal of ‘experimental’ religion would be to go beyond any need for faith.

  9. If the Bible is to be believed at all it must be truthful. It is a bad apologetic tactic to concede “The Bible might have gotten some things scientifically wrong, but that’s OK. It’s primarily about spiritual things.”

    • I would rather say that in order for the Bible to be truthful it must be interpreted with insight. If we are worried about its scientific accuracy then we are a very long way from that insight. Science is mundane stuff and trivial in this context.

      It is unfortunate that some people insist on the truth of every word. This is not insight and it is clearly nonsense. It contains myths, metaphors, analogies, legends, teaching stories, facts and gossip. Discernment is required of the reader, thus study. Belief would be foolish without this. .

    • C.S., what are you referring to? My words: “The message of the Bible is primarily spiritual, and that’s why science can never disprove Christianity because it attests to a reality that science can’t touch”?

      I didn’t say it’s “OK for the Bible to get things wrong scientifically”; I was talking about the ability of science to disprove the claims of faith.