To put it concisely, we (Christians) need to admit there's a possibility that we're wrong. Now, before anyone accuses me of promoting relativism or losing my faith, let me make it perfectly clear that I'm not. I believe that God exists, that Christ is the Son of God, and that He was crucified, buried, and resurrected in order to save mankind from sin. However, although I feel like there are valid, defensible reasons for holding those beliefs, I also know that those reasons alone do not prove what I believe is true. My faith isn't a blind, unfounded clutching for meaning, but it's faith just the same. I can't prove the validity of my faith claims in the same way I can prove some empirical matter--say, like that I'm sitting in a chair right now. (Of course, if one wanted to wax philosophically, he could question how I can really know that I'm sitting in a chair, that there's such things as chairs, or whether it's not simply an illusion of my senses. But I digress.)
Now, at this point, someone who is reading this post may be thinking, "But if we admit the possibility that we might be wrong, then we have no defense against secularism/naturalism/Neo-Darwinism/materialism (pick whatever term you like)." I believe admitting the limitations of our understanding leads us to a more compassionate approach to our fellow human beings to whom we're trying to show the light of Christ. As it stands now in Western culture, we seem to hold a very decided "us v. them" mentality, with the "them" being non-believers who are bent on nothing less than undermining Christianity, spitting in the face of God, and genuflecting at the throne of individualism, moral relativity, and nihilism. What a ridiculous overgeneralization! Although there are certainly some atheists who fit such a description, particularly some in academia and the scientific community, it's as woefully eggregious to paint all of them with such a broad stroke as it is to paint all Christians as uber-right-wing wackos that destroy abortion clinics or wish death upon homosexuals. The truth is that atheists (yes, even arrogant, vitriolic ones) ultimately want the same things any human wants--to know the purpose of life. "Ah, Jason, wait just a minute!" you say. "How can anyone look at the universe and not see God's fingerprints all over it?" I suspect the answer to the question is that it's a lot easier than we think. First of all, despite living in post-modern culture, we're still very much awash, particularly in education, in Enlightment-influenced thinking--the only things true in the world are those I can detect/observe/measure empirically. Obviously God doesn't fit into such perameters.
"Yes, Jason, but what about the evidences? The evidences!" As I noted earlier, I don't think our faith is a blind, wild grasping for meaning; there are plenty of things in the world (and the universe) that one can examine and make a reasonable case for God's existence. However, could we please not act as if the evidences we point to are irrefutable proofs of God that only vehement God-haters could deny? Allow me to give a couple of examples of our stock evidences and, in turn, what I believe to be reasonable questions regarding them:
1) Christian: "Something doesn't come from nothing. The universe couldn't have created itself. It's illogical to believe there isn't a Creator."
Non-believer: "Is it any less illogical to assume that an eternal, omnipotent spiritual being living outside of our space and time (And what did He do prior to creating the universe?) created our physical universe?"
2) Christian: "There's design in the universe, and that's evidence of a Designer. Plus, Earth is the only place suitable for life to survive."
Non-believer: "Given the immeasurable size of the universe and the innumerable galaxies within it, is it not possible that one planet would have conditions suitable to life simply by chance?"
I'm not suggesting such "evidences" are feckless, just that we shouldn't assume people that don't arrive at the same conclusions we do are either illogical or God-hating. And, as long as I'm talking about Christian evidences, why do so many Christians expend so much time attempting to refute evolution? First, although there are parts of Neo-Darwinism that beg for support and others that seem next to impossible without a guiding hand (God), to dismiss the concept as implausible seems more than a bit silly. Furthermore, the important issue isn't "how" life came about, but "why"--did God create life or did life arise from natural causes? A popular Christian catchphrase in the U.S. is "Don't try to put God in a box." I agree. So why are some Christians unflinching when it comes to acknowledging that God may have brought life about on our planet through evolution? We're certainly in no position to tell God how to be God. (*** Note--I thoroughly endorse good Christian apologetics, but I believe good Christian apologetics extends much further than looking for scientific proofs of our faith.)
Okay, so if scientic evidences fail to prove faith, where do we turn? Personal testimonials. I admit I find it quite encouraging to hear Christians who weren't raised in Christian families talk about the way becoming a Christian completely changed their lives. In addition, I take comfort when I hear Christians share stories of answered prayers. However, such testimonials stand as "proof" more to the person sharing his/her personal experience than to those who hear them. Yes, there's no denying that becoming Christian changes one's life, but one doesn't have to look hard to find Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, etc. who will speak of how their faith changed their lives. And, as for testimonials of answered prayers, they aren't necessarily even "proof" to fellow Christians. For example, how much confidence in the faithfulness and love of God can someone who, after much prayer, loses a loved one derive from someone else's story of how a prayer for healing was answered?
Well, I need to tend to some preparations for school tomorrow and then hit the hay. Sometime in the next few days--probably Sunday or Monday--I'll wrap up the thoughts I've begun here, positing two approaches to sharing, though not proving our faith in an empirical sense, with non-Christians that we have to look no further than the Bible itself to find.