How would respond to the question, "How do we know that what we believe is true?"

Hi Mike

  • I’d appreciate your comment on the following statement; in your view, is this complete or incomplete answer to the question: " how do we know that what we believe is true?

As Christians, we know that the faith we hold in and about the God of the Bible is true, because we have reliable evidence, from which we infer our standard and meaning for living, that enables us to hold and trust in the realness of the things promised in the Bible, even if they(some) have not been experienced yet.

Thank you.

Blessings

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Hi Eunike,

Thanks for your message and question. I enjoyed reading what you have written there, well done on giving this some solid thought in order to communicate the Gospel effectively with those around you :smiley:

My first thought to your question is another question: “Who am I speaking to and where are they at?” Whenever we are attempting to open up a conversation with someone regarding belief in God, it is crucial to answer the questioner and not just the question. I am sure as an Academy Alum this was a big theme in your studies and practice. But it can’t be emphasised enough: let’s probe and ask questions of our skeptical friends until we feel we have an accurate sense of where their question is coming from. Then we will know which part of the Gospel the Hoy Spirit might lead us to explain/ apply.

Supposing we have done the above effectively, I have found it helpful to have the following in mind wrt why we believe.

Explanatory Power

In the same way that our justice system comes to a verdict through inference to the best explanation (e.g. “because such and such occurred in this place at this time, we might reliably conclude…”), we could think of our reasons for believing Christianity is true because it is the best explanation of the data.

Evidence Demanding Explanation

Very briefly, below are some of the pieces of evidence we can consider. Remember, it is no one piece of evidence that convinces ether way, but the cumulative case that can be made considering all the evidence that has come to light.

(1) The Cosmological Evidence

Why is there something rather than nothing? Who/ what is responsible?

The Kalam Cosmological Argument addresses agency and causality in an interesting three-step syllogism:
(1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause of its beginning.

Have a look at William Lane Craig’s usage of this argument: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/existence-nature-of-god/the-kalam-cosmological-argument/

Some try to say evolution is the cause, but this is false. Evolution only comes into effect after there is already something. We are attempting to get to the origins question, which is necessarily prior to the mutation and adaptation of material properties and life.

(2) The Teleological Evidence

This is the fine-tuning argument. The universe is incredibly detailed and fine-tuned for life. How do we explain this? What are the chances of this occurring by pure accident?

It is highly unlikely that this universe, fine-tuned perfectly for life as it is, came about as a result of chance. We need to be careful of the ‘God of the gaps’ fallacy: i.e. ‘We don’t know who did it therefore it was God.’ However, if it is highly unlikely that chance is the cause, how likely by comparison is God as an explanation?

(3) The Moral Evidence

The first two categories can seem a little ‘cold’, but the next few are more personal/ relational oriented.

The way we approach our justice, legal, correctional, and historical etc. practices as a society demonstrate that we believe there is such a thing as right and wrong, e.g. murdering babies for spectator pleasure is wrong (not just bad taste).

However, what is it that grounds and explains our moral intuitions and the necessity of objective moral values? If God does not exist, and if there is no transcendent, then at best we have relative values. But then we cannot absolutely pronounce good to be good and evil evil - at best we could say, ‘I prefer this over that.’

However, we know that we cannot live with moral relativism. What is able to explains this best? Sam Harris argues we can ground objective moral values in a scientifically established ‘wellbeing’; but his hypothesis is deeply flawed. Christians (and many of other religions), on the other hand, acknowledge God as a source and explanation for morality.

(4) The Historical Evidence

Under this category, we find many touchy areas/ points of contention that skeptics might raise, e.g.:

  • The Historical Jesus (did he live? what did he really say and do?)
  • The Reliability of the Gospels (eyewitness testimony or later? Jesus’ words or apostolic invention?)
  • The Reliability of the Bible as a whole (manmade document? manuscript errors? doubt over transmission?)
  • The Morality in the Bible (is it sexist? does it condone slavery?)
  • What explains the historical rise of Christianity (Resurrection? Fabrication? Hallucination?)

Surprisingly for many, these and many other objections besides can be answered satisfactorily. Once it has been established on firm historical grounds that Jesus lived, is the source of the sayings and deeds in the Gospels, and his resurrection is the best explanation for the otherwise inexplicable rise of Christianity, we must ask: what do you say to that?

(5) The Experiential Evidence

The personal and experiencial side of Christianity must be brought into the picture: many have experienced God’s presence, touch of healing physcially/ emotionally, answered prayer et al. Essentially, the experiential element is our evidence that what Christianity says it will do, it does. it is a truth experienced. It is incredibly powerful to share this with someone asking why we believe Christianity to be true.

In Conclusion

There are of course more pieces of evidence that could be added, but even just considering these ‘unavoidable five’ - taken together, how does one explain them? What is the best explanation for the evidence?

The only reason to believe something of significance is if we have good reason to think it’s true. We look at the case and, like the good judge, we consider the evidence and go where it leads.

In short: we believe Christianity is true because it best answers the data of reality in a manner that is (1) coherent, (2) corresponds to reality and (3) is liveable.

I hope this helps, Eunike, and doesn’t make anything more confusing. Please let me know if you need further clarification and I would be happy to respond.

All the best,
Mike D.

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