People are just not persuaded, seeing flaws in the lives or arguments of those who say they believe. They are sceptical or even cynical about faith things. Any association with religious crackpots and the gullible is warded off with healthy scepticism and realism. Believing what has no evidence is lunacy but if there’s evidence they will consider it. They require the person of faith to come up with evidence and reasonable arguments.
So what could make it different? Is there a place where one can find reasonable evidence? There won’t be proof because that only exists in the realm of logic or mathematics. But is there something that makes investigation possible, a body of evidence that makes it worth considering? Are there routes into a reasonable faith?
For some the origins of the universe force questions that can only be answered by recourse to a first cause outside of the universe. The Big Bang which scientists calculate took place 13.7 billion years ago raises the issue of what was there before. If the universe is expanding from an enormous explosion at a point in time and space, what was there at the start and what caused the start? How can nothing explode? The unanswerable question of how we can get something from nothing hangs menacingly in front of us.
The so called ‘fine tuning of the universe’ highlights the same question. The surprising precision of nature’s physical constants (such as gravity, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, etc.) are such that if changed by the smallest factor would mean the universe as we know it would not exist. We seem to be in a universe that has only the most infinitesimally slender possibility of existing; yet here it is.
At the other extreme the complexities being discovered in biological organisms raise a similar question. There are staggering intricacies found in DNA containing the genetic instructions in all living organisms. A single human brain has a computing power within its structure that is greater than all the computers and mobile phones in the world put together. To say such bewildering detail simply occurred by chance would be similar to saying that a McLaren Formula1 car popped into existence and entered the racing circuit by itself. But the reaction from the engineering team would be, “No team, no car.”
The scale of these impossibilities is so great as to be essentially infinite. Of course it’s possible to say they just happened by chance, but in so doing we put our confidence in the most infinitely unlikely explanation. We may not like the alternatives, but holding these views we risk the accusation of being credulous and gullible – the one thing we wish to avoid We may dislike the idea of a creator but it does have a scientific plausibility and intellectual consistency.
Another route is the miraculous. A man who was blind sees. A cripple walks. A person’s cancer disappears. These are not fables from distant lands but documented and medically verified experiences of people who have had prayer, with this result. There are so many miracles it becomes hard to deny them or attribute them to fanciful alternative explanations. They raise questions and make it hard to maintain a merely secular view of the universe. That view can only be maintained by avoiding facts, rather than following them.
Along with that one has to consider the experience of countless thousands of people of all shapes, sizes, cultures and education that seem to have the experience of coming to know God in a personal way. This has brought a change in them which has brought improvement to their lives and a conviction that God is real.
To dismiss so many experiences would show a commitment to being an unbeliever in spite evidence to the contrary.
Supremely the point of all this is to answer a question? Is it possible there is a personal God with whom we can have a relationship? If that is possible it would make sense to see if he has made himself known in an understandable way.
Christians say that has happened and that there is good evidence concerning this. Christian faith is essentially an evidence-based faith. It is not believing something for which there is no evidence but it is believing something about which there is credible evidence. The issues above do not prove the matter but they raise questions which make many people look for explanations. If there is a God, has he made himself visible?
Under scrutiny, then, is the idea that Jesus is the visible expression of the invisible God.