All debates are actually debates about authority. Any argument that is not dealing with the “by what standard?” question is a surface-level debate. The heart of Christian apologetics then is not only to realize that Jesus and His Word (the Bible) are the necessary preconditions for all intelligibility, but it also recognizes other’s presuppositions and attacks them.
Provided are two reasons which sum up why not to focus and spend time with “evidences”:
1. The Christian worldview is the only one that can make sense of the term “evidence.”
2. A person’s presuppositions (worldview) determine how he interprets evidence.
In light of number 2, evidences don’t need to be discussed. Everyone sees the same evidence. How people go about interpreting them is the heart of the apologetic. I believe in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, two great quotations can be examined to demonstrate the point.
After the terrorist attacks in Paris, there was much grieving, anger, heartbreak, and political debate. Many others in the media have pointed out that greater death tolls have taken place in recent terrorist atrocities that had been happening recently but haven’t been given the same publicity. This is a fact of life (an evidence) everyone sees: the world is messed up. Things are not as they ought to be.
That’s an evidence all see, but what is it an evidence for/of? Richard Dawkins, in A River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, says this:
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
In this quotation, Dawkins worked backward. Put this quotation in its proper order and you get something like this:
1) If there is not a God (but only blind physical forces) the universe would be filled with evil and pain.
2) The world is filled with evil and pain.
3) Therefore, there is no God.
In other words, since the world is so messed up, that evidence ought to be interpreted as proving there is no God.
However, look at what Pastor Steve Lawson said on Twitter after the Paris attacks:
“What we read in the Bible about the total depravity of man is clearly validated on television throughout the world.”
Pastor Lawson and Dr. Dawkins see the the same thing: things are ugly. Yet, Lawson just claimed that the reality of ugliness supports….Scripture.
Notice here two men are seeing the same evidence, but are coming to incredibly different conclusions. Here is Lawson’s argument in the same structure:
1) If the Bible is right about the condition of man, there would be pain and evil in the world.
2) There is pain and evil in the world.
3) Therefore, the Bible’s claims about the condition of man are true.
What does evil prove, that man is inherently wicked, or that there is no good? It’s being used to “prove” both. Here are two different starting points determining the context the evidence surrounding them is placed in.
When the Word of God is presupposed, evil is placed in its context. When Atheism is presupposed, evil is placed in its context.
This is not saying all starting points are created equal. For example, only one of the above mentioned starting points can objectively condemn the evil witnessed in history. But the point is to demonstrate which conversations are actually worth having.