Faith, Reason, and Argument

Understanding faith and how we know that Christianity is true

Video Trancsript

What’s up guys? So tonight I want to talk to you guys about something that I am super passionate about. And this might actually not even feel like a sermon, maybe just more like a talk or discussion, but I want to talk to you guys about Christianity, faith in Jesus, this whole thing that we are about as student ministry, why we do what we do…I wanna talk to you about how all of that is related to your desire to figure out what the truth is. All of us, no matter who you are, value knowing what the truth is right? We all want to know the way things really are. That’s why when you find out your friend is lying to or manipulating you, you get super upset, or why when you find out you’re completely wrong about something you might feel embarrassed or stupid. Or when you lie to someone else, you know that you are distorting the way things really are and that that is a significant thing. Knowing what the truth is is extremely valuable to us whether we realize it or not. And the reason is that we all recognize that the truth keeps us tied to reality. Someone who doesn’t try to know the truth or use proper thinking and reasoning to try to find truth usually ends up deluding themselves. They believe things that they would rather believe instead of what is actually the case. Right, think of friends you have that refuse to believe something because they don’t want it to be true. Like, hey your boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating on you and I have proof, here’s the text they sent, and then they’re just like, nah nah that’s just what they say. When people don’t orient their life around knowing and discovering the truth, then they are probably living in delusion.

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So how does all of that relate to faith, Christianity, and all of the stuff we are about here in the city student ministry. 

Well, for many people, there has been an idea that has crept into language about religion and more specifically Christianity that makes it seem like the typical tools we use to discover the truth are in conflict with belief in God or faith in Jesus. For most of us, when we are trying to figure out what the truth is, we use two basic tools: our direct experience and reason. We want either to see or experience something for ourselves, or we want good arguments. And what many people (maybe even most people today) have tried to say is that faith in God or in Jesus (or faith in general) is somehow at odds with those tools, and so faith goes against everything we know about finding out the truth. Faith and reason are supposedly opposed to one another because one looks for arguments and evidence to find the truth, and the other is just blind belief without evidence.

And I have asked this question to many of you, I have asked it to friends that I have, and even many other Christians, the question: what is faith? And the response I usually get back is almost always something like this, faith is believing in something when there is no evidence. Faith is a choice to believe something without any good reason. And people are convinced that faith is basically synonymous with “just choose to believe,” right like when things are getting bad in your life–even if you’re not religious, you just gotta have faith, just choose to believe things will be fine.

And not only do I think that this understanding of faith is actually just dead wrong, but I also think this is not the way that faith is talked about in the Bible and it’s not the way Christians have traditionally thought about faith in God or in Jesus. 

So what is the correct understanding of faith? Faith is trust in someone or something that you have good reason to believe is true. And I think most of us already actually know this, it’s just for some reason, when we talk about God and Christianity, we change the definition. Think about faith in the context of your boyfriend or girlfriend or a spouse. If you trust them, if you have faith in them, it’s because you have good reason to. Maybe that person has shown you that you can trust them by keeping their word to you, or maybe the things they have said have turned out to be true when you go and investigate them. The point is that when you have faith in someone, you are trusting in them on the basis of prior evidence that you have of either your direct experience of them or some other reason.

This is what Christians mean when we say we have faith in Jesus. This is what it means to be a Christian. Faith does not equal belief | Faith = trust. And this is crucial to understand because some of us are going around saying that we have faith in God, but what we are really meaning is that we believe God exists. And obviously believing that God exists is something you need to do in order to trust in Him, but Faith and belief are not the same thing. And this is why faith and reason and argument and evidence are not in conflict with each other, because they are different things. Faith has to do with your level of commitment and trust, reason has to do with your justification for that trust. And so they are not in conflict with one another, they are actually complementary.

So, if faith is not a way of knowing something, but instead, a way of trusting in something, then how DO we know whether or not God is real, Christianity is true, and that everything we talk about every time we get together as a youth ministry is not just self-delusion, not just something we like but is legitimately the truth?

Well remember the two basic tools for finding the truth that we talked about at the beginning: our direct experience and reason ( or argument and evidence), I want to convince you that Christianity satisfies not just one, but both of these criteria for discovering the truth. The truth of Christianity is not only accesible by us directly, but there are also very good arguments and evidences for it. I want you to forget about any preconceived ideas that you might have about God and Christianity being some sort of vague idea or story that you just have to blindly buy into and I want you to think of it, instead, in terms of trying to discover the truth, trying to figure out the way things really are. 

So let’s look at that first tool we use to discover the truth, direct experience. Do people who claim that Christianity is true, have this kind of justification? And this is actually a very easy question to answer if you have had any interaction with someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus. The answer is yes. In fact, this is probably why most everyone who claims to be a Christian would say they think it is true. They would say they have a direct relationship with God through his Holy Spirit. And there is real interaction that goes on in their life between them and God. And God Himself affirms the truth of Christianity to them. And this is exactly what people in the early church experienced after Jesus left them. The apostle Paul said it this way,

“the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship…The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

Romans 8:15b-16

Paul affirms what most people today say about how they know Christianity is the truth, they directly experience God’s spirit and His spirit confirms this with them. And I know that many people who have never had such an experience might doubt that experience in other people and feel very skeptical, in the same way you might be skeptical of someone telling you something else extraordinary that happened when you yourself didn’t experience it. But for the person who does experience God in this direct way, they are completely reasonable and justified in believing that they are not living in delusion. Let me illustrate this for you in more practical terms. Imagine that you are in court being accused of a crime that you know you didn’t commit. And let’s say you’re being accused of a murder that happened the day before at noon. But you know, that you spent the entire day yesterday reading alone in the woods. Your experience of what you were doing provides you with all the justification you need to believe that you are innocent. And even if the court started presenting evidence against you, and showed your DNA at the crime scene, you would still be justified in maintaining your innocence because you’re experience of what you were doing at that time is so clear and overriding. And this is what it is like for someone who has a relationship with God. They have had direct access to the person who the whole Christian story is about. And this exactly what you would expect to be the case if Christianity true, right? If Jesus really did die, was resurrected, and we are able to have a relationship with him today through the Holy Spirit, then we should expect to be able to access that. So if this is not something that you yourself can say you have, if you don’t experience God in this direct way, I want to challenge you to test it. Ask God to show himself to you, to reveal himself to you, and seek after him with an open mind, and see what you find. 

Now having said all of that, I want to point out the obvious, direct experience is something that is private, right. Your direct experience of something and the truth you discover in that way, is only available to you. In order to defend your position to someone else, in order help someone else see what you’ve discovered, you need something that goes outside of your experience. Something that can help others see that what you experienced is actually true. Just like in the court case we talked about earlier, you may be right, and it may be true that you are innocent, but you need to give reasons for the court to actually believe this.

And this leads us to the second tool we use to discover the truth. Reason

Now when it comes to Christianity, is there anything like this? Is there anything that we can consider apart from experience to determine whether or not Christianity, the existence of God, the death and resurrection of Jesus is really true?

Well, it might surprise you to learn that there are actually a ton of arguments for both the existence of God and the truth of Christianity. And something that is deeply concerning to me, is that a lot of these arguments and evidences have been discussed and presented by Christians for literally thousands of years, yet most modern Christians have no idea about any of them. And I think because our society has so wrongly understood what faith is, like we talked about earlier, we have lost the importance and the ability to defend and fight for the truth of the Christian worldview. We’ve stopped thinking of Christianity as something with any sort of explanatory benefit and instead, see it as something that is only for comfort and meeting psychological needs. And this can be really devastating because we all know, that society has a deep distaste for a lot of what Christians believe. Society doesn’t like it. Some of you don’t even like it. And you can mark my words, that if it’s not already happening to you, in college, you will be bombarded with every sort of anti-christian, God-hating philosophy that you could possibly be bombarded with. And this is my point, it’s not about what we like, it’s about what is true.–remember, abandoning truth for the sake of what we like is called delusion.

So, what arguments and evidences are there for the truth of Christianity? Now we could actually spend a ton of time talking about this because there is a lot. And each argument has books and books and books written about it so we definitely don’t have time to look at them in any detail. So I want to just list a few so that you can get a starting point and start to think about these things more deeply. These will not answer all your questions but that will kind of be the point, to get you thinking. Ok, ready, here we go:

God is the best explanation of the cause of the beginning of the universe

Modern science tells us that universe began to exist at the big bang about 14 billion years ago. Before that, there was literally no time, space, matter or energy. Unless we want to believe the universe just popped into existence uncaused out of nothing, there must be a timeless, spaceless, very powerful, free-decision-making cause.

God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life

Astrophysics shows us laws of physics in all sorts of equations and variables that are dialed in at extremely precise values. If these were changed even the tiniest amount, then the universe would be hostile towards life. There wouldn’t even be stars or planets or chemistry, yet that is not what we find. We find a universe that permits intelligent life to develop, in spite of it being so improbable., this points us to a master designer of the universe.

God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values and duties

We all recognize certain moral truths about the world, like it is objectively wrong to torture and murder someone on the basis of their race, or it is objectively good to love and treat others with respect. But these moral truths go beyond people or society’s opinions, even if an entire society thinks murdering people and the basis of their race is right (like the nazis did) we still know that these things are objectively wrong. But that means we need something outside of a society’s opinion as a standard that we recognize as objectively good. This standard is found in the character of a morally perfect being, or God.

God is the best explanation for the existence of states of consciousness

When you think about people, you can recognize that there is something unique about them that is different from the rest of the world. People are conscious, they have minds, that can think about things and can feel and reason and decide to do things. This is something completely different from matter and energy. People have ideas and emotions, matter and energy have only physical properties not mental properties. The best explanation for the existence of minds seems to be that a mind is what came first, not matter and energy.

And the last one we will come to Christianity.

The historical facts that we know about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are best explained by His resurrection having actually happened

There are a few historical facts that are actually agreed upon by the majority of scholars who look at the New Testament that make the resurrection of Jesus probable. They are: That Jesus’ tomb was found empty on the third day after his crucifixion. That people had experiences of Jesus being alive after his death. And his original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe Jesus was resurrected even though they had no expectation of that. The best explanation of all these facts taken together is that God actually raised Jesus from the dead.

Ok so that was a sort of fast, brain-numbing, rapid-fire of some of the arguments for God and Christianity. Like I said, there is a ton of conversation to be had around all of these topics, so I want to challenge you to look em up and take some time to get to know these if you are seriously considering the truth of Christianity. 

Listen, if there is one thing I want you to take away from everything I’ve said, it’s this, Those of us who claim to follow Jesus, aren’t just adopting a story we like, or participating in a myth we inherited from our family. We are committed to Jesus because of real events that actually happened in history. And not only do we have good reasons to believe that all of this is true, we are able to know God and experience Him in a direct and personal way. 

Josh Arruda is the Digital Pastor at Crossway Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He is currently pursuing a degree in Philosophy & Theology.