Previously, I described what the purpose and activity of Christian apologetics, or case-making, and then showed the history of the word “apologetics” as a means of demonstrating the goals of presenting a rational defense, as would be used to persuade in a court of law. Today, I’d like to show you some examples of how Jesus used logic, reason, and apologetics in his ministry, as recorded in the Bible. By doing so, I hope you will see that the use of these things are not new or unbiblical for the life of the mind of the believer.
Jesus the evidentialist
Jesus did not ask for blind faith without evidence. John 14:11 says, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” To paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “If you don’t believe me, believe the evidence I’ve given you. Believe me when I say that I am in the father, and the Father is in me. Or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”
Jesus’ good works (his miracles) testify to his claims of deity. John 10:25, 37-38 – “Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.'” “‘If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’”
In John 5:32-46, Jesus’ points out that his claims to deity are supported by testimony from five sources. Here is the passage I am talking about; notice the five corroborating sources mentioned here: John the Baptizer (32-35), Jesus’ miraculous works (36), the Father (37), Old Testament Scripture (39), and Moses (45-46).
32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.
In Luke 7:20-23, John the Baptizer’s disciples come to Jesus to ask if He is truly the Messiah. I think it is important and instructive that Jesus does not say “try harder” or “have more faith,” but that he references the evidence of the miracles he had done and invited the disciples to draw a reasonable conclusion.
And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Lastly, look at the introduction to the book of Acts in Acts 1:1-3:
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
After Jesus’ resurrection, and before he ascended back to heaven, He stuck around for 40 more days, showing himself to people individually and in groups, giving them convincing evidences that he had truly risen bodily from the dead. He ate fish, he allowed his wounds to be touched, and he gave ample opportunity for people to verify for themselves the truth of the resurrection. The testimony from these eyewitnesses would then be an important apologetic in the apostles’ evangelism methodology and personal convictions.
There are more examples that could be given, but this is a good selection of passages that I hope will be persuasive for you that Jesus did not expect “blind faith” or trust without reasonable evidence. In the next post, I’ll present for you examples of the sharpness of Jesus’ mind and how he shrewdly used logic and philosophy to persuade people of truth and expose the errors of others’ thinking.
Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!
(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)