Over the years, I've often been challenged with questions like, "I've been trying to witness to my friends. They say they don't believe the Bible and aren't interested in the stuff in it. They want real proof that there's a God who created, and then they'll listen to my claims about Christianity. What proof can I give them without mentioning the Bible so they'll start to listen to me?"
Creationists and evolutionists, Christians and non-Christians all have the same evidence in the scientific debate—the same facts. Think about it: we all have the same earth, the same fossil layers, the same animals and plants, the same stars. The facts are all the same.
The difference is in the way we interpret the facts. And why do we interpret facts differently? Because we start with different presuppositions. These are things we assume to be true without being able to prove them. Presuppositions become the basis for other conclusions. All reasoning is based on presuppositions (also called axioms). This becomes especially relevant when dealing with past events.
Past and Present
We all exist in the present, and so do the facts. When we try to understand how the evidence came about ("Where did the animals come from? How did the fossil layers form?"), what we're actually trying to do is connect the past to the present.
However, if we weren't there to observe the past, how can we know what happened to explain the present? It would be great to have a time machine so we could know for sure!
Christians, of course, claim that they do in a sense have a "time machine." They have a book called the Bible which claims to be the Word of the God who has always been there, and He has revealed to us the major past events about which we need to know.
On the basis of these revealed events, such as Creation, the Fall, and the Flood, we form a set of presuppositions so we can think about and interpret the evidence of the present.
Naturalistic evolutionists also have certain beliefs they presuppose. They presuppose there is no God (or at least none who performed acts of special creation), so they build a different way of thinking to interpret the evidence of the present.
Thus, when Creationists and Evolutionists argue about the evidence, in reality they are arguing about interpretations based on their presuppositions.
That's why the argument often turns into two people insisting that their interpretation is so obviously right, while the other can't seem to see it. They're arguing about the same evidence, but they are looking at the evidence through different glasses.
It's not until they recognize that the argument is really about their presuppositions that they will begin to deal with the foundational reasons for their different beliefs. A person will not interpret the evidence differently until he puts on a different set of glasses—a different set of presuppositions.
In my experience, Christians who understand these things can actually put on the evolutionists' glasses (without accepting their presuppositions as true) and understand how they look at evidence. However, for a number of reasons, including spiritual ones, a non-Christian usually can't put on the Christian's glasses—unless they are beginning to question their own presuppositions.
Sometimes, just by presenting evidence, you can convince someone that a particular scientific argument for creation makes sense "based on the facts." But if that person hears a different interpretation of the same facts, he may swing away from your argument. If you help him to understand presuppositions, he will be better able to recognize different interpretations based on differing presuppositions for what they are.
As a teacher, I found that whenever I taught students what I thought were the facts for creation, another teacher would just reinterpret the facts. The students would come back to me saying, "Well, sir, you need to try again."
I learned to teach my students how we interpret based on presuppositions, then when another teacher tried to reinterpret the facts, the students would challenge that teacher's basic assumptions. Now it wasn't the students who came back to me, but the other teacher, upset that the students were challenging the very basis of his thinking! I learned to teach the students how to think rather than just what to think. What a difference that made!
If you agree to a discussion without using the Bible, you allow the other person to set the terms of the debate:
1. "Facts are neutral." There's no such thing as a "brute fact"—all facts are interpreted. Once the Bible is eliminated, the Christian's presuppositions are gone, leaving him unable to effectively interpret the facts. The opponent has the upper hand: he still has his presuppositions.
2. "Truth can/should be determined independent of God." The Bible states that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," and "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, 1 Corinthians 2:14).The spiritual nature of the battle cannot be divorced from the battle itself. A non-Christian is not neutral. The Bible makes this very clear: "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad" (Matthew 12:30).
Agreeing to such terms of debate implicitly accepts the proposition that the Bible's account of the universe's history is irrelevant to understanding that history!
Ultimately, God's Word Convicts
1 Peter 3:15 and other passages make it clear we are to use every argument we can to convince people of the truth, and 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says we are to refute error. Nonetheless, we must never forget Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Even though human arguments may be powerful, ultimately it is God's Word that convicts and opens people to the truth. In all our arguments, we must not divorce what we are saying from the Word that convicts.
When someone tells me they want "proof, not the Bible," I tell them that though they don't believe the Bible, I do. I believe it gives me the right basis to correctly interpret the facts around me. For instance, the Bible states that God made distinct kinds of animals and plants. When I build my thinking on this presupposition, I can explain and interpret the science of genetics, including processes such as natural selection and genetic drift. You can do this in many ways. Sin and judgment are relevant to geology and fossil evidence. The curse on creation makes sense of harmful mutations, violence, and death.
Once I've explained this, I can say, "Now let me ask you to defend your position concerning these matters. Please show me how your way of thinking, based on your beliefs, makes sense of the same evidence. And I want you to point out where my science and logic are wrong."
In arguing this way, you do the following:
1. Use biblical presuppositions to build a way of interpreting evidence.
2. Show that the Bible and science go hand in hand.1
3. Challenge the other's presuppositions (many are unaware they have these).
4. Force the debater to logically defend his position in a way consistent with science and his own presuppositions (many will find they cannot do this).
5. Honor the Word of God that convicts the soul.
Remember, it's no good convincing people to believe in creation without also leading them to believe and trust in the Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. God honors those who honor His Word. We need to reach people in God-honoring ways with the truth of what life is all about.
1In fact, science avoided becoming stillborn only because of its originally Christian framework. Even secular philosophers of science are virtually unanimous on this. The birth of science required biblical presuppositions such as a real, objective universe, created by one Divine Lawgiver who was neither fickle nor deceptive—and who also created the mind of man in a way that was in principle capable of understanding the universe.
*This article published April 21, 2010.
Ken Ham is the president/CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis-U.S. and the highly acclaimed Creation Museum. A native Australian who now resides near Cincinnati, Ohio, he is one of the most in-demand Christian speakers in North America. He is the author of numerous books on Genesis, the accuracy and authority of the Bible, dinosaurs, and the destructive fruits of evolutionary thinking. Visit www.AnswersInGenesis.org for more information.
This article was published in the Mar/Apr 2010 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Sign up now to receive a FREE sample copy! Visit www.HSEmagazine.com today!