In the book of Acts, chapter 17, the apostle Paul, while in Athens, was invited to speak about Christianity to Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. After his presentation Scripture records the response, “some mocked, while others said ‘We will hear you again on this matter…However, some…believed (Acts 17:32, 33).” Today, just like in ancient Athens there are people who want to know what Christianity is all about. But many people come with objections to the faith as well. It is important to answer those objections honestly. And like the philosophers in Athens, some will mock, some will desire a little more information, and some will believe.
In answering someone’s objection to Christianity it is important to know why they are asking the questions they have. Ask what issues are stirring in the person’s mind; what is motivating them to look for answers. And “and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15).” The following are some common objections.
I don’t believe that God exists. How can anyone be sure? Objections like this come from the atheist and the agnostic. But think about this: atheism demands complete knowledge of all things in order to say that God doesn’t exist. And no human being has that! So how can the atheist know that there is no God? There is evidence for God’s existence. Both science and the Bible acknowledge that our universe had a beginning. Nature itself reveals that there is a Creator (Romans1:20). The complex designs of life from planets to flowers to DNA show intelligent design. Could all of nature really be the result of mindless, purposeless happenstance?
The agnostic says that she can’t know anything for sure about God. But people are naturally hungry to learn. Why are we that way? Perhaps God created us with a natural sense of inquiry so that we might actually search for Him and find Him. Paul told the Athenian Philosophers that God “has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26, 27).” There is nothing wrong with having questions and not being sure. But our response to that should be “Come and see.”
But what about evolution: doesn’t evolution prove there is no God? Evolution does take place within a species. There are big dogs and little dogs. There are red roses and white ones. But the theory of evolution claims that over time one species can change into another and that life itself randomly occurred from non-living material. But the famous scientists Francis Crick, L.M. Murkhin and Carl Sagan have estimated that the difficulty of a human evolving by chance processes alone is one in 10 to the negative 2,000,000,000th – which Borel’s law says is no chance at all! Science has recently revealed what Charles Darwin never knew. Proteins and nucleic acids are too complex to have arisen spontaneously. And the fossil record does not show gradual evolution. If it can be relied on to show much of anything at all, it shows fully developed life-forms with only limited variation within each group – just as the Bible’s wording “according to its kind” (Gen. 1) would indicate.
How can we be sure that the Bible is reliable? The copies of the Old Testament manuscripts are of a far superior quality than any other equivalent document. The oldest books of the Old Testament date from around the same time as some of the oldest Egyptian works. And where scholars find significant differences between Egyptian documents relating to the same events, they find almost no differences in Old Testament documents that cover the same material. And where there are differences they are minor ones like spelling and make no changes in the actual material covered. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1950’s confirms the historical reliability of these ancient documents. And archeology has never disproved an Old Testament historical event. It has only confirmed the Scriptural account.
What about the New Testament? From an historical point of view the New Testament is unquestionably the most reliable ancient document in the world. Two factors are crucial in determining the reliability of an historical document. These are the number of copies in existence and the time between when the document was first written and the oldest copies. Take for example the writings of Julius Caesar. His works were written between 100-44 B.C. The oldest copies of his works come from one thousand years after the fact and there are ten copies. With the writings of Plato there is a span of twelve hundred years between when he first wrote and the date of the oldest copies of which there are seven. And with Aristotle there are five copies of his works and the oldest manuscripts date from fourteen hundred years after he wrote.
Now let’s compare the New Testament to these other works. Whereas we have ten copies of Caesar’s works and seven copies of Plato’s, and five copies of Aristotle’s, there are over twenty four thousand ancient copies of the New Testament! And the oldest copies date not from one thousand years after the fact, nor even five hundred years, but from twenty-five years after the originals were written. No other ancient document even comes close to meeting the test for historical authenticity and reliability as does the New Testament.