I am not an apologist, nor the son of an apologist. However, in my reading I have recently come across a discussion about why one is convinced by ‘evidence.’ 

In the ideal detective story the reader is given all the clues yet fails to spot the criminal. He may advert to each clue as it arises. He needs no further clues to solve the mystery. Yet he can remain in the dark for the simple reason that reaching the solution is not the mere apprehension of any clue, nor the mere memory of all, but a quite distinctive activity of organizing intelligence that places the full set of clues in a unique explanatory perspective. (Lonergan, ix.) 

In other words, it is not for lack of evidence that understanding escapes someone, but the simple fact that they have not been put in the right context that would allow for understanding. Ben Meyer puts it this way: “what has been lacking is not evidence but the subjective conditions that would allow the speaker to grasp the evidence as ‘enough.'” (Meyer, 78 ) 

The importance of this observation can be felt in many contexts, but the one that struck me was in the context of Christian evangelism and apologetics. As Christians we often say that you cannot logically argue someone into accepting Christianity. Yet, at the same time, we confess that our faith is intellectually defensible. It seems to me that the problem for those who do not accept Christianity as intellectually defensible or even the most probable explanation for our human existence is not that the evidence is lacking but they are lacking “the subjective conditions that would allow [them] to grasp the evidence as ‘enough.'” 

The next question would then be, how can we, as Christians, encourage people to get into the ‘right subjective context’ that would allow them to grasp the evidence as ‘enough’? I’m sure that there is not one right answer to this question but I propose these two criteria that may get us a long way toward helping people get in the right context. 

The first is proposed by Jesus himself in John 17:21, “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” I think visible Christian unity would go a long way toward helping people get in the right context to see the truth of the Christian claims.

The second criteria would be if people actually saw that Christian love was real and supernatural (or supranatural). If Christians actually lived out the love we are called to in the NT, I think people would be a lot more interested in what the NT has to say and would probably be a lot further along the way toward the ‘right context.’ 

 

Bibliography

Bernard Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (New York: Longmans, 1958); Ben F. Meyer, Critical Realism and the New Testament (San Jose, CA: Pickwick Publications, 1989).

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