A: Wow! I’ll say that your son’s request is grossly unfair…like asking someone to tell you where Haiti is without reference to its location. It makes no sense!
In order to answer his question, it is important to know first why he “doesn’t think Christianity is for him”? What is his motivation in making these statements? Is he:
- Asking sincere, searching, questions as he moves towards independence?
- Struggling with the arguments of his peers and sees no way to answer them?
- Trying to justify behavior he knows God doesn’t approve of?
- Reacting against an inaccurate modeling of Christianity?
- Trying to irritate his mother by “pushing her buttons”? or
- Acting out against some perceived hurt or injustice for which he holds God responsible?
What does your son think of the Jesus of the Bible? Does he like Jesus or reject even the notion of what the Bible tells about Him? How would he define Christianity in his own words? These kinds of questions might reveal that the Christianity he rejects is not authentic Christianity at all.
From what you have written, it sounds like your son is saying that he wants to live his life without regard to God. He is ready to take life on his own terms. In that case, his challenge to you is not sincere, but perhaps prideful – declaring at the same time that he can be the god of his own life and that he knows more than you do. The way that he has framed the challenge, by limiting how you can make your case, suggests that he isn’t really interested in the answer.
For you to “prove” the existence of someone you know very well cannot be relegated to what is and is not admissible evidence. Is there evidence? Yes, abundant evidence, but it is the kind that will be dismissed by the person who rejects any evidence that proves the case while limiting the remaining evidence to things that will not substantiate the supernatural. What kind of evidence is there? Again, the first is your own life and relationship with Christ. Add to that the evidence of 100s of millions of people who know the very same Jesus – cross-culturally, -ethnically, -racially, -socioeconomically. The person who knows and loves Jesus in urban 21st century America has the same experience as the person who knows and loves Jesus in rural Ethiopia. They don’t differ on essentials (biblical essentials, by the way)… nor would Christians across the centuries. This is remarkable – even miraculous. There have been a number of authors who have done a fairly good job making the logical case (see below*), and their books might be helpful. Faith, however, is the result of a genuine spiritual encounter with the living God. A person who asks the questions your son has asked, if he is willing to hear the answer from God, will receive it. A person with a hardened heart who demands that God satisfy his proposition for how God is to encounter him is being foolish. There is abundant evidence for God – every person of faith, having eyes to see, can see that. It is the hardened heart that blinds a person to see what is plainly evident.
Here is another word picture that perhaps your son can relate to. It would be like your son trying to convince you that driving through red lights is illegal and dangerous, without referencing the driver’s manual, any of that legal mumbo-jumbo including the laws of physics, and without talking from a “social responsibility” perspective. Ultimately running red lights is dangerous whether your son convinces you of it or not. There is another way to learn this lesson, but the cost is simply too high and the consequences too permanent. The same is true of our choosing to ignore God.
If your son insists on limiting the evidence, what kind of evidence is acceptable to him? What kind of proof would be so convincing that he would immediately surrender his life into Jesus’ hands? What sort of evidence does he consider valid in proving something to you? Certainly the same kind of evidence can be used to show the validity of Christianity. Your son, while proposing to have an enlightened response, is actually very narrow-minded in his approach to God. Limiting the evidence serves only ignorance, a kind of spiritual “climate-gate” if you will. If he were willing to apply himself to the evidence he would have a much more interesting challenge to his current position. There is additional evidence that is biblical, testimonial, historical, forensic (see The Testimony of the Evangelists, below), and relational.
Finally, another important element to consider is “how does your son give and receive love?” He needs to know that you love him no matter what his position on Christianity is. It is also helpful to then show how Jesus reveals his love for your son through their own “love language.”
If we can answer these questions first, then we can develop a much better answer to his “proof challenge”.
* Here are just a few books that might be helpful. There are many more in our church library.
- The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel
- The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis
- Evidence the Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell
- The Testimony of the Evangelists, Simon Greenleaf
- Five Love Languages of Teens, Chapman