A recurrent theme of some sectors of Christianity is a need to reinforce their beliefs, perhaps even more so in light of the world having significantly different ones. The most obvious of this is the whole creationism/evolution debate, but there are many others, existence of God, historical existence of Jesus… the whole Evidence that Demands a Verdict type books etc. Some folks tend to think that just as they believe, so should everyone else and see said proof preaching (more commonly known in Christian circles as apologetics) as a means of evangelism.
A big problem with this, is that often times the proofs aren’t anywhere near as solid as the folks who advocate them think. A given proof may be good enough for them, but to the world, its either so filled with inaccuracies, and/or bad philosophy, that rather than proving Christianity, it makes folks suspicious at best or disproves it at worst.
I tend to think there are 3 issues at hand with this.
First, is the level of evidence required. Some believers in Christ are likely not to need any evidence for said beliefs. Others might have come to Christ through something like Evidence that Demands a Verdict books and feel they need reinforcement. A few build doctrinal concepts (literal 7 day creation->100% textual accuracy of the KJV->Jesus is real)… If you push the creation idol a little bit, the whole faith structure shakes. Part of the error in this, (beside the Pelagian bit that we can come to faith on our own) is the assumption that all folks have the same need/same standards for evidence.
Second, many Christians are generally not skilled in the domain of philosophy and/or what they are arguing against, so they don’t necessarily know when they are going off into lala land. Philosophy is not the sort of thing one picks up with 1 semester of a university level course, much less a few Sundays worth of apologetics training. There’s also a tendency for closed ears, all the while a fervent belief that something is wrong and they can convince the world otherwise… often with arguments that fall flat to those skilled in a given field.
Luther is a prime example: Consider the following:
People gave ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus] who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.
He should have known better, after all he also said… “All our experience with history should teach us, when we look back, how badly human wisdom is betrayed when it relies on itself.”
Thirdly, is the issue of do a little evil so good may come… Paul comes down on this pretty clearly in Romans 3, but the ends justifying the means is all too common. The mis-use of archutectural / historical / scientific evidence either by selective omission or bending words/sentences does a huge dis-service, especially when the full context can often be found via a bit of time with google.
While I understand the need to reinforce ones own belief system, there are some significant dangers in doing so via proof preaching.
The aspect of negative evangelism is a big deal… it sort of the reverse of “see your good works and glorify your father in heaven” especially as it takes so little light for the world to see a “do a little evil” type of thing.
In a similar vein, consider folks who put their faith in a geocentric universe as Luther did. The whole “God said it, I believe it thinking: doesn’t work out too well when we see scriptures dimly against a world with keener observation skills than those arguing against them.
A final aspect of proof preaching is that it can turn inward on itself and the rather than reinforcing ones beliefs, does the reverse. If one reads the following deconversion story of Rachel Slick, the daughter of a prominent apologist, the stage for deconversion was set early on. She put her views on Truth on a higher plane than the self authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit…. Dimly seen scriptures and doctrines of men often fail, either by experience or logic, and its a dangerous thing to elevate them over faith no matter how reasonable such a stance may appear.
My view parallels the late Rich Mullins.
“If you want a religion that makes sense, I suggest something other than Christianity. However, if you want a religion that makes life….than I think this is the one.” ~Rich Mullins