The Place of Evidence in Apologetics (Part 1)


By Caleb Hilbert

In high school, I was a part of the debate team, where I learned the importance of crafting a persuasive argument based on logic, reason, and information. I may not be exceptionally skilled at it, but I understand its significance. Sadly, some people think debating is simply being contrarian. However, argumentation requires more than merely taking the opposite stance; it demands logic, reason, and, yes, evidence.

Evidence encompasses any available facts or information to validate a claim. Evidence holds a crucial role in apologetics. While defending our faith, we can and should use the various types of evidence. When we consider evidence within apologetics, we often think of “extra-biblical” sources that corroborate aspects of the Scriptures or the claims we are making. For instance, archaeological discoveries that affirm the existence of the Hittites. Much of this evidence is what civilizations have left behind, which we can study and compare with other findings.


In this realm of evidence, it appears logical to think of evidence in varying degrees of reliability. Eyewitness testimony to the facts is the most reliable and preferable, as it is closer to the actual event. The further removed from the event, the less reliability we place upon the source. As a caution, we should remember a document is only as good as the author, and the author can lie. It is possible to piece together a coherent view of the past, so we must be careful and discerning.

Scripture Itself

However, not all evidence can be categorized as archaeological or eyewitnesses. There are instances when the evidence can be found within the proper interpretation of a text. For example, when discussing the Trinity with a Jehovah’s Witness, the focus is on the meaning of the text itself, and the text serves as sufficient evidence on its own. In such cases, one merely points to the text and provides a proper explanation of it within its context.


In this same vein, prophecy is powerful evidence. There are numerous instances in the Old Testament where events were accurately predicted before they occurred. This substantiates the credibility of the individual author and implies divine authorship. It also gives great credibility to the author when the text speaks about theological matters.


The last piece of evidence I’d like to consider is our conduct. While this is the most subjective evidence, it is still evident to those around us. First Peter 3:14-16 commends suffering for the sake of righteousness (v. 14) and instructs us to defend our faith in a Christlike manner (v. 15) resulting in shame by those who revile our good behavior (v. 16). While our behavior is somewhat subjective, people observe how we live out our beliefs. Because of our good conduct, they may approach us and inquire about the hope of Jesus. While this form of evidence may, at times, be viewed positively or negatively, it should be accepted as evidence, nonetheless. Jesus was perfect, yet people did not always listen to Him, even persecuting Him. However, this does not diminish the significance of His conduct as evidence.

Thus, when discussing evidence from an apologetic perspective, evidence encompasses anything that is factually true and correct, which can be used to defend our faith and persuade others to believe in Jesus, whether that factual information comes from the Scriptures or an external source.

Evidence in the New Testament

In John 14:11, Jesus commands the disciples to believe in Him, specifically that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus. However, if they wouldn’t believe His words, they should have looked to His miracles as evidence of who He claimed to be. The idea is that the evidence of the works adds validity to the claims; therefore, they should have believed in His words.

In this instance, we see that Jesus used the evidence of something they had seen and witnessed. This demonstrates that evidence is useful, and there is a divine expectation that one should believe the words of God. But if not the words, the evidence is present throughout creation. God knows that we struggle and need evidence to help substantiate His claims. However, He does it in such a way that faith is still required.

We must remember that the evidence we use for evangelism and apologetics is not meant to cause a person to walk by sight; rather, it provides enough credibility to remove reasonable doubt and intellectual obstacles, giving testimony to reality and the truth. We need to maintain the correct perspective, understanding that the working of the Spirit is essential for His marvelous work of regeneration.

While sin has impaired our ability to perceive truth, God has provided sufficient evidence to establish His existence. Consider Romans 1:18-21. In this passage, God provides evidence that He expects people to perceive the evidence that is made readily available in creation by God. Even in the face of evident truths about God, sinful and unregenerate mankind continues a willful and foolish rejection of this truth. Moreover. they attempt to silence it because what is known about God from general revelation is plainly seen (φανερόν, v. 19). Why is this the case? Because God has clearly shown it to them. These things are so obvious since the creation of the universe that all of mankind is “without excuse.” The sense here is that God has placed evidence in the world for them to see and has enabled them to observe and have a basic knowledge of His eternal power and divine nature, so they along with all of humanity are without excuse.

Caleb Hilbert is pastor of Lewis and Clark Bible Church in Astoria, OR. He and his wife, Krista, have three children: Ezra, AJ, and Sophia.