Ready to Answer - Lesson 2

By Jim Baird

Is There Good Evidence for My Faith?

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. Students will recognize that faith and evidence are not opposed to each other, and that the Holy Spirit uses evidence to help people come to faith.
  2. Students will see that, given our nature as limited creatures, even with good evidence, people will sometimes doubt their faith.
  3. Students can list some of the common triggers of doubt.


  1. It is important not just to read these notes to the class. Teacher should be very familiar with the outline and choose how to present the material, making notes in the margins as needed. Practicing the lesson a few times will allow the teacher to look at the students’ eyes while making the presentation.
  2. Some find it helpful to underline the key words that will spark their memory of what to say and do next.
  3. A teacher who is new to this subject would be wise to get copies of the resources listed at the bottom of this outline and study them as well.
  4. Blackboard should be provided, clean with chalk and erasers.
  5. Students should have access to Bibles, or have overheads of all scriptures.
  6. If you are going to use the handouts associated with this lesson, give them out after the introduction. The underlined material in these notes appears in the handouts.


Faith is helped by evidence, but even good evidence doesn’t rule out some doubts from time to time.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (about 10 minutes)

  1. Prayer
  2. Get reports from anyone who talked to those with non-Christian faiths.
  3. See if they can answer: “What was last week’s definition of faith?” [Faith is a wise conviction about the unseen fundamentals of reality, and this conviction forms a steady basis for one’s whole way of life. Put this on the board to use during the class.]
  4. Ask, “Can you have faith in something if you can prove it?” After the discussion has gone on for a bit, lead into the first learning experience below.

Learning Experiences: (about 30 minutes)

  1. Is it OK to give evidence for faith?
    1. Actually, lots of people, Christians and non-Christians alike, say that faith and proof are incompatible.
      1. Sometimes they use II Corinthians 5:7, where Paul says, “We live by faith, not by sight”, and they bring up the example of Thomas, who doubted until he saw Jesus with his own eyes. Jesus said to him in John 20:29, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
      2. It might seem that these passages teach that it is better to believe when there is no evidence.
    2. But if faith and evidence are opposites, then what do we make of the very next sentences after the Thomas story:
      1. John 20:30-31 “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
      2. Clearly, the Holy Spirit intended the story of Thomas and the other miracles in John to be evidence for us to help us come to faith.
      3. And if you look at the sermons of Acts, you will seethe preachers giving evidence to persuade people to believe. For instance, in Acts 2, Peter gives several lines of evidence from prophesy, miracles and the resurrection to persuade people to believe in Jesus. So clearly, the Holy Spirit uses evidence to help people come to faith.
    3. Look again at II Corinthians 5:7 and John 20:29, and you will see that it is not faith and evidence that are opposites, but faith and sight.
      1. Sight is psychologically compelling and pretty well removes the possibility of doubt.
      2. But as we learned last week, any faith, Christian or not, is about what is unseen, and so it is never as compelling as plain sight.
      3. Of course, God could make himself visible to us, but he may have other reasons to remain unseen. Like a mother that wants a child to be happy and confident even when she is not in sight, God may want us to develop confidence in him and some degree of self control even though we cannot see him.
      4. Since we humans are so limited in our ability to see(or sense directly), we have to live based on indirect evidence. Since we are also fallible when we reason based on indirect evidence, there is often a degree of doubt about what we believe. But notice that this isa problem for all human beings, not just Christians. Christians and non-Christians alike have to live by accepting indirect evidence, and have to put up with the doubt that sometimes comes with indirect evidence. But it does not change the fact that we often have very good evidence for many things we cannot see. In later lessons, we will see some of the excellent evidence we have for Christian faith.
  2. If there is good evidence for Christianity, why do I have occasional doubts?
    1. Understanding our own nature like this helps us understand another problem that some people have with the idea of giving good evidence for Christianity. People ask, “If there is good evidence for Christianity, why do I have occasional doubts?”
    2. To answer this, we should realize that there are several factors that may incline a person to doubt something that they believe.
    3. [Write, “What Triggers Doubt?” near the top of the board. Leave a blank and then write the numbered, bold items below on the board as you discuss them. Leave room on the right for a column where you will write “Yes” after each one.]
      1. The Unseen
        1. We have already seen this. There is always a possible doubt about what we cannot sense directly.
      2. The Unfamiliar
        1. Sometimes doubts come up just because we are unfamiliar with what is to be believed. People who have never seen ice might find it very hard to believe that water could ever behave like that.
        2. Obviously, the farther something is from everyday experience, the more likely we are to have doubts about it.
      3. The Controversial
        1. It turns out that all of us take more of our beliefs than we want to admit from those around us. [You might illustrate by asking, “What is your actual evidence for believing in the Great Wall ofChina?”]
        2. This means that the more people agree with us,the less doubt we feel about our beliefs. [You might illustrate the power of this by pointing out that up until the 1500’s, almost every scientist believed that the entire universe orbited everyday around the earth, which stood still in the center of everything.]
        3. The other side of this is that if those around us disagree with our belief, it makes us more prone to doubt it, even if the evidence is very good. It makes us double, and triple check the evidence if nothing else.
      4. The Time-Critical
      5. A belief is time-critical when we don’t have the luxury of suspending judgement while we investigate.
      6. Time-critical beliefs often come up in situations where failure to act on a belief may have severe consequences. [William James, a Harvard psychologist from a century ago, illustrated this with the example of a man who wakes up to find out that his house is on fire. In a daze, he runs out the nearest exit, and only once he is outside does he realize that he doesn’t know if his children are still inside. Whether to run back into the house to save them is a time-critical decision. If he suspends judgement while he investigates,his children will die if they are inside. To suspend judgement in this case would be the same as to decide to believe that his children are really safely outside.]
      7. Obviously, when we are forced to make time critical judgements, we usually feel strong doubts.
    4. The Demanding
      1. Finally, the most powerful doubt-trigger of all is how much a belief demands that we change our own lives.
      2. The more demanding a belief is, the more likely we are to doubt it. [There are several good ways to illustrate this. It is the difference between our general belief that airplanes are the safest way to travel and how we feel personally when we get on one. Or better for a young audience, it is the difference between being convinced in general that so-and-so would be a good husband or wife,and deciding that you will marry him or her yourself.]
      3. It is very likely that if something is really demanding, we can’t help but have some doubts about it, no matter how much evidence we have.
      4. We get past this kind of doubt, not with more evidence, but by making a decision to act based on where the evidence points most strongly. This often takes a lot of courage.
  3. Now that we understand these doubt-triggers, we can understand why doubt about our faith occasionally arises even when the evidence is very good.
    1. [Mark off a column in the space to the right of your list on the board. If you have room above this column, write “Is faith about …” Then, after you discuss each, put a yes in the column across from it.]
  4. The Unseen
    1. [Ask, “Is faith about the Unseen?” If they stumble, point out the definition of faith they learned last time. Write “Yes”.]
  5. The Unfamiliar
    1. [Ask, “Is faith about the Unfamiliar?” As the discussion unfolds, help them see that Christian faith is about the unfamiliar, since we can barely imagine God. But you may want to point out that all faiths eventually get to the unfamiliar.Write “Yes”.]
  6. The Controversial
    1. [Ask, “Is faith about the Controversial?” As the discussion develops, you may want to ask them to read and think about Matthew 10:34&35. You may want to suggest that controversy is built into the ministry of Jesus, because he forces people to make a choice about him, and that choice changes everything else about their lives. So believers have always had to have faith in the face of controversy, and probably always will until Jesus returns. Write “Yes”.]
    2. The Time-Critical
      1. [Ask, “Is faith about the Time-Critical?” If the discussion slows down, ask, “What is the effect of saying that you just suspend judgement aboutJesus?” Help them see that in the end, this means you will live as an unbeliever and miss heaven. Our belief in Jesus can’t help but be time-critical, and so doubt is natural. Write“Yes”.]
      2. The Demanding
        1. [Ask, “Is faith demanding?” If they get off track,point out that there can hardly be anything more demanding than whether or not Jesus is to be believed. It requires that we change big areas of our lives, and trust that Jesus will keep his promises. Write “Yes”.]
        2. Summarize this section by pointing out that, since anyone of these can trigger occasional doubt in us, it is not surprising that we have doubts from time to time about our faith. That does not mean that there is necessarily anything wrong with the evidence for our faith. It just reflects our own nature as limited creatures of God.

Application: (try to keep it under five minutes)

[This is to deal with the question "When I have doubts, does that mean I’m loosing my faith?”]

  1. We have been saying that occasional doubts are natural for limited creatures like us. But the Bible says some pretty hard things about those who doubt. For instance, James1:6 says “he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
  2. To answer this, it is helpful to look at the great example in scripture - The faith of Abraham. [Read or have read Romans 4:18-21. Ask about the context of this story. Make sure that the class understands the context is about God promising Abraham that he and Sarah would have their own child. Ask, “What is the main characteristic of Abraham’s faith we are meant to notice in these verses?” Hopefully, they will see that it is the steadiness, and unwavering character that is key.] [Next, read or have read Genesis 17:17-18 which tells the same story Paul is referring to first hand. Q: “Why is Abraham laughing?” Hopefully, the students will see A: Abraham is having real problems believing that God will really give him and Sarah a son. If someone suggests that he is laughing because he is so happy, then ask why he suggests that God accept Ishmael rather than the son God is promising. It clearly looks like Abraham just couldn’t get his mind around what God was promising. Q: “Are these two passages in contradiction?” After a few suggestions, you might ask, “Do you think Paul just didn’t know his Old Testament at this point?” Hopefully, they will realize how silly that is, and you can get them to admit that Paul knew exactly what Genesis 17 said when he wrote Romans 4.] [Now, ask Q: “What was it about Abraham that stayed completely unwavering and steady during this event?” and after a brief discussion, point out A: His way of life never changed. He could have gone back to his family in Haran, or even back to Ur. He could have given upon God and accepted the idols of the Canaanites. But he stayed firm in his life of obedience, even when his mind just could not quite believe what God was saying.] [Remind them that according to last week’s definition,real faith provides a steady basis for one’s way of life. Now have them read James 1:6-8 to put James 1:6 inits context. Q: “What are the characteristics of the man who doubts, according to this passage?” A: Help them notice the last line of verse 8, which indicates it is the instability of what the doubter does, rather than what he thinks, which is the real sign of doubt.]
  3. Summary: Occasional doubts are a normal part of the life of faith. What the Bible condemns most strongly is when my doubts become an excuse to stop being faithful.
  4. Further Resources:

    Rubel Shelly Prepare to Answer: A Defense of the ChristianFaith. 20th Century Christian, 1990. The Introduction and chapter 1.A. J. Hoover. The Case for Christian Theism. Baker Books,1981. Chapters 2 & 4.

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