09.01.2023 – Not the facts, Ma’am

First an apology to any non-Baby Boom readers who don’t recognize Sgt. Joe Friday of the LAPD or my play on his famous line.

In fact, Sgt. Friday asked for “Just the facts, Ma’am” and in every episode of the 50s TV show Dragnet he used those facts to prove who dunnit, whatever it was.

I thought of Dragnet and just the facts when I saw an ad for a set of free videos offered by a well-known Christian organization. We were encouraged to accept the offer and “get equipped with the facts and history that prove the Bible is true.”

Apparently, the presenter in the video series is a former police detective who uses his investigative skills to “prove” the truth of the Bible. Except that you can’t. Facts don’t prove the truth of the Bible. You know, that stuff about the conviction of things not seen.

Apologetics is a branch of theology that seeks to defend and explain Christian faith and its basic tenets as reasonable and reliable. Early apologists include Origen and Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Augustine of Hippo. We might add C.S. Lewis, R.C. Sproul and Tim Keller from our time to the list.

The cop turned apologist in the free video series represents the Joe Friday subset of apologetics – the idea that if we just have the facts we can prove the truth of the Gospel. I’m not much taken by “Just the facts, ma’am” apologetics. Faith may be the conviction of things not seen, but I am not sure factual evidence will lead to a conviction.

To be sure, the Apostle Paul appeals to the fact of more than 500 mostly-still-living witnesses to the appearance of the resurrected Jesus as he speaks of the reality of resurrection. .The facts discovered by archaeologists and the scholars of the Ancient Near East only go to sustain our sense of the reliability of Scripture. Being persuaded of the reasonableness of the faith is not the same thing as having the facts to prove the truth of what we believe, however.

If not the facts dug up by a former detective, then what do we have to offer a doubting world? Is love too simple an answer?

The last night he was with his disciples, Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

The Westminster Confession (16.2) asserts that the good works we do as we show love to our neighbors “become ornaments of all those who profess the gospel. Good works in believers silence the criticism of the enemies of the gospel. They also glorify God by showing that believers are the workmanship and creation of Jesus Christ.”

The Heidelberg Catechism (Question 86) tells us that “by our godly walk of life we may win our neighbors for Christ.”

I am going to pass on the offer to get the facts that prove the Bible is true. The conviction of things not seen points to love of God and love of neighbor as the best way to present the truth of gospel.