On answering intellectual questions
Recently John Dickson, historian and apologist, tweeted this: I’ll eat a page of my Bible if anyone can find a single professor of Ancient History/Classics/New Testament in a real, accredited university anywhere in the world who thinks Jesus didn’t live.
Dickson had many who were interested in taking him up on his offer but when their claims were investigated they did not meet the criteria, that is, no one who had completed serious studies in the relevant area was prepared to say Jesus hadn’t lived. (And yet I know of well known atheists who will continue to quote university professors who have not even studied ancient history!)
Of course, believing that Jesus lived doesn’t necessary mean you believe his teachings or his claims. Also satisfactorily answering a person’s intellectual questions about Jesus doesn’t mean they will become a Christian. There are two other reasons why people believe or don’t believe.
There are the personal reasons. People believe things that resonate with their soul or and psychology. People may sense their personal need of God, perhaps because they want forgiveness, acceptance, love etc. Alternatively people may not like the claims of the gospel. It may challenge their independence and self-sufficiency so they may not want to believe regardless of the evidence.
There are also social reasons. People tend to believe the things of those who they already like and trust. Coming into contact with a Christian community will convince some to become a Christian because they see something about their lives and the way they live that is appealing. Alternatively people may have only met legalistic, self-righteous Christians and want nothing to do with them.
So answering people’s intellectual questions will never be enough. There are other issues going on and it is as Jesus said of the Jews, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).