Jesus is unscientific.

In the movie Meet the Parents, Robert De Niro plays Jack—an intimidating ex-CIA agent. Greg is his daughter’s boyfriend (Ben Stiller) and they don’t hit it off. At one point, Jack hooks Greg up to a lie detector and asks him a series of uncomfortable and revealing questions. Greg is exposed.

The scene is funny for its absurdity. We’ve all heard of a daunting future father-in-law. But this is ridiculous.

Sometimes it is said there are two kinds of people. Those who believe in evidence. And those who have faith.

Evidence and faith are seen as contrary and opposing things. Either you’re a person of faith—someone who can’t be reasoned with. Or you’re scientifically minded—someone who chooses hard facts over wishful thinking.

And yet, when it comes to daily life, no one demands the kind of evidence Jack did. You’d be crazy if you did! On closer inspection, pitting faith and evidence against one another is not convincing. Even the most scientifically-minded person still exercises faith every day. It might be faith in a motor vehicle that defies my understanding. It might be taking a medicine whose ingredients I can’t pronounce. In both cases, I am exercising faith in something that I have not personally tested.

When it comes to other people, all of us exercise faith.

It is worth pausing to think about what our faith in others is based on. Ideally, we make a friend, confide in a confidant, or choose a spouse, based on the proven character of the person. Yet the evidence for their trustworthiness does not amount to peer-reviewed science.

Sure, we may look for tangible signs such as healthy communication skills, kind speech and a good reputation. But none of these things is strictly scientific. Trusting or having faith in someone is in a large measure, intuitive. Through conversation, through ‘sussing them out’, you determine if someone is worth trusting.

Faith in Jesus is much the same. Like all characters in human history, Jesus cannot be put under a microscope or tested with the experiments of modern science. Even if we lived in the time of Christ, no test could have determined that he is the divine Son of God, or the Saviour of the world. (What would we look for? A certain blood type? Or a particular DNA?)

What we can do is look at the accounts of his life. Unlike other major religions, Christianity is ‘particularly open—some would say vulnerable—to historical scrutiny’, as John Dickson says in his book A Doubter’s Guide to Jesus (2018).

In one sense, trusting Jesus is not so different from trusting any other person. There is evidence available, but it is not scientific evidence. It is historical evidence from eyewitnesses. Not so different actually from getting the word on someone’s reputation today.

The difference with Jesus is the level of the claims he makes. He claims to have risen from the dead. He claims to live in heaven now. He claims to offer us life eternally with God.

A person would have to have observed every moment and incident in the universe since its inception to say these things are not possible. So two questions cry out for an answer. Are Jesus’ claims true? Would you check him out and see?

Joshua Maule is a Minister at Jannali Anglican Church.

Joshua Maule