Q: What makes the best ‘case for God’ to a skeptic or non-believer, an open-minded seeker, and to a person of faith and Why?
Christianity is not first and foremost about a sacred place to pilgrimage to, a philosophical system to ponder, a moral code to live, a religious tradition to honor, or an impersonal god to experience. Rather, Christianity is about a person who claimed to be the only God and said he would prove his unprecedented claim by living without sin, dying for sinners, and conquering death through resurrection.
So, as Christians, our aim is not to convince people of some god in general, but to introduce them to Jesus in particular. And since he created us with the ability to communicate, think, love, and experience, Christians have always valued using every means by which the truth and love of Jesus can be revealed.
Helpful to this end is using the evidence for a personal Creator who handcrafted our world for human life by explaining the principles of intelligent design and such things as the fine-tuning argument and the argument for irreducible complexity. These show that our world is a gift to be enjoyed worshipfully and stewarded wisely.
It is also important that people learn to understand how God speaks uniquely and authoritatively through the Bible. Acts that can aid in this include giving away Bibles (along with helpful Christian books) as gifts for people to simply read, bringing people to church to listen to the Bible preached, inviting people to small groups and classes to ask their questions about the Bible, and recommending good podcasts that would bring the Bible into the daily rhythm of their commutes, exercise workouts, and the like.
On a more practical level, acts of truly selfless compassion–done not for fame, notoriety, or to merit God’s approval, but done out of love for someone–help to reveal a small measure of God’s loving, merciful, compassionate nature. In a world where people use one another far more frequently than they love one another, these kinds of acts can be signs pointing to the God who is altogether good. As one example, in our church filled mainly with young people, we have put much effort into weeping with and serving the hundreds and hundreds of victims of molestation and rape.
Thus, informing the mind about Scripture, explaining the world and our place in it under God, and extending a hand of loving compassion all help to give people a framework by which to interpret their life experiences. They can begin to see that God has made them, wants to speak with them, and desires restored relationship with them, relationship that otherwise remains broken through sin.
While each of these ways of informing someone’s understanding is important, none is alone sufficient. That is because what they leave us with is knowledge about God by revealing what he has done (creation), how he communicates (the Bible), and what he seeks (relationship). But we still do not enjoy that relationship.
This leads us to Jesus.
Christianity has always held, based upon the teachings of Jesus and the prophets of the Old Testament and apostles of the New Testament, that in Jesus, the Creator has entered into creation on a rescue mission for the restoring of relationship, in fulfillment of Scripture. For making the three most unprecedented claims in the history of the world–that he was without sin as the only God and the only path to salvation–Jesus was treated without compassion. He was lied about, arrested, falsely tried, beaten, whipped beyond recognition, nailed to a cross, and lifted up for a crowd to mock, jeer, and spit upon. Jesus our Creator then, with bloodied lips, spoke the word “forgive” for his murderers. Jesus died to pay the penalty for sin as the greatest act of compassion the world has or will ever witness; the Creator died for his creation, to make enemies friends.
Three days later, Jesus rose, conquering sin and death and vindicating his claims. Subsequently, if Jesus is dead, so is Christianity. If Jesus is alive, so is Christianity. And so while there is no “best case” for presenting God, there are false ways of presenting God: as anyone in addition to or other than Jesus Christ. As Christians, our goal is never to lie to people by only telling them what they want to hear, or manipulating them to feel what they want to feel. Instead, we want to respect them enough to tell them the truth, and love them enough to do so in a way that is compassionate. We care more about the truth and the love than having the “best case.” We believe that there is power in the truth about Jesus that can unleash new life in people as they agree with the truth about him.