As the commercial breaks into the evening news, a confident British narrator announces a new DNA discovery that proves Jesus fathered several children. Not long ago the headline for this story appeared on your son’s Twitter feed, and now it is the subject of a major documentary. You can see doubt flash across his face.
You can guess what he’s thinking: “Did the Bible get it wrong about Jesus having a wife? Why should I believe He died on the Cross?”
It’s time to stop and assess! The Bible warns us of claims that seek to draw us away from truth (Colossians 2:1–10). Are we trusting in the wisdom of men or the Word of God? Are we taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ?
Ideas bombard us every hour of the day. They come with a buzz in our pocket or flashing across our screen. So how do we sort through all of these claims, finding the meat among the bones? The Bible says we must constantly be on guard (Ephesians 5:15). I teach my children how to do this, and I must do it myself all day long. Whenever we hear a truth claim, we immediately evaluate it by ASKing a few questions. No, that’s not a typo, it’s an acronym to help us remember to ASK good questions.
A—Authority: What is this person’s authority to make such a claim?
S—Starting Points: From what starting point is this person looking at the world?
K—Knowledge: How do they know what they claim to know?
Authority: Is the Person Credible?
When asking the authority question, we should evaluate whether the person making the claim has studied the issue and can speak with credibility. Credentials often provide authority, but it doesn’t take a PhD to speak on a topic. An earned degree can help establish authority, but diligent study on a topic or extended experience can also provide the necessary authority in many situations.
Authority often comes from studying a topic thoroughly or extensively, whether formally or informally. You can become an expert on many topics through reading, practical application, or experience. Electronic access to information has made it much easier to learn about many topics, but also much easier to come across people presenting false ideas that can deceive us if we’re not already experts.
Who originally identified the bones and studied the DNA of Jesus’ supposed family, and are they experts (because the narrator on the program certainly is not)? But that’s just the first step.
Starting Points: Is the Foundation Biblical?
Ultimately, we base our thinking either on biblical truths or the wisdom of the world. So we need to seek to discern whether a claim reflects human wisdom or biblical wisdom. According to Scripture, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). So God’s Word—and a worldview built on God’s Word—is the only solid foundation for wise thinking. Any claim that relies on doubting the Bible is automatically untenable, no matter how great an expert the source is. Even if the argument uses the Bible, we still must examine it carefully.
While it may be difficult to examine someone’s worldview based on a few sentences, look for clues. Appeals to authorities such as “science says” or mentions of dates from “millions of years ago” likely indicate a nonbiblical worldview.
We’ve all heard the saying, “The facts speak for themselves.” But we need to stop and reconsider: Do they really? If I’m walking along a creek and notice some fossils in the rocks, do the fossils tell me how old they are or how they came to be buried in a rock? No. And that is why starting points are so important. Evidence does not speak for itself—it must be interpreted. When examining the fossils found in rocks, many scientists begin with the assumption that the Flood recorded in Genesis never happened. If they have already rejected the true biblical account of history before they begin examining the evidence, they can never come to the proper interpretation of the fossil’s formation (2 Peter 3:3–6).
In the case of Jesus having a wife, the people making the documentary are starting from the assumption the Bible is not true. They are elevating the interpretation of a DNA analysis over God’s clear words in Scripture. Jesus had brothers and sisters but not a wife or children.
Knowledge: Is the Claim Confirmable?
There is a big difference between data and its interpretation. But people often use the two interchangeably.
There is a big difference between data and its interpretation. But people often use the two interchangeably. When presented with a truth claim, we always need to evaluate the interpretation to see if it is consistent with the evidence. How do they know what they claim to know? How certain is the conclusion?
Different scenarios present different levels of certainty. To examine a fossil and claim that it is a tusk from a mastodon is very different from claiming that it died during a hurricane 10,342 +/-50 years ago. The first is an interpretation that creationists and evolutionists could agree on. The second involves many assumptions that could easily throw off such a specific claim if any of the assumptions were wrong.
If someone appeals to science, is it confirmable observational science or speculative science about the unseen past? We can compare this fossil tusk to others in the present, but our ways of determining when or how the animal died are less sure. However, the Bible gives us a timeline that limits the age.
If a claim contradicts what the Bible clearly teaches, we can be certain it is a false claim. Since DNA analysis happens in the present, claiming that a sample can be connected to Jesus requires many assumptions. If any of those assumptions contradicts the Bible, we can know that the claim is false.
Wisdom from Above
So the next time you hear a claim that seems to challenge something you believe, stop and ASK questions. Even if the claim seems to confirm something we believe, we always need to stop and ASK questions to make sure it is so. The Christian faith is not a blind faith, but a faith that calls us to love God with our hearts and our minds (Matthew 22:36–40). Because He is faithful and true (Revelation 19:11), we can have absolute confidence in God and the truths He has revealed to us.
The world around us will continue
to present false claims to draw us
away from Christ. But it is in Jesus that
we find all of “
the treasures of wisdom
When some authoritative voice calls
us to doubt His Word, we need to stop
and compare the claims to the steadfast
truth. I am constantly teaching
my children to look for the unbiblical
assumptions and false authorities. We
also pray regularly for the Spirit’s wisdom
to discern the truth from error.
And as we have opportunity, we share
this strategy with others in God’s family
to encourage them, too, not to be
led astray by the claims of even the
most confident-sounding narrators.
Look for “Squishy” Words and Hidden Assumptions
When you hear reports that appear to prove how life evolved on earth (such as the evolution of organic molecules in clay), stop and ASK some simple questions (or look for some easy-to-spot flaws). In the rush of confident words, we easily overlook the details that show why the unbiblical claims can’t be true.
Watch for “Squishy” Words
Honest science reports admit which claims are based on suppositions, not factual observations. These are easy to overlook, so don’t miss them. They mean the claim could be completely wrong. (And if it contradicts the Bible, it is!)
Watch for an Appeal to an Authority
Dr. Cairns-Smith is an expert in the field (an organic chemist). But he was not present at the origin of the first organic molecules, and his hypothesis contradicts what God’s Word says.
Watch for Unbiblical Assumptions
Science stories don’t always state the assumptions behind the conclusions. If these assumptions include an earth that’s billions of years old and life that arose by chance, then you know the conclusion must be wrong.