But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. -1 Peter 3:14-16
The Christian faith is not a blind, irrational, subjective faith devoid of reason, reality and evidence. As Christians, we should not turn our minds off and fail to engage the culture around us and questions people have. In fact, we are commanded to be ready to give “the reason” for the hope that we have. This is called “apologetics”; not because we apologize for our faith, but because we are to defend our faith with credible reasons for why we believe. True Christianity does not fly in the face of reason; rather reason supports the claims of Scripture!
However, it is important to note that there is a “way” in which we are to do this: with gentleness and respect. We do have solid reasons or evidence but we can turn people away with our attitudes as easily as failing to reason credibly and clearly. In fact, this is becoming an increasing problem in our culture and may be the biggest stumbling block for giving people a reason not to embrace Christ; Christians not acting like Christ!
Ed Stetzer writes about this in his new book, “Christians in the Age of Outrage.” We have to model something different and not think we will win anyone through anger, being disrespectful or spewing our political venom. In other words, we need to be like Jesus, if we want to influence people for Jesus. Sadly, we are our own worst enemies in many cases. Ghandi once expressed it like this: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Ouch.
But this article is a plea for Christians to do a better job of engaging in apologetics. We do not need to be embarrassed, defensive or intimidated by those who appear intellectually superior. We have overwhelming evidence and reason for believing what we believe (such as a creation pointing to a Creator, Jesus as a historical person who did indeed rise from the dead, miracles being real and supernatural not superstitious, the bible being trustworthy etc).
From the “fine-tuning” of the universe in more ways possible than chance could explain, to moral law and human consciousness, to secular works at the time of Jesus providing clear evidence of his historicity, to hundreds of eye-witnesses to his resurrection and evidence that makes the case for the resurrection being the only logical and reasonable explanation, to archeological finds that again and again prove the reliability of Scripture, to much more; the evidence is in our favor.
There would not be time to go into all these (and more) arguments for why we can have confidence in what we believe in this blog article; rather my purpose is to encourage us to do our homework as Christians. In the age we live in, it is vital to our own faith, our children’s faith, and in effectively witnessing to others.
I just finished a much needed book called “Scientism and Secularism.” As the author, J.P. Moreland points out: “Christians must be taught not only what they believe but why they ought to believe it…Obviously, with glorious exceptions, the local church is a complete failure in this regard. We practice “ostrich Christianity”-we put our heads in the sand…Unfortunately, our failure…is causing young people to leave the church…the church’s shallowness of thought, including it’s biblical teachings and practices; the feeling that it is an unsafe place to express doubts and get answers to questions; it’s isolationism, that is, it’s failure to interact fairly with the surrounding culture; and, last but not least, the church’s anti-science attitude, including being out of step with scientific developments and debate…we try to “grow the church” by using watered-down, intellectually vacuous, simplistic preaching that is always applied to a parishioner’s private life while failing to deal from the pulpit with the broad cultural, intellectual, and moral issues facing us all; by emphasizing worship and good Christian music; and by trying to get people into small groups…there is nothing wrong with the last two practices, but conspicuously absent is any place in weekly church practice for people to learn; for their minds to be stretched; for learning to defend their faith; for becoming godly, intelligent ambassadors for Christ. People lack the courage to stand up for their faith in a non-defensive, winsome way…today, faith is choosing to believe something in the absence of evidence or reasons for the choice. Faith used to mean confidence or trust based on what one knows.” (pg39-40).
So, we need to do a better job learning, studying, and loving God with not only all our heart, soul and strength; but also our minds.
If you are wondering where to turn for this, consider the following authors/apologists. This is not at all exhaustive but a good beginning place. Research different articles and books on apologetics in addition to the following people/authors: