Our men’s group on Sunday morning has been working through the 6 week Tactics course by Greg Koukl. We are in our final two weeks and have enjoyed some good discussions over comments, claims, or statements made by unbelievers. Some I find in books I have read, others on various atheist web sites, or simply Facebook, which can be a plethora of anti-Christian material.
In the DVD series, Greg Koukl covers the material in his book Tactics, providing multiple examples for the topic of that day. Generally, I do some work ahead of time, and find other material we can wrestle with and discuss once we have exhausted the samples provided by the series.
In part, this is why I have not blogged as much as I normally do. My time has been used preparing for the Sunday morning class by previewing the DVD, taking notes, and searching for additional material we could discuss.
During third session, I provided some claims to the group for them to consider. Part of being a Christian is dealing with opposing views or comments made by skeptics or unbelievers. I pointed out to our group how easy it is for all of us to converse with the church choir, but having a thoughtful response to an atheist, who does not believe a word of the Bible, can be challenging. It requires time and effort, and in part that has been one of my goals in the Tactics series – to provide a comfortable environment where we can engage and discuss world views outside our own.
Here are some claims we discussed in our men’s group. How might you respond to someone who said any of these to you?
1. There is no evidence for the existence of God.
2. If God created the universe, then who created God.
3. Believing in God is the same as believing in Santa or the Tooth Fairy.
4. Christianity arose from an ancient and ignorant people who did not have science.
5. You are only a Christian because you were raised a Christian or born in a Christian culture.
6. History is full of gods, and the Christian God is no different.
7. God is evil, or he would not allow evil and suffering.
Maybe more importantly, how might your son or daughter respond to questions like those above? Are they prepared to engage the culture?
Would you rather they hear those questions first from a non-believing friend at school? A skeptical teacher, or an atheist professor at college? Wouldn’t it be better to ask them, and to tackle tough questions and the discuss the answer with you first, or among friends at church?
How about these three that I have written about?
Why do innocent children have to suffer with terminal diseases such as cancer? What part of ‘God’s plan’ is this exactly? Answer
In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, why would God kill Lot’s wife, Sarah, by turning her into a pillar of salt for simply looking in the wrong direction? Answer
Why won’t God heal amputees? Answer
Paul Copan explains in his book, When God Goes to Starbucks – A Guide to Everyday Apologetics, that we can’t remove all objections, mysteries or questions. At times we do need to confess we don’t have an answer, but we will look for one. Copan said, “…discussing such questions in the context of a gracious, respectful relationship goes a long way to setting the context for robust, in-depth conversations. Christians should engage their non-Christian friends prayerfully, in dependence on God’s Spirit to awaken, convict, and provoke.”1
All Christians have doubts. This is normal, but what you do with your doubts, with the questions you have, is important. Even John the Baptist had doubts. In Matthew 11, John was in prison, unable to go anywhere himself, so he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was ‘the one’, or if they should look for another.
Matthew 22:37 calls us to love the Lord our God with all our mind. How is that possible without being able to give reasons for the faith we have within us? 1 Peter 3:15 says “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence….”
Part of the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our mind. I personally don’t see how to satisfy that commandment, (Matthew 22:35-40) without investigating the claims of Christianity. For example, someone might say Jesus was not a real person. In his book Tactics, Greg Koukl teaches us to ask two questions.
First we ask, “What do you mean by that?” Someone who makes the claim that Jesus was not a real person might be saying he was an alien from another planet. Or he might be claiming that Jesus was not even real, simply a made up character from the early church to consolidate power and influence. Asking someone to explain a statement can often clear the smoke filled air in a heated debate or discussion. After they clarify their statement, you can then move on to a second question to ask.
Simply, you would ask, “How did you come to that conclusion?” We can learn from their reply, if it is a sensible conclusion. And maybe you will not have a response; that is OK. You can tell them you want to think about it and will get back to them after you have had time to consider the question or claim. More likely though, you will find they are just parroting what they take in from the world, and do not have any solid reasons for what they believe.
Christian apologist Alex McFarland gave an example of a student that came up to him after a lecture at the University of Virginia, asking Alex how he could, “…possibly believe in a book that is full of errors?” Alex asked him which error he was talking about. After a long moment of consideration, the student replied, “Well, everybody knows the Bible has errors. You know, being so old and all.”2 Again Alex asked what error or errors he was referring to, but the young man could not give Alex any. He was just echoing what other skeptical or atheist friends had said to him.
Often unbelievers need to hear apologetic answers to help them see the truth of the message that would lead them to Christ. No question, the Spirit is required, but why would someone ‘not’ want to have an answer for the hope they have within? Romans 12:1-6
Lee Strobel was an atheist reporter who investigated murders in Chicago. When he began to research the claims of the New Testament, he became a believer. Abdu Murray, who by the way, spoke to my children at the recent Summit Ministries in Colorado, was a trial lawyer and a Muslim who also began to research the claims of Christianity. It took a few years, but Murray eventually caved in to the overwhelming evidence for Christianity.
Apologetics is an evangelistic tool that can aid unbelievers, but also believers, who find evidence to support their faith. Apologetics goes beyond faith anchored in feelings, emotions, or personal experience. Apologetics gives people trust in the object of Christ because of the evidence.
Toward the end of his book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller shares this about faith and trust. “The faith that changes the life and connects to God is best conveyed by the word, ‘trust’. Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you as you fall is a branch sticking out of the very edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and it is more than strong enough to support your weight. How can it save you? If your mind is filled with intellectual certainty that the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If your mind is instead filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. Why? It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to a weak faith in a strong branch.”3
1. Copan, Paul. When God Goes to Starbucks. Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2008. Print.
2. McFarland, Alex. The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2007. Print.
3. Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York, Riverhead Books, 2008. Print.
Defending the Faith by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.knowingforsure.com.