Arguments against Christianity are nothing new. Matthew records that the Jewish Sanhedrin said that the disciples stole the body of Jesus to explain the empty tomb. The Jewish Talmud records that Jesus was a magician. The Quran says that Jesus didn’t die on the cross. Modern day atheists will say that Jesus never existed or that he was based on other myths. I’ve even been told that there is more evidence for UFO’s than there is for Jesus.
From the beginning, Christians have been defending our faith. Our early church fathers wrote letters dealing with heresy and Gnosticism. Paul would go to synagogues to reason with others:
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to
Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom
was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
Even Jesus appealed to evidence.
2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5
The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
John, who was Jesus’ cousin, and was the first person to confess Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). and saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus as a dove when John baptized him, was experiencing doubt. So he sent 2 of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, do we look for another?” Jesus didn’t reply with “Just believe”. He appealed to evidence.
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19
Show Me the tax money.”
So they brought Him a denarius.
20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”
21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”
And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.
Here, Jesus responded with logic and reason.
Defending your faith is where apologetics comes in. Many don’t know what apologetics is. Others have a misconception of it. Some even believe that apologetics helps drive people away from the faith.
Apologetics is a branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.
1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
The Greek word for defense used in this verse is Apologia, and it means:
1. verbal defense, speech in defense
2. a reasoned statement or argument
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
We’re really good at loving God with all our heart, and with all our soul, but do we love God with all our mind? This is one of the ways where Apologetics comes in.
Apologetics is, in essence, a defense of what one believes to be true.
Why is apologetics important? Here are some statistics:
• The percentages of non-Christian or no religion has been slowly increasing
over the past couple of decades.
• 60-80% of youth walk away from Christianity by their mid 20s.
• Over 70% of 18-23 year olds reject the idea that only one religion is true.
• Less than half of born-again young adults believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.
• Only 1 in 25 born-again young adults have biblical worldview, basic religious habits, and biblical attitudes on social issues
Even my own church isn’t immune. Several devout and faithful members over the years have ended up abandoning their faith and becoming devout and evangelical atheists. Including:
• A couple that were considered leaders.
• A graduate of our pre-intern discipleship program.
• A member ended up becoming a deist simply because of a documentary he saw on the Discovery channel. (I wrote about this one in one of my first blog posts.
• A son of current members who became an atheist in college
Just recently, I even spent some time ministering to a friend who was a leader in my church who had had his faith disturbed because someone who quoting to him “facts” that actually came from The Da Vinci Code (which is actually a work of fiction and easily refuted. I’ll add this a list of topics to write about in the future.)
There are two fundamental goals or purposes of apologetics.
1. Offensive (or positive) Apologetics
2. Defensive (or negative) Apologetics
Offensive (or positive) Apologetics:
• gives people positive reasons to believe that Christianity is true.
• provides historical, evidential, and logical arguments to support the truth of our faith.
Defensive (or negative) Apologetics
• gives people reasons not to disbelieve that Christianity is true.
• responds to objections or attacks against our faith by providing historical, evidential, and logical arguments to support the truth of our faith.
In a sense, defensive apologetics clears away the intellectual brush that obscures the path to faith in Christ. Another way to put it is a tool to help remove intellectual strongholds.
Essentially, apologetics either presents reasons to believe or reasons not to disbelieve
Not only are there Christian apologists, but there are Muslim apologists, atheist apologists, and more. It is my firm belief that the arguments to support Christianity are stronger than the arguments to support atheism or Islam or any other religion.
There are 2 interesting people to note here. (Actually, there are many more, like C. S. Lewis for example, but for time and space, I’m just going to point out these two.)
Atony Flew was one of the world’s leading atheists of our previous generation. After 40 years of debating and defending atheism, he came out and said that he now believed in God. This belief was more of a deism rather than subscribing to any particular doctrine, but it was still ground shaking. And the reason that he came to believe in God was because of the evidence in science, particularly the fine tuning of DNA. And this was before the so-called ‘junk DNA’ was found to actually have a purpose and function. You can read more about this in his book There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.
Nabeel Qureshi grew up in a Muslim family and was very devout. He was essentially a Muslim apologist, challenging Christians on their faith, and he never found someone who could answer his questions until he met Christian apologist David Wood (who himself has an amazing story.) After a couple of years of debating back and forth, Nabeel became a Christian. You can read more about his story in his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.
So let’s talk about our faith.
Christianity, unlike all other religions, is rooted and grounded in history, one that is testifiable and verifiable.
Some religions are just a philosophy. You can take the founder out of the equation and still have the religion. For example, Buddism and Scientology. You can take the founder out of either, and still have the religion. They may be important figures in the religion but they aren’t essential.
Other religions also make historical claims, but either have no evidence or faulty evidence to back their claims up. For example, Mormonism and Islam. The Mormon bible makes historical claims about 2 Indian tribes that not only is there no evidence for those tribes, but the evidence seems to contradict the existence of those 2 tribes. And the Quran claims that Jesus did not die on the cross, something that even atheist New Testament scholars agree happened
But Christianity not only makes claims about history, it also has the evidence to support those claims. For example, the archaeological evidence supports, not contradicts, the Bible. Even more, the claims of Christianity are centered around the resurrection of Jesus. Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also in vain.
C. S. Lewis says:
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
What about those who just “know” that they believe? How is that any different from Mormons who “just know” that they believe? Or Muslims? Or atheists? Or people who believe in UFOs?
To appeal to the Bible as evidence of for the Bible is circular reasoning. What is meant by circular reasoning? Here are 2 examples:
What do I mean by circular reasoning?
They can’t put anything on the internet that is not true.
I read that on the internet.
Therefore, everything on the internet is true.
Miracles don’t occur
How do you know that?
Because all miracle reports are false.
How do you know that?
Because there is uniform experience against miracles
How do you know that?
Because miracles don’t occur….
A circular argument fails as a proof because it will only be judged to be sound by those who already accept its conclusion.
Tim Keller says this:
I’ve heard plenty of Christians try to answer the why question by going back to the what. You have to believe because Jesus is the Son of God. But that’s answering the why with more what. Increasingly we live in a time in which you can’t avoid the why question. Just giving the what (for example, a vivid gospel presentation) worked in the days when the cultural institutions created an environment in which Christianity just felt true or at least honorable. But in a post-Christendom society, in the marketplace of ideas, you have to explain why this is true, or people will just dismiss it.
If the evidence for Christianity is so strong, why doesn’t everyone believe? There are several possible reasons:
• They aren’t aware of the evidence
• They haven’t thought their beliefs through
• They don’t want to believe
In general, people don’t believe for the following reasons:
• Rationally – rational doubts of evidence
• Emotionally – purely emotional, some from being hurt by other Christians
• Volitionally – willful resistance
Paul Copan, in his booklet A Little Book for New Philosophers: Why and How to Study Philosophy, says this
Evidence can only bring us so far, and we must exert our will to act on what we know. Socrates claimed to truly know something means to act on that belief.