Should we apologise for our faith?

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It was 2007 and everything in my life was going well—dream job writing for a car magazine, dream lifestyle and good friends. God decided this was the perfect time to make His presence known. And He did so in such a compelling way—through the authoritative voice of the Holy Spirit—that I had to take notice.

I told my father that I would like to come to church—a huge shock for him but a positive one. In a matter of weeks I was attending prophecy seminars and was fascinated by what I learned. I still had many questions, especially about the evolution-creation debate. However, after listening to countless videos and presentations from both sides of the argument, and through the leading of the Holy Spirit, the evidence for God made sense. I developed a trust in the Bible and accepted Jesus into my life.

. . . one of the biggest misconceptions of Christians and Christianity today is the concept of 'blind faith'.

But what I’ve found difficult to understand in the Christian world is the disregard of apologetics as an area of theology and witnessing. Many Christians appear sceptical or unsure of its usefulness. Others ask, “Do I need to prove my faith for it to be justified?” I think a large part of it comes from a misconception about the word and its meaning.

What it means

Apologetics suggests apologising for something and we normally associate an apology with something we’ve done wrong. And so we may well ask, “Why should I be apologising for my relationship with Jesus?” But apologetics is not about apologising; rather it’s a transliteration of the Greek word apologia (ap-ol-og-ee-ah), meaning defence.

It’s a biblical teaching that’s frequently expressed in the life of Paul, who says: “The latter are motivated by love, because they know that I have been appointed to defend the gospel” (Philippians 1:16).

In Paul’s day apologetics was defined as giving defence to the accusations thrown at Christianity. Paul was no stranger to defending his faith before the philosophers and thinkers of his time. In Acts 17 we find him defending Christianity to the Athenian philosophers who raised doubts about the resurrection of Jesus.

Was apologetics a useful method of witnessing? The Bible says: “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some [began] to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this’. So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them” (Acts 17:32-34).

Two thousand years later and we have a similar scenario—almost all western universities have leading educators whose philosophy and world views place incredibility upon the Bible and through these means some seek to nullify the faith of many young believers.

Ellen White states: “Because the Creator and His works are so far beyond their comprehension that they are unable to explain them by natural laws, they regard Bible history as unreliable. Those who doubt the reliability of the records of the Old and New Testaments will be led to go a step further and doubt the existence of God; and then, having lost their anchor, they are left to beat about upon the rocks of infidelity” (Patriachs and Prophets, p 62).

Just as Paul defended the Christian faith, we too have our Pauls of today—leading defenders of Christianity within the academic world. People like Oxford mathematician John Lennox, philosopher William Lane Craig, historian Gary Habermas and Australian Adventist academic Grenville Kent. And who can forget the writings of the great C S Lewis, who was an atheist but through the leading of the Holy Spirit gave his life to Christ and became one of the most influential Christian writers of his time.

So although the greater Christian church has distanced itself from apologetics and an intellectual or thinking faith, we clearly still have some defenders of Christianity within the public square. Is it possible that the broader Christian church, while seeking to feed primarily our emotions, has neglected the minds of many and in doing so painted a misconstrued picture to the world of what Christianity is and so, too, what faith is?

I believe one of the biggest misconceptions of Christians and Christianity today is the concept of “blind faith”. When a young person starts high school or university they often come across the belief that Christians are irrational, blind and misguided, and at the heart of this belief is the misunderstanding of faith—often dubbed “blind faith”. They make the mistake of not taking God’s revelation seriously.

God’s revelation

My mother makes the most delicious chocolate pudding. Scientific analysis can never tell you why my mum made the pudding—you would never find out unless she’s prepared to reveal it to you, but if she reveals it to you that doesn’t mean that you shut off your reason. In fact, you’ll have to use your reason to understand the content of her revelation. Then, using your reason you will be able to determine whether or not what she revealed to you makes sense.

This is also true about God. John 20:31 states: “These things are written so that you might believe; far from being non evidence, these things were written down solely for the purpose of providing reason for people to believe that Jesus is the son of God.” And Romans 10:17 says: “Faith comes by the word of God, not by blind belief.”

The Bible qualifies why the Word of God is the source of faith: “In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1) Jesus says if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father. The Word is God’s revelation to the world through the Person Jesus Christ, who is Himself God.

And so the Bible’s claim is very interesting. We are persons made in God’s image and so God has given us His revelation on a level that we can understand and that is Jesus Christ—He is a Person; we are persons.

We find in Scripture that the world around us is also part of the revelation of God: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). And Psalm 19:1 states: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

So God has provided ample evidence in both His creation and revelation that He exists and loves us.

Defenders of the faith

Just as Paul defended Christianity in his day it’s becoming more and more important for Christian young people to defend against the accusations thrown at them, while building confidence in witnessing their faith in a very hostile environment.

And just as Paul was able to influence men who “joined him and believed”, we too can have a powerful influence on others through the workings of the Holy Spirit. Take, for example, the story of Dr Francis Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute:1

“. . . this wonderful minister gave me his own copy of Mere Christianity, Lewis’s slim tome that outlines the arguments leading to his conclusion that God is not only a possibility, but a plausibility. That the rational man would be more likely, upon studying the facts, to conclude that choosing to believe is the appropriate choice, as opposed to choosing not to believe.”

That was a concept I was really unprepared to hear. Until then, I don’t think anyone had ever suggested to me that faith was a conclusion that one could arrive at on the basis of rational thought. I, and I suspect many other scientists who’ve never really looked at the evidence, had kind of assumed that faith was something that you arrived at, either because it was drummed into your head when you were a little kid or by some emotional experience, or some sort of cultural pressure . . .

Finally, after about a year, I was on a trip to the northwest, and on a beautiful afternoon hiking in the Cascade Mountains, where the remarkable beauty of the creation around me was so overwhelming, I felt, ‘I cannot resist this another moment. This is something I have really longed for all my life without realising it, and now I’ve got the chance to say yes’. So I said yes. I was 27. I’ve never turned back. That was the most significant moment in my life.”

And so I challenge us all to be aware of what we believe and know why we believe it. Be ready to give a defence, find out what questions are asked within your own circle of peers and seek out the answers with prayer, reading and revelation from God, and watch the blessings it brings to your own faith and to those around you.

1. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/questionofgod/voices/collins.html


Updated and reposted on July 16, 2020.