Christian Apologetics involves making a reasoned defense of the things we believe as Christians. In the last several posts, I’ve tried to give you good reasons, both biblical and pragmatic, why every Christian ought also to be a good case-maker. However, some Christians think the Bible actually teaches the opposite, that apologetics actually goes against biblical mandates. Since I’ve made a biblical case previously, and a biblical case is being raised to show the opposite, we must carefully consider each and decide which is the most accurate and true.
So, to start with, let’s tackle what is probably the most often raised, and at first approach, appears to be the most challenging: Doubting Thomas. Here’s the passage, from John 20:24-29 (NASB):
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him,“Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
It seems that in this passage Jesus condemns evidentialism. After all, he says “Do not be unbelieving, but believing,” and “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” It sounds like Jesus is saying to Thomas, “The only reason you believe is because you have the evidence in front of you. That’s weak faith. Those who believe without evidence are the ones who are truly blessed.” Is that really what is going on here though?
Remember, in a previous post I showed how in John 14:11, John 10:25, 37-38, and John 5:36 Jesus presented the evidence of his miracles as foundation for belief in the eyewitnesses. Jesus continually seemed to be saying “I didn’t just assert, but I demonstrated and gave evidence.” So then, in this context, what was meant by “blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed?” I think usually when reading this passage, we stop too soon; we need to continue reading through John 20:30-31 (NASB, emphasis mine), immediately after this passage about Thomas:
Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
In his gospel, John repeatedly affirms Jesus’ miracles as evidence of His divinity. Why then would Jesus have continued providing these miracles if He was promoting a blind faith? Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17:20-21 is instructive:
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
In this passage, Jesus is praying for his disciples, for their protection and for the next generation of disciples that follow them. Here we have a proclamation by Jesus, not only for those who saw Him personally and knew Him, and knew that what He said was true because they had seen the miracles with their own eyes. He’s also praying for those who would not get to see the miracles with their own eyes, but would have to trust the reliable eyewitness testimony of those who did. You and I were not there to see the risen Christ and to touch his wounds, so we are those who did not see. But we have reliable testimony of eyewitnesses who did. Did Jesus condemn apologetics in this passage? Certainly not; just the opposite. He continually provided evidence and called those “blessed” who would come to a reasonable faith because of this testimony.
Next time, I’ll run through several other objections to apologetics that I’ve heard from Christians.
Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!