Tag Archive: faith


In the last post, I gave an overview description of the design argument as applied to the life on earth, further expanding the positive case for the existence of a Designer. This time, I want totoolbox address some of the explanations proposed by materialistic and evolutionary theories, and how I think they fail as adequate alternatives.

Time + Chance

If you recall from last time, two strong arguments, specified complexity and irreducible complexity make a compelling case in favor of intelligent design of life on earth. Scientists committed to materialism have fewer tools available with which to construct alternative theories, and thus have (at least) two very large problems: 1. origin of first life, and 2. diversity of complex life forms we observe today. In this space today, I’m not going to address the origins of life problem; suffice it to say that producing life from non-life has proven daunting, at best, even with intelligent agency (the scientists) manipulating initial conditions. If anything, any success in this area seems to give more credibility to the need for intelligent agency.

Materialists have only a few tools with which to construct complex life: natural selection and random mutations operating over a long period of time. Extrapolating from observable and non-controversial micro-evolution, time plus chance are proposed as adequate to change the (elusive) first single-celled organism to the highly diversified life forms throughout the earth today (macro-evolution). The trouble is, “time plus chance” are articles of blind faith, not words which provide any adequate explanatory power.

Our uniform and repeated experience tells us that higher complexity does not flow from lower complexity; water does not rise higher than its source. Adding time and chance does not help, either. Consider the following example paraphrased from Frank Turek. Consider a fellow taking with him a large bag of red, white, and blue confetti into an airplane. At 5,000 feet, he dumps the bag over a football field; how good do you think are the chances that the confetti lands in the pattern of the American flag? Probably not too good. What about if the plane goes to an altitude of 30,000 feet? If he empties the bag from there, is it more or less likely to form the flag than at the first altitude? It’s pretty easy to tell that adding extra time for random chance to act to produce something orderly is so unlikely to work that it is hard to imagine that adding any amount of time would produce success. Applying this intuition to the issue of development of life forms has led some to refer to Darwinian evolutionists as “young-earth evolutionists,” meaning that the amount of time needed for probabilities of random mutation to have acted appropriately to get where we are now is exponentially larger than the same scientists estimate the age of the earth to be.

The Philosophy of Science

Why is it that materialistic scientists have fewer explanatory tools than do theistic scientists? They limit themselves to only naturalistic explanations; no supernatural explanations are even allowed as possible. This results in many a round-peg-in-square-hole scenarios. This approach is called philosophical naturalism, and as its name suggests, is not a statement of science, but one of the philosophy of performing science. It is a commitment to providing a naturalistic explanation for all things. Methodological naturalism, by contrast, is a more modest approach to science which says one must presume and investigate the object of study as if it has a naturalistic explanation; most things will comfortably fall into this category. However, if the evidence leads to a supernatural explanation as being the best fit for the evidence, the scientist is free to consider such a theory.

From this discussion, it should be clear that science is not the final authority on truth and fact; science itself rests on philosophy. The methods of scientific testing and inquiry set the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is out-of-bounds. Science cannot be done without philosophy, and even faith (used broadly); we exercise faith when we apply the scientific method that the natural laws will provide consistent results and can reliably assist to explain scientific mysteries. The philosophical assumptions brought in to the experimentation process can drastically impact the conclusions a scientist makes about data gathered. After all, science does not say anything; scientists do, and their interpretations are influenced by their prior philosophical commitments. Of course, none of this is to denigrate science or the scientific method, but one should be somewhat skeptical when the monolith of Science is said to proclaim the truth. A good scientist must be able to recognize his or her own presuppositions and attempt to mitigate its influence on the interpretation of scientific data.

In my next post, I’ll move into another area of argument for God’s existence, the moral argument. I hope you’ll join me!

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

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2 Cor 10:5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christworking-1229720-1279x977

Previously, I took a great deal of time to show that not only does objective truths exist, but that we can reasonably approach and assess truth in many important areas of philosophy, theology, history, and science. Confidence in our knowledge in these areas can be gained and increased by careful reasoning and critical thinking through argumentation. Having laid the philosophical foundations to justify the use of these tools, I now want to apply them towards our knowledge of God.

Can Truths About God Be Known?

Rom. 1:20“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they [unbelievers] are without excuse.”

But first, perhaps it would be appropriate to say a few words addressing the question, can truths about God be known? Is God too “other” for finite humans to comprehend or in any way grasp His properties? One agnostic trend makes the claim that this is impossible. Paul, in Romans 1 indicates that some amount of knowledge about God is indeed possible through observation and reflection. I think the agnostic claim itself fails philosophically as an absolute claim, as it claims to have knowledge of God, namely that knowledge about God is unattainable. So what is gained by the destruction of this claim? Well, we can escape the prison of ignorance concerning God; it seems that it is not logically impossible to know something about God (if He exists). This, of course, doesn’t take us very far towards positive knowledge claims about God, but it does make forward progress possible, at least in principle.

Baby Steps

In the posts that follow, I want to move, with slow and careful steps, through some arguments that have installed in me confidence that God exists and is accurately reflected in Christian theism as laid out in the Bible. Slow and careful, I say, because these are not philosophical word games, some smoke-and-mirrors rhetorical trick. I’m not going to try to take you all the way from skepticism to true believer all in one argument, as that seems an awful lot to ask from one argument [1]. Instead, I want to build a cumulative case for you that grows in stages from previous groups of arguments, as laid out in my earlier post about the goals of Christian case making. As a reminder, here is the model I’m following in this method.

                      | Has God spoken? |

                |        Has God acted?         |

     |                     Does God exist?                 |

|    Does Truth exist? Is Truth knowable?         |

We have completed step one, concerning Truth, and are now moving up to the next step, “Does God exist?” The arguments will not, as I said, make the full case in one step, but will move us forward, bit by bit, with evidence for God’s existence, His attributes, and how Christian theism seems to fit best with reality and history among other religions. I think this careful case-building strategy can be persuasive, as the Holy Spirit softens the heart and removes hostility towards God. Overthrowing one’s worldview in favor of one very different is no small matter, and one which I would expect not to happen quickly.

Please join me next time as we begin with arguments for God’s existence, and I hope that you will have your confidence and trust strengthened in the truth of the Bible as we see how reality truly is reflected, described, and prescribed. I certainly found it convincing, and I pray you will too.

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

[1] Although not impossible – the Minimal Facts argument for the resurrection strikes me as very persuasive, and implies much of content of Christian theism.

Logic’s First Principles

What we believe has ethical implications to ourselves and others as we use or misuse our knowledge.  Therefore, it is vitally important for us to have true beliefs and understand the basis of our statueknowledge claims. This involves the philosophical field of epistemology, or the method of our acquisition of knowledge. The foundations of good argumentation as an epistemological method are called First Principles of logic which are self-evident and are applied then to our observations and prior reasoning to build conclusions.

First Principles of Logic

  1. The Law of Identity states that if a proposition is true, then it is true. Put another way, a thing is identical to itself. Stated in symbolic logical form: A=A. This one seems so obvious that it is difficult at first to see why it is even useful to formally recognize, but it is the most basic logical law, and is the basis of the other two. It also comes into play when we are answering certain difficult questions, such as, Are Yahweh and Allah the same God? Is the mind the same as the brain?
  2. The Law of Non-Contradiction states that no proposition can be both true and false at the same time and in the same sense. Symbolically: A != !A. For examples: Can God exist and not exist at the same time? Can God be personal (as in monotheism) and impersonal (as in monistic religions) at the same time?
  3. The Law of Excluded Middle says that every proposition must either be true or false, and there is no middle ground, no third alternative. Symbolically: A or !A. For instance, “God exists” is either true or false, there is no other possible answer.

As a clarification concerning contradictions, there are three categories that are often lumped together and called “contradiction.” The first is contradiction proper, as defined in the second First Principle above. The second category is mystery, in which there is a logical answer, but we just don’t know it yet. Think about investigating a murder or other crime as an example. The third category is paradoxes, which seem contradictory, but usually involve terms used equivocally but not actually contradictory, such as “jumbo shrimp,” “bittersweet,” “the beginning of the end,” or “I’m nobody.”

God and Logic

Finally, I think it is critical to note that God is not “above” logic, such that logic does not apply to Him, or that the laws of logic are arbitrary and could have been other than they are if God decreed them to be so. I understand when people want to say that He is, they are attempting to keep Him properly elevated in an appropriate position of superiority, but if the laws of logic do not apply to God, then you end up with absurdities such as having to affirm that perhaps God exists and doesn’t exist at the same time. Neither is God subject to the laws of logic, thus enslaved in some way. Instead, logic is part of who God is, in the same way as the moral laws; these are not arbitrary, but flow from his nature.

In the next post, I will talk more about arguments, demonstrating and defining the different types and uses to gain knowledge.

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

Faith and Reason, Part 2

In my last post, I hopefully clarified the difference between biblical faith and the contemporary understanding of that word. Often, it seems to be put in opposition to reason, and it was my goal handshaketo show they are complimentary, not opposites.

What is Reason?

First, I want to make some important distinctions. We will be talking about argumentation here in our discussion of reason, and this word often has some bad associations because of the way we use it. When my kids are in the back seat of the van being nasty to one another with their words, I might finally yell back to them, “Stop with the arguing already!” But I want to use the concept of arguing in a different way here. So here’s what I don’t mean: arguing and reason is not quarreling, bickering, squabbling, or contradiction. It is also not judgmental, narrow-minded arrogance.

When we have a verbal interaction with someone, it usually takes on one of these four forms: [1]

  1. Discussion – A discussion is where people are sharing information and opinions with one another.
  2. Disagreement – Disagreements happen when people have conflicting opinions, but are not trying to change the other’s mind about it.
  3. Argument – People with differing opinions are now giving reasons to support their beliefs in order to persuade the other.
  4. Fight – Name-calling, insulting, and other nastiness happens in a fight; it is abusing the other person and not giving reasons at this point.

I love this classic Monty Python skit to illustrate:

Reason is a tool by which we evaluate observations to form conclusions about reality; it is working out what follows from what and evaluating the relationship between real and possible objects and other real and possible objects. This often involves others, challenging ideas and being challenged; this is argument, part of loving the Lord with all your mind (Mark 12:30). Arguing well is a good thing, as it helps us distinguish truth from error.

Is Faith Opposed to Reason?

If you say yes, then your view of the relationship between faith and reason looks something like this:

FvR2 FvR1

As one grows, the other shrinks: the more evidence and reason one has, the less need for faith, until it is eventually all squeezed out. Conversely, one with “perfect faith” then has no doubts and no need for logic and reason.

But, as I pointed out in my last post on faith, this isn’t a picture of biblical faith at all. Instead, it is more accurately illustrated this way:

F&R

In reality, the more evidence and reasons we have concerning the trustworthiness of a thing or proposition, the more trust or faith we place in it. This is biblical faith and the true model of the relationship between faith and reason.

In the next post, I will talk more logic and putting together your toolbox for clear and critical thinking.

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

[1] As seen in The Fallacy Detective

Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:6 – “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Are faith and reason opposed? Clearly God expects us to have faith, but what is that, anyway? Is Mark Twain correct in his definition that “faith is believing what you know ain’t so,” or is there something more to it? Are the new atheists correct in their assessment that faith belongs to religious zealots and reason belongs to sensible atheists?

What is Faith?

Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.” – C.S. Lewis [1] CS-Lewis

Biblical faith is not blind, or in opposition to reason. Thus, “strong faith” is not upholding belief in spite of overwhelming evidence against belief.  Faith is different from belief.  Belief is mental assent to a set of propositions, which may not produce a significant change in the life of the believer.  Faith, in contrast, adds to belief trust, and involves an act of the will to commit to those beliefs in a way that does significantly impact the life of the believer.  Faith is similar in nature to the commitment of marriage: while dating, a man and woman may believe that the other partner would make a great spouse, but it is the wedding which demonstrates the commitment of the participants to change their lives for the belief.  There may not be complete certainty, but the weight of evidence is strong enough to responsibly bridge the gap.  As Christians, we have faith in the person of Jesus Christ, supported by reasonable propositions concerning his existence and miraculous works.

Reasonable Faith vs. Blind Faith vs. Certainty

(I heard this illustration many years ago from Richard Simmons III of The Center for Executive Leadership.)

Suppose I reach in my pocket and pull out something in my closed fist. What is in there? My father, who has known me all my life, says, “It’s a quarter.” I ask if he is willing to bet $100 that it is a quarter. Logically, it could be a quarter, but if he is willing to bet on it at that point, he is exercising blind faith.

Now, let’s say I tell him it is a 1921 silver dollar in good condition. If he believes and bets on that, it demonstrates reasonable faith, based on his belief in my trustworthiness.

Finally, I open my hand and give him the silver dollar so he can inspect it and verify all the information about it. At this point, he has certainty concerning his knowledge about it, and no faith is required.

Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” Gailey on faith in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Faith is what credulity becomes when it finally achieves escape velocity from the constraints of terrestrial discourse.” Sam Harris [2] samharris

Time for a New Word

All too often in our modern parlance, when people hear the word “faith,” they mentally attach extra words in front of it, such as “blind” and “leap of,” and so “faith” comes to be incorrectly defined as in the quote above from Miracle on 34th Street. When a word comes to mean something in the popular usage different from the concept that it originally conveyed, it is time to use a different word that is more accurate. In the same way that we don’t anymore use the words “gay” to mean “happy” or “gentleman” to mean “an upper-class landed aristocrat,” the word “faith” has come too much to mean belief in something in opposition to evidence and reason. Therefore, I more often want to use the word “trust” to express how Christians hold belief.

And not just Christians. I am referring to a tool we use all the time. In my last post, I explored a bit the depths of skepticism that a bit of reflection can raise, and showed how few things we have actual certainty about. This means that we must exercise “faith” (trust) about pretty much everything in our lives, to a greater or lesser degree. This includes Sam Harris and the other New Atheists!

Whether it’s life’s more philosophical questions – the reality of our conscious experience, why science works, the existence of other minds – or whether it’s just the mundane everyday realities of life – flying on a plane, undergoing a medical procedure, sipping a latte, using my credit card – every day I exercise faith in numerous little ways.” – Andy Bannister [3] andybannister

What About Child-Like Faith?

Matthew 18:1-4 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 

As I have laid out in previous posts, the Bible models and expects a faith based on reason and evidences. In light of this clear teaching, any ambiguity of this Matthew 18 passage should be resolvable not as a guide on the definition of faith, but of the commitment based on that faith. After all, children place trust on the reasons and evidence they have available, just as adults do. Their faith is no more blind than anyone else’s. No, what is being instructed here is not blind faith, but a fearless and confident trust that our justified beliefs are truths that should be acted upon.

Next up, I’ll define reason and describe how we use it to arrive at truth.

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 125.

[2] Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004), 65.

[3] Andy Bannister, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: Or The Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments (Oxford: Monarch Books, 2015), 196.

In my last post, I described the influencers that contribute to the beliefs that people hold, categorizing them as sociological, psychological, religious, and philosophical, and showing that go-away-1544609members of the first three categories were insufficient of themselves to provide adequate basis of belief. Only when we begin with a properly functioning mind can we correctly appraise truth claims presented by the society, psychology, and religion.

It is also worth noting three categories of reasons why people will “SHUN” or reject a truth claim, according to J. Warner Wallace [1]:

A. RaSHUNal – Rational reasons are a request for more evidence to justify a truth claim. It is in this aspect which Christian case-making may be most useful.

B. EmoSHUNal – A truth claim may be resisted due to emotional hurts in the past or present related to the claim. As concerns Christianity, the resistant person may have been hurt by a pastor, another Christian, or (seemingly) God Himself. Helping this person will require patient love and friendship, pastoral care, and counseling. This is generally not the situation for a formal argument, although sometimes rational objections may be offered as a smokescreen to hide the true hurt.

C. VoliSHUNal – Volitional objections to a truth claim amount to a declaration that “I don’t care if it can be shown to be true, I’m not changing my life for your claim.” As relating to Christian claims, again, making a good case will not make much headway, as their will is set against it. Although they will often present rational objections as well, the smokescreen nature of their objections become apparent if a couple of exploratory questions are asked: “If I were able to answer your objections to [God’s existence, reliability of the Bible, historicity of Christ’s miracles, etc.], would you become a Christian?” or “What is your standard of proof? What evidence would you require to convince you of the truth of Christianity?” The answers to these questions frequently reveal the volitional nature of their resistance to Christianity. In this situation, the softening of their hearts by the Holy Spirit is required, and your steady and virtuous friendship with them may provide you an opportunity to answer honest questions about God that may be forthcoming.

In almost all cases, it is my belief that the normal use of apologetics by the Christian will be done in the context of a relationship with the other person. Theodore Roosevelt is attributed with the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” and I agree. You aren’t making friends simply as an emotional wedge to proselytize; I’m talking about genuine and caring friendships in which the other person then becomes open to finding out more about that which is important to you and the reasons you hold for your beliefs.

1 Peter 3:15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

Form friendships, and be ready!

Next post will be concerning how truth is known. I hope you’ll join me!

Comments, questions? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

[1] J. Warner Wallace, “Why Some People Simply Will Not Be Convinced,” Cold Case Christianity, August 16, 2013, accessed October 8, 2013, http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/why-some-people-simply-will-not-be-convinced/.

Continuing from the prior post, here are some more objections to apologetics often given from within the church.teen-talk-1438715

“You can’t ‘prove’ that God exists.”

Most apologists are not trying to “prove” the existence of God. Indeed, proof is too strong a word; it seems to me that proof lies in the eye of the beholder, and so can be influenced by or resisted for any number of reasons. Apologists’ goals are more modest. We provide evidence that belief in God and the Christian faith is reasonable and rational. We want to give them reasons to take the gospel seriously and give it consideration for their lives. As Greg Koukl says, we are trying to put a stone in their shoe, to help them see that Christianity is worth thinking about.

“Apologetics is just about arguing with unbelievers.”

I think people get a bit over excited about this one simply due to an imprecise use of the words, and often I am guilty of this too. When my kids start getting loud bickering with each other, what comes out of my mouth is “Stop arguing and get along!” But arguing is not what they are doing; they are quarrelling, fighting, and/or name-calling. This is not what an apologist does, though (or shouldn’t be!). Instead, we use arguments and good evidence to show reasonable conclusions supporting Christian ideas. As I will discuss further in a future post, argumentation is the gift that God has given us to discover truth.

“Apologetics doesn’t work.”

When someone offers this objection, I want to ask them, “What exactly are your expectations?” Are they assuming it is being offered as a silver-bullet approach that should work every time it is used? Remember Romans 1:18 says that unbelievers suppress the truth; the Holy Spirit does the work inside their hearts. We obey by offering the gospel persuasively. Also, how are they gauging success or failure in this endeavor? Is it a failure if they do not convert immediately? Must they do so on the spot for it to be considered a successful or useful tool? Most people don’t make the important decisions of their lives in an instant or without serious and careful contemplation.

“You can’t argue someone into the kingdom.”

This is true. Also true is that you cannot love, preach, or lifestyle-witness anyone into the kingdom, either. Our job is to love, preach, live, and give a defense, all in such a way that will show the truth of the message we bring. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to turn the hearts of the hearer towards what has been heard. Without the Spirit’s work, nothing works, and even though He could do it all without our help, God has commanded Christians to spread this good news in a partnership with Him to reach the world. Apologetics is one of the tools we use in doing our part.

Are there other objections you have heard or thought of? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

Previously, I spent a good bit of time and space examining one of the most often objections I hear to apologetics, that concerning “Doubting Thomas.” I’d like to discuss a few more objections,stop-1-1428620 and I’m going to try to hit several in a less exhaustive treatment than the last. Most of them are more easily dispensed with anyhow.

“God doesn’t need defending.”

Yes, this is true. But truth does need defending. It is under attack all the time. Christian case-makers are not in the business of defending God; we give reasons to believe in Him, and offer corrections to faulty thinking and ideas about God. In accordance with 1 Peter 3:15, we offer a reasoned response for our beliefs: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

“God can’t be known by reason.”

In support of this objection, 1 Corinthians 1:21 may be quoted: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” The good news of the gospel may seem like foolishness to those in whom the Holy Spirit has not yet removed their hostility towards God, but certainly the Bible isn’t teaching that the gospel itself is folly. As is pointed out in Romans 1:19-20, unbelievers suppress belief, but that is not the same as saying God cannot be known. The foolishness of salvation is only in the eyes of the hostile unbeliever.

“Without faith, you can’t please God. Apologetics is contrary to faith.”

If Christianity is shown to be reasonable, is there then no room for faith? Does belief then become cold, non-relational facts as head knowledge takes the place of faith?

Except by accident, I try not to use the word “faith” anymore. I think this English word no longer captures the meaning of the biblical concept translated in most bibles now as “faith.” We are talking about trust now, not blind faith, and I think this is a better, more precise word to use. Belief without evidence leads to irrationality which is, as pointed out in previous posts, contrary to Biblical model and instruction.

“The word apologetics is not in the Bible.”

The English word apologetics is the anglicized form of the Greek word apologia, so yeah, it kinda is in the Bible. Anyway, even if the word itself is not in the Bible, the use of it is throughout the work of the apostles, in particular with Paul in Acts 17 on Mars Hill. Also, the words Bible and trinity are not in the Bible, either, but we as Christians are certainly not ready to throw out those concepts for that reason.

Next up, a few more objections and how I would approach them. Are there other objections you have heard or thought of? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

 

doubt-1429549Christian 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!

[This post inspired by and largely paraphrased from J. Warner Wallace on his excellent site Cold Case Christianity.]

 

Having previously given several examples of Jesus’ and Paul’s use of persuasion and careful reasoning approaches to evangelism, let me now show you how God, through His inspired authors,studying-2-1475294 has given us the commission to each be careful and considered Christian case-makers.

Let me start by reminding you of Paul’s instruction to the church in 2 Corinthians 10:5

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Through careful reasoning and persuasion we are to destroy the arguments raised against the knowledge of God, not through empty rhetoric, intimidating personality, abusive use of Scripture, or threat of force.

Over in Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul writes concerning the Christian’s gifts and design:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. [NASB, emphasis mine]

Does the thought of evangelism make your palms sweat? Relax, that may not be your gifting. Paul says that some, not all, received the gifts of being apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. However, no such qualifiers are given in 1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

This command is not issued to “some” of the believers, but seems to have the expectation that all believers should be ready to make a persuasive defense (apologia) of their faith. God expects all Christians to engage in apologetic study; this should not be simply a niche, academics club within the church, or a peripheral topic relegated to a specialist teacher or occasional special guest lecturer, but a discipline in which all Christians ought to apply themselves. As J. Warner Wallace puts it, “Christianity does not need another million-dollar apologist, we need a million one-dollar apologists.” We need people studying, getting into the game, engaging and improving their interaction skills as they do so.

Move down towards the end of the New Testament into the book of Jude, in which we will find this verse in Jude 1:3

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

We are to stand up for and contend for the faith! Not just as “true for me,” or a private experiential and subjective faith, but as a public, objectively true reflection of reality. Repeatedly we are called to a convinced and reasonable trust in Christ:

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 – Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Romans 14:5b…Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

2 Timothy 3:14 – But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.

You are probably familiar with the passage in Matthew 5:13-16 in which Jesus tells us to be salt and light in the world:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I believe that these verses instruct us to provide cultural correctives towards Biblical truth and morality as it goes astray, and do so by confronting ideas and arguments. If Christianity truly reflects reality as it is, even apparent contradictions between it and contemporary thought can be shown to be faulty. We need to approach each situation with care, tact, and discernment, using the right tool for the job at hand; use “gentleness and respect,” as instructed in 1 Peter 3:15 above. This tactical approach is summarized in Colossians 4:5-6:

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

In the next post, I will give you some practical reasons why you as a Christian should study apologetics (if the previous posts haven’t yet convinced you!).

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)