Is there a difference between knowing what you believe and being able to defend it?
I remember the first time my faith was challenged. It was a warm summer evening in downtown Ft. Collins, CO. I was sitting out with a group of people and two difficult questions came up. One person said that they couldn’t believe in a God who let so many bad things happen to them. The second person jumped in and said they couldn’t believe in a God who would let all the un-reached people go to hell when they never even had a chance to hear the message of Jesus. I sat there speechless. The only response I had was, “I’m sorry you feel this way.” I had never encountered this before. Was there a better response I could have given? Should we tell them to have faith or is there a response that helps them to understand God better?
Well, a few years later I was introduced to Christian apologetics and I was blown away. Not only are there better responses for questions like these, but the Bible also commands us to be ready to defend Christianity. For those of you that don’t understand or have never heard of apologetics before now, it simply means to give a defense; the art of defending the faith. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer (defense) to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” I think Jesus did this very well and I want to look at two examples.
I recently asked my apologetics class at the Bible institute this question, why did Jesus heal the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12? Jesus first told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. When the teachers of the law began to question him, Jesus responded in verse 9, “Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” The interesting thing is that anyone can walk up to someone and tell them that their sins are forgiven. They will never know if they are telling the truth or not. Jesus didn’t respond by telling them to just believe that he forgave the paralytic’s sins, but he gave them a visible reason. He healed the paralytic so that they would know he has the authority to forgive sins. Jesus gave them proof and didn’t leave them believing blindly.
Another example we see is when John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to see if he was the Messiah. Jesus didn’t respond by saying that he was the one and that they should just believe; that they should have faith without reason. He responded by telling them to report what they had seen and heard: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”(Luke 7:22) These are evidences taken from Isaiah 35 that showed people what to expect when the Messiah came. Jesus didn’t leave John’s disciples believing blindly!
So the question is “Why defend my faith?” Well, I defend my faith because I believe I am commanded to do so in 1 Peter. I also defend my faith with reasons because that is exactly what Jesus did. We as Christians are called to be like Jesus and he gave many convincing proofs of who he was. We should use reasons and arguments to share the truths about Christianity when necessary. I don’t know what happened with the two people who had serious questions about God, but I also know I wasn’t prepared to defend Christianity.
I just want to say thanks to J. Warner Wallace. It is because of your many posts about “tent-making” Christian case makers that I have worked up the courage to start my first apologetics blog and write this post.
I would love all of your responses on what you think!