Christianity


Dr Steve Kumar has spent much of his academic life studying questions about faith and religion. He is a leading New Zealand Christian apologist and gifted in presenting the historical, biblical and philosophical grounds for Christianity. He writes this with a deep conviction that in a world where truth is regarded as subjective and relative, the contemporary church must not neglect the role of reason and the need for a clear understanding of the Christian faith. Experience alone is not enough for a robust, lasting and effective Christianity.

Christianity is not just a matter of the heart, it is also a matter of the mind. The cliché, “What is mind? No matter! What is matter? Never mind! If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter,” may be amusing but the reality is that your mind matters to God. God has given us a mind to know Him, a heart to love Him and a will to serve Him. We are never called to surrender our hearts at the expense of our minds. To divorce the head from the heart is not a healthy spiritual experience. We are called not to remove our mind but to renew it.(1) Christian sociologist Os Guiness observes, “Anti-intellectualism is truly the refusal to love the Lord our God with all our minds as required by the first of Jesus’ commandments. God does not bypass the mind on the way to the heart. Our hearts cannot rejoice in faith if our minds are full of doubts, for the heart cannot believe what the mind rejects as false.” The great thinker St. Augustine declares, “For who cannot see that thinking is prior to believing? For no one believes anything unless he has first thought that it is to be believed.”

In our generation, it is not enough to know what we believe–we must know why we believe what we believe. Christian apologetics opens the window of our minds and reveals the wonder of God’s truth. It can give us the insight to expose the futility of human philosophy and the inadequacy of humanistic religion. It can assist us in confirming the reality of God’s truth. Apologetics can help us immensely in our battle for the truth. If Christianity is true, its truth can be shown to be true. Christian Apologetics is the art of explaining why Christianity is true. Apologetics is not apologising. Although the term is familiar to many, few understand its real meaning or purpose. Tragically, many dismiss it as an irrelevant intellectual exercise played by those who lack personal faith and commitment. It is even argued that apologetics consists of proving what you have never doubted by arguments you do not understand.

The unfortunate notion underlining these assumptions is that one must choose either a religion of faith or a religion of reason and no one can have it both ways. The either/or mindset is basically inadequate and unrealistic. By divorcing faith from reason, we not only make our faith unverifiable but also unbelievable. Contrary to popular opinion, Christianity is not a leap in the dark or a step into the unknown but an invitation into the light of the reasonable God.

Christian apologetics is a valuable tool which explains why Christians are Christians and why non-Christian, should become Christians. Apologetics can renew our mind and perform a useful service by helping us to use our mind rather than loose it. The task of apologetics is to communicate the truth of Christianity and to show that Christianity explains life and reality far more adequately than any other alternative belief system.

The best reason for accepting the Christian faith is because it is ultimately true. There are five good reasons why the ministry of apologetics is vital to the Church today.

1. It is Biblical

The entire Bible radiates with the light of apologetics. From Genesis to Revelation we read God’s truth communicated coherently. The first verse of the Bible affirms Theism, refutes Atheism, denies Pantheism and rejects Agnosticism. It does not merely assume creation but refutes the pagan views of origin. The Old Testament prophets frequently appealed to the facts of history, providence, prophecy and miracles to validate their message. The Bible commands us to give good reasons for believing in God. There is overwhelming Scriptural Support for the justification of apologetics.(2)

2. It is Logical

The Christian faith makes good sense. A house is as strong as its foundation. A faith without a foundation cannot stand the challenge of skepticism. The Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield declared, “Though faith is the gift of God, it does not in the least follow that the faith which God gives is an irrational faith.” God, who created humans with a mind and common sense, has also given us a sensible faith. If it makes sense to defend our freedom, family and country then should we not defend what is most precious and valuable to us–our faith? We value our faith not only by living it but also by defending it, as a faith worth believing is also worth defending. Logic and thinking play a fundamental part in our lives, for instance, we don’t break the logical Law of Non-contradiction without suffering serious consequences. We do not date cows or bicycles, or blindly eat anything that moves. If absurdity and contradictions are the essence of faith then insanity and lunacy should equally be embraced as an adequate expression of faith. Philosopher, John Locke, was right in stating:

He that believes, without having any reason for believing may be in love with his own fancies; but neither seeks truth as he ought, nor pays obedience due to his maker.locke

If God gave us common sense, must we despise it in an area that is most vital to our lives?

By removing reason from faith one opens the door of deception and allows no possible ground for distinguishing truth from error, genuine faith from the counterfeit, and ultimately, reality from fantasy. It makes sense to have a faith that makes sense. Augustine was right in stating that, “A Christian is one who believes in thinking and thinks in believing.” Richard L. Purtill notes, “Reason, like every good thing, leads us ultimately to God. The better we reason the nearer we come to truth. In answering the question, “Why apologetics?” R.C. Sproul responds, “Because we are rational creatures. Because we are by nature rational, we must be approached with reasons.”

We must not fail to perceive the truth that a spiritual commitment without discernment is as disastrous as discernment without commitment. The flight from reason does not lead us to the height of revelation but to the death of truth, (1 Cor. 12:1-3, 14; 1 Thes. 5:21; 1 Jn 4).

3. It is Historical

From the very beginning of Christianity, believers have defended that Jesus Christ is God. Most of the New Testament books are apologetical in nature. The Gospel of Matthew was written to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. John clearly states his reason for writing his Gospel: “These things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you might have life in his name,” (John 20:31). From the Old Testament prophets to Jesus Christ, the Apostles (Acts 14:8-18; 17:16-34; 24:5-21; 26:1-29), Apostolic Fathers, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Origin Tertuilian, Athanasius, Augustine Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, Thomas Reid, Joseph Butler, Jonathan Edwards, William Paley, John Henry Newman, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, A.E. Taylor, James Orr, G. K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, E.J. Carnell, James 0. Boswell, ER. Tennant, Elton Trueblood, Gordon H. Clark, Cornelius Van Til, F.A. Schaeffer, Bernard Ramm, E.L. Mascall, and many more have defended the faith consistently.

4. It is Practical

People have serious doubts about God, miracles, creation, etc. The secular world is full of people who think Christianity is not true. If we believe that Christianity is true then we have an obligation to communicate it as the truth. Since apologetics is giving a good reason for what we believe, we are called to practically help people to see the value of our faith. Frequently we meet people who ask tough questions: “If there is a God, why is there evil?” “If miracles are not possible, then why should we believe Christ was God?” There are good answers to these kinds of questions. Apologetics can remove obstacles to faith in God and give us the ground to trust God. It can dispel disturbing doubts which plague Christians and can create confidence and certainty, and at the same time it can challenge the indifferent and unbelieving to examine the faith. James Orr suggested, “A strong, stable religious life can be built on no other ground than that of intelligent conviction.” Apologetics can help us to think clearly about our faith and provide an objective ground for our subjective experience. The value of apologetics is evident from a letter that I received from a university graduate who was a former sceptic. She writes, “I would just like to encourage you in your ministry and tell you that your book Christianity for Skeptics made a big difference to my life. At one stage I doubted the truth of the Bible and the reality of God and your book was one thing which helped set me back on track. Thanks immensely.”

5. It Is Relevant

“Our generation is in a shopping mood for answers,” notes Os Guiness, in a time when our world is dominated by a variety of philosophies, competing belief systems, and objections to Christianity. Our proclamation in must be based not on subjectivity but on adequate evidence. Apologetics provides good reasons why Christianity is worthy of belief. Many people have lost their faith through the arguments of Atheism, Existentialism, Marxism and Mysticism. Philosopher William L. Craig notes, “As I speak in churches around the country, I constantly meet parents whose children have lost their faith because there was no one in church to answer their questions.” Non-Christian writers know the power of reasoning and arc using it to promote their causes. Reasoning and arguments can appeal to thinking minds who are looking for a tough-minded faith. Since evidence and arguments can alter one’s thinking, Christians should employ the principles of apologetics to graciously transform the thinking of the non-Christian to the reality of God’s truth. Michael Green states, “At a basic level, every person seeks an apologetic. A woman on the street the other day asked me, ‘Why does God allow my friend to be bedridden with arthritis?’ You’ve got to give a Christian apologetics there.” Apologetics will strengthen the faith of the believer and remove the doubts of the unbeliever.

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End Notes

(1) See Rom. 12:2; Is. 1:13; Luke 10:27; Matt. 22:27; Mark 12:30; 1 Pet. 1:13; 1 John 5:20.

(2) See 1 Pet. 3;15,16; Phil. 1:16,17; Titus 1:9; Acts 22:21; 25:16; 1 Cor. 9:3; Is 1:18 ; 3:13; Jer. 1:16; Hosea 4:1; Jude 3.

by Dr Steve Kumar

What is the greatest truth that the human mind can conceive? Philosophers, scientists and psychologists have written millions of words on the subject and yet our hearts long for something deeper. What about the ideas scientists proclaim? The concepts philosophers propose? The presuppositions psychologists promote? The notions sociologists provide? As humans we desperately struggle to find answers to our searching questions. As valuable as these ideas may be, they are not the greatest truth.

Is there a truth that transcends all human conceptions? Is there a reality beyond our finite perception? Where can we discover the truth that will set us free from the darkness of our uncertainties? Christianity affirms that there it such a truth, and if it is true, it is the greatest truth for our searching hearts. The great philosopher and chairman of The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Mortimer Adler, after testing and debating Christianity for nearly seventy years, became a Christian. His intellectual journey brought him to this remarkable conclusion, “I believe Christianity is the only logical, consistent faith in the world.” There Is nothing more tragic in existence than to devote one’s life to a belief system, which is ultimately false. Imagine spending a lifetime climbing a ladder and when you reach the top discover, that it is leaning against the wrong wall.

The greatest truth could only come from the greatest Mind. In Christianity we discover the essence of God’s greatest truth in a world where people struggle to find meaning, hope, purpose and reality. Unlike any other ideologies or religions, Christianity provides a unique message. It’s uniqueness is found in four essential truths.

I. THE GREATEST FACT

Christianity is centred on the fact of Jesus Christ. It is not an empty dream or wild speculation but a faith grounded in historical evidence. Unlike religions of the world, which major on the teaching of their’ founders, Christianity primarily focuses on the actions of the founder. Just as the brilliance of the sun the brightness of the moon, our Lord Jesus Christ outshines all other personalities of history. This is indeed an amazing fact of history. He lived a perfect life. His friends and his enemies all acknowledge that He never did a single wrong. His incredible life influenced education, the establishment of many universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and Princeton. He inspired great scientists, such as Isaac Newton, Johannes Keppler, Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, Louis Agassiz, Louis Pasteur and others. His existence provided the inspiration for the foundation of western democracy. His love and compassion moved many to establish hospitals and social services around the world. The famous sceptic Renan once proclaimed, “Among the sons of man there is none born who is greater than Jesus.” Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician observing the life of Jesus made this remarkable statement. “Apart from Jesus Christ we know not what our life is, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves.” The famous Lord Byron asserted, “If ever God was man or man was God, Jesus was both.”

2. THE GREATEST NEWS

The greatest news of the greatest faith is that God came to redeem us from our sin, evil, hatred, bitterness, darkness demons and death. The religions of mankind insist that our solution Is a matter of good works. They teach that our redemption is based on human efforts. But the good news of Christ is that God came in person not just to reform mankind but to redeem mankind. Christianity is not a religion of rituals and customs, but the power of God to redeem sinners going the way of destruction. In John 1:12 this apostle declares, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed In His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” The apostle Paul declares in 2 Cor. 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone the new has come.”

3. THE GREATEST GOOD

What is the greatest good? Is it health? Is it pleasure? Is it freedom? Is it beauty? Is it power? Is it success? Or is it culture? As precious as these are to us, they are incomparable with the greatest good we discover in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed the greatest good is to know the grace of God, to enjoy his fellowship, to experience his forgiveness and to receive his favour. There is nothing more tragic than to miss the real meaning and purpose of life, which God designed for his people.

Life poses many challenges. No one passes through life without facing basic needs. Our human hearts struggle to fill the empty void. The famous agnostic writer Clarence Darrow proclaims, “I’ll tell you what human life is: It is. an unpleasant interruption of nothingness.” Within the human heart there is a longing for something deeper, something beyond what material substance can provide. This quest for reality, is often described as a quest for significance, meaning, happiness or genuine fulfilment . The search for reality is an undeniable fact of human existence. We all struggle in our quest for the ultimate. The famous atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell states, “The centre of me is always an eternally terrible pain searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfixed and infinite. . . . I do not think it is to be found–but the love of it is my life.”

Augustine, the great Christian thinker understood the human need when He said, “Our hearts are made for Thee, O Lord, and they are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” The French mathematician and scientist Blaise Pascal came to the right conclusion when he wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in our hearts which only God can fill.” The famous tennis player Boris Becker confirms this truth. Becker attempted suicide due to a sense of hopelessness and emptiness. Although he was famous and successful, something was missing in his life. He said, “I had won Wimbledon twice before, once as the youngest player. I had all the material possessions I needed: money, cars, women, everything. I know that this is a cliché. It’s the old song of the movie and pop stars, who commit suicide. They have everything, and yet they are so unhappy. I had no inner peace.” Inside the heart of every person in the world there is a large empty hole that only God can fill. Professor C.S. Lewis, a former atheist from Oxford University, was insightful on this matter when he declared, “If within my heart I find a desire for something which nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

In stark contrast to the darkness and the despair of the world, in Christ we find a peace and a joy which passes all understanding. Jesus came to fill our emptiness. He came to give comfort in place of sorrow (John 14:27), pardon in place of guilt, love in place of hate, companionship in place of loneliness (Matthew 28:20), certainty in place of anxiety, peace in place of stress (Romans 5:1), hope in place of despair, life in place of death (John 10:10), heaven In place of hell (John 14:1-4).

4. THE GREATEST HOPE

The beauty of the Christian faith is the remarkable hope, which it provides for our troubled soul. The world hopes for the best but Jesus offers the best. The death of hope logically leads to hope for death. Looking at our world Woody Allen once said, “More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroad, one path leads to destruction, the other path leads to hopelessness. Let us pray that we might have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Some years ago they buried an atheist who was elegantly dressed. Later they put a tombstone on the top of his grave. Someone came and wrote on the tombstone the following words, “Here lies an atheist all dressed up but nowhere to go.”

A young man, who was suffering from AIDS, came in for his regular treatment, but this time he had to face a new doctor. The medical specialist casually said, “You know, don’t you, that you won’t live out the year.” The young man deeply shaken by the doctor’s comment, stopped at the desk of the nurse and wept saying, “That man took away my hope.” “I guess he did,” she answered. “Maybe it’s time to find another one.”

Christ came to give an eternal hope which no one can remove or match. He says, “I have come that they may have life end have it to the full” (John 10:10). The Christian hope is not based on vanity but reality. Our only hope is the hope that Christ came to give. He conquered death by coming back to life.

He is the only person who can bring hope to a world in despair. Christianity makes the amazing claim that of all the persons of history Jesus Christ alone conquered man’s greatest enemy–death. The followers of other religions do not believe that their founders were resurrected but this is not the case in Christianity. According to the primary documents the tomb of Jesus was empty on the third day. This was the major reason for the birth of Christianity. What brought faith and hope to the disillusioned disciples? This event turned the doubtful and disappointed disciples into brave and exuberant disciples who willingly died for their faith. The resurrection event gave the disciples the best reason to follow their master. The logic is that if Jesus Christ overcame death and demonstrated that He is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) then humanity’s only hope is found in Him. C.S. Lewis understood the logic of this truth when he affirmed that Jesus Christ, “has forced open a door that had been locked since the death of the first man.” He has indeed fought and defeated death. In the light of this reality, as Lewis notes, “a new chapter in cosmic history has opened.” In Christ we exchange a hopeless end for an endless hope. It is for this reason that Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

End Notes

1. See F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (London: Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 1968).
2. Quoted In Richard MacKenna, God for Nothing (London: Souvenir Press, 1984), p.56.
3. Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 1.
4. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Clarendon: Fontana, 1970), p.118.
5. C. S. LEWIS, Miracles (London: Bles, 1947, 1973).