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:
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.
(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.