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 clich√©, “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.

_______________________________

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.

Advertisements

by Dr Steve Kumar

Many people approach religion the way they approach food: “I like it because it satisfies my need.” “If it feels good do it.” “Try it and you will like it.” Religion is not a matter of food or feeling. We must not see religion as being in the line of a cafeteria picking a principle in one religion and value system from another. For example: Taking a carrot from Islam, a tomato from Judaism, a potato from Buddhism, some garlic from Hinduism, and trying to cook up a religious soup.

In a world of many religions the idea of a multi-religious soup appears attractive, but before we whet our spiritual appetite, remember that there are no religious cooks who have such a recipe. Whatever is being cooked and served by religious syncretists falls short of our need. Religious questions are too valuable to reduce to the level of human taste.

Religion is not like food–it is not a matter of taste but a matter of truth. It is not a matter of feeling but of facts. It is not how it makes you feel but whether it is true. It may sound impressive to say, “I believe because I have a burning in the heart,” or because “I have a shiver in my liver.” Feelings do not validate a belief.

1. ALL RELIGIONS ARE DIFFERENT

No truth is as dangerous as half truth:

  • Humanism is atheistic.
  • Tribal religion is polytheistic.
  • Hinduism is pantheistic.
  • Buddhism is agnostic.
  • Islam is unitarian.
  • Judaism is monotheistic.
  • Christianity is trinitarian

He who says all religions are the same knows very little about religions. R.C. Sproul states, “That Jesus claimed to be God and Mohammed claimed to be a prophet is an essential difference. That Buddha was an atheist and Christ a theist is an essential difference. That Confucius died and Christ resurrected is an essential difference. That Jim Jones advocated suicide while Jesus preached patient endurance is a radical difference. That most religions teach salvation by good works while Christianity teaches salvation by grace is an essential difference. That Christianity features an atonement and a mediator who reconciles and redeems is an essential difference. That some men worship idols while others worship a transcendent God is an essential difference. The worship of Yahweh is a far cry from the worship of a cow.

Only the non-religious say all religions are the same. The World’s religions differ on:

  • Who is God;
  • What is the nature of the problem?
  • What is the nature of man?
  • What is sin?
  • What is salvation?
  • What is the ultimate destiny of life?
  • How do we solve the human problem?

For the Moslem, Mohammed is a prophet of God, for the Buddhist, Buddha is the path to Nirvana, and for the Hindu, Brahman is the invisible essence. But for the Christian Jesus Christ is not only the revelation of God but God himself.

2. ALL RELIGIONS CONTRADICT ONE ANOTHER

As we study world’s religions we discover that they are not only different but that they are contradictory. World religions give a confusing view of life and reality. A leading historian, after studying the World’s religions to determine what they have in common came to the following conclusion: belief in God–if there is a God, and life is worth living–sometimes.

The question is that if all religions are from God why do they all disagree? Why is there so much confusion? I agree with G. Bailey, “If all religions lead to God, how is it most of them, having been given a thousand years at least, haven’t yet arrived?” To say all religions are the same is: Not logical, not factual, and not honest.

What is the evidence that all religions are one? How do we know all religions are one? What is the basis for this belief? I spoke to a lady who said she believed in all religions. So I asked her, “Do you believe the Christian message that Jesus is God?” She said, “no.” She actually rejects Christianity but gives the impression that she is broad-minded. There is nothing like comparative religion to make a person comparatively religious! To reconcile the basic teachings of Jesus with those of Buddha would require the skill of a magician.

3. ONLY ONE RELIGION CAN BE TRUE

How can all religions be one when they contradict each other? Religious relativism which accepts all religions as equally true commits intellectual suicide. Where all views are right the word “right” loses all possible meaning. “Right” has meaning only in the context of wrong (true and false, positive versus negative, yes and no). When everything is right nothing can be wrong. When nothing can be wrong, nothing is right.

Ultimately religious relativism leads to the death of all religions. When a religion cannot be tested or falsified nothing true can be affirmed about that religion. Hence statements like, “All religions are true” are empty phrases which have no logical or empirical basis. One cannot hold to this view and be a serious thinker.

In a country of many religions we must respect the rights and the freedom of others to hold their view. Tolerance is a virtue which we must prize highly, but we must not, in the name of tolerance, compromise the truth by regarding all views as equally true. A world where two opposing or contradictory views are right is cosmic madness. Honesty and respect must dominate our search for truth but unity must never be achieved at the expense of truth. Truth would often require that we agree to disagree but one should always do so in love.

If all religions contradict one another there can be only two logical choices: either all of them are false, or only one of them can be true. The French philosopher Pascal was right: “I see a number of religions in conflict, and therefore all false, except one.”

WHY CHRISTIANITY?

Christianity is different from all other religions. There is no faith like the Christian faith. Billy Graham says it rightly, “There are many religions in the world, but only one Christianity, for only Christianity has a God who gave Himself for mankind. World religions attempt to reach up to God; Christianity Is God reaching down to man.” In world religions we have man’s answer to man’s problems but in Christianity we have God’s answer to man’s problems. Christianity is the story of the God who searches for man.

C.S. Lewis, the former atheist, expresses my conviction, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” Religion is man’s search for God; man’s effort to find God, Christianity is God’s solution to man’s dilemma. In religion man asks the questions but in Christianity man finds the answers.

Christianity says man is sick. Man has a problem–look around–look at the hatred, prejudice, murder, injustice, cruelty, greed, selfishness, envy. What will change human nature? Not education and not moral teaching but only the power of God. There is only one cure for the world’s sickness and that is the Gospel which is really God’s medicine for a sick world.

1. REMARKABLY UNIQUE?

What is so remarkable about the Christian faith? Why believe the Christian faith? What Is so special about it? Hinduism has the techniques of Yoga, Buddhism has the Eight-fold Path, Islam has the Five Pillars, Judaism has the Torah but Christianity offers a resurrected Saviour.

Christianity is remarkably different from all other religions. Take Buddha out of Buddhism and we will still have Buddhism; take Krishna out of Hinduism and we will still have Hinduism; take Mohammed out of Islam and we will still have Islam; take Confucius out of Confucianism and we will still have Confucianism, but take Christ out of Christianity and we will eliminate Christianity.

Christianity is not a system of ideas or speculations of a certain philosophy or a principle of ethics, but Christianity is a focus on a Person. The good news is that God has personally come to visit us in the unique historical space-time event of Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1 & 14 NIV)

I will never forget the occasion when I was asked to speak at the University of Calgary with James Erwin, the American astronaut who walked on the moon. The most moving statement he shared on that occasion was that, “The greatest event in history was not when man walked on the moon but when God walked on this earth.” That is the greatest event!

Christianity is not essentially a religion about God but a relationship with God. What we need is not just religion but reality. In all other religions the leaders pointed a way to God but Jesus pointed to Himself as God.

2. RELIABLY TRUE?

There is much evidence for the Christian faith. But the greatest evidence is the resurrection of Christ. There are three major facts which prove the resurrection:

A. The Empty Tomb

(i) The Jews never denied it.

(ii) The Roman guards saw it.

(iii) Six of Jesus disciples saw it.

(iv) Peter proclaimed it to 3000 people who could have refuted it.

According to D.H.Van Daalen, “It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds. Those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.” There are many reputable scholars who accept that the tomb was empty.

B. The Appearances of Christ

The facts demonstrate that on several occasions different individuals and groups saw Jesus alive after His death. He was seen not only by believers but also by sceptics, unbelievers and even His enemies. On one occasion He was seen by more than 500 people.

C. The Origin of the Christian Faith

The origin of the church proves the resurrection. What gave birth to the church? How did the church come about? Why did the church come into being? All the scholars agree that Christianity came into being because the disciples believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead.

Professor Moule of Cambridge University says, “The origin of Christianity must remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the resurrection.” If the resurrection is true then we don’t have to speculate on the meaning of life. We have something concrete on which to base our trust and hope.

3. RELEVANT FOR ME?

Is the Christian faith relevant to me? How relevant is it in the context of my 21st Century lifestyle and existence? How does Christ handle the great questions of life here and now?

If Christianity is true then it must be relevant. Christ answers the question of history; He offers a solution to the problem of sin; He removes the burden of guilt; He releases us from the fear of death; He changes despair into hope and He provides power to live a victorious life with God.

Confucius saw the evil of life and said, “Duty!” Buddha saw the misery of man and said, “Meditate!” Mohammed saw the cruelty of life and said, “Fatalism!” Krishna saw the suffering of life and said, “Karma!” Jesus saw the agony of life and said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

Christianity is not a set of views, not a system of ideas but a change of heart. It is a vital and dynamic relationship with a living Christ. As disciples of Christ we can affirm that without Christ we cannot live and with Him we cannot die.