Well, this has been quite a journey through Christian apologetics, which is not anything like saying, “Gee, I’m sorry I’m a Christian.” Instead, it’s better summarized as being able to explain our faith to someone who is trying to understand it with honest intellectual curiosity or defend it in a logical and caring way against someone who is attacking or ridiculing it. I believe I’ve covered all the topics God has put into my mind to address, so I thought I’d wrap up with an overview, followed by some possible next steps.
Where We’ve Been
We spent several episodes looking at doubt. Many of us tend to think of doubt as the enemy of faith, so we back away from it like a cliff we might accidentally fall off of, crashing onto the rocks of atheism far below. But in looking at this, we found that actually, the opposite is true. God gave us our very capable brain (the world’s first supercomputer) so that we would examine our beliefs logically and scientifically. Those that don’t stand up to such scrutiny should be set aside; those that do should become deeply held–but not grasped onto so tightly that we do not allow them to be challenged and investigated further, as and when new information is available.
Interestingly, God gave us each our own brain so we could each analyze important truths on our own, in our own way. Not surprisingly, Satan has used tools like social media to promote the groupthink mania rampant today, discouraging people from thinking for themselves. Instead of thinking deeply about essential matters, it’s much more hip and socially acceptable to take the word of celebrities, star athletes, TV anchor people, or (worst of all) politicians.
Anyway, God is not afraid of your doubt or questions. He would rather you think deeply about your faith, for an unexamined faith is a weak faith. The first storm that comes up will knock it off its moorings and send it adrift in a sea of hopelessness. Listen to Jesus’s explanation of the Parable of the Sowers he had told a few moments earlier:
When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”Jesus, in Matthew 13:19-23 (NIV)
It sure sounds to me like he wanted to make sure we understand our faith as much as we can.
Also, even if you’re not close enough to the faith to even consider it doubt, but rather think it’s all a bunch of made-up garbage on par with the mythology of so many other ancient civilizations, that’s OK, too. If you are convinced that’s true, then you should be willing to do some research to be able to explain why you think that. To do an honest and thorough investigation, you would naturally need to understand the claims of Christianity so you can logically refute them.
Along these lines, we moved from doubt into exploring the facts around Christianity. We answered questions like “How can you believe God exists?” and “How can you believe that miracles are real?” We also looked at biblical absolute morality as the true source of our sense of right and wrong, contrasting it with the moral relativism that is unraveling the fabric of modern culture.
From there, we moved into facts and data. We talked about the historicity and factual reliability of the Bible, pointing out that it has more substantial evidence supporting its validity than any other ancient historical document. We examined Christian beliefs from the perspective of many different modern sciences. If you will truly follow the scientific method to investigate the Bible’s claims and the counter-claims made by unbelievers, you will be left with no other logical explanation for our vast physical universe or the spectacular intricacies of the human body than that there is an intelligent force behind it all–otherwise known as God.
We looked more closely at who God is. This included discussions about who Jesus is, which naturally led to a discussion of the Trinity, a challenging and difficult topic, but one that begins to make a little more sense the more you read through the New Testament of the Bible and get to know Jesus and his claims about who he was and is. Through all of this, we came to see that sin is a separation from God caused by things we do, say, or even think. In this way, any of us who are honest with ourselves will realize that we have sinned. This means that we deserve eternal separation from God, our Creator–this is a description of hell. But thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. As the Apostle Paul poignantly points out:
What this means is that Jesus steps in and takes the punishment each of us deserves, enabling us to be reconciled to God. God offers us this gift of grace freely. We have only to receive it in order to spend eternity in heaven. Author Os Guinness has said it another way:
Christianity is the only religion whose God bears the scars of evil.Os Guiness, borrowed from goodreads.com
In the last group of episodes, we dealt with a number of other challenging questions that are often raised by unbelievers as reasons why they don’t believe in God or Jesus. This includes things like, “How can you believe Jesus really rose from the dead?” and “How can you believe in a sovereign God that allows so much pain and suffering in the world?” We dealt with these and other questions in (hopefully) logical and factual ways.
The bottom line here is that it’s OK to have questions and doubts. What’s not OK is to leave your questions and doubts unexamined. How you answer the ultimate questions about who you say God and Jesus are will determine where you spend eternity–with God in heaven or apart from Him in hell–which is why it’s so important for you to investigate these questions for yourself.
Where Do I Go from Here?
If you have no idea how to examine the validity of the Christian claims or why it’s so important, I will include several resources here that have been helpful to me over the years.
- The Bible – any church I’ve ever been to has been willing to give you a Bible for free. Also, my personal favorite way to read the Bible is YouVersion, which is also free. One reason I like it so much is that it has apps for all of your mobile devices, so I always have my Bible at hand. Also, it has countless translations in many different languages, so there should be version out there for almost anyone in the world. Having said all this, reading the can be a daunting task. I don’t recommend reading it from cover to cover your first time through. I’d suggest starting in the book of John, which emphasizes the love of God as demonstrated in Jesus Christ.
- If you are more inclined to listen to things rather than read them, an alternative is the Daily Audio Bible. It’s a freed podcast by Brian Hardin. Each day, he reads some of the Old Testament, something from the New Testament, a passage from Psalms, and another from Proverbs. He reads just enough so that by the end of a year, he has read through the entire Bible. One great thing about this is that Brian talks for a little while after the reading about what he read that day. His explanations can really help you as you wrestle with some of the more challenging passages of Scripture. He is in his 15th year of doing this, and I think I’ve been on the journey with him for 7 of those years. Every year I learn something new and fresh about how great our God is.
- Find a good church that is welcoming and grace-filled, and that teaches the Bible. In my opinion, the people there should not make you feel judged–judging us is God’s job alone, but even then, you should not fear an angry God–He loves us and wants us to be with Him so much that He sent his son to take our punishment for us. If you aren’t comfortable going to a church in person, you could start by looking for a suitable church online. My church (New Life Church) allows you to watch the services online while they happen. While I don’t think watching church online is as soul-quenching as being there in person, it’s better than not participating at all. One important point about church, though, is that God does not want you to attend just to check a box. We cannot earn our way into heaven. He wants us to participate in church since it can help us grow closer to Him and also to other believers. He wants us to be there for each other, to help each other along in our journeys.
- In addition to the Bible, there are several other great books that cover these and other topics much more thoroughly than I have been able to in blog posts (which are supposed to be brief!). I’ve mentioned most of these at various times in this series, but it’s worth listing them here for reference:
- Mere Christianity by CS Lewis – excellent, very thought-provoking book written with Lewis’s typical engaging but very deep style. This book is especially meaningful since Lewis himself started out as an atheist, but when he investigated the claims of his Christian friends, he found that he did not have enough faith to remain an atheist since the evidence for Christianity was so overwhelming.
- The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. Strobel has other good books that dive into certain topics even deeper, including The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for Miracles, The Case for Easter, and The Case for Heaven. Strobel also started out as an atheist. He began his investigation into Christianity in order to disprove his wife’s new-found faith, but he converted when he found the evidence in favor of Christianity so overwhelming.
- Letters from a Skeptic, by Dr. Gregory Boyd and Edward K. Boyd – this one is really good for anyone just starting to looking into Christianity but who generally thinks it’s a load of garbage. Greg Boyd is a theologian and pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN. His father, Edward, had fallen away from the faith and no longer had any need for God. The younger Boyd initiated a letter exchange with his dad to probe and try to address his objections to the faith.
- Life with a Capital L, by Matt Heard. Heard had been the senior pastor at Woodmen Valley Chapel when I had attended there a number of years ago. In addition to this book, he also provided significant information and inspiration for this series in a sermon series in 2012 called “Think Again – Truth, Doubt, and Questions That Matter.”
So, that’s about it. If you’re not yet a Follower of Christ, my prayer for you is that you will investigate the facts surrounding Christianity with an open mind, willing to follow wherever it leads. If you already have a relationship with Christ, I pray that you will continue to deepen your understanding of your faith so you are prepared to explain it to anyone who God puts in your path who is looking to understand it better.
May God bless you this week!