In my first church experience, we talked a lot about the reasoned proofs for the faith. We quoted Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict; we bought books by Norman Geisler.
When I went to seminary, there was a department dedicated to the “Philosophy of Religion.” I had friends who majored in that, hoping to be the next Ravi Zacharias. Apologetics was a required course for my Master of Divinity, and I remember furiously taking notes in that class so that I could later equip people to defend their faith.
My first ministry was as a pastor for adult ministries in a church of about 600 people. I initiated a ministry to the college students in our church, recruiting some young men and women to lead worship and I preached a series called, “Prepared to Answer,” with messages that defended that God exists, why the Bible is inerrant, that Jesus was resurrected, that Darwinism is wrong, and how evil and a good God can be explained. In doing this series, I was reading deeply the heady writings of William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland. My thinking was that Christian college students needed to be “Prepared to Answer” since it is especially on secular college campuses that Christians had better be ready to make a defense for what they believe.
One of the worst feelings to have is to feel like an idiot. We fear that people will scoff at us who believe in Jesus Christ as if we have no brains. We want to prove them wrong. We want to know what we believe and why we believe it, as Paul Little instructs in his books. We want to show people, especially those who are in our educational institutions, that we can reason and debate with the best. Our faith is not idiotic. It is a “Reasonable Faith,” as William Lane Craig’s book calls it.
And my goal, as a pastor trying to equip Christians to do evangelism well in a secular world, was to help them have confidence that, in a world that demeaned Christians as unthinking people, they could have credible ways to defend the faith against the atheists who will inevitably attack them.
The problem was, most of us rarely meet anybody that we can actually use these arguments against.
What all these defenses of the faith actually accomplished, more than anything else, was to shore up our own belief system. We became assured that what we took on faith was not “just” something that people could believe based on faith, that people could also come to the reasoned conclusion that it was true.
It was almost as if having faith was not enough. Faith needed to be reasoned, it had to be able to be defended logically, or else it was invalid.
Faith without validation by way of reason was baseless, illogical, and therefore was open to the accusation of being downright stupid.
Why did we need reasoned arguments to ground our faith? It was because we were steeped in a modern cultural context.
Myron Penner writes,
"Modernity is often labeled as the Age of Science, or as the Age of Reason, but I would like to add one more moniker: Modernity is also the Age of Apologetics. In modernity, traditional forms of authority (viz. Church and State) are rejected and human reason is re-imagined as universal and objective so that it can fill the authority vacuum. In other words, it is to Reason (as universal and objective) that one must look in modernity for the authority and legitimacy of one’s beliefs and actions (and one must do it for oneself!)...
It is little wonder, then, that Christians found it necessary to take up the arms of modern rationality and defend themselves. In short, in response to the attacks on Christian belief from modern philosophy, modern evangelical Christians developed a “scientific” apologetic, modeled after the philosophical method and rigor of modern analytic philosophy, which attempted to establish the universal rationality of Christian belief using the same “objective” and “presuppositionless” premises required by modern empirical science." (A New Kind of Conversation)
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