But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect 1 Peter 3:15
Let’s start with a little exercise. Are you aware that there’s a city in the north-east area of the United States in the state of New York called New York City? Do you know there’s a statue there called the Statue of Liberty? There’s also a giant park called Central Park and a building called the Empire State building. Let’s say you’ve never been to the city of New York, never visited the Statue of Liberty, never walked down Central Park, and never made a trip to the Empire State Building. Would you still believe me if I told you it was there?
With the exception of a few people with some severe trust issues, most of you would take it on my authority that there is such a place as New York City, without ever having visited. It’s because you trust me, and you have faith that what I’m telling you is true.
Now, what if I told you that I have a pet unicorn named Buttercup? I like to take Buttercup out at night to ride her around my giant farm. I let her open up her wings as we fly into the night sky and head toward the second moon in the sky, the secret moon that no one knows about. Now again, would you take it on my authority that there is such a unicorn named Buttercup without ever having seen her? Again, with the exception of a few victims of wishful dreaming, you would call me crazy and have me locked up for psychiatric counseling.
Now, why was it so hard for you to believe me the second time? Did I not give just as much detail as before? Am I not the same person as I was two seconds before when I told you about New York City? Yet, still, you did not trust me and did not have faith.
Now you say, well, wait. I can drive to this place called New York City. I can visit the Statue of Liberty, play in Central Park, travel to the top of the Empire State Building and verify all that you just told me. But I cannot see your unicorn. I have not seen a secret moon nor a unicorn in my life. Neither has there been any one else to corroborate your story. There is no scientific data of this unicorn and no reason or logic I can use to deduce the existence of your unicorn. I just cannot verify anything you said in the second story to be correct.
And I’d say that sounds like fair reasoning.
Parallels In Christian Thought
For too long, we, as Christians, have been like the second example. We share our faith by describing fickle feelings and hazy beliefs that if it were outside Christianity, we’d condemn it as fiction. We leave ourselves open to people assuming we have a fairy tale faith and writing us off.
I will tell you up front that I make no attempt to mislead you in this blog post. I refuse to hide things under the rug just because I don’t feel like dealing with them. I refuse to paint a pretty picture for you. I refuse to be dishonest with you and lead you away from the truth. After all, as a Christian, that is my primary goal: to pursue the truth. (John 14:6)
But I in return expect something of you. You must also lay down your biases, your misshapen beliefs, and your faulty logic. Do not be afraid to be wrong. It might lead you closer to the truth.
We as Christians have been uncomfortable with questions about our faith. We have been so uncomfortable in fact that we avoid dissenters at all cost. There should be no difference in opinion because we’d prefer not to think about it. For example, the lady who questions the divinity of Christ must either just believe because we say so or is shunned from the faith community.
Unfortunately, this is the result of fear. We might have been raised in the church getting bits and pieces of our theology here and there but never a entire picture. We cannot ask questions now because we’ve believed this for so long. There are holes in our theology, and we have a fear that if pointed out, our entire faith should unravel at the seams. So we buckle down, legalize our beliefs, and say things like “God said it. I believe it. That settles it!”
It’s precisely this sort of anti-intellectualism that those outside the faith view Christians as ignorant, close-minded, and bigoted. It is this anti-intellectualism that leads prompted some to call it the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.
We should fix that.
Seek and Find
I recently read a book called Defending Your Faith by R. C. Sproul. In this book, Sproul mentioned that every now and then, he will make a list of his top ten beliefs and take time to critically and viciously attack each belief one by one. In this way, he can greatly strengthen each point he believes, or toss out those beliefs he no longer deems valid.
“Doesn’t that sound a little scary?”
I thought so, too. But then I’m prompted to ask myself, which is worse: finding out some of your beliefs are false, or living out false beliefs as if they’re truth?
Hope in God
But here’s some hope. God is a big God. He’d be a pretty bad god if His entire existence could be ripped apart by a single question.
We are all called to be theologians. God has graced us with a brain to reason and to use logic. Why not use it? Paul prays for his congregation by saying
16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:16-19a
If we seek to know God more fully, we will learn from Him and hopefully grow closer along our journey.
And that’s what I’m asking you to do. I’m asking you to take a journey into scripture to learn why it is you believe what you believe. Utilize books, commentaries, scholarly articles, and talks.
I’m not advocating for a distancing from orthodoxy. I’m not telling you not to use emotions in describing your faith (often these are great testimonies for witnessing). I’m not telling you to offer a justification for each question posed. I’m asking you to be more informed about what you believe so that when the question of your faith inevitably comes up, you’ll be able to give a clear defense of why you believe what you believe.
Words of Caution
I write this post primarily to get some of you out of your comfort zone, to get you to question some preconceived notions about God and Christ, and to get you to pursue God more deeply.
However, there are a few ways this could go.
Some of you will read this, feel convicted to read, and then get caught up with questions, forever pursuing a question and never the truth.
Then, some still will read this, dive into study, legalize their beliefs, and attempt to rationalize God and put him in a small box shutting the lid.
It is with my hope that most of you will read my words, feel empowered by the Spirit, and go forth to not only worship Christ with your heart but with your mind pursuing all He has to offer you and providing a reason for faith.
You will not find answers for all of your questions. You will struggle with some questions more than others. We as humans are not ruled entirely by reason. We can experience God without understanding all of what He’s doing. This is where faith truly matters as it allows us to stay obedient to God even when we’re doubting. Just learn to show your passion for God showing that he calls your whole self, body, soul and mind.
- Prepare Your Children for Attacks on their Faith (christianitymatters.com)
- I Wish I Didn’t Have Faith (theamericanjesus.net)
- Belief, unbelief and rationality (hornbillunleashed.wordpress.com)