By Jacob Toman
“...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”
1 Peter 3:15
Presently we live in a world that depicts itself as grey. This is especially true amongst gamers online. The postmodern mindset of the second half of the 20th century has given way to a postmodern fundamentalism that finds its comforts in the chains of uncertainty and obscurity. Truth is seen as a relative, changing, dynamic rhythm.
In such a time as this, beliefs and opinions are merely momentary glimpses into a person's immediate present philosophical state. There is no lasting hallmark, no enduring conviction, nothing beyond a person’s current experience that offers reason for a belief. The only glimmer of consistency in the postmodern mindset is the memory of previous experiences. With such shifting sands absent of reason as the foundation for belief in today's world, there has never been a more important time for followers of Jesus to be ready with a reason for their faith.
What is Christian faith based on? That answer will vary from individual to individual in the particulars, the central truth being belief and loyalty to the historical person, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Sharing about this central truth is what’s known as Christian evangelism. Explaining the reasons for belief in this central truth of the Christian faith is known as Christian apologetics.
In upholding the truth of Christianity, apologetics serves to both respond to critiques and provide proactive reasons for belief in Christ. As people of reason, we are not only called to share WHAT we believe, but also WHY we believe it.
In a recent conversation with a friend who is an atheist, he stated that he didn’t know Christians had a reason for believing in their God. He was under the impression that Christians make a blind leap of faith, devoid of reason, and place trust and hope into a being that (in his beliefs) doesn’t exist. As I asked him some preliminary questions he shared that his idea of Christian faith was similar to fairy tales or mythology, a belief in something that lacks any evidence and is primarily made up by humans for the benefit and enjoyment of humans. He was quite surprised as I shared with him some of the many evidences and reasons for faith in Christ. One of the things he said was, “I didn’t realize your faith incorporated so much logic!”
Very often in New Testament examples early Christians offer various reasons for their beliefs. Sometimes these beliefs are based on witnessing the supernatural personally:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
1 John 1:1-3
The author John here writes about something he has experienced tangibly with his senses. For John, his faith isn’t based in something he hasn’t seen, doesn’t know of, or hasn’t interacted with in a real-time, physical way. John’s faith here is described as having “fellowship” with a person whom he had “seen”, “touched” and “heard”. Just as you are tangibly present and touch your mobile’s screen, or computer keyboard, John was tangibly present with the historical person Jesus.
Other passages cite historical narratives as a reason for their own faith and belief. One such example would be a man who believed in Jesus named Stephen, who spoke to the highest court in the Jewish religion, the Sanhedrin, using a mutually shared historical example:
“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’
Stephen was using this as his introductory statements in giving his reason for belief and defense of his faith in Jesus. Stephen used a concrete historical example to build a bridge between what was already generally known and accepted by his opposition and the truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
In this regard, Christians don’t hold to any dissimilar set of criteria for believing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, than you or I in our beliefs about the true life and assassination of Abraham Lincoln (or any historical figure for that matter). We Christians believe in the historical reality of people, places, and events as related first through oral storytelling and more recently since the Jewish Exodus from Egypt (the last 4,000 years) through ancient recorded history and text.
If you’re a Christian today, what is the reason for your faith?
If you’re not a Christian but are following along because you have friends who are Christians, we’re honored to have you checking out Gospel & Gaming!
Regardless of the particular objection to Christianity, it is the duty of every Christian to be able to give a defense for the hope which we posses. Over the centuries, Christians have written and wrestled with various means and methods of explaining the reason for their faith.
Check back next week when we examine five different approaches to apologetics.