Here, I hope to give an account of why I feel apologetics is appropriate for Christians, and to a small extent, what I hope to gain from the website.
Criticism of religion
It does not take a religio-sociologist to observe that, for the last century or so, there has been a wideheld belief permeating Western thought that religion is a fairytale. “Believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus”, “Darwinian evolution by natural selection has removed the need for a creator God”, and “Religion is superstitious nonsense, only to be believed by deluded nutters” are just a few of the motifs that are particularly common in today’s society.
God wants us to think
While I would, for the very nature of this website, contend that many of society’s perspectives on religion, in particular Christianity, are somewhat misled, I have always approached Christianity with a ‘healthy’ dose of scepticism myself. It is, I believe, essential to establish that one may fully accept Christianity, and simultaneously retain a well nourished, fulfilled, healthy intellectual outlook on life. The God of Christianity was never about trickery, deception, or superstition. Quite the opposite – throughout the Bible, Christians are encouraged to challenge superficial, immediate perspectives on important matters. The Jesus we read about did not always follow the social constructs of his day, he did not give straight forward answers to questions (indeed, it was often considered rude to do so), he did not command us to strictly hold on to dogmas. The Jesus we read about radically opposed 1st century Jewish culture by relating to women, lepers and prostitutes as no man would, he most often gave quizzical answers to challenge us to think. He resisted explicit self-identification in many cases – he did not reel off a list of who he was to Simon Peter, but instead asked, “Who do you say that I am?” This is a primarily challenging Jesus.
Jesus never laid out a doctrine and taught people to obey it for no reason, but instead let his identity be demonstrated in all sorts of different ways through his ministry; it is Simon Peter who acknowledges Jesus as the Christ, before Jesus confirms it verbally. I am reminded of a thought-provoking quote I found a while ago, “…the four gospels record Jesus asking 307 questions and being asked 183 questions, but only choosing to answer three of them directly … considering this, it is really rather amazing that the church became an official answering machine and a very self assured program for ‘sin management'” (http://www.ttrp.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=80&Itemid=39). I could reel off question after question, rhetoric after rhetoric that Jesus used to provoke thought from those around him- this was not merely on simple matters, but on the most fundamental aspects of his identity. We are constantly challenged, constantly told to “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21a), always reminded that God gave us a brain for a reason!
Our call to apologetics
Which brings us onto apologetics. 1 Peter 3:15-16 is perhaps the main Biblical passage on apologetics, outlining a few important points, but it in particular reminds us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason (Greek απολογιαν or apologian) for the hope that you have.” His very use of the word ‘apologian’ (Greek απολογιαν) indicates that we are to have a rational, logical basis for our beliefs. Considering Jesus’ picture of Christian belief, not once do we find him putting across a philosophy suggesting that we should believe what we *want* to be true. Indeed, there are many articles highlighting aspects of Jesus’ teaching which were completely counter-intuitive! But leaving this aside, what’s important is that Jesus taught that he IS the truth. He leaves not the slightest sense of ambiguity, nothing of wanting the truth, knowing the truth, having the truth, or trying to be the truth, Jesus asserted that he is the way, the truth and the life, and it is this conviction which we are to account for. In the same way, he remarked to some of his followers, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Paul regards the truth of utmost importance aswell, telling us in 1 Corinthians 14:20 not to ‘[think] like children’. Christianity is not a matter of ‘belief without evidence’, nor is it solely an intellectual fulfillment.
It is with my strongest conviction that I can approach Christianity with both a challenging, rigorous, academic mind, and also with a heart that is ever seeking after a deeper personal relationship with God. While I wish to make clear that we need not negate intelligence to believe in God, I would not for a moment let this take away from the heart of the Christian faith, the personal reconciliation of ourselves to God for the purpose of building for his Kingdom. Intellectual arguments have a place in talking about God, but there is a danger of the discussion about Christianity becoming too erudite. In short then, what do I hope for this website to achieve? I hope, ultimately, that this will destigmatise Christianity, allow people to understand more about its claims, and compel them to pursue it. This may serve as a resource for Christians who want to know what to say to their friends when they raise objections, it may help those dipping into Christianity to find out if it’s for them and quieten any qualms, it may even be used to subdue the arguments of the fiercest antitheist. Whoever you are, I hope that you learn something from this website, and that it draws you closer to who this is all about, the God that we can know personally and who loves us dearly.
1. I had originally omitted ‘always’; thanks to N. Baines for correction.
2. It is true that Jesus commended the childlike in their faith, but this is not the same as childish- Paul reminds us not to be childish in our thinking, but instead to think about things reasonably (1 Corinthians 14:20)
3. Which, as I hope to explain in other articles, is NOT ‘belief without evidence’, or some kind of blind fumbling for a magician in the sky!
4. After all, do Christians really envisage a God who would limit himselves to those with a considerably high intellectual capacity? It is doubtful.