We are living in an era when apologetics is indispensable, but at the same time, we need a Christian apologetic that is not merely heard – it must also be seen. The field of apologetics deals with the hard questions posed to the Christian faith.
Having had deep questions myself, I listen carefully to the questions raised. I always bear in mind that behind every question is a questioner. The convergence of intellectual and existential struggles drives a person to a brutal honesty in the questions they have.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is beautiful and true, yet one will often ask, ‘How can it be true that there is only one way?’ It’s odd, isn’t it, that we don’t ask the same questions of the laws of nature or of any assertion that lays claim to truth. We are discomfited by the fact that truth, by definition, is exclusive. That is what truth claims are at their core. To make an assertion is to deny its opposite. Rather than complain that there is only one way, shouldn’t we be delighted that there is one way?
The question really is, how do we really know this is the truth?
Whether religious or irreligious, everyone has a worldview. A worldview basically offers answers to four necessary questions:
In turn, these answers must be correspondingly true on particular questions and, as a whole, all answers put together must be coherent. Taking it a step further, the three tests for truth must be applied to any worldview:
- LOGICAL CONSISTENCY
- EMPIRICAL ADEQUACY
- EXPERIENTIAL RELEVANCE
When submitted to these tests, the Christian message is utterly unique and meets the demand for truth.
Consider the empirical test of the person, teaching, and work of Jesus Christ. A look at human history shows why he was who he claimed to be and why millions follow him today. A comparison of Jesus’s teachings with any other claimant to divine or prophetic status quickly shows the profound differences in their claims and demonstrations. In fact, none except Jesus even claimed to be the divine Saviour. His offer of grace and forgiveness by being the perfect sacrifice of our offense is profoundly unique.
I position the sequence of fact and deduction in the following way: Love is the supreme ethic. Where there is the possibility of love, there must be the reality of free will. Where there is the reality of free will, there will inevitably be the possibility of sin. Where there is sin, there is the need for a Saviour. Where there is a Saviour, there is the hope for redemption. Only in the Judeo-Christian worldview does this sequence find its total expression and answer. The story from sin to redemption is only in the gospel with the ultimate provision of a loving God.
But the question can be pushed back further. Does this not all assume that there is a God? Yes, it does, and there are four stages in the argument. The first is that no matter how we section physical concrete reality, we end up with a quantity that cannot explain its own existence. If all material quantities cannot explain their own existence, the only possibility for self-explanation would be something that is non-material.
Secondly, wherever we see intelligibility, we find intelligence behind it. Thirdly, we intuitively know that our moral reasoning points to a moral framework within the universe.
The very fact that the problem of evil is raised either by people or about people intimates that human beings have intrinsic worth. Fourthly, the human experience in history and personal encounter sustains the reality of the supernatural.
There you have it. Who is God? He is the nonphysical, intelligent, moral first cause, who has given us intrinsic worth and who we can know by personal experience.
The verification of what Jesus taught and described and did, make belief in Him a very rationally tenable and an existentially fulfilling reality. From cosmology to history to human experience, the Christian faith presents explanatory power in a way no other worldview does. Our faith and trust in Christ is reasonably grounded and experientially sustained.
I often put it this way: God has put enough into this world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason alone. Faith and reason must always work together in that plausible blend.
Many of you may be familiar with my own story. I was born to Indian parents and raised in India. My ancestors were priests from the highest caste of Hinduism in India’s Deep South.
But that was several generations ago. I came to Christ after a life of protracted failure and unable to face the consequences, sought to end it all. It was on a bed of suicide that a Bible was brought to me and in a cry of desperation, I invited Jesus Christ into my life. It was a prayer, a plea, a commitment, and a hope.
That was fifty years ago. I hardly knew what lay ahead of me, except that I was safe in Christ’s hands. Now as the years have gone by, I marvel at the grace and protection of God and the doors he has opened for our team. And more and more, I am convinced that Jesus Christ alone uniquely answers the deepest questions of our hearts and minds.
(This article (in its original form) was entitled ‘Deep Questions’ and was from the ‘Think Again’ section of the RZIM publication Just Thinking (22.4), pp. 29-30).