Is it possible to have a strong faith without first becoming an expert in apologetics?
Today’s feedback comes from C.O., a young man in the U.S., who feels a bit overwhelmed by the arguments for and against Christianity, and is looking for a solid footing for his faith.
Hi! First off, thanks for your ministry! It’s a blessing to my Christian walk. Second, I’m only 18, and while I’ve studied apologetics for a few years, it’s mostly just confused me. each time I think I’m getting somewhere with an argument (creation/evolution, worldviews, etc.) I always find that there are answers to what I would argue for. So, how can I learn enough and be confident in my position without having to get a PhD in biology or philosophy or something? It just seems there’s so much info out there that I get lost in it. However, I want to be able to stand firm and to be confident in my position as a Christian. Are there a few key points I just need to learn? I’d appreciate any insight.
CMI’s Keaton Halley responds:
I don’t think one needs to get a PhD or become an expert in apologetics to have confidence in the truth of Christianity. Here are a few pieces of advice that may help.
First, make sure you are actively involved in the Christian life. God did not want us to be isolated from one another, which is why He established the church as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12 ff.). Note Ephesians 4:11–14:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Also, the Bible says that we should guard ourselves against being influenced by the wrong crowd (Psalm 1:1–4; 1 Corinthians 15:33). So, don’t let non-Christians be your primary influences. Make sure you have regular fellowship with a local body of believers, worship God alongside them, use your spiritual gifts in service to others, read your Bible and pray regularly. This will help to give you accountability as well as encouragement to embrace the truth.
Second, remember that both Christians and non-Christians have biases, and interpret the facts according to their starting assumptions. Understand the presuppositions that dictate the conclusions of unbelievers, and then you will be more able to see through their arguments.
Third, keep the big picture in mind. If you focus on one particular challenge to your faith and let that grow out of proportion, it can become a stumbling block. But if you step back and look at how the Christian worldview as a whole makes the most sense of reality, then any remaining difficulties won’t cause you to waver. There will always be things that are hard to understand, but if we put them in perspective, we can continue to seek answers without having our faith shaken.
Fourth, critically analyze not just the truth claims of Christianity, but the claims of its critics as well. Often, those who become apostates fail to doubt their doubts. They only look at perceived difficulties for the Christian worldview, and ignore the greater problems with whatever worldview they adopt as a replacement. Notice how, when some of Jesus’ disciples left him on account of his hard teachings, Peter remained because, even though he also found Jesus’ words difficult, he recognized that the alternatives were bankrupt. When Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”, Peter answered with a rhetorical question: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:67–68).
Fifth, don’t allow critics to force the burden of proof on you. Whoever makes a claim carries the burden. So, if they say Christianity can’t account for some feature of the world, it’s their job to prove that claim, not your job to disprove it.
Sixth, continue to disciple your mind, as this will help you to become more mature in your thinking (1 Corinthians 14:20). Although you don’t have to become the world’s foremost apologist to have a confident faith, studying can increase the strength of your faith. There is no shortcut to learning the information—it requires time and effort. So keep going!