As Christians committed to sharing our ideas in the public square, inevitably we will encounter difficult scenarios.
Perhaps someone has offered a challenge to your convictions that you have never considered before, and this challenge begins to cause you spiritual and emotional anxiety.
This happens all the time!
I know first hand because just a few short years ago, this was me.
It’s a sad but true state of affairs; today, many Christians cannot defend their faith. It’s not necessarily that they don’t want to! They just can’t. Or, maybe they don’t know that they should!
Today I’d like to consider just five of the possible reasons why you–yes you!–can’t defend your faith or answer tough objections, and then leave you with some practical advice to get started.
Reason #1. You’ve Been Told the Bible Doesn’t Need Defending
I’m not sure I could count how many times I’ve heard Spurgeon’s old illustration about the lion and the cage:
There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself. I do not know whether you see that lion—it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack him, while a host of us would defend the grand old monarch, the British Lion, with all our strength. Many suggestions are made and much advice is offered. This weapon is recommended, and the other. Pardon me if I offer a quiet suggestion. Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself. Why, they are gone! He no sooner goes forth in his strength than his assailants flee. The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible. H/T Elliot Ritzema
As such, an oft-repeated “preacherism” of our day is to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the enterprise of apologetics–the very goal of which concerns the defense of the Bible!
Thankfully, my friend and colleague Dr. Edgar Andrews has recently written an excellent three-part column expanding the intent and implications of this very quote.
Dr. Andrews helpfully draws from Spurgeon’s analogy a three-step process by which one can do precisely as he suggested–“Open the door and let the lion out”:
- Find the key
- Oil the hinges
- Open the door wide enough
He points out that “a correct doctrine of Scripture is a necessary foundation, but unless we are capable of ‘rightly dividing [or handling] the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15) the door will still not open.”
Andrews understands “finding the key to the cage” to be forming a correct doctrine of Scripture. Continuing his illustration, “rightly diving the word of truth” he likens to the legitimacy of biblical apologetics.
Helpfully, he provides the following well-reasoned rationale:
The New Testament epistles are filled with argumentation, as a forest is filled with trees. Paul reveals how central to his ministry is this form of communication when he declares, ‘The weapons of our warfare are … mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Unless we are equipped and prepared to reason with people from the Scriptures and confront the arguments of unbelief by rational argumentation of our own, the lion will remain trapped in its cage. This is not only the responsibility of preachers but of every Christian. As Peter says; ‘always be ready to give a defence [apologia] to everyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’ (1 Peter 3:15).
In other words, to simply say without qualification that the Bible does not require defending is to ignore the Bible’s own command to defend it!
Of course, one is right to question whether certain methods of this defense are more biblically correct than others, which is something I have developed more fully here.
But to say the Bible doesn’t need a defense is actually to ignore the Bible’s teaching on the matter.
Therefore, consider this myth busted and start defending God’s Word!
Reason #2. You Don’t Think You are Smart Enough to Do the Job
I can relate. I’ve been accused of many things during my 28 years on this planet, but “smart” has never really been one of them!
Interestingly, I find the testimony of other well-known apologists to be similar.
Consider Freethinking Ministries’ Tim Stratton as just one example. I’ve heard Tim speak to this on various occasions before, and decided to reach out directly for some background.
Here is Tim’s personal testimony in his own words:
I have made passing comments (probably in podcasts, lectures, and sermons on the website) about my scholastic struggles when I was younger. I like to say that I thought “D” stood for “diploma,” and “degree.” I also say that I have always been labeled as a “gifted student,” because every time I got a “C”. . . that was a gift! ?
In fact, I got a 14 on my ACT (which is really low) my junior year. I took it again my senior year and bumped it up a whopping 3 points. I thought a 17 was good enough. I was the guy on the basketball team who was always in danger of getting kicked off because of my grades. My first two years of college at UNK were not that good, but then, when I started to take my Christianity seriously, a funny thing happened. . . my grades started getting better too. I finished my undergrad and eventually graduated with a master’s degree from Biola with highest honors. I am currently pursuing a PhD.
Be that as it may, I have never considered myself to be “the smart guy” and I still don’t. In fact, I really struggle with always feeling like the “stupid kid.” I know that I have been “transformed by the renewing of my mind” (Romans 12:2), but I still have to constantly “take those thoughts captive” (2 Cor 10:5) before they take me (Col 2:8).
Bottom line: When God uses the academically challenged (people like me), where we are weak, God is strong! God gets the glory — not me!
I resonate deeply with Tim’s thoughts above. Today, Tim is making a name for himself as a premier, in-demand, and intellectually astute apologist.
And despite the fact that I have never considered myself to be able-minded (nor have any others ever accused me of this!), at the time of this writing, somewhere around 1,000-2,000 people per month interact with my written, podcast, and video content.
I have no explanation for this other than the grace of God. Of course, this makes my point.
You will not find in the Scriptures an individual that was greatly used of God who thought it was within his own power to be effective.
Though I am an underdog, I join the ranks of the Gideon’s and Moses’s that have gone before. While I have no right to compare myself to them, I cannot help but think that should the God of the universe care to use me in a great way, he could do it.
He can do the same for you!
Study and pray diligently about this. Do what Solomon did and ask God for wisdom. God honors the requests of those with a heart for his ministry.
Reason #3. You Don’t Care About Theology and Apologetics
I really hope this isn’t you.
One of the toughest things we are faced with in this day is the plague of spiritual apathy. I believe Jesus expands on this position in his so-called “Parable of the Soils,” which I’ve expanded upon here under “Soil #3. The Soil of Mishandled Priorities.”
As we also spent considerable time dealing with this just last week, I’ll not reinvent the wheel.
Suffice it to say that there is not much more important than sound doctrine and teaching. Churches never grow in spite of sound teaching, rather, they grow because of it.
But if you’ve never taken it upon yourself to learn about God and share him with others, how can you possibly be effective for the kingdom? In actual fact, I question the salvation of one who claims to be a follower of Christ but has no desire to learn about what the relationship with him looks like, and how to be effective at drawing others into a relationship with him.
Mind you, I am not saying that every Christian must become a door-to-door evangelist. I’ve developed my thoughts on this here and here, but it could be that your particular strength is connecting on a deeper level with one person at a time and introducing them–slowly–to Christ.
We all have different strengths, but one thing is for sure: You will never be effective as a witness for Christ if you’ve no desire to learn what the Bible actually teaches and no desire to share it.
Reason #4: You’ve Been Told Never to Question the Bible
While I have never really had the misfortune of receiving this advice myself, I’ve heard story after story of young people (and older people!) leaving the faith because when they finally mustered up the courage to ask important, difficult questions, their confidant gave an unsettling response.
Perhaps something like one of these:
- The Bible says never to question God!
- Who is the clay to doubt the work of the potter?
- Just have more faith.
- Just pray until God answers your question.
Here’s the problem: When cashed out, in context, there is not one shred of biblical support for any of the above statements as it relates to answering questions about the faith.
Of course, even if you don’t leave the faith over this, a natural consequence of receiving this advice is that you may develop the tendency to perpetuate it! This would be an egregious error.
As I’ve sufficiently demonstrated in “Reason #1” above, question-asking, persuasion, argumentation, etc. are to be found all throughout the biblical record. Thus, “never question the Bible” is actually terribly unbiblical advice!
Now–here’s what I don’t mean by that. I don’t mean that the Bible is “guilty until proven innocent.” There is a massive difference between questioning the Bible as God’s Word and its application to our daily lives, and having questions/doubts about certain aspects of the Christian worldview.
Of course, I also don’t mean that we should ignore the advice of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
When I don’t understand something, the Bible always–100% of the time–gets the benefit of the doubt. I am humble enough to admit that I don’t have all of the answers and that there may well be things I will not understand in this lifetime.
As a parallel, part of the scientific enterprise is desperately trying to falsify a hypothesis. That way, as it withstands falsification, it can be more reasonably accepted as correct. However, this works in concert with the fact that if there is 100 things to be explained, and a theory explains 90 of the time, we don’t throw it out because 10 things are unexplained!
There may be things which are difficult for some to work through in the Bible, but if we have good reason to believe lots of other things are true, we are not obligated to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As tough as it may be to square some of the things we find in the Old Testament, for example, in our current experience, we have good reason to believe the documents are accurately reporting events. So there is a balance that must be maintained.
The point is that it is okay to ask these questions! Let’s not pretend they don’t exist. That is unhelpful advice and unbiblical practice which should be avoided at all costs.
Reason #5. You Aren’t Actually a Christian
And here, we find the rubber abruptly meeting the road.
I’ve mentioned once or twice above (and indeed mention often) this notion of “leaving the faith” or “walking away from the faith.” But as a firm believer in the doctrine of eternal security, I obviously cannot mean by that that we are dealing with once-converted Christians.
Therefore, if you are a person who cannot answer objections to Christianity and find your faith wavering, there is the uncomfortable possibility that you are not a Christian at all.
Doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. I have argued in the past that in some cases reasonable doubt is helpful because it can afford you the opportunity to develop a more robust faith.
I have experienced doubts. I have many Christian friends who’ve experienced doubts. In fact, I know of quite a few now-well-known defenders of Christianity who went through seasons of intense doubt (see Sean McDowell and Brian Chilton, among others).
However, I have also had in-depth conversations with individuals whose doubt has driven them completely away. Could they still return? Of course. But they may not.
Why such a difference? Why, for some, does doubt bring them closer; and why for others does doubt drive them away?
The only logical explanation is false conversion. That is, having the sense that one knows Christ, while not knowing him at all in reality. This should not come as a surprise since Jesus himself warned of this.
Notice his rationale in Matthew 7:21-23:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Though unsettling, this passage gives clear indication that one day, there will be those who stand before God thinking they have every right to spend eternity with Christ only to find out that he never knew them at all.
And while one may want to say that they had every reason to believe their experience of Christ was genuine, they will nevertheless not “inherit eternal life.”
If you are in a season of crippling doubt, do everything in your power to ensure things are right with God.
One can enjoy the presence of Jesus for eternity having had doubts, but one cannot do so having never been saved by his precious blood. Above all, make sure you’ve placed your full trust and assurance in him.
Conclusion: Some Real, Practical Solutions
Ok; now you at least have some ideas as to why you find it difficult to answer objections.
This in mind, let’s briefly work backward and consider the practical steps necessary to equip yourself:
Step #1. Make Sure You Know Jesus!
As argued above, you’ll never be able to answers others’ objections if you don’t know the God Whom you’re defending. This is the first–and necessary–step.
Step #2. Develop a Love for God’s Word
A genuine love for God’s Word will effectively eliminate reasons 1, 3, and 4 above. The more you love God’s Word and denounce spiritual apathy, the more in-tune you will be with what it teaches!
Pay close attention to the Bible’s endorsement of biblical apologetics (see here for more on this theme), and don’t use the Bible’s position of authority as an excuse not to defend it.
Step #3. Develop Your Confidence in God’s Ability to Use You
As you embark on step two, you will undoubtedly begin to notice the kind of people God uses: the meek, weak, and lowly.
In fact, the more you decrease, the more he can increase!
If you believe you’re not the “smart guy”–good; you’re in good company.
Allow yourself to be used of God, and believe that he can use you for his purposes and according to his will.
Do the above, and you’ll be well on your way to answering objections to Christianity with grace, reason, and precision.
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