As I’ve gone down the road to becoming an apologist, a defender of the Christian faith, it has been a thrilling adventure, at times disturbing and at times very exciting. I had always felt a call towards defending the Christian faith, ever since my early days of becoming a Christian. It seemed to me that if the Christian faith is true, and if being a Christian is the most important thing you can do on this earth, then there is arguably no calling more important.
However, as I went deeper into different subjects related to defending the Christian faith, a thought began to occur to me:
What if God doesn’t need to be defended?
There were multiple times that I wished so much that God would thunder from heaven and defend himself, that he would clear up things that people were confused about.
At the same time, I saw some apologists so set on defending God that sometimes they just got the facts wrong and ended up misrepresenting God because of their desperation to defend what they thought they knew about God. I didn’t want to end up doing this.
When I sat in a class on Holocaust literature, I wished that God would just walk into the classroom and explain why he allowed such a horrendous thing to happen in history, but he didn’t.
When I read that people claimed there were irreconcilable contradictions in the Bible (some of which I still don’t yet have an adequate answer for) I thought, Why doesn’t God just come down and clear this all up? Why doesn’t he just point out why this isn’t a contradiction, or at least not something important enough to care whether it’s a contradiction?
When I began to hear that people were accusing God of genocide or other crimes, and that certain Scriptures in fact give the impression that God did do things like this, I wished God would come down from heaven and just clear up the confusion.
And how about how many people are harmed in terrible ways and yet they hear not even a peep from God, at least not directly?
If God loves us, shouldn’t he thunder from heaven, and come down on the clouds to clean up all the mess and confusion, simultaneously revealing that he is not a vindictive elderly white man with a long white beard, as depicted in most Christian art?
I would pray for God to reveal himself in some of these more obvious ways, but found no answer.
At the same time, I would pray for clear-as-day answers for confusing situations in my own life. I was frustrated that God would not give me clear and compelling directions for my troubles and difficulties. Because he didn’t, I was sometimes confused by the frustration and ambiguity that life often threw my way. I wanted things to be easier than that, but they usually weren’t.
I won’t pretend that God has provided adequate answers for every question I’ve had even indirectly. God hasn’t usually “come on the clouds” (Psalm 104:3) to defend His glory and honor, or to give me relief from my troubles, at least not usually in a blatantly obvious way.
I also won’t give the easy “questions are more important than answers” motto that has become popular today in progressive Christianity. Such a motto glorifies agnosticism (ignorance) and ignores the fact that, while we may not have all the answers, we do need sufficient answers to continue in a legitimate belief system. I seek answers while admitting I don’t currently have them all, and there is nothing arrogant or presumptuous about that (see James 1:5).
But let me tell you about some of the answers I have found, while I expectantly wait for God to give me answers for other questions I have.
I have seen how God reveals himself through nature, his second book, of general revelation, and I have become fully convinced that there must be a Creator of everything I see around me, just like I’m fully convinced that someone created the coffee I’m drinking or the chair I’m sitting in.
I have seen God work through suffering to bring a great result and to develop the character of his people. I have seen this dramatically in my own fellowship (the International Churches of Christ), and how God has severely disciplined us so that we could grow, and be shaped more fully into his image.
I have read about how God fulfilled prophecies throughout his word in ways that are clearly attested in history. And I’m not just talking about all the ways Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, but the ways God fulfilled multiple prophecies throughout the Old Testament.
I have seen how God worked with his people from the ground up throughout Scripture, bringing them step by step into the fullness of his truth. That involved stepping into the messiness of humanity with its faulty power structures and cultures, and then calling humanity forward one step at a time into holiness.
I see God’s love on every page of Scripture as He went through the painful process of doing this.
I have seen the vast superiority of Jesus’ teachings and how they have and continue to transform my character and the character of those around me.
I have seen how the Christian message is flexible and can reach people of every tribe, nation, and language.
I have felt the intimacy of God and his speaking into my heart.
I have seen God work in my life and how God has provided for my needs by putting a woman in my life who I love very much and who also helps me grow in my character and spirituality, and is now my wife!
These things I have discovered give me the confidence to keep going, and keep seeking God, and desiring to reveal him more fully to the world around me.
Because I feel secure in what I’ve listed above, I don’t feel that I have to try too hard to defend God as an apologist. I recognize that God may not always come down in a blatantly obvious way because
- He has made things clear through what has been made (Romans 1:20)
- Through his revelation in Scripture (2 Peter 1:20-21), and
- Because he has entrusted us Christians to reflect him accurately to the world in a co-partnership (2 Cor 5:18).
I thoroughly believe that if I am off base or lacking knowledge in some area, God will lead me in the right direction, if I continue to ask for wisdom.
Because I believe God is real, and God is working in the world, and in my life, I trust he also works through me as an apologist to present accurate information about him to the world, so more people can come to know him and have a relationship with him. There is no doubt in my mind that God has given me that calling, just as he has given that calling to every Christian on earth.
So if I had to summarize my approach to apologetics in four words, it would be these:
God will come through.
While God has given me a calling to defend the Christian faith against skeptics and “every argument or pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor 10:5), I recognize that God doesn’t need me to do this. God did not “need” the Israelites to reveal himself to the world, but he chose to entrust them with that task so he could be in relationship and co-partnership with humanity.
In the same way I believe God has entrusted me with this task just as he has entrusted us to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Defending and revealing the faith is just one part of that calling to go and make disciples.
(For more from Jonathan, check out jonwalt.com.)