A Provable Faith and an Apologetic Hope
Humanist philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “We may define ‘faith’ as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence.” Others say, “faith is being able to believe anything you are told.”
Faith Based on Unseen Evidence
Is this what the Bible means by the word “faith”? We need to go to the Bible for an accurate definition of the word “faith”, instead of listening to its enemies for their definition. The Word of God informs us in Hebrews 11:1 what faith is: “Now faith is the assurance and things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” From this we learn that faith is not merely wishing for something, but is assurance that what is desired can also be expected.
A concept held firmly by the scientific community and many others is that faith and science are incompatible. A college professor once explained it this way to his students, “If you have science and faith in your mind, you had better keep them in watertight compartments, for if by any chance they should intermingle, faith would disappear in the precipitation that would take place.” Yet, scientist must use faith. They accept the fact that the atom exists, though they have never seen one. They accept by faith based on evidence. Today, many have been blessed because of their faith in that which cannot be seen with the naked eye or heard with their ears or smelt with their nose or felt. Therefore, faith and science are not incompatible.
However, some things are beyond scientific investigation. Love and hope are accepted as real. God is beyond scientific investigation. God cannot be put in a test tube or under a microscope. His existence cannot be proven by sight, sound, touch, smell or taste. Science can never confirm or refute the creation by the Creator.
Faith is not believing in spite of the evidence. Faith is based on evidence. “Evidence” is from the Greek word elenchos and “it is used of cross-examining someone with a view to establish evidence” (Lightfoot 204). The visible came to be by the invisible God. “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).
Though the evidence is not physically visible to us, this does not discredit faith. I believe that Moscow exists, though I have never been there. Based on evidence of those who have been there, I rest my faith that such a city exists. Yet all begin to accept faith and use it daily from birth till death. We are told as a young student in elementary school that George Washington was the first president of the United States. By faith we accept this fact, even though we have never personally seen him or heard his voice. Banks extend credit on the basis of faith. We place orders online with the confidence they will be honored. No one can live a life completely devoid of the use of faith.
This faith is like a blind man who can believe in the existence of red and blue even though he has never seen any colors. According to 2 Cor. 5:7 “we walk by faith not by sight.” To those who are blind, it is nearly impossible to get where they wish to go without special assistance. However, faith gives us the ability to see God as real, and to walk by His Word. Faith is not a blind leap in the dark as some view it. Instead, it is a leap into the “light” after careful consideration of the evidence. The evidence that produces this light is two-fold: 1) the Bible, the Word of God (Psalm 19:7f) and 2) nature (Ps. 19:1-6).
More importantly, Heb. 11:6 teaches that no one can lead a life pleasing to God without spiritual faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Life demands we believe in many things we don’t understand. But one thing we must understand is that without spiritual faith, life here and eternal life in the hereafter is made impossible.
Hope Defended With a Reasoned Apology
What? Christians are to make an apology for their faith? Peter commanded Christians of the first century: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15, New American Standard). The fact is the word “defense” in the original Greek is apologia which means “a reasoned defense.” It is a “verbal defense, a speech in defense” (Vine 53). Ferrell Jenkins wrote, “an apology is a defense against a single attack…apologetics is a complete system of defenses.”
Christians are not commanded to acknowledge or express regret for having faith or hope in God. Instead, they must be ready at all times to answer anyone who has questions about our hope. The when of this command to defend our hope is “always.” Those to whom Christians are commanded to present their defense of their hope in God and Christ is “every man.” Christians cannot have the luxury of choosing when, where, and to whom they are to make their apology. Thus we must be prepared ahead of and at all times in all places to all men who ask.
Paul was prepared to answer when questioned about his faith and hope in Christ. One such time was while he was a prisoner and being questioned by the Roman Governor Festus and King Agrippa (Acts 26:24-29). A Christian must back up his hard-to-accept claims with reasons that make good sense to the honest inquirer and doubter in order to persuade them to become a Christian.
Being able and ready for any question at any time by anyone is a formidable responsibility. It involves more than just answering a few common and expected questions from our denominational neighbors like: Why are you a Christian? What must I do to be saved? What church should I join? Can a Christian sin so as to lose their salvation? Today many are expressing doubt in the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible as His Word, and in Jesus as God’s Son. So they will ask questions like: Are science and the Bible at odds? Are miracles possible? Is God an invention by mere men? Has science shown there is no such thing as a soul? Who made God? Is the Bible really reliable? If God is good and loving why does He allow so much evil and suffering in the world? Didn’t God use evolution to create the world?
Christians provide answers to questions like those listed above in the form of evidence. Our English word “evidence” comes from the Latin verb videre, “to see.” When we give a defense or answer to these questions, the inquirer needs to be able to clearly see the proof. This evidence can be internal (from the Bible) or external (from without the Bible). External evidence comes from such things as historical documents, archaeology finds, observations of creation, scientific laws, etc.
Just how important is it to have on hand all this information to answer the questions Christians may face as they share and/or defend their faith? First, everyone must strengthen their own beliefs. Faith can be weak or little. Doubts can arise even among faithful disciples, like Thomas (John 20:19-23). Even John the Baptist expressed his personal doubts as to who Jesus was and sought evidence from Jesus. These questions come from messengers sent from John while he was in prison (Matt. 11:3-6). As Christians study to answer common questions from others, they become prepared to answer their own doubts and build up their personal faith and hope.
Furthermore, our children must be brought up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). They need to grow up having their own faith, not just one handed down or inherited from their parents. God has no grandchildren. Children must believe the truth, but they need to be able to demonstrate why they believe it based on evidence. After all, when you send your children out into the world and school, their teachers, peers, the media, textbooks and many others will challenge their faith. Nearly 70% of first year students in college lose their faith as they transition from home and church to live on campus. All the more reason parents should “train up a child in the way he should go” so that “when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
Another reason Christians need to be ready with an apology is all the lost souls in need of salvation. “He that is wise wins souls” (Prov. 11:30). First, he is wise because he is helping to save what is most valuable in all the world, an eternal soul. Second, he gains wisdom by preparing himself. Furthermore, they have to be ready to face those who attack God, His Word, and His Son. There are many atheists who reject any idea of the supernatural and embrace only naturalism. It is the belief that ascribes all events to natural causes, as opposed to supernatural. They will argue God is not the creator of the universe, but a big bang started it all and through biological evolution man came to be. The Bible is viewed as nothing more than a collection of Jewish myths. And Jesus may have been one of many great teachers, but lived and died a man just like the billions of mortals that came before Him and since He has died. By being prepared with a ready defense against these false teachers, Christians are able to help save the lost, train up their children, and strengthen the faith of both fellow believers and themselves.
One of the first lessons a defender of the faith must learn is to know where to begin. When the Holy Spirit sent Philip to preach Jesus to the Ethiopian, Philip did not start right in on the Ethiopian’s need to be baptized. He first asked where the Ethiopian was at in regard to his knowledge of the scriptures and if he understood them. “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’” (Acts 8:30,31). It was only then that “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). A good apology begins with a proper assessment of the inquirer’s level of knowledge You cannot convince someone of the necessity of baptism into Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, if they do not believe Christ died, was buried, and arose from the dead. Furthermore, they are not likely to accept the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus if they do not believe He was God’s Son sent from Heaven to save the world. Then if they do not believe the Bible is God’s Word, they will not have the evidence from the scriptures to believe Jesus was God. Finally, it is a futile effort to try to convince someone the Bible is God’s Word if they do not even believe in God. To save time and increase the chances in converting the lost, a Christian needs to first properly assess where he needs to begin his apology.
– Daniel R. Vess