In an article on “street epistemology”, Dr. Travis Dickinson, Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, made the case that faith without an object is no faith at all. For example, in marriage, the object of one’s faith is one’s spouse. So with Christianity, the object of our faith is Jesus. Specifically, we have faith that He is the Messiah, the Son of God who paid the price for our sins and rose from the dead.
This intrigued me for a number of reasons, but chief among them was the role of apologetics in faith that emerged.
What is Faith?
In the article, Dr. Dickinson defines faith as “a state of trust.” However, he makes a key distinction between “trust at a distance” and “trust in action”. “If we trust (from a distance) the safety of the airplane, but we never get on board, then we haven’t really placed our faith in the airplane.”
The distinction here is between nominal faith and true faith. Or, as James puts it, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).
So faith is not belief alone, but “ventured trust”. Again, this trust must be in something, or someone.
What is Apologetics?
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you well know what apologetics is. For those who don’t, apologetics, in brevity, is the rational defense of Christian doctrine.
For example, Christians believe that God exists. If one gives evidence for the existence of God, one is partaking in apologetics. The same goes for giving evidence for the Resurrection and other doctrines.
Apologetics and the Object of Our Faith
The Object of the Christian faith is unmistakably Jesus of Nazareth. More specifically, faith in His resurrection. Remember Paul’s words about the resurrection:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)
If Jesus did not literally raise from the dead, Paul says two things can be certain:
- He is a liar.
- The Christian faith is useless.
Paul would be a liar because he testified to virtually the entire Roman Empire that Jesus did in fact raise from the dead.
If Jesus did not raise from the dead, the Christian faith would be useless because the object of the Christian faith (Jesus and the Resurrection) would be a lie.
The question then is did He raise from the dead? This is a question of apologetics. Now the relationship between apologetics and faith becomes clear.
It would seem then that if one can engage in apologetics and walk away with a strong argument for the Resurrection, one could also walk away with a stronger faith.
Personally, I know this to be true. As doubt overcame me as a seminary student, I stumbled upon apologetics for the first time. What I found shocked me. It also revived me. Blind faith was no longer an option. I needed reason and evidence. I found them both.
As I began to study the arguments made in favor of Christianity and the corresponding rebuttals made by skeptics, I found the arguments for God, Jesus, and the Bible most compelling. My faith became solid. It was no longer based on blind emotion, but sound evidence and reason. The result was a hunger to grow closer to Jesus through His word, prayer, and church life. Blind faith led me to doubt and despair, but apologetics led me to a Savior whose Resurrection is grounded in history.
This is not to say that apologetics is necessary for faith. It is to say that a historical Resurrection is absolutely necessary for faith. Otherwise, the object of our faith is a lie. It is also to say that apologetics lends its hand in making the case for a historical resurrection. The study of apologetics can lead to a much more solidified faith. This has been true for me and I hope it is for you.