When I was in seminary, I had a crisis of faith. Turns out, my experience isn’t all that uncommon. Diving deep into systematic theology, church history, and other studies tends to reveal one’s assumptions. In seminary, all of your Christian beliefs are put under the microscope and you are taught to think critically about them. This is good. We should think critically about all of our beliefs. A common side effect of this, though, is doubt. Thinking critically can cause doubt if one has not considered counter arguments before.
Before seminary, I admit that I had not thought critically about my faith. I was caught off guard. This led me to some serious doubts. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a field of study of which I was unfamiliar: apologetics. Long story short: I did a deep dive on the reasons for Christianity. I no longer felt the need to “just have faith,” whatever that means. Faith was now evidence-based, there were actually reasons to believe. There were reasons to believe that God exists, that Jesus rose from the dead, and that the Bible is God’s word. Once again, I could dive back into my theological studies with confidence. In fact, I had more confidence than ever.
As you can tell, apologetics never left me. I am still diving deep into the reasons for Christianity and my faith only grows stronger. More than ever I am convinced that God exists, Jesus rose from the dead, and the Bible is God’s word. I thought I would share a few ways in which apologetics has benefited me.
- Doubt doesn’t scare me. I am perfectly fine with having my faith challenged. Previously, I would retreat into my corner of “just having faith” whenever I was asked why I believed. I didn’t have a real answer and thought it was virtuous to have a blind faith. This obviously hindered me from having honest conversations with people who were asking genuine questions. It also prevented me from having a stronger faith. Now, when I am faced with a counter argument I don’t freak out. I doubt my doubts and think critically about the objection. Till this day, I have not a heard a “smoking gun” argument against Christianity, but by all means leave a comment!
- I can meet skeptics where they are. One of the things I love about Jesus is that he meets people where they are. He certainly doesn’t want to leave any of us where we are, but he is willing to meet us where we are in all of our sin, doubt, and unworthiness. Understanding where a skeptic is coming from, and actually having answers to their questions has enabled me to meet more people where they are. I sincerely am not trying to “virtue signal” here, or say that I understand perfectly where everyone is coming from, but I do find it easier to talk to people who have doubts. I also am not saying it is necessary to have an apologetic toolbox to meet a skeptic where they are, but it sure is helpful.
- I find it easier to practice spiritual disciplines. This was a bit of a surprise to me, but it makes sense in retrospect. Consider some spiritual disciplines and their correlation to apologetics.
- Prayer. Prayer is communication with God. Many Christians, myself included, find it difficult at times to communicate with someone they can’t see. To be honest, it feels strange at times. Sorry, if that’s too honest of me. But apologetics provides reasons to believe in a God that you can’t see. I’m confident that although I can’t see God, he exists. In fact, if God exists at all, he must be immaterial. It isn’t hard to imagine the connection between understanding this and being more confident in prayer. I’m not saying it is a guarantee, but it has helped me at times.
- Bible Study. In similar fashion, understanding how we can know the Bible is God’s word has helped me with my commitment to reading the Scriptures. Likewise, we can know that the Bible is trustworthy.
- Evangelism. Jesus has commissioned the Church to make disciples of all nations. The New Testament church set out across the Roman world proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead and that salvation was in him alone. Our mission is the same. As we go about the nations sharing the good news, we can go in confidence knowing that Jesus really did rise from the dead and that this can be shown historically.
Apologetics is much more important than winning arguments. I’ve often said that apologetics serves a dual purpose: answering critics and strengthening believers. That continues to be my motto because I find it to be true every day. Apologetics kept me from leaving my faith and has strengthened my faith in many ways. I hope it can do the same for you.