Is It Wrong To Give A Reason For Your Faith?

One of the questions that occurs with some regularity in our public lectures is the question of whether what we are doing in this whole program which we call Does God Exist? should be done. I believe there are a large number of church leaders and ministers who are extremely uncomfortable with an effort which attempts to present evidence for the existence of God. There are a number of reasons for all of these objections to this kind of work. Here are a few:

  1. If you provide proof of the existence of God, have you not eliminated faith?
  2. Most people believe in God (92% of all Americans according to some polls), why spend time and money trying to respond to only 8% of the population, most of whom will not be reached anyway.
  3. If your arguments are disproven by atheists, you have done more harm than good.
  4. If you say I believe in God because of A,B,C,D, and E, and if these points are proven to be wrong have you not lost your faith?
  5. The Bible does not prove God's existence, it assumes it. Why should we do anything the Bible does not do?

These are valid questions and challenges, all of them are points we have considered in the past and continue to work on. What we hope to do in this article is to respond to these questions in a way we hope will be of help to our readers.

Are you not eliminating faith? The answer to this question is absolutely not. What we are eliminating is a blind leap of faith. Francis Schaeffer, the great apologetic author, used to tell the hypothetical story of a man climbing in the Alps in the summertime. He has on summer weight clothing and a minimum of equipment when he is suddenly caught in a freak storm. The temperature plummets, the snow starts to fly, the wind howls, and he quickly realizes he is about to die. Rather than just die on this ledge the man decides to jump off--hoping that on the way down he may hit something soft that will break his fall and allow him to survive. That is a blind leap of faith. Now Schaffer shifts the story to exactly the same conditions but with one new variable. This time the man hears a voice calling over the wind in the local dialect. The voice says "I know where you are. Look at your fee--there is a can wedged in the rock." He looks and sure enough, the can is there. "Look behind you, you will see an M marked on the rock." He looks, and sure enough the M is there. "Now here is what I want you to do" the voice continues. "Jump off the ledge. About 10 feet below you there is another ledge with provisions at the end of it. Wrap up and I'll be up to get you in the morning."

There is still a leap of faith involved in this second situation. He could be hearing things, or it could be a terrible joke--but he has evidence that the voice is for real and he has everything to gain and nothing to lose by following the instructions. Providing evidence does not eliminate faith, it just makes the leap an intelligent leap_not a blind one. There are many things in the Christian system that have to be taken on faith alone. No one can explain how Jesus arose from the dead. You have faith in it or you deny it but you cannot address it from an evidence standpoint. There are few of these cases, but they are there.

Most people believe, so why bother? The first response I would make to this statement is "figures do not lie, but liars figure." The polls that give such figures are flawed. First of all, the kind of population polled and the place and date of polling can make a huge difference. Secondly, there is a huge difference between belief in a personal God and belief in a "higher power." Thirdly, there is a huge difference between faith and acceptance. Many people have accepted the idea that there is a god of some kind because that is the way they were raised. They may even go through the motions of participation. I have had teenagers tell me they go to church because it is a small price to pay for peace at home, but they also frequently make it clear that when they leave home they have no intention of any involvement. Apathy, indifference, lack of involvement, and a failure to have any affect on morality or lifestyle are all byproducts of a lack of real belief.

Even when there is a seed of faith there is a huge need to answer questions that might weaken faith and bolster ones belief system.

What if your arguments are disproven? This is a real problem. All of us are simply human, and none of us have all the answers. It is very possible that any argument for anything could be proven to be erroneous. This is just as much a problem for the atheist as for the believer. In recent months arguments like the oscillating universe, frequently used to explain how the universe could exist without being created, have been proven wrong by new discoveries (in this case the evidence that the acceleration of the cosmos is positive not negative_it is speeding up in its expansion, not slowing down).

None of us can argue on the basis of what we do not know, and no one's argument on anything is safe from new discoveries in the future. The lesson of the past is that new discoveries just reinforce evidence for the existence of God, but all of us must be prepared to reexamine evidence and change our understanding if evidence demands it. Growing in our understanding is not a threat to belief.

The Bible does not prove God's existence; it assumes it. This statement is really not true. It is true that Genesis assumes God's existence, but Genesis is a history not an apologetic. In many other places in the Bible, apologetics are offered (examples are Romans 1:19-23, Psalms19:1, 139:14, Isaiah 40:26, Job 1 & 2, and Thomas in John 10, 11, and 20). More important is the fact that the Bible repeatedly shows Christ and the apostles engaging the people of their day in an apologetic dialogue. Paul took on the Epicureans and Stoics in Acts 17:18. Jesus dealt with the religious leaders of his day in an apologetic dialogue. He verified his claims and met the doubts of Thomas and others with evidence. Numerous commands exist throughout the Bible such as "Be ready to give an answer of the hope that is within you to every man" ( 1 Peter 3:15). I would suggest that working to use apologetics effectively is an obedience to these commands. JNC

--John N. Clayton

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