“Why do you believe in God?” That wasn’t exactly the kind of question I was expecting.
“What is your best argument for the existence of God? Why do you really believe He exists?” Honestly, the question left me a little taken. These weren’t the kinds of questions I was used to hearing from my other Bible college professors. But that question had a real impact on me.
“During this class, we are going to take the time to look at the evidence for God. We’re going to examine the arguments, and hopefully give ourselves the tools to effectively aid in bringing someone from Atheist, to Theist, and eventually to Christian.” That’s right. I was in my very first apologetics class. Until that point, although I understood what apologetics was, I had never given it much thought. I had basically been taught my whole life that faith and reason, faith and evidence, faith and science, were totally and forever separated. The atheists were all the people who believed in science, and the Christians were the people who had faith. That is…until I started to see the evidence for myself. Suddenly, I realized that faith and reason were not enemies, but were really close friends. You can imagine my shock.
But it was what I discovered next that startled me the most: most other Christians resisted my new discovery. I came to the end of my first semester of apologetics excited to share this new breakthrough in personal growth with everyone around me. Come to find out…. most of them disagreed. They felt like having reasons for belief meant a lack of faith on my part. That objection is a hurdle that every would – be apologist must surmount before he can go any further in his study. That’s what I want to help you, the reader, do. I want to answer this claim: that having reasons for belief means having no faith. It seems like a big hurdle at first, but under closer scrutiny, soon falls apart. For sake of illustration, I want to walk you through a hypothetical encounter with this type of person, and hopefully give you the tools to disarm this kind of thinking.
Objection: “Trying to come up with reasons for belief undermines faith. We just need faith.”
If this is the situation you face, before you do anything, you need to ask some questions to get a little clarity. Ask, “What do you mean when you say faith?” Most of the time an objector won’t have a clear answer to this, so you may need to probe a little more. Try asking, “by faith, do you mean faith without any evidence?” The goal of questions like this is to try to uncover their underlying definition of faith: faith is blind, faith is separate from reasons or evidence. Once you have used questions to establish this, there are a couple of directions you can go: the Biblical route and the logical route. Both are extremely effective, and both essentially accomplish the same thing: demonstrating that their view is inconsistent with reality. I’ll walk through both.
The Bible Method
Ask your friend, “Do you think the Bible defines faith the same way you are right now?” Invariably the answer is going to be “yes”. The best question will sound something like, “Do you mind if I showed you a place where the Bible defines faith with evidence and not apart from it?” Ideally, they will agree. If not, let it go. One of my favorite passages to use for this is Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I like this because on the surface it appears that it supports a blind faith, but in reality does the exact opposite. The key to this text is found in the words “substance” and “evidence”. The word substance is from the greek word hupostasis. It means, “reality, essence…that which is the basis for something…the ground of confidence, guarantee, or proof.” (Complete Word Study Dictionary, s.v. “5287. hupostasis,” Olivetree Bible Software) Essentially by defining faith as “the substance of things hoped for”, the author of Hebrews was indicating that those things that were hoped for had solid proof that produced faith or confidence. Evidence begets belief. The word evidence is a similar word. It is the greek word elegchos, and it means, “certain persuasion. In the sense of refutation of adversaries.” (Complete Word Study Dictionary, s.v. “1650. elegchos,” Olivetree Bible Software). It is the idea of citing evidence in order to refute your adversary. This refutation is a ground for belief or persuasion of the unseen. So the author of Hebrews argues strongly for an evidenced faith. After this, you should politely and respectfully ask them to demonstrate an instance in the Bible where someone believed without having a single item to stand that belief on. Remember though, you are not arguing to destroy the person or to cause a fight. You are politely engaging an idea.
The Logical Method
This route is a lot shorter than the Biblical Method and essentially does the same thing. This method offers an answer to their objection by demonstrating that it is self-defeating. The objection is, in and of itself, irrational and therefore absurd to believe. It undercuts itself. Here’s how you can show someone this. First, as always, ask for clarity. Ask, “So are you saying that I should not have reasons for believing what I believe?” When they say “yes”, they’re basically trapped. Ask them, “Why do you believe that?” When they get through telling you all their reasons for believing that you shouldn’t have reasons for belief, ask, “So, are those all of your reasons for believing that you shouldn’t have reasons for belief?” At this point they are confronted with the inconsistency of their view and must abandon it, or choose to live in absurdity. Most people will be honest enough to admit that they never thought of it that way.
Those are two basic ways to answer the objection, “reasons undermine faith, we just need faith.” I hope they help you the way they helped me. If you’re reading this, and you held that objection, I want to challenge you to reconsider. You either have reasons, or you are left blind. The Bible never encourages blindness, and neither does good reason. I want to invite you to awake to reason! As always feel free to leave comments or questions.