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Christianity's New F-Word

All this learning how to defend Christianity seems to have left us uncomfortable with one very basic word.

With the help of a few popular Christian apologists and philosophers, such as William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga, the rational defense of Christianity has enjoyed an explosive surge in recent years. The increasing enrollment of Christian philosophy students, the widely publicized debates with popular atheists (with no little help from YouTube), and the growing collection of mainstream philosophy books show just how dominant a role Christian apologetics plays in Christianity’s interaction with our culture today.
All these considerations call for an introspective checkup. Now is a good time to ask, as Soren Kierkegaard did, whether Christian apologetics has evolved into nothing more than a cultural activity where one “gets busy at once to deal with every accusation, every falsification, every unfair statement, and in this way is occupied early and late in counterattacking the attack.”
“This,” said Kierkegaard, “I have no intention of doing.” But this, I believe, is precisely what many Christian apologists seem bent on doing today in the public square. 
It really is no big secret that the way mainstream apologists today answer every “prate and twaddle” that comes their way—line for line—is proving to be ineffective and brings some very negative consequences. Here we see the flip side of the popularity of Christian apologetics is the Church’s constant surrender to the culture’s definition of “rational,” “reasonable” and “justified.”

It really is no big secret that the way mainstream apologists answer every “prate and twaddle” is proving ineffective and brings some very negative consequences.

We really can't overlook the subtle irony behind this. By supposedly presenting a “rational” defense for the Christian faith, Christian apologists have often injected Western thought and secular methods into the Church, replacing faithful teaching of Scripture with “reasonable” analysis of the Bible as a historical text.
Scripture is clear: The righteous live by faith—that is, whether we eat or drink or reason, we do all by faith for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
But “faith,” unfortunately, is becoming Christianity’s new F-word. More and more, apologists are succumbing to cultural norms. They trade “the mystery that has been hidden” (1 Corinthians 2:7) with “human traditions and the elemental spiritual forces of this world” (Colossians 2:8). 
Yet if our apologetics is driven not by our love for God, in whom we place our faith, but by our fear of labels, then our apologetics is just idolatry, making our defense of Christianity an idol to man. We must replace this worship of man with a proper worship of Christ (remember, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”) Only then will we have the proper mindset to defend the faith for the glory of God, not man. 
Paul preached first by faith in the power of the Gospel even as he reasoned “rigorously” with the Jews and the Greeks (Acts 18:28; 1 Corinthians 1:17.) We have to examine whether we have misplaced our boldness and confidence—is it in reason? ourselves? or Christ?—lest we place ourselves on the wrong path. 

Our faith in Christ must be greater than our faith in wisdom and reason, regardless of what label might be pinned on us.

Our faith in Christ has to be greater than our faith in wisdom and reason, regardless of what label might be pinned on us.  

During the past half-century or so, Christian apologetics has been graced with a special grain of salt. Great Christian thinkers like Cornelius Van Til, John Frame and Greg Bahnsen have stepped up to the task of restoring a proper view and love for our “conviction of things not seen” through something they're calling “presuppositional apologetics.” One of the primary concerns of these apologists is to inject faith back in to the defense of the faith, just like Augustine, Anselm and Pascal did before them. Christian apologists, they believe, ought to embrace and boast in our faith—with or without the culture's consent.  

As Jesus said: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). Lies, slanders, prate and twaddle will always come against those who belong to the faith. But we have been exhorted to consider these persecutions as blessings instead of reasoning them away with how good we are in philosophy.
Like Kierkegaard, we should welcome these attacks, “partly because [we] learn from the New Testament that the occurrence of such things is a sign that one is on the right road.” If the letter “F” is our scarlet letter, then it's the letter that gets us into the Kingdom of God. 

Top Comments

brad wofford


brad wofford commented…

I heard Ravi Zacharias once be asked "Why does our faith have to be justified by rational western thought..." Ravi responded "Do you want my answer to be rational or irrational?"




MichB commented…

Likewise. I had a similar 'drought' where I was questioning a lot of things, one of them being whether or not I was the absolutele brainwahsed nutcase society kept telling me I was. Unable to yet rely on the truth of the Bible or my past experience with God as trustworthy I turned to philosophy and reason. There I found that it was in fact totally reasonable and rational to assume that there was a personal mind behind the creation of the universe, that humans exist on purpose, and that this creator cares about our wellbeing. That was enough to encourage me on, and eventually I worked my way out of the drought. It's not everything is coming to faith, but it has it's useful place.

I agree that it would be foolish to try and absolutely 'prove' God somehow before putting any faith in him - often we see that faith comes first and is then proved to be justified, allowing for further steps of faith later, but I love thinking about God and talking about God too. I guess it's part of how I worship and connect to him.



Blake commented…

I came around to Sungyak's position a year or two ago. The thing that brought me around to what would be called presuppositional apologetics was really just a simple observation: a believer and an unbeliever of equal intellect could debate until they were blue in the face over "evidences of the faith" and never come to an agreement. Why is this? Ultimately, it seems to me, because one presupposes a faith as witnessed by the Scriptures and the other presupposes disbelief in Christian faith as witnessed by the Scriptures. Faith undergirds how the Christian views the evidence.

Plus, I look at Thomas Cranmer (the Anglican reformer) and see his understanding of the heart, will and mind quite fitting to this idea (as paraphrased by Cranmer scholar, Ashley Null): what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.

If the heart is captive to Christ, then reason can be used to justify what Christ has done and defend the faith. If the heart is in rebellion and disbelief of God, then the mind will justify that rebellion and disbelief.

Faith is the basis for Christian reasoning. If our reasoning does not have faith as its presupposition then the power of the Gospel cannot really be displayed and proclaimed in our arguments and discussions.

brad wofford


brad wofford commented…

I heard Ravi Zacharias once be asked "Why does our faith have to be justified by rational western thought..." Ravi responded "Do you want my answer to be rational or irrational?"

Joseph Wright


Joseph Wright commented…

Copy and pasted Nikolsen92's comment because I really liked it. Also haven't read all the comments.

"That 1st Corinthians verse mentioned near the beginning actually puts me on the polar opposite side that Kim is on. 1st Principles are by definition assumptions about the world. (e.g The outside world exists, reality is ordered, the 5 senses are reliable for truth) You take them on faith and then work from there. Heck... the verse even mentions "reason" by faith which reminds of such ideas.

Fideism is and has been killing the credibility of Christians. Mormons have mastered it, but when you look at the LDS churches teachings/doctrines/theology. You realize how extremely unreasonable they are when you read them. You should always ask a fideist "why are you a Christian rather than a mormon, muslim, or a hindu?" Either you'll find no reason at all or an inconsistency because that's when they use reason, history or science to prove other religions as false.

Getting mocked, ridiculed or shamed flies in the face of apologists too. We're not immune to it. The Scriptures are right because it has shown to be. I'd like to know if this is just Kim's beliefs and/or if RELEVANT is along side with this. I can't stand behind this if it's gonna promote fideism."


John Rader


John Rader commented…

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