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?"



Andyg commented…

Unfortunately, I have to say, this article is a bit silly. I agree we certainly don't want to make apologetics an idol, but saying that this is what's going on is simply mistaken. Incredibly mistaken.

I think the author has misunderstood what faith is. He seems to think that we're called to jump to a conclusion with little reason to back it up, because this is faith, and faith is a virtue, therefore keep "reason" it it's place, because too much of it detracts from faith. But that's not the Biblical idea of faith at all! That's just dumb blind faith, and Christ does not call for that. We put our trust in Jesus to save us, we have faith that He will, and that faith is well placed because we have good reason to put our faith in Jesus, for example, he proved He was who He said He was when He was resurrected. That's a good reason to believe Jesus can save us if we put our faith in Him to do so.

Reason has a lot to do with faith. Reason builds faith (eg if you're given more reasons to think something is true, how much for faith are you going to have in the truthfulness of that thing??? Lots more!! ). This author seems to think the opposite, that reason destroys faith. Frankly, and I'm sorry to have to say this, but that's just dumb.

What this article is really all about is a promo for presuppositional apologetics. A form of apologetics that does have it's place, but from my experience is hopelesslyineffective.

Please stop.


Eric commented…

Well, I wonderif would fo said to the first apologists-the apostles. "Stop using fulfilled prophecy and the resurrection as evidence for Jesus, After all, they need faith!" As I say in the post, the apostles approach to spreading the message of the Gospel is
characterized by such terms as apologeomai/apologia
which means to give reasons, make a legal defense (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1
Pet 3:15); dialegomai which means to
reason, speak boldly (Acts 17:2; 17; 18:4; 19:8), peth
which means to persuade, argue persuasively (Acts 18:4; 19:8), and bebaio which means to confirm,
establish, (Phil 1:7; Heb. 2:3). Acts 17:1-4: Paul went into the synagogue reasoning and giving evidence that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead.Would you say to Paul, "Stop, they need faith. Don't try to reason with them!"
In the end, this post creates a false dichotomy that is nowhere to be found in Scripture. No apoogist thinks someone does not need faith. My advice is to just make sure you read what apologists are really saying. Hope my post helps.

Alex Hooper


Alex Hooper replied to 's comment

I think you're missing the point. Either that or I got something completely different out of this than anyone else.
I don't see him downplaying or saying that reason isn't important, or that he's promoting fideism. For me, this was really helpful with where I've been in my faith-walk for a while now. I've been so focused on the reason side of Christianity that it's pushed me away from God. Every time I read an atheist argument or watch a video from one of these big 'atheist evangelists', I really start to question my beliefs. I've been stuck in a rut for quite a long time and this has really shown me how I've been kind of afraid of faith. Yes, we can reason and defend our faith, but I feel if we focus too much on that, we lose the Gospel. At least, that's what's been happening with me, and what I felt like the author was trying to say here.


Nickolsen92 commented…

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.


Anonymous commented…

What is this article suggesting we put our "faith" in? Having faith in a misconception about an interpretation of a translation of what we think Jesus said in Greek 2000 years ago is not exactly smart nor is it biblical. Using "faith" as a way to avoid recognizing the possible flaws in your thoughts about Christianity is not only dangerous to your own walk with Christ, it's repugnant to the non-believers you come into contact with. The best thing about reason is that it helps you to know what you should put your faith in. If you throw reason out, you're just putting faith in your own personal interpretation of something you probably know very little about other than from hearsay. Jesus didn't come to 21st century America, and Moses didn't have a typewriter. And if you don't know ancient Hebrew or Greek, don't assume you understand everything the Bible is saying and then put your faith in that misconception. Put your faith in reason instead.

Sure, I can understand that some people take reason too far, to the extent of moving God out of the picture. But I think that's a relatively minor issue compared to the wild amounts of misconstruals and misunderstandings from the Christian institutions that are based in having too much faith in tradition alone. And if having "too much reason" is a side effect of reversing some of those misunderstandings, I'm all for it. If you're going to put your faith in God, make sure you understand why first.

Steve and Nikki Reed


Steve and Nikki Reed commented…

Haven't read all the comments, but Nickolsen92 makes an excellent point page 10 of the comments. Had to look up the word fideism, but having given this subject more thought and reading other views, I think he really brings out the necessity of reason and logic.

Please log in or register to comment

Log In