If Christianity were true, would that make any difference?


(Joe Gregory) #1

In my research and experiences with others, it seems like many, and perhaps most, non-believers reject Christ not because of common apologetic issues relating to the Bible, history, science, etc, but simply because they want nothing to do with Him. Frank Turek would always ask “If Christianity were true, would you be a Christian?”. Most responses I get when I ask this question is No. For many, it seems to fundamentally come down to a desire to live however they want as opposed to pleasing God, regardless of what is true.

How should one engage such people? Does apologetics have a role here or is it better to just walk away?


(SeanO) #2

@jobobear Great question. Of course apologetics has a role to play here! One of the best examples of how apologetics plays a role in this situation is the work Pensees by Blaise Pascal. Pascal has a famous quote where he says the following:

Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.

Apologetics is not just about answering peoples’ rational questions - it is about making them wish Christianity were true. And we should wish it were true! The Gospel is the most beautiful truth in the entire world.

Here is an article from Tim Keller explaining Pascal’s approach and a book that I personally enjoyed reading on the Pensees by Peter Kreeft. I think the imagination has a large role to play in this process of making people wish Christianity were true. For me, the ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C. S. Lewis I read as a child always made me wish I could be in Narnia - they taught me the beauty of righteousness and goodness and even, in a way, of God. They sanctified my imagination. Lord of the Rings had a similar impact once I was already Christian. I read it regularly because it reminds me of the glory of a righteous king reigning on the throne and of a longing for things greater than this world.

Hope these thoughts are helpful - feel free to take the discussion to a deeper level or probe more deeply. Christ be with you.

“But the phrase “make good men wish it were true” gets across that this takes determination and ingenuity. We must know our culture—know its hopes—and then show others that only in Christ will their aspirations ever find fulfillment, that only in him will the plot lines of their lives ever have resolution and a happy ending.” Tim Keller


(Jimmy Sellers) #3

I will assume that by real you mean absolute certainty, if that is the case wouldn’t one have to be delusional to deny absolute certainty?:grinning:


(Joe Gregory) #4

Thank you for the response.

I will admit that I’ve not heard of Pensees. So I’ll definitely be looking into it.

I find the sequence of steps here to be interesting. I can understand how the imagination plays a role into how someone can come to Christ, although I’ve always struggled with what that specifically looks like. I’m not sure I would fully agree that this is a good approach for everyone but I may have to reconsider after reading this.

I just got done reading “Faith no more”, by Phil Zuckerberg, a non-believing sociologist. Here he interviewed almost 90 people who grew up in some religious household and later rejected all religion when they got older. He asked about their thought process behind it. Just about all of the reasons he mentioned had nothing to due with they typical objections that apologetics would target.

Many people that I’ve come across like to use rational objections to Christianity but when you probe deeper, it seems to go beyond rational. It’s like they are trying to hide their true motives to come across as rational, whether they realize it or not. To reference Gary Habermas’ model, it’s like they are trying to put on a mask a intellectual doubt to cover up their emotional and/or volitional doubts. Sometimes that mask is very thin. I keep thinking that if we were to apply Pascal’s approach, it may not be effective for these people because they would just try to counter with their supposed intellectual doubt. But I’m open to other opinions.

Regardless, thanks for the links. It’s given me plenty to chew on.

In Christ,

Joe


(SeanO) #5

@jobobear Thanks for the reply. I wanted to clarify a few things before proceeding because it sounds like you are describing people who do not want anything to do with faith and are using a facade to defend their position. In essence, they are lying to hide their true motives, whether consciously or subconsciously. So, here are a few questions to consider:

How did Jesus respond to people who rejected His message outright? How did He instruct His disciples to respond to such people?

What did Jesus say about people whose hearts were not sincere?

Can someone who is willing to lie to cover their sin be saved?

Can we persuade someone to stop covering their sin and open their hearts to Jesus? Is this part of the goal of apologetics - to shine the light of God’s truth so that people might decide to allow God to heal the brokenness within.

Hope that takes the discussion a little deeper.


(Joe Gregory) #6

These are good questions to ask. Jesus seemed to use a different approaches (brood of vipers, don’t throw pearls before dogs, go home and sin no more, etc.). I’m trying to picture who this would play out in a conversation.

So if you were ask someone who gave you a long list of objections from the Bible, evolution, etc., “if Christianity were true, would be commit to being a Christian?”, and they answered no. What would be a good response?


(SeanO) #7

@jobobear That is a great question and I wish there was a simple answer. I guess my first response would be another simple question - “How come?” If I could understand why Christianity is not attractive to them, then perhaps I could help them move toward wanting to serve Jesus. I also think that the way that we live our lives can attract people to Jesus, even if that takes decades. People may not be willing to admit it, but I really believe that if we live with love for God and others and joy in the Spirit, people do notice.

Tim Keller says there are three reasons people reject or accept Christianity:

  • social
  • emotional
  • rational

If we can establish that their object is not rational, then perhaps we need to invite them into Christian community if they are willing to come, so that they can witness the lives of a group of believers loving God and each other. Or perhaps we just need to give them space because they have been emotionally hurt in the past by the Church.

I don’t think there is an easy answer, but those are some thoughts.


(Kathleen) #8

@jobobear - This old adage often comes to my mind: ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.’ Similarly, in light of @SeanO 's reference to Pascal, we can even try our hardest to make him want to drink, but the Holy Spirit is ultimately the one who breaks down those barriers. My heart breaks for those who defiantly set themselves up against God, and it drives me to my knees… which, at any rate, is probably the best approach. If conversations of this nature are not preceded, proceeded, and saturated in prayer, then most, if not all of our efforts will be fruitless.

But I suppose whether you walk away or not depends on your relationship with the person. One doesn’t generally walk away from a friend or family member just because they don’t believe the same as you. That makes them merely a project. Setting the conversation to the side of a time may be more helpful in this case. They know where you stand, and presumably you have enough relational capital to revisit it in the future.


(Geoffrey) #9

Hi Joe,

The subject of engaging with non believers who for the most part are uninterested in the gospel or religion as such is a very real one for this time in history. Certainly for us in the west. I think when we consider Apologetics we assume it will respond to difficult matters and then provide an answer and we have done our best at that point so naturally, we expect a favourable outcome. I do not believe that to be correct and in fact we get down hearted because we tend to assume a correct answer or well thought out one is going to win over a heart. This is not true. I am not saying we should not be the apologist when presented with an opportunity. In fact we are told to be ready in season and out of season to give account of the hope that is in us. There are two parts to being a witness. Your part as the representative of Christ on earth. One could ask, is the Love of Christ and good news of the gospel clearly evident in the believer to an extent that it causes men to ask about the hope in us. It is intended that we have a love so unique and powerful that men are drawn to seek that love. Whilst I cannot comment as to any individual as to whether they do or do not reflect that love, it would not be too far a stretch to say that perhaps the unsaved realm is NOT seeing that in the church as a general observation. That becomes one of the witness ing problems the church faces to day. However, the other part of witnessing is the state of the unsaved soul. The Bible calls unbelievers “disobedient” to the faith. That only makes sense if one deliberately disobeys something. So in one aspect men are disobeying the call of the creator. Obviously there are many things we could say contribute to the cold heart of unsaved men. Answering every one of those concerns is beyond this forum but something to consider is this; Modern man has an abundance of distractions and challenges in this world that keep him preoccupied with self and circumstance. Modern society provides a level of comfort and prosperity that we can hide behind. We rarely consider how food comes to us because we simply go to the market or shopping mall and buy what we want. Its just on the shelf ready to purchase and consume. So at one level we are insulated from hunger because the food is mass produced and easy to get. However, if there is a natural disaster or calamity of some kind we are easily shaken. We hide behind a facade of security and we rarely see how fragile and needy we are. So this does not answer all your questions but we live in a time when mens hearts are cold to truth. This is a generational issue and one we must learn to deal with. Good apologetics is beneficial and we must be ready to answer but the Spirit of the Lord must work immense hearts as well. He will not do this if men reject Him. Men knew who Christ was when He walked amongst them and yet they rejected Him because they did not want what He meant and that is the heart of man we must also comes to see. Yes, do all we can to snatch them from the fire if possible but recognise not all can be saved because they choose not to be saved.
Personally I feel frustrated at times because I see people with problems on the news or in the streets and I know Christ is the answer but they often don’t want it. They are too easily convinced its too simple.


(Brittany Bowman) #10

You bring up an interesting thought, @gnslaser. I once took a school trip to South Africa, and our tour guide told us, “in America you are comfortable. In South Africa we pray because for many of us It is all we have.” That stuck firmly, and indeed a crisis of food production or society is often a way God can direct our eyes upwards. I think this is why so many in the agricultural community are Christians and pray so intimately, as they experience life and death of crops and animals first-hand. It’s pretty humbling to work an entire growing season without knowing how good market prices will be in the fall.

I’d like to suggest, though, perhaps the younger generation isnt willfully rejecting Christianity because they don’t like it. Maybe they don’t know such a love is possible? While previous generations of Americans were generally raised in a setting where Christian knowledge was discussed, I encounter many in my generation who are just grabbing straws in an attempt to find the peace God has hard-wired our souls to search for. Most of my friends have maybe gone to church twice in their lives, and I can still remember a hunger in their eyes even though I haven’t seen some of them for years. While frivolous lifestyles may have been an attempt to openly rebel against God in the past, i think its more of an attempt of my generation to find meaning and peace at all.

Someone told me recently they remembered a wedding where the bride and groom just had an indescribable peace that they couldn’t figure out. I asked if the couple was Christian, and the person answered affirmatively. I had just read Saving Truth and the section on marriage and explained how that’s God’s way of reminding us daily of His unconditional love for the Church. The person was so shocked, “You mean that kind of love is actually possible and real? It’s what Christians can experience?” I can’t imagine the torment in that must have been in that person’s heart to have a longing for unconditional love and yet not really believe it was possible.

While I was running this morning, I thought about the Desire Against Materialism thread and how many opportunities that argument could open in everyday conversations. As we show the world God’s love as a church through our self-sacrificial service, it’s important to also tie in our apologetics learnings to show there is more to this world than meeting someone’s worldly needs

I do want to add that I appreciate this whole thread. In an online conversation this very question came up and I just didn’t respond, unsure how to handle it in a way that could point them to Christ instead of away. I now feel more prepared from reading through everyone’s posts. Thanks!!


(Jimmy Sellers) #11

@jobobear:

From a previous post. This is not an answer but is relevant to the topic but from a slightly different angle, as an insider.

“The purpose of apologetics is often assumed to be to convince outsiders of the value of the beliefs and practices of a religion or way of life. This may be an occasional side effect, but it cannot be the primary function. Rather, works of apologetics are really written for insiders. The arguments in such books may find their way into discussions between adherents and outsiders, but the primary audience is the believing audience . Apologetic writings sustain the insider’s commitment in the face of critique, ridicule or contradiction from outside (and from questions and doubts inside).”
deSilva, D. A. (2004). An introduction to the New Testament: contexts, methods and ministry formation (p. 103). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

If this is a true statement, then the New Testament is written as an apologetic.

Would be interested in the thoughts of the group.