Challenging Your Beliefs
We live in a day and age when it is common to have people challenge your faith. To be honest, many American Christians are only Christian in name, Christian by heritage, non-practicing Christians; not Christian by faith. Our culture is getting more and more diversified and more hostile to Christianity. I have followed the state of religion in America surveys for the past decade. The "Nones" are growing in this country.
In 2014, 20% of Americans identified as no particular religion, called "Nones."
In 2019, 26% of Americans identified as "Nones."
An increase of 6% in 5 short years.
In the past ten years there are 30 million more people who identify as "no religion." The vast majority of those people used to identify as Christians.
In the past I have had people say things to me like:
"You don't believe that stuff that happened in the Old Testament really happened do you?"
"I think there might be something to reincarnation, I was talking to a woman at work who..."
"There is more than one way to heaven. God is a loving God."
"I don't believe in hell. A loving God would not do that to people or He would not be loving."
"What about those Ten Commandments, do you really believe we have to obey them?"
"Do you believe we have to take the Bible literally?"
"There are so many Bible versions and they all say something different."
I often wonder if our grandparents encountered these kind of questions and statements. I don't think they did. My grandparents grew up in a small town which was probably 100% Christian. No one probably challenged them as to what they believed because they all believed the same thing.
Being challenged on your faith isn't a bad thing though. In 2001I went through a really difficult time in my life. It was then I asked God to take over and I surrendered my life to Him. I needed Him to save me. Literally save me. I felt like I could not walk through one more day. My life was a mess. I was already a Christian at the time, but one who was very unsure of her beliefs. I knew if I was going to survive I needed Christ to be the Lord in my life. And I set out on this journey to figure out what I believed. I was very skeptical of what some Christians said and some of the doctrines of Christianity. With each question I had, I went into search mode. Do I really believe that doctrine? Why do I believe it? It was a very personal thing. I decided it was time to own my faith.
I went on this journey reading the Bible, being in Bible study with other Christians, regularly attending church, getting involved at church, taking classes on the Bible, reading scores of Christian books,... and I became ALL IN this Christianity thing. I already was a Christian when I started all of this, but doing it made me sure of what I believed. I can tell you I truly believe the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. I believe what is put forth in The Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed. I believe it - every single idea in those creeds.
Apologetics is the reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine. I think every Christian should have some training in apologetics.
I lead a women's Bible study group and I noticed by some comments made by some of the women that it was time for them to learn some apologetics. They believed the doctrines of Christianity, but if challenged they would not be able to defend their beliefs. And when you are challenged by someone who seems to know what they are talking about, you begin to doubt your faith. We decided to do Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi (affiliate link.)* I had read the book a couple years earlier and found it fascinating.
The purpose of the study was to first learn and understand what Muslims believe and to love them as Jesus does. Second was to "equip the reader with facts and knowledge, showing the strength of the case for the gospel contrasted with the case for Islam."
When reading the book you find out that just as Christians have apologetics, so do Muslims! And you find out that they are highly trained to refute Christianity although the majority of them haven't read any of the Bible. The flip side of that is Christians aren't typically trained in apologetics and most Christians have not really looked into the foundational pillars of the gospel. Nabeel says in the book that growing up he would regularly challenge Christians on their faith and he never encountered one Christian who could challenge him back - until he made a Christian friend in college. That is so very sad. Most Christians don't know the why of the what they believe.
I wanted our group's perceptions of Muslims to change and I knew as we learned some apologetics that it would be useful in having conversations with any non-believers or nominal Christians. As we gain knowledge, God purposes a way for it to be useful in our every day life. This study would strengthen our own faith, but also help them when challenged on their beliefs.
Whenever any one talks about apologetics the first Bible verse that comes to mind is 1 Peter 3:15. Let's look at it closely.
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
SANCTIFY. The women in my group had studied in two previous studies what sanctification means. It means to become more like Christ. It means your spiritual journey should be such that your faith grows stronger as you walk through life with Jesus as your Lord. God is in the process of transforming His justified saints.
Always be ready to make a defense to everyone who ASKS. I think this very clearly states that if someone starts asking you questions that you should know enough to give them an answer. You should be ready. If they ask you why you believe in Jesus' resurrection - you should know enough to explain why you believe that. Before you answer them, quickly pray the Spirit will guide your words, your tone, your expression.
Don’t miss the WITH GENTLENESS AND REVERENCE. Do not get snarky. Do not be argumentative. Do not be condescending or disrespectful to them. You are an ambassador of Christ. Act like one. It is not your job to make them believe. It is your job to speak the truth in love to them. You should be able to have a discussion with them. Not an argument. Do not act superior or more intelligent. Always be willing to learn. If you don’t know something, don’t act like you do. Do nothing to harm the Gospel message, to drive them away from looking into the truth. Be GENTLE AND REVERENT.
BE CONFIDENT! Christianity will stand up to any amount of scrutiny. We have a 2000 year great cloud of saints who have gone before us. Every word in the Bible, every theological idea has been researched and analyzed. Tap into that. No one could ask you a question which already hasn’t been asked. You may not know the answer, but be confident that there is an answer.
Do not avoid discussions with others because you don't feel like you know enough yet. You may not be able to answer their question off the top of your head. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and ask them if you can look into it and get back with them. And then do it! LOOK INTO IT AND GET BACK WITH THEM.
A great website which answers many questions is Got Questions! https://www.gotquestions.org
They say they have the answers to 598,161 questions on the Bible! Ha ha. Oh my goodness.
Learning some apologetics will strengthen your own faith and you'll be able to provide an account for the hope that is in you. Just remember that with "gentleness and reverence" part.
* Along with the book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus; we are using the study guide and DVDs (all are affiliate links):
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus Study Guide
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus Video Study
Purchased together: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, DVD with Study Guide