In this episode guest host Seth Baker discusses the “what, why, and how” of Christian faith.
Seth: Well a good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. Don’t adjust your computer screen just yet. Kurt did not get 10 times more handsome overnight. My name is Seth Baker and I am privileged to be the guest host on the program today. Without delaying, we’re just going to jump right into today’s topic which is the big three questions. There are three big questions that every Christian who’s seeking to possess an active and vibrant faith must be able to answer. Those questions are, “What do I believe?” “Why do I believe?” “How do I live it out?” In answering those questions satisfactorily, you’re going to find yourself possessing a more robust and coherent worldview. A worldview that can withstand the assaults of secularism and modernism that confronts the church in the West today. A worldview that can survive seasons of doubt and confusion that we all have and a worldview that motivates others to ask “Why are they so different from everyone else?” With all this said, let’s consider our first question on the table today. What do I believe?
Here’s some shocking news from a recent poll from Lifeway. Lifeway found that seven out of ten evangelical questions said that Jesus was the first being created by God. If anybody knows what that heresy is called, it’s Arianism. Right? Five out of ten said that the Holy Spirit was not a person, but a divine force of some kind kind of like Star Wars, the Force, which is exactly what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach. Another five out of ten said that God accepts the worship of all religions which is a belief held by religious pluralists. Three out of ten indicated that the Holy Spirit is not equal with the other two persons of the Trinity. These, of course, are all damnable heresies, but that’s not the worst part. These people also said that the Bible was their highest authority, that evangelism was important for the Christian, and that faith in Jesus is the only way to God. All those things sound great. Right? Why would that be the worst part? The reason that it’s the worst part is because it reveals something terrible about the average evangelical mind and that is it’s a big jumbled mess of theological contradictions. The sad fact is that most Christians in America today really don’t have any idea what they believe and neither apparently do they really care about what they believe.
They might say that they believe that faith in Christ is the only way to Heaven or that Jesus is God or that God is a Trinity, but they immediately and even explicitly contradict that in the very next breath. This reveals the spiritual superficiality, immaturity, that characterizes so many Christian believers. This ignorance of basic Christian beliefs is rampant in many churches and while it would be very easy just to blame the collective church at large, one’s own growth and the knowledge of the faith is ultimately on the individual. It’d be very easy to chalk this up as saying it’s the church’s fault that I don’t know doctrine, I don’t know basic Christian beliefs, but ultimately the responsibility is upon the individual to learn the great things of God. You must, if you truly wish to be a person that loves God with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, be informed as to what the Bible in orthodox Christianity really teach. I challenge you, the listener, to diligently pursue the study of doctrine at the individual level. You may go to church every Sunday. You might even attend Sunday School and a midweek Bible study and that is all wonderful, highly encourage that, but understand that this is no substitute for personal study and research into the things of God.
“But why study doctrine?”, you might be asking yourself. “I know it’s important, but why is it important exactly, and quite frankly, it sounds really boring. Studying doctrine? No, thank you.” I used to have those same thoughts, but life after high school changed my thinking significantly and we’ll kind of get to that a little later. Let me give you a couple of reasons why it’s important to study doctrine.
First of all, studying doctrine will give you a deeper appreciation for the faith. One of my favorite Christian philosophers/theologians, William Lane Craig, writes this: “In my own life, I can testify that after many years of study, my worship of God is deeper precisely because of and not in spite of my philosophical and theological studies. In every area I have intensely researched my appreciation of God’s truth and my awe of His personhood have become more profound. I am excited about future study because of the deeper appreciation I am sure it will bring me of God’s personhood and work.”
I wholeheartedly with what Dr. Craig has said here, what I just read. In studying systematic theology, and I am by no means a systematic theologian, but in studying systematic theology for the past couple of years, I found that my times are worship are now more meaningful. Sermons I listen to possess a greater depth and reading and studying the Bible is all the richer now. In studying doctrine you will come to the realization that Christianity is intellectually stimulating and ultimately satisfying as an all-encompassing worldview. It’s stimulating and satisfying as a worldview. Secondly, studying doctrine will help you to articulate your beliefs to non-believers. This is really important. Have you ever been, and I’m sure you have been, have you ever been stuck trying to explain exactly what you believe to a non-Christian friend like how can the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all be God and yet there only be one God and not three gods. If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does that make three? How do you make one out of three? Or how can Jesus be both God and man at the same time? It seems He could be one or the other, but not both. Or how on Earth could the sun have been created on day four in Genesis 1 when plants are made on day three according to the opening chapter of the Bible.
These are questions that are impossible for the person that lacks theological education to answer. If you endeavor to study the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the incarnation and the literary genre of the opening chapters of Genesis, then you’ll be equipped to better answer the probing questions of your skeptical friends, but more than this, you’ll be equipped to better answer the questions that pop up in your own mind.
Thirdly and finally, studying doctrine will equip you to defend your faith with intellectual rigor and sophistication. Sometimes, and I’ve found this to be very true with online interaction and in-person interaction with skeptics, sometimes the best defense of the faith is simply knowing what Christians do and do not believe. Let’s take a common objection, very common objection from skeptics as an example. In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, atheist philosopher Dr. Sam Harris asks, if God created the universe, what created God? For some Christians that aren’t trained in apologetics and systematic theology, that might stop them in their tracks. This question, if God created the universe what created God, is often presented as if it were some sort of knockdown argument against Christianity, but in all truth, if you’ve studied apologetics for any time at all, you know that it’s laughably naive.
God by definition is an uncreated necessary self-existent being who exists ontologically independent from everything else. It is logically impossible for God to have a cause. If He did, then He wouldn’t be God. With this in mind, let me ask Dr. Harris’s question once more, but this time I’ll replace the word God with the words uncreated being. Here we go.”If the uncreated being created the universe, what created the uncreated being?” Well, Dr. Harris. It would seem that you’ve answered your own question. Nothing created the uncreated being, for if something did, then it wouldn’t be uncreated. With some limited, very limited knowledge of a single Christian doctrine, namely the doctrine of divine aseity, one can dispel one of the most common arguments put forward against the faith.
This last point serves as a nice segway into our second question of the big way. It is not enough to merely know what we believe as Christians. We must also know why we believe the things that we do and to that topic we turn after a short break from our sponsors.
Seth: Thank you so much for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors, and now we’re going to jump right back on in to our second question of the big three which is why do I believe. In the opening of one of his recent essays, Mark Mittleberg writes this to his reader. “You’ve gotten this far in a book on Christian apologetics so I can now safely state a fact. You’re not normal.” This statement would be funny if it were not so heartbreaking. Very sad. Mittleberg is correct. It is not normal for Christians to engage in apologetics. Before we get too far down the rabbit hole on this point, let me answer the question for those of us that might not know. What is apologetics?
Apologetics in the words of philosopher and apologist Doug Groothuis is the rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true. It comes from the Greek word apologia which means to give a defense. It’s like what an attorney would give in a court of law. We get our word apology from apologia or apologia, but apologetics is not the art of saying that you’re sorry. It’s the art of defending the truth of the Christian faith.
Unfortunately, most Christians have no idea why they believe the things that they do. In all likelihood, the reasons they are Christians is probably cultural reasons or familiar reasons. Believers think that Christianity is true, of course, but so many are totally ignorant of the good reasons we have in support of the truth of our faith. In most cases, the faith of one’s parents is simply inherited like a mother’s nose or a father’s eyes. This leads to a very childish and shallow faith. Why is it important for one to know the evidences in support of the Christian faith. Let me provide a few reasons showing the need for apologetics in the life of a believer.
First of all, gaining a knowledge of the evidence or the reasons supporting the truth of Christianity will strengthen you faith. Philosopher J.P. Moreland writes apologetics can strengthen believers in at least two ways. For one thing, it gives them confidence that their faith is true and reasonable. Therefore apologetics encourages a life of faith seeking understanding. Further, apologetics can actually encourage spiritual growth. In my own personal experience through studying apologetics I’ve grown tremendously in my trust in God. We’re going to get to my crisis of faith moment here in a second.
Knowing that there are good reasons to believe in God, in the resurrection of Jesus, and in the reliability of the Bible, help me to commit my mind more fully to the Lord. I can trust Him intellectually, surrender more of my life over to Him. Secondly, gaining a knowledge of the evidence or reasons supporting the truth of the faith will allow you to maintain your faith in Christ in the midst of emotional pain and intellectual doubt. In times of uncertainty and unsureness which we all have. If you’re a thinking person at all, you’re going to have doubts sometimes. In those dark nights of the soul as we sometimes call them, apologetics can help you to preserve your faith in the Lord. William Lane Craig writes this. When you’re going through hard times and God seems distant, apologetics can help you to remember that our faith is not based on emotions but on the truth, and therefore you must hold on to it. This has rung true for me personally.
Early on in high school my first job ever was at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Some people work at a restaurant and they can never eat there again. I eat KFC almost daily. I’ve got a problem, but whenever I was working at KFC, I had a season of grave doubt. I had an atheist friend that I worked with and he had a knack for just poking holes in my faith and I almost lost my faith during that time early on in high school, but through the work of people like William Lane Craig, Michael Licona, Gary Habermas, Peter S. Williams, J.P. Moreland, and I could name others, I was able to regain my confidence in the truth of Christianity.
Thirdly, gaining a knowledge of the evidence or reasons supporting the truth of the faith will make you a bolder, more confident, and more effective witness for Jesus. It’s hard, if not impossible, to share a message you have no real intellectual confidence in, or feel that you cannot defend rationally. Studying in the area of apologetics can give you the gusto to share more easily with non-believers. If you have good responses to the problem of evil, which is very common to encounter. If you can answer objections to the resurrection of Jesus, like maybe the disciples stole the body. Maybe the disciples hallucinated. Maybe the body of Jesus was misplaced. Or you’re able to provide good arguments for the existence of God, then sharing the message of the cross will become a lot less stressful. I can testify to the truth of this as well, having engaged in campus evangelism at my alma mater, Eastern New Mexico University for four years, having mentally and spiritually prepared for some of the more nerve-wracking parts of evangelism by studying apologetics, I felt a peace about sharing with others. More than peace, I also felt excitement, sometimes going out like “I really wish somebody would ask me about the problem of evil today, so I can share why it’s not a good or convincing argument against God’s existence. Studying the evidence for Christianity then will strengthen your faith, help you to keep your faith during emotional and intellectual trials, and enable you to fulfill the Great Commission with a renewed vigor and excitement.
Okay. Question #3. How do I live it out? This is the third and final question for us. How do I live it out? How do I live out what I believe? This question concerns the practical side of Christianity. A sad fact is that while a minority of Christians can answer the first two questions, even less can really answer the third, at least not in the way that they’ve lived their lives. Let me offer a little bit of practical advice on living out the faith. Even though I’m young, I’m only 23, I think that I can ride on Titus’s coattails. I think that might be tooting my own horn. I think I need to have some more humility, but I can hopefully offer a little bit of practical advice on living out the faith.
I’m sure you’ve heard these tips before. These are Sunday School tips, but try to hear them today with some fresh ears. Firstly, read and pray daily. A recent study by Lifeway revealed that less than half of regular church attendees read the Bible more than once a week, less than half. To me, that is both an absurd and heartbreaking statistic. Our brothers and sisters in countries where it is illegal to own a Bible are putting us to shame with the amount they read. In the West we enjoy the liberty of owning the Bible and openly sharing the message of the Bible, and yet the majority of Christians neglect these essential Christian disciplines. The statistics on prayer are a little bit more encouraging than the statistics on reading, but not by a large margin. We must read and pray and so regularly if we’re going to be effective and spirit-filled Christians.
If you find prayer difficult, the method that I use is ACTS. Start by adoring God for who He is and what He’s done, then C, confess your sin to God and ask for forgiveness. T. Thank God for all He’s done in your life and how He’s blessed you, and then S, supplication, ask and present your request to God. I use that and that really helps me in structuring my prayers. Read, find a good daily devotional, start anywhere. Start any book of the Bible and read. You’ll get in the hang of it, you’ll develop a habit, and follow that reading with prayer or start with prayer first, whatever works better for you, but we need to be reading and praying daily. We can’t let our brothers and sisters in countries where it’s illegal to own a Bible outdo us in terms of reading and praying.
Secondly, engage in communal worship. It’s important that we not neglect meeting together as is the habit of some, but encourage one another as we see the day of Christ drawing near. That’s not Seth’s opinion. That is the author of Hebrews opinion. We need to engage in serious communal worship, and by communal worship I don’t mean meeting on Sunday morning in a large crowd. Meeting in a large crowd and then establishing no relationships with people isn’t real community. You can do that at Wal-Mart. You can go and be part of a very large eccentric crowd at Wal-Mart, but you’re not in community. Engage in communal worship. Seek to get to know your brothers and sisters that you attend church with. Hang out. Have relationships with them and worship with your brothers and sisters. We’re part of one body after all. The hand should know the foot just as the elbow knows the knee and we should know each other and love each other in true Christian community.
Thirdly, share your faith. I want us all to know what we believe and why we believe, but if we never share it, it’s really of no great use and it would be a shame to see our neighbors die without knowing Christ when we knew Him so well. A true answer to the first two questions, what and why, will result in answer to the third and that living out and sharing the gospel. Chances are if we’re not reading and praying daily, we’re not going to be motivated to share either. Some of these kind of fit together like puzzle pieces so read and pray daily, engage in communal worship, and then share your faith and those are three steps or three ways that we can answer the question, “How do I live it out?”
If we as Christians are able to satisfactorily answer each of these three questions, then we’re going to have a more engaging, more beautiful, more satisfying faith and nobody can answer these questions for you. You have to answer them on your own. You have to know what you believe and why you believe and how you’re going to live out your faith. You can’t ride on grandma’s coattails because you went to church with her growing up. You have to answer these questions yourself.
I hope you’ve been encouraged by some of the things you’ve heard today on this episode. Next week, Kurt will be joined by David Montoya as they discuss Immanuel, God with us, you’ll be want to tune on for that episode. Veracity Hill, of course, wants to say a very hearty thank you to our sponsors, Defenders Media, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, Non-Profit Megaphone, Consult Kevin, The Illinois Family Institute, and Fox Restoration. We appreciate your continued support of our ministry and enabling us to strive for truth on faith, politics, and society. If you’re interested in donating to Veracity Hill you can go to Veracityhill.com and click on give and we would so appreciate your blessing to us. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas if we don’t see you until after Christmas and God bless you. Have a wonderful time with friends and family and we will catch you later.