Defending the Faith without a PhD - Radical

Defending the Faith without a PhD

 

For many Christians, questions about our faith come on a regular basis. How can we believe a dead man rose from the grave? How can we believe that said dead man is risen and now lives in a physical, glorified body? And how can we possibly believe the Creator of the universe spoke through humans to give us his written Word? For that matter, how can we even believe in a Creator at all? 

How Do I Defend the Faith?

For some believers, especially younger ones, these questions can cause a crisis of faith in one’s ability to defend his or her beliefs. Or, even worse, they can cause a crisis of faith in Christ. What’s more, young believers may end up feeling like they need to pursue a Ph.D. in apologetics to defend their faith. This is certainly not unhelpful, but it is also not necessary.

The good news is this: it is not only possible to defend your faith without a Ph.D.—it is completely expected because Jesus has already equipped you to do so! All the tools you need to defend your faith are sitting on your desk, on your nightstand, or in your phone. Your toolbox is nothing more or less than the Bible itself and it overflows with defensive capabilities. While there are plenty of helpful supplemental resources that can help us in defending the faith, they cannot replace God’s Word. 

The Bible is rife with examples of believers using God’s Word to defend their faith. These examples can encourage young believers who seek to defend their faith in a complex religious culture that is not unlike what the early Christians experienced. 

Isaiah’s Divine Commission to Defend the Faith

Isaiah 8 is a chapter filled with difficulty, trials, and tribulations. However, it is also filled with hope, mercy, and promises.

The difficulty, trials, and tribulations are all aimed at those who claim to be God’s people but do not act according to his Word. The hope, mercy, and promises are for those who are God’s people because they both believe his Word and act accordingly. 

In Isaiah 8:12, God instructs Isaiah directly and tells Isaiah to make sure God’s people do not follow worldly, secular, unbelieving thoughts or actions. Believers are not to fear what the unbelieving world fears, follow what the unbelieving world follows, or think as the unbelieving world thinks. 

God moves on in Isaiah 8:13 to a positive take and tells Isaiah to direct God’s people to him as holy, to fear Him, and to understand him as their place of rest and refuge. Believers are to read God’s Word, use God’s Word, worship God, and he will become a sanctuary. 

God’s Word is for Our Entire Life

Notice specifically the command of 8:16: “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” Also notice 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” 

God’s instructions here are clear. His people are to use his Word for all areas of faith and practice. This includes defending what God has said and what he commands. 

The message is clear: God’s Word is effectual and will create in believers a sense of peace, rest, refuge, and sanctuary. And here’s the best part: God’s Word can do the same for unbelievers. All you need to do is share his Word and depend on the Spirit to do his saving work.

Paul’s Defense at the Areopagus

Most Christians are familiar with Paul’s defense of the faith at the Areopagus in Acts 17. Yet, we forget how Paul got invited there in the first place.

Acts 17 begins with Paul in Thessalonica where, according to his custom, he went into their synagogue and reasoned with them “from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). 

For Paul, God’s Word was used to provide explanation and evidence of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection (Acts 17:3). This means Paul didn’t rely on rhetorical arguments or fancy evidences to prove that Jesus was the Christ; he just relied on God’s Word. He did the same thing in Berea (Acts 17:10-11) and then in Athens (Acts 17:17).

Accusing Paul of Incoherence

Some of the philosophers in Athens accused Paul of being a “babbler,” which means “seed-picker.” The term was used to suggest that Paul was incoherent as if he had picked pieces of various religions in his proclamations. However, the philosophers were intrigued enough to invite Paul to the Areopagus, a prestigious invitation, in order to know more about the teaching he was proclaiming (Acts 17:19).

The message is clear—God’s Word did not return to him void. Paul’s strategy was to use God’s Word in the cities he visited to prove Jesus was the Christ. The results in all three locations were that many came to believe that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 17:4, 11, 32).

Jude’s Exhortation to Defend the Faith

One of the smallest books of the Bible, Jude has only one chapter. In this chapter, Jude packs encouragement for Christians who want to defend their beliefs.

Jude 3 is probably one of the most quoted verses in the Bible, alongside 1 Peter 3:15, concerning apologetics. The second clause of the verse reads, “… I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” 

The word “contend” simply means to spend considerable energy on behalf of something. In the context of the letter, Jude tells readers to use considerable energy defending Christianity against false teachers. 

Jude Looks to the Old Testament

Interestingly, Jude starts his apologetics course with a quick reminder of a few stories from the Old Testament. He tells them they are false teachers because they do not understand God’s Word. Jude says they reason like animals because they are not grounded in God’s Word.

Look now at Jude 1:17. Jude points those who are contending for the faith back to the words of the first band of followers of Christ. He points them back to Scripture for answers. 

God’s Word is powerful enough to convict unbelievers and to remind believers to look to him all things.

In the end, what is the best way to defend your faith as a Christian? Use God’s Word. Do you need a Ph.D. to do so? Absolutely not! You need the words of the very Creator of the universe. When God spoke in Genesis, the universe was created from nothing. As God speaks through his Word, the unbelieving heart can be changed from stone to flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). This means the unbeliever can be moved from death to life (John 5:24). 

Trust God and his Word. Study the Bible; memorize passages; pray through sections of text. God will use it to give you the ability to defend your faith. Whether both internally with your own questions and externally with questions from others. 

Travis Kerns serves as the Associate Professor of Apologetics and World Religions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously served with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as the Send City Missionary for Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a B.A. from North Greenville University and an M.Div. and Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His Ph.D. studies focuses on world religions, specifically, Mormon philosophy.

Jared Wellman has served as a Lead Pastor in Texas since 2003. He has earned degrees in Theology and Philosophy from Criswell College and South African Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing a degree in Apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an Adjunct Professor. He lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex with his wife, Amanda, and four children.

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