Apologetics: Answers to difficult questionsIntroduction
The word "apologize" originally meant to make a formal defense in speech or writing. So apologetics is the area of study which defends the Christian faith. The following are some of the most common questions raised by people today. In many cases they have become a barrier to accepting the gospel and therefore must be dealt with first before a person will give us a hearing.
What evidence is there that God exists?
The majority of people in our world, even today, believe God exists. Three separate pieces of evidence push us to believe in the existence of God:
i] Logic. When we look at the world we notice some interesting things.
Everything seems to have an origin and so we rightly believe in an originator of infinite power.
Our universe has shape, order, harmony, and so we believe in the existence of an intelligent and purposeful Being capable of the creation of such a world.
We humans have moral ideals, so naturally we believe in a supremely moral Being to give reality to those ideals.
ii] History. If there is a God, then since he created persons he cannot be less than personal and therefore he must reveal himself. The only acceptable piece of self-revelation is the Bible. Here is a record of God revealing himself to the ancient Jewish people through human spokesmen and finally through Jesus.
iii] Experience. If I was the only person alive who claimed to have had an experience of the Divine, then it would be best if I was locked away, but millions have claimed to have found God through Jesus.
Why can't we see God?
It's impossible for a finite human to see an infinite being; God doesn't have a body since that would limit Him - his brilliance is beyond our sight. At times though, he has burst into our world in very natural ways. Jesus came to us as a man and so very few recognized who he really was. God doesn't force us to submit to him, he doesn't put on a spectacular display that would make us give our lives to him when we didn't really want to - he leaves us free to accept, or to reject.
Why does God allow us to suffer?
Sickness, starvation, tragedies etc. are certainly a bit out of hand, so much so that it looks as if God doesn't care, or isn't able to help. The fact is God created us as free beings. By choosing to live in opposition to him, ignoring him, we have brought about cosmic disharmony. From disruption in the seasons to genetic mutation; all is the product of mankind's rebellion against God. We have made our bed, so we must lie in it.
Because God is a loving God, he doesn't take away our freedom by making us nice little robots. He continues to hold the decaying universe together and has organized a way of salvation through Jesus. Jesus will soon return to wipe away all the evil that oppresses us, but when he comes will we be wiped away with the evil?
Did Jesus really exist?
There is probably more evidence for the existence of Jesus than for Julius Caesar. His existence is recorded in the Bible, early Church records, Roman records and by historians of the time. (Pliny AD61-114, Tacitus AD55-118, Suetonius AD69-140, Thallus and Josephus - all non-Christians).
Who is Jesus?
i] He made the following claims:- Ruler of God's Kingdom, Matt.13:41, Luke 23:42; Source of truth - John 14:6; The source of true satisfaction - John 6:35; The only true guide through life - John 8:12; The source of our eternal destiny - John 11:25,26; The only way to God - John 14:6.
ii] The character of Christ. Jesus was either mad, bad or God. His claims were outstanding, in fact he acted as though he was God, Luke 5:20, 21, 7:49, John 8:58, 14:9, 15:26, 20:28. Yet, there was no discrepancy between what he said and what he did. He was certainly no megalomaniac. He lived a pure life which centered on others rather than himself. His friends, as well as many of his enemies, spoke highly of him, 1 Peter 1:19, 1 John 3:5, Matt.27:24, Luke 23:15, Matt.27:3,4, Luke 23:47.
If Jesus is not a madman or a liar, then we have before us someone who has the right to control our lives.
Why did Jesus have to die?
We must admit there is a great mystery here, but in simple terms, we know this much: somehow Jesus took upon himself the accumulated evil of the human race and let it crush him. It was this very evil, this indifference to God and his creation, which had destroyed our relationship with the creator and which in the end is set to destroy us. He took it upon himself so that we might not have to bear the consequences of our actions. The barrier between God and humanity need no longer stand and death need no longer be our end, because of Jesus' death on the cross for us.
What evidence is there that Jesus rose from the dead?
There are three key pieces of evidence:
i] On the Sunday morning following Jesus' execution and burial his tomb was empty. Early in the first century the Christian faith could easily have been destroyed by producing the body of Jesus, but there was no body. All documentary evidence, biblical or otherwise, indicates the tomb was empty. Jewish authorities at the time claimed the disciples stole the body, yet how could these men sustain such a lie through persecution?
ii] The disciples claimed to have seen Jesus alive. Paul, the first Christian missionary, writing to the church in Corinth, reminds them that 500 people at once saw Jesus, and most were still alive. His readers could easily check up on his claims. Too many people saw Jesus alive to be mistaken.
iii] The existence of the Christian church bears testimony to the resurrection of Jesus. The church today finds its origins in a group of beaten and dispirited men and women who within a week of Jesus' death were ready to die for their faith.
How true is the Bible?
This question comes in a number of different forms:
i] Is it full of myths? Archaeology today has been able to verify a tremendous amount of the Bible. Dr. Nelson Glueck, a Jewish archaeologist, claims "No archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference." Much of the history of the Jewish people, the life of Jesus and the early church, has been substantiated through archaeology.
ii] Is it full of errors? The Bible was written by human beings inspired by God to reveal his truth. God didn't over-rule the writers' humanity. So there are grammatical errors, over-estimates of numbers and differences of perspective, yet the truth remains.
iii] Has the Bible changed over the years? Take for example the stories of Jesus written around 70AD. Today we have thousands of manuscripts dating back to the beginning of the second century. Scholars have so many copies that they are able to uncover mistakes in the hand-written manuscripts and so produce modern translations close to the originals.
iv] Could the writers have made it all up? Again, looking at the New Testament as an example, there were quite a few false accounts of Jesus' life circulating in the first century, but they were never accepted by Christian church. The reason is simple, there were too many people who had seen and heard Jesus, who knew the facts. The accounts we have in the Bible were accepted because they agreed with the eye-witness reports.
Is Jesus the only way to God?
Surely Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems etc. reach God by their religion? This is a question that goes to the heart of the issue of truth. When religions are compared great differences appear in their teachings, so which has the truth?
Take Islam for instance. Christians and Moslems have similar ethical teaching, but when it comes to the question "Who is Jesus?", Islam denies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. They say he was just a prophet of far less importance than Mohammed. Islam says Christ certainly is not the only way to God, he did not die for our sins, in fact Islam believes that Judas, not Jesus, died on the cross, and that people earn their own salvation and pay for their own sins.
Since both religions are opposed, one is obviously correct and one is incorrect. which one? Jesus claims he is the only way to God. If He is mistaken then we are fools to believe anything he says.
What about the heathen?
If members of another religion reject the claims of Jesus upon their lives then obviously they have placed themselves outside of God's mercy, since they have rejected his Son. This may sound bigoted, but it is what the Bible teaches. Yet what about the person who has never heard of Jesus Christ? One of the greatest truths of the Bible is this - "He who seeks finds". Any person who seeks after God will find him. God will see to it that the seeker will find Jesus and through Jesus find salvation.
Aren't all good people Christians?
Actually many people who aren't Christians would be insulted by this question. The Jewish members of our society are highly moral, but they certainly wouldn't like to be called Christians. My uncle always used to say there was only ever one good carpenter, and that's the truth of it; we are all flawed, some more than others, Christians and non-Christians.
A Christian is a person who has turned from living for self and put their complete trust in Jesus. It is not by trying to be good that we become a child of God. No one can swim across the Pacific ocean, no matter how good they are. No swimming instruction will help, so we need someone to take us there. No matter how good we are we are never good enough to face God, but in Jesus we can face him and be with him forever.
Isn't Christian experience just a psychological illusion?
It is often claimed that Christianity is a psychological crutch, a no-friends club. Two pieces of evidence counter this:-
i] First, people from all walks of life, without preconditioning, have become followers of Jesus. They testify to a personal encounter with Christ that has transformed their lives.
ii] Second, Christian belief is not just a step of blind faith but also involves a rational examination of objective evidence.
Hasn't science disproved Christianity?
There are many scientists who are Christians and they certainly don't think so. Some scientists,of course, do make sweeping assumptions such as, "God doesn't exist." Scientifically, such a statement means "I have examined completely the total expanse of the natural order and have discovered no evidence of God's existence". Such a statement is slightly presumptuous as it suggests that such a person knows everything. Still, some scientists do believe that of themselves.
Evolution versus creation has been the key area of disagreement. Yet, it must be remembered that Evolution is only a theory, and the Bible is not a scientific text book. The Bible simply teaches that from nothing God created an ordered universe. The theory of evolution outlines the possible process involved. In itself, science does not deny the existence of God. Both the Bible and Science can tell us much about our world.