Christians are generally cool people. I like Christians. I’m actually one of them. And yet, sometimes they can say the darndest things. Christianity is arguably the most thought-out faith in existence. The number of philosophers, theologians, and thinkers that have shaped, not only Christianity, but the whole of Western thinking, is beyond the count. Despite this, the number of Christians who carry ridiculous slogans in defense of their faith, is also beyond the count.
“It’s my faith. Stop asking questions.”
As if just because a belief lies within the confines of “faith” it is thereby deemed inscrutable and off-limits to reason, logic, and debate. If you believe something to be true, then you ought to be able to give reasons for why you believe it.
Robert Ingersoll, noted agnostic and leading figure in the Golden Age of Freethought, put it nicely: “Any doctrine that will not bear investigation is not a fit tenant for the mind of an honest man.” Hiding behind the “faith” copout only shows that you don’t really have any good reasons for your beliefs.
“God did it. How else could it have happened?”
This is called “God of the Gaps” reasoning. We don’t know how it happened, therefore God did it. Not surprisingly, as the gaps close God is placed on the back burner. In place of this, Christians should take the time to learn good philosophical arguments. Rigorous theistic argumentation can come in the form of deduction, induction, or inference to the best explanation.
Example of a deductive theistic argument:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This is not a God of the Gaps argument because it is not appealing to our ignorance, rather it points to what we know and deductively draws a conclusion that follows logically (and inescapably) from the first two premises.
“I’ll look into that and get back to you.”
Now, this one isn’t as bad. It’s true that in some cases when your friend asks you for the eschatological implications of a linguistic analysis for the Hebrew word “Saneh” in Psalm 5, you can say that after researching it, you will return with an answer. That’s good. If you actually return with an answer. Leaving someone hanging in the quagmire of uncertainty without an answer to the eschatological implications of some linguistic analysis of a Hebrew word is never good. That’s how we got the Left Behind series.
On the other hand, if someone asks you, “Why are you a Christian?” You cannot simply respond with, “I’ll look into that and get back to you.”
The same goes for similar questions:
“Why do you believe Jesus rose from the dead?”
“How do you reconcile the existence of suffering with the existence of a good God?”
“Why do you believe that Jesus is divine?”
The answers to these questions are fundamental to Christianity. If you need to “look into” those questions before you answer someone, then it might be that you don’t really believe what you claim to believe. How can you say that you’re a Christian but have never given deep thought to the fundamental questions?
Harsh, but true.
No Calculus professor, when asked to explain why Calculus is important or how Calculus builds off of lower types of mathematics, will respond with, “Good question. I’ll look into that and get back to you.” Those questions are basic and fundamental to Calculus. You would lose all your respect for him/her as an expert in mathematics. The same goes for a Christian who cannot articulate the fundamentals of their faith.
“Well, that’s what my pastor said.”
Pastor. Parents. Husband. Wife. Kids. Televangelist. That dude with the loudspeaker in Times Square.
You can’t believe something just because someone told you. No matter how great your pastor or parents may be, their words are not a viable currency in the marketplace of ideas.
“How do you know that God exists?”
“Well, that’s what my parents taught me.”
If your coworker asks you about evidence for God’s existence, appealing to your parents’ authority won’t help. Appealing to your pastor’s authority won’t help. You have to know for yourself. Otherwise, your faith is simply something that was passed on to you through your family or community. It is not yet your own.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” -1 Peter 3:15
Part of what it means to be a Christian is to strive for truth and thrive in truth. The truth will always withstand scrutiny by virtue of what it is. We need only to seek it out and shape our beliefs according to it. This can only happen when we take seriously the command to love God with our minds.