I Believe It, Therefore It’s True

From http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100603/most-christians-cannot-explain-their-faith-says-apologist/index.html :

Most Christians Cannot Explain their Faith, Says Apologist

By Edmond Chua|Christian Post Correspondent

The faith of most Christians, even that of many pastors, will not stand up to intellectual scrutiny, according to renowned apologist Josh McDowell.

This is a concern because pastors’ inability to present biblical truth comprehensibly and relevantly has led to children from Christian families leaving the church, research has shown.

In the United States, the age at which nearly all such children leave church has decreased to 18 years.

Not even the children of many successful ministers are spared.

McDowell made his comments at a recent networking dinner among various men’s ministries organized recently by Men-in-Covenant. MiC is the men’s ministry of Covenant Evangelical Free Church.

He recalled speaking with the pastor of one of the largest U.S. churches, a man known for his expository preaching. Confiding in him, the pastor said their church was losing its youth right after high school graduation.

In his 50 years of ministry, McDowell has asked several thousand pastors and leaders how they could be certain Jesus Christ said “I am the truth” and not one of many truths or a truth.

“Not one person has ever given me an intelligent, biblically-based answer,” said the author of The New Evidence that Demands A Verdict.

During the past six years, he asked hundreds of Christians and leaders why they see themselves as Christians. Again no one gave him an “intelligent” answer.

In the past 17 years, he has asked over 4,000 pastors, leaders and parents why they believe the Bible is true.

A mere six “came close to giving an intelligent answer,” McDowell noted.

“If anything is based upon truth, it’s the Christian faith,” he said. “Christians who do not know why they have faith or believe have a very difficult time expressing themselves to others.

“The saddest thing is people come to me and say, ‘What’s the answer?’”

“I say, ‘There’s no answer… There are hundreds of answers.’”

Most Christians, even some pastors, don’t even know one. On the other hand, the apologist said he could give 50 reasons for his belief that the Bible is true.

Ninety-five percent of Christians gave disappointing responses when asked why they believe Jesus is the Son of God.

Asked why the Bible is true and historically reliable, Christians replied that it was what they had been taught by their church or parents.

A common response that most Christians gave to both questions was that it is “what I believe.”

McDowell responded: “That’s voodoo thinking. Where did we ever get that crazy idea that something is true just because we believe it?

“If that is true, then there will never be heresy. Everybody would be right.”

On one occasion, 13 youth pastors at a large convention were unable to reasonably answer the apologist’s question.

Finally one young person stood up, walked toward him and told him he knew the answer.

The young man promptly held up his Bible and said, “Because I believe it.”

And to McDowell’s dismay, all the youth pastors applauded him.

McDowell said, “Young man, do you know the difference between you, me and the majority of Christians in the world?

“To you, it is true because you believe it. For me, I believe it because it is true.”

Another response the apologist received was: Because I have faith.

He commented, “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that faith makes something true? That’s idiotic. That’s so unbiblical you can call it heresy.

“God doesn’t use faith to create truth. He uses truth through the Holy Spirit to create faith.”

Christians, the apologist stressed, are called to explain their faith when asked. They are set free by the faith in the truth, he expressed, referring to John 8:32.

Yet others say Christianity is true because Jesus changed their lives.

Even this will not stand up to intellectual scrutiny, McDowell argued.

“Lies change lives; cults change lives,” he said.

To make such an appeal is “not the essence of Christianity,” the author emphasized.

McDowell said: “We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children, we owe it to our neighbors, we owe it to the lost, to tell them not just what we believe but why do we believe it.”


30 thoughts on “I Believe It, Therefore It’s True

  1. I’m glad I have found this. I’ve been thinking about this all last week. Many people these days don’t believe in statistics or news. When I posted up the content from the Vision Builders booklet, a thought crossed my mind that even if I did have evidence, someone like Facelift would dismiss it because their views and faith on a matter would surpass evidence like this. (This thought of mine could be wrong towards Facelift.) I was suddenly overwhelmed with pity for the church and realised that it is actually rare to talk normal facts or logics to those whos faith is irrational and not based on evidence but denial of rationality.

    To discuss something biblical in a church setting is not only frowned upon – but you often go in loops. A good question to ask is:

    “How did church end up this stupid?”

    I think we’ll find the answer lies in how philosophers down the ages have programmed the west what to think and how this has also affected the church.

  2. My eldest son is working his way through this now because in his view most Christians give crap answers when he asks them questions.

    He is fairly scathing of most including many pastors who favorite form of argument is to respond by repeating the same assertion over and over again without ever establishing a genuine basis.

    As I say he is working through and finding a lot of information that provides a reasonable basis for his faith in God, but it is a battle.

  3. S&P in relation to your last statement…I don’t think western philosophy is at fault because I think most of us are just lazy.

    The easy way out is once having formed an opinion that’s it! It is now concrete and no longer open to challenge because then we might have to re-evaluate, think, and possibly even change what we do.

    We like to be right – being right is more important than finding the truth (refer Calvinist debate), and we don’t want to work too hard in the process.

  4. The other issue in this is where our empirical reasonable world stops and faith continues.

    Heb 11

    Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

    cf Paul’s admonition in 2 Tim 1

    I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:

    preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

    or Paul’s statement to be all things to all people – including intellectually capable.

  5. @ Mn “we like to be right – being right is more important than finding the truth (refer Calvinist debate), and we don’t want to work too hard in the process”

    Hmmmm….all those wasted hours reading/studying the bible. Such a waste of time to have a personal non-salvific perspective? We can each draw our own conclusions but don’t judge those whose views differ as “not working too hard”.

    @ Specks – a good example is the youth at C3. They are confused because there’s not been a biblical foundation laid (and the senior pastors have been told by the youth pastors that this is the case). By cheapening the gospel with their “luke warm” approach to evangelism, promising their best life now etc. they are reaping the fruit of easy decisionism.

    What happens in Christian families? Are fathers being the spiritual leaders instructing their children at home or is that just plain too old-fashioned for our culture. By the way, it’s not always easy but lay that foundation from a young age and it will be fruit – I’ve seen it in our grandchildren.

    One problem seen by a youth pastor, is that parents send their kids to church expecting the church to do the job of teaching their kids. Fair enough (with unsaved parents), but it should have its foundation in the christian home.

  6. “One problem seen by a youth pastor, is that parents send their kids to church expecting the church to do the job of teaching their kids.”

    Well said. To take it further, parents assume that schools and churches will teach their children everything there is to know about life, the universe, health, manners and God.
    I think it comes down to laziness.

    As for people not knowing why they believe, I think there are very few people who want to find the truth, search for it, study it, find it, and then go looking for a church that holds the same belief. Most of us end up in the church we attend because our parents went there, or because our friend invited us. And we may have accepted that invitation because it was Christmas, the youth group was cool, the band was great etc. So, the reason people are in church in the first place is not usually because of what we believe about Jesus Christ or the bible.
    (There are exceptions, but they are in the minority).

  7. As churchman says…

    Teddy: “Hmmmm….all those wasted hours reading/studying the bible. Such a waste of time to have a personal non-salvific perspective? We can each draw our own conclusions but don’t judge those whose views differ as “not working too hard”.

    That was a general comment and not a personal one Teddy, and I stand by it.

    Again, and as Churchman said most people are lazy and once the put their stake in the ground are not too keen on moving it.

    This is pretty much a global aspect of sin nature.

  8. Great topic. Really enjoyed reading the article about Josh McDowell. His book ‘Evidence That Demands A Verdict’ was a great read for me when I was young in my early uni days. Some of the logic has stayed with me today, without having to revise it.

  9. 4 minutes to reply further….

    I think its very important if religious instruction is taking place these days, to have the resources to provide a logical basis for some of the fundamental elements of our faith. For example, knowing why you believe the Bible is true when we don’t regard other myths of those eras as being true; knowing why Jesus is God, and not just someone claiming to be God. We can have different stances on creationism, but even so, that’s a big issue which has to have some logical responses to the view that God was uninvolved in creation, whether or not we take the view of instantaneous creation or believe that ‘day’ sometimes refers to undefinable periods of time. (Hope that makes sense.) These are all issues that younger Christians questioning their faith for the first time will come up against, or that keep normal sane people away from considering the merits of Christ’s claims. The nature of church also keeps some people away – they may be interested in Christ, but not see the institution as something which represents anything God could be involved in. (I am not speaking personally here.) Hence the importance of part of our focus here as everyday Christians looking at the state of the church today.

    Perhaps not everyone needs to delve deeply into apologetics for the sustenance of their faith, but it is bound to be healthy to encourage those who are interested to do so. Personally, I think this should NOT go hand in hand with fundamentalism, as to do so can tie the questioner to the right wing Christian expression of their faith, which is unnecessary, and frequently doesn’t seem to display love.

    I hope I can provide a variety of apologetic material for my kids when they are old enough to start questioning more deeply. That alone won’t keep their faith strong, but I think it would be healthy.

  10. Well, my 15 year old grandson has just declared Christ a myth today – how’s that for timing! 🙂

  11. MN – I don’t think western philosophy is at fault because I think most of us are just lazy.

    BINGO.

    However, while on the topic of Lazyness:
    Churchman – To take it further, parents assume that schools and churches will teach their children everything there is to know about life, the universe, health, manners and God.
    I think it comes down to laziness.

    Well, yes and no. Too many couples end up with both working … who has time for anything then?

    I think the independent church, as a whole, in the west is in for a big shock. In the next 20 years, the best, wisest, most solid believers will die … of old age.

    And there will not be many to replace them. The church will draw the wrong lessons of course. We’ll all look around and see lots of people still in the big mega-churches. Few people in the older churches.

    What conclusion will be drawn then?

    I am now depressed … 😦

    Need a coffee!

  12. In my view the reason many Christians cannot explain their faith, is that by its very nature faith cannot be explained. It will not stand up to intellectual scrutiny because it is not at its most basic level an intellectual activity.

    “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. ”

    How then can you use any evidence to explain this faith? You can’t get there from knowledge, evidence and logic – you have to make a “leap of faith” – which was a concept introduced by Kirekegaard. Once you are there you can use logic, rationality etc but it wont get you there by itself. It is a relationship.

    I think it was a serious error in the 20th Century for evangelicals and fundamentalists to insist that Biblical truth would be the same thing as Scientific truth. They then construct all sorts of reasons why the Bible must be literally, historically and scientifically true, and pretend that faith comes from a totally un-biased person picking up the Bible and reading it one weekend, then looking at all the evidence for everything within it, weighing it up fairly and finally concluding that “Yes, God must really exist, I am a sinner and I must therefore accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.”

    I has not, and never will work like that.

    Faith comes about from relationships with people, and ultimately with God. People finally come to faith after fellowshipping with others and seeing some “truth” there.

    McDowell is barking up the wrong tree. It like going around saying to people “Define Love”, and complaining that no one in the world can give the right answer.

  13. Mmm – I agree that apologetics won’t necessarily bring people to faith. Even if people give mental assent to every argument McDowell presents, they can still lack the faith to truly believe. Still, there are some people who have come to faith when they decided to read the Bible in order to logically prove it wrong. (My husband for example.) Its useful for Christians too, who may find their faith being challenged by people claiming Christ or the Bible are only myths.

    This is controversial, but I am not a 7-day creationist. I’m aware of all the arguments though. I don’t find that necessary for my faith in Christ or in God’s role in creation either. Frequently I’ve stayed silent in rooms full of creationists because its just too hard to put another view, even one that doesn’t deny God. So I guess I am an example of someone who has found apologetics useful without needing to take up every position offered by some of those who put apologetics forward. (I hope that makes sense.)

    These things are an area of our faith, but not the substance of our faith, which I think is why I think they are important, but agree with Wazza re faith not being an intellectual activity. It can have an intellectual component, and some people are no doubt called/created in such a way that they will major on it. McDowell is maybe one of those. A bit like some evangelists feel everyone else should be an evangelist, perhaps McDowell feels everyone else ought to be able to explain things as he does. People should not be belittled for not having that major or gifting or call. The quality of their relationship with Father is not defined by that.

    I also know non-believers who have come to faith by picking the Bible up for the first time, reading it and ‘knowing’ it to be true, in the way McDowell criticises. God became real to them and spoke to them through it, and they now have a vital, ongoing, transformed relationship with Him which speaks for itself. There are many ways in which God speaks to us, through the Bible, through creation, and through the lives of transformed believers. We can’t limit Him to one expression. So this does not negate the importance of the stuff McDowell is referring to, while at the same time recognising that it is not the only way to approach scripture.

  14. Tell you what though, while some apologists can be impressive with their arguments when they really know their stuff, sometimes they belittle those who challenge them when arguing with non-Christians at times. That does not help one bit. The relational side has to validate the logical side, or else the words becomes hollow irrespective of how convincing they might seem.

  15. Well, I may be a Christian, but I am also a physicist.

    7 days could be 7 epochs, if you like. We are now in the 8th day of Creation … which is why Christians worship on Sunday (the first day of the week) for God has gone back to work.

    The 8th day began at the resurrection (or the conception!) when God really did a NEW thing.

    If you take this approach, then the creation account largely conforms with the current scientific thinking.

    There are a few difficulties of course. Death of people and death of things come as a result of disobedience and Sin of Adam.

    It’s a tough nut to crack this one, isn’t it?

  16. The problem with that Wazza is that all the competing religions do the leap of faith. Come live overseas and you will meet some happy, friendly Buddhists who make friends too.

    But, I agree with you in that people don’t join churches because of logic. The megachurches know that very well, which is why they major on friends bringing people to an environment which is nice and comfortable and entertaining. It works.

    It’s funny. Back in the day when it was the pentecostals who sang choruses with guitars etc, and the evangelicals were still singing hymns, the pentes thought their growth was because of the Spirit, and the truth of pentecostalism. I wondered back then what would happen if non-pentecostals left out the pentecostalism, but borrowed the music and the style -and now we see it. Doctrine and conviction is not as important as being in a church where people “feel” that they belong.

    “totally un-biased person picking up the Bible and reading it one weekend, then looking at all the evidence for everything within it, weighing it up fairly and finally concluding that “Yes, God must really exist, I am a sinner and I must therefore accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.”

    Ironically, that is sort of my story. But I know that my story is strange. I wasn’t broke, didn’t sin much, didn’t do drugs, didn’t
    feel empty, hadn’t broken up with a woman.

  17. Well that is interesting Churchman, maybe it happens that way more than I thought.

    How did you come to a belief in the truth of what you were reading? Was it from weighing up the evidence for the claims in the Bible? I personally dont see how that could be done, since many of the events recorded there are miraculous. How can one for instance weigh up the evidence for the resurrection? One would have to use independent contemporary reliable accounts, of which I suggest there are none.

    Can one weigh up the evidence for the account of creation? How could we verify that? And the flood? and so on. Apologetics can show that the claims are reasonable and consistent with themselves and with history, but I think it is stretching it to say that the claims of the Bible can be proven with evidence.

    I think people come to faith when reading the Bible through the action and witness of the Holy Spirit. Which makes sense from the point of view of a Christian, but is totally unconvincing if one isnt.

  18. Churchman: “The problem with that Wazza is that all the competing religions do the leap of faith.”

    But that is where Christianity is completely different. Other faiths set their gods so apart from their creation that they are unobtainable. Other faiths have their gods become so human they are mortally immoral and lose any form of deity. I think a good way of seeing it is ‘humanism’ vs ‘idealism’. Christianity has always walked the thread of God being in perfect balance – Jesus both God and man – man both needing to be wary of sinful nature (humanism) and vain imaginings (idealism). We are to go neither way but to live in the love we receive from God – our faith practical in Him and our relations with others. Christian faith is NEVER in a God far away but in one who is forever present and close by.

    If any scientist today went to a Jew that just entered into the ancient Promised Land and said ‘How can you even believe in this God YHWH is real’, the Jew (and even the Pagan’s) would be scratching their heads wondering who this irrational being would be. All the Jew would know is that this God YHWH revealed Himself, destroyed a nation, saved them as a people, came like fire and smoke, spoke from a mountain, gave laws, became their king, provided their needs, governed and led them, fought for them, made covenants with them…

    It’s the same with me. I can honestly say God came to me and I believed. I had no faith to believe. I couldn’t make that leap. It was such practical common sense to believe when God met with me. It was logical and a healthy decision because He met me when I had a need – and He truly has met that need.

    The same thing happened to my father. God came to him and my father believed in God – it changed his life forever and his entire character and the way he behaved.

    No one was around to convert us. The moments were real. We had a practical, logical, physical and realistic encounter. I felt love and then realised the ‘God’ that came to me was Jesus. No one ever told me about Him.

    Wazza talked about Kirkegaard. His comment, I believe here, was dead right: https://signposts02.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/i-believe-it-therefore-its-true/#comment-10995

    It’s funny Churchman. My father knew he was always pursued by ‘something’ – and he heard of different gods. Out of all them he read about, he found the Christian God the nicest – that was if He believed in a God. It was actually at a hippy – pentecostal place someone prophesied over him that God will give him the faith to believe. Three days later – my father woke up believing, spooked that he did and that he knew God. But my father KNEW that God had found Him.

    SO in church – I think the POWER OF HONEST TESTIMONY can really remove the lie of the ‘leap of faith’.

  19. “How did church end up this stupid?”

    1. As others have said – Laziness.

    2. As others have said – Family assumptions that church institutions teach us. Church Institutions assumptions that family teach us.

    3.Overwhelming age of knowledge – not knowing where to look or begin.

    4. Lack of time to be well-learned.

    5. Unsure what sources and people to believe so believe the closest thing that sounds right.

    6. People think with their emotions and experiences more than they do their brain.

    Would you say these could be right so far? What other some others?

  20. “In the United States, the age at which nearly all such children leave church has decreased to 18 years.”

    I’m from the US and I disagree. The US is becoming a very divided nation spiritually. People are either not believing anything, believing New Age lies or are joyfully walking with the Lord.

    A LOT of the 18+ people are falling into New Age but thinking it’s Christian worship. Contemplative or Centering prayer is in NO way, shape or form biblical. It’s a New Age practice but believers in Christ are swallowing it hook, line and sinker.

    No surprise. God warned us it would get bad just prior to Christ’s return.

  21. Hey Sadparent. Are you talking about Christian New Age movements like IHOP, Fresh Fire, Morning Star, Red Letter, XP and Bethel Ministries? (Aka Kansas City Prophets?)

    How much do you think visual language and advertising play a role in dumbing down people to believe straight away without testing what is said?

  22. “Why does the universe look so old”. I had a look at that article, and his basic answer is – its a young earth but God created it to look old.

    I dont think thats a tenable position. God would have had to create the earth with dinosaur bones in it, even though they never lived on the earth, specially carbon-aged so that they fool the scientists. In other words He created something that was deceptive. I dont think its how He works.

  23. Why do you think dinosaurs never lived on earth? What about before the flood? Where’s this thread going? To a no flood position as well?

  24. “its a young earth but God created it to look old.”
    I’ve held this belief since primary school. No one told me to believe it. I was the only one that didn’t believe in dinosaurs in my class but that they were already in the earth.

    I believed that if God made time – he would have already had to create earths history. In the garden, if Adam cut down a tree, I believe he would have found growth rings in it’s trunk rather than nothing there.

    God would have had to have made fossils and historical records in the ground for time to be both past, present and future in the beginning. I have little diagrams of my beliefs in years four and five. 🙂

  25. Should we now start a creationism thread to pursue that tangent in its own space??? It could be as long as the Calvinist one.

    I am with Bull – 7 days could refer to 7 epochs, divided as God sees fit. We have plenty of references in scripture that demonstrate God’s perspective on time is rather different from our own. On the other hand, the lessons in the creation story are universal regardless.

    I have a pile of creationist literature lying around the house; old videos etc. Its interesting, and worth hearing a lot of. I even attended a creationist vs skeptic debate sponsored by the skeptic society once, which was pretty interesting, though for me, not at all faith shaking. Nonetheless, I find myself comfortable with epochs more than specific 24 hour periods. It is difficult to say that in some settings! As I said, it doesn’t change the nature of my relationship with Christ either way. All will one day be revealed – if we are right about some things, that will be great; I’m sure we’ll all have a lot of misunderstandings or omissions corrected as well.

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