Apologetic Wednesday: College, Questions, Doubt, and Truth
When I first entered college, I was opened up to a great many new ideas. Questions I had never even thought to ask were posed to me. New worldviews I had never considered were showcased. Christianity was presented in ways that were foreign to me. I heard discussions about how people approach Christianity differently and interpret scripture in contrasting ways. I had entered a Christian college, and yet a flood of new ideas competed for a place of acceptance within my worldview. There is no place that challenges a person’s beliefs more than the university campus.
Going into college, I had questions about my faith that I was uncomfortable with. At this point in time, I had never heard of apologetics. I would discuss things with people and search for answers the best I could. At one point, I remember just suppressing the questions in my mind. I grew weary of wrestling with questions I couldn’t answer. I remember a friend describing to me that one of his friends decided to walk away from Christianity. I worried what would happen if eventually I was presented with an argument against my faith that I could not account for, so I tried to force the questions out of my mind. I think a lot of Christians do this (and not just Christians, but people from all stripes). The problem is, when we suppress questions that are extremely important to the cogency of what we believe it creates anxiety and cognitive dissonance. Due to the anxiety and dissonance, the questions keep working their way to the surface, demanding answers.
I remember one day, feeling very pressed for certain answers. I decided that I had to seek truth, and be comfortable with following wherever truth lead me. I started talking to people about my struggles. I started looking for books that would give me understanding. Early on, I felt there were some conflicts between my faith and science. I approached a biology professor about some of my questions, and she equipped me with a strong apologetic early on. She reminded me that Science remains in a state of flux, but God is consistently God. She pointed out that we need to search for truth and seek answers, but that when we follow truth ultimately it always leads back to God. This relieved my mind some, and bolstered my confidence to find answers.
So from that day forward, I started challenging my beliefs and seeking answers to my questions. Looking back, many of my questions at that time were extremely naïve, but they were a big deal to me at the time. I found books that presented massive amounts of information. Sometimes I found answers to questions I was yet to ask, and sometimes my search for answers led me to more questions.
Over the years, certain beliefs have changed in light of new and convincing evidence. Other beliefs have solidified as I was presented evidence that was very supportive of what I believed. It has been a wonderful journey of faith, doubt, questioning, learning, and finding answers. I am so thankful that I started asking questions and looking for truth regardless of where it brought me.
I share this story for a couple of reasons. First, a big part of apologetics is knowledge driven. Debates wage back and forth. People search for answers. Books are read. Journal articles are scoured. Lectures are listened to. Books are written. Blogs are posted. Apologetics is steeped in academia and cuts across a great many fields including, but not limited to, theology, science, ethics, philosophy, etc. A mistake the apologist often makes is focusing only on this side of apologetics. We must balance the intellectual side with the personal touch. My professor took time to listen to my concerns, share her own perspective, encourage me, and point me in the right direction. We must remember to express love and give of ourselves when it comes to giving an answer for the hope that is within us. Our lives should also reflect what we proclaim to believe. We can be scholarly and present wonderful arguments for what we believe, but if we do not do so out of a heart of love we are not accomplishing anything. We become as the apostle Paul says, nothing more than a clanging symbol. As Gypsy Smith so eloquently stated, There are five Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, and some people will never read the first four.” The message must be seen in the apologists’ life before it is heard.
The second reason I share this story is to assert that we never come to a point where all of our questions are answered. I have found answers to a great many questions that I have had throughout the years, but there are some that will probably elude me until eternity. We have to be alright with not having all the answers. No worldview provides answers for every single question in a fully satisfactory way.
Apologetics is about giving the reason for our hope, and showing that Christianity has a prominent place in the marketplace of ideas, all the while exhibiting the love extended to us by Christ. For those moments where we arrive at a wall in our understanding or having our questions answered, we continue to look for truth. We pray for understanding. But most importantly, this is where the faith comes in. A certain amount of faith must be present for any belief system to operate.
We seek truth. We continue to look for answers. We rest on faith. We look at God’s faithfulness in the past and we trust Him with our future. We share the reason for what we believe and point to God’s love, mercy, and goodness. We give strong arguments for the hope that is within us.
Let’s not forget the personal side of apologetics, and let’s remember that not every question can be answered fully. One day all will be revealed. In the meantime lets seek truth and love people.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. – John 14:6
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.