It’s understandable that many Christians feel inadequate to respond to the lofty rhetoric of the academic elite. But this need not be so. The Bible gives every one of us, regardless of age or formal education, the basic tools we need to defend the faith. You don’t need an advanced degree in science or theology. Anyone can do it. We simply have to understand a few basic biblical principles.
The Ultimate Issue—Competing Worldviews
When we defend the Christian faith, we must avoid the temptation to get side-tracked on secondary issues, such as nuances of scientific arguments.1 The goal is to quickly hone in on the heart of the matter—the debate is ultimately an issue of competing worldviews.
We all have a worldview (a way of thinking about life and the universe) that shapes our understanding of what we observe. But not all worldviews are equal. Non-Christian worldviews always have internal defects. Because they reject the Bible at their foundation, they end up being inconsistent, arbitrary, and ultimately irrational. With practice, anyone can learn to identify these flaws.
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The Bible teaches that genuine knowledge begins with a reverential submission to God (Proverbs 1:7). So, to have a worldview that is consistently rational, we must begin with God’s Word as the foundation by which we evaluate the facts. Only God knows everything, so only He is in a position to tell us—on His own authority—what our starting point should be. Only the Bible provides a logical foundation for those things that are essential for knowledge.
The Requirements for Knowledge
In order for human beings to have genuine knowledge of any topic, certain things would have to be true, whether we recognize it consciously or not. For example, the human mind has to be capable of rational thought. The universe has to be orderly and comprehensible. Our sensations of the world around us have to be basically reliable.
The Christian worldview can make sense of all these things. The Christian understands that God made the human mind so that we could have the ability to think rationally. God made the universe and upholds it in a consistent, logical way. God created our senses so that we could accurately probe the world around us.2
Most people simply take these things for granted. They don’t stop to consider how human beings are able to have knowledge of anything. Most people just blindly assume that our senses are reliable, that the mind is rational, and that the universe is orderly and understandable.
Without God, we have no reason to expect an understandable universe.
Few people think to ask, “Why should knowledge be possible?” The answer is not as obvious as it may seem. In fact, without God, we have no reason to expect an understandable universe.
So, although there is a place for discussing scientific details, it is good to remember that science itself is based on a Christian worldview. We must patiently get the unbeliever to realize that he couldn’t even do science if his evolutionary worldview were true.
If evolution were true, would there be any reason to think that the mind would be capable of rational analysis? If the universe were just the aftermath of a big bang, why would we expect it to be orderly or comprehensible? If the universe is just matter in motion, then how could there be abstract laws, such as mathematics and logic, which are required for rational thinking? If any alternative to Christianity were true, then there would be no foundation for any of the things necessary for knowledge.3
This isn’t to say that non-Christians cannot know anything. Obviously they can. But this is possible only because they are being inconsistent—implicitly relying on biblical principles while simultaneously denying the Bible.
This is the important thing to keep in the back of your mind during any discussion about worldviews and Christianity. In the end, we know that Christianity is true because, if it were not, then we couldn’t know anything at all. This can be a difficult concept since most people are not used to thinking through such foundational issues. But it is something that we must learn to explain if our defense of the faith is to be effective.
Don't Answer . . .
King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), gave us the strategy to expose the defects in non-Christian worldviews in two verses of Proverbs 26. First, verse 4 states, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.”
To be clear, the Bible is not engaging in name-calling by using the word fool—nor should we (Matthew 5:22). Rather, the Bible uses this word to describe anyone who has rejected God’s revelation (Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 14:1). By rejecting the biblical God, the unbeliever has given up the foundational truths necessary for knowledge. His position is irrational—“foolish” in the Hebrew meaning of the word.
When an unbeliever tries to set the terms of the conversation by saying things like, “You can’t use the Bible in your argument,” or “Miracles are not allowed as a legitimate explanation,” he is embracing an illogical starting point for this thinking. It is inappropriate to agree to such terms.
According to the Bible, we should not “answer a fool according to his folly” or else we become like him. That is, we shouldn’t embrace the unbeliever’s starting point or else we too will end up just like him, holding a worldview in which knowledge doesn’t make sense.
. . . Answer!
By reflecting back the absurd philosophy of the “fool,” as in a mirror, we show him that his view is irrational.
The next verse in Proverbs 26 states, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”
At first glance, this verse may sound as if it contradicts the previous one, but the last part of each verse makes it clear that the sense is different. Verse 5 indicates that we should show the “fool” that he isn’t as wise as he thinks he is by illustrating where his thinking leads. In other words, while we never embrace the unbeliever’s starting point (“don’t answer”), we can temporarily use his starting point (“answer”), for the sake of argument, to show that it leads to an absurd result.
For example, if evolution were true, we should have no reason to depend on our brain to know what is true because our brain is the result of chance mutations. This is an inconsistency.4 By reflecting back the absurd philosophy of the “fool,” as in a mirror, we show him that his view is not rational.
Examples of the “Don’t Answer, Answer” Strategy
The “don’t answer, answer” strategy is a powerful tool to use when defending the Christian faith. Consider those who say, “Christians are dishonest. They teach that God created the world only thousands of years ago, which is clearly false.” First, using the “don’t answer” side of the strategy, you’d reject the starting assumption of the critic and say something like this: “I don’t accept your claim that teaching creation is dishonest. We are equally convinced that evolution is untrue.”
Then you’d go to the “answer” part of the strategy and show that the critic’s position is inconsistent: “But for the sake of argument, even if we were lying, why would that be wrong according to your worldview? The idea that it’s wrong to lie is a biblical concept. Lying is wrong because it’s contrary to the nature of God. But in an evolutionary universe, on what basis could I say that it’s wrong to lie—particularly if it benefits my survival? I understand you agree with me that it’s wrong to lie. But my point is that such a belief makes sense only if the Bible is true.”
Consider another common complaint, “How can you believe the Bible in this age of science and technology? Science has proven that the Bible is not true.”
Using the biblical “don’t answer, answer” strategy, you could reply: “Science has not disproved the Bible; on the contrary, science has confirmed the Bible in many areas.” You could give some examples at this point too.
Then you’d move to the “answer” part of the strategy: “But, for the sake of argument, how would science even be possible in the first place, unless the Bible’s claims about God were true?” You then patiently explain that the principles of science, such as the order and uniformity of nature and the ability of the mind to understand the universe, all ultimately come from the Bible.
Remembering that all knowledge is in Christ (Colossians 2:3), you can quickly get to the heart of the matter and expose the irrationality in any attack on Christianity. Using the “don’t answer, answer” strategy of Proverbs 26:4–5, you can efficiently expose the inconsistency of each example of unbiblical reasoning (1 Corinthians 3:20).
Jesus tells us to build our house upon the rock—His teachings—not the shifting sands of human opinion (Matthew 7:24–27). By standing on the authority of the Bible, we can give a powerful and respectful defense of the faith. God can bless our efforts and will use our defense to draw many people to Himself.
1 Peter 3:15—Four Keys to Being an Effective Apologist
- “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart.” Remember that all knowledge is in Christ (Colossians 2:3), and so our defense (apologetic) should be based unashamedly on the person of Christ as revealed in His Word. We can show that any system of thought, if it’s not based ultimately on biblical revelation, is inherently irrational.
- “Be ready always to give a defense.” In obedience to our Lord, we should continually study the Bible and read about the common issues in apologetics so that we will be prepared. Thinking through the issues and studying the Scriptures is a lifelong process that will continually improve our defense of the faith.
- “To everyone who asks a reason of the hope that is in you.” Remember that our job is to give a good defense for those who ask. We should not be discouraged if the person is not persuaded, as long as we have given a good, biblical faithful reason for our faith. Conversion is the job of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).
- “With gentleness and respect." Our defense should never be emotionally charged or derisive. Remember, even those who are in rebellion against God are made in His image and deserve respect.