Because we live in such relative times where the very idea of “truth” is challenged on a daily basis, I feel like it might be fitting here on the blog to delve into the topic of defense of the Christian faith. I’m currently taking an apologetics class, and therefore reading a whole boat load of texts on the subject, so I thought I would bring y’all along on the journey. First up, some thoughts from Douglas Groothuis’ work on Christian Apologetics and a few reflections on the nature of it all.
To study Christian apologetics is to study the truth in order to formulate an argument in defense of the truth—but one must start with the basic question, what is truth? If there has ever been a more timeless question, or a more human question, I don’t know what it is. In his book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, Douglas Groothuis begins his journey in this very place by examining the uniquely human posture of hope. As humans, we can’t help but to look forward, to make plans, to wonder about the future, and to ask questions about what really matters. This hopeful posture is what Groothuis describes as “all-too-human,” simply because no other creature asks these future-tense, existential-type questions. But the point is not merely to ask deep questions; what we really want as people is to find the treasure, to get to the truth. Questioning is natural, but true answers are hard to come by. Groothuis comments, “How we answer these questions—or if we attempt to answer them at all—will shape who we are and who we become.” For the Christian who desires to learn how to defend their faith, we must be willing to seek out the truth for ourselves. We must be willing to ask the hard questions and allow the deep work of truth to be formed within us.
The problem with making the claim that answers to these questions can even be found…is that it is 2019. Western culture as a whole is slumped over in a hangover from post-modernism, dehydrated and irritable. Our thirst for Jesus’ claim to be the kind of quenching that “becomes a well of water springing up within him for eternal life” is acutely desperate, but our cynicism of truth-seeking has stripped any hope we once had of meaning. It’s as if we cannot resist the impulse to ask, “what does it all mean?” only to have the voices of our time crush any thought that dares to break out of our materialistic moment. “There is nothing more, there is only what you can empirically know.”
But despite all manner of attempts at squashing the pursuit of objective truth, humans still find ways of looking upward—be it in a pop song, in the building of magnificent skyscrapers, or in the gaze of a newborn baby. We are good at finding new and creative ways of asking the big questions and yet, our society still resists the assertion of ultimate truth. Groothuis pointedly declares, “Knowing the truth and living according to its requirements should be the hope and aspiration of the reflective person.”
For we who have our hope in Christ, this should be profoundly true of our experience. Our asking has been met by a person; our knocking on the door of faith has been met by hope himself. Jesus’ claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life” is too great, too absolute to be anything but true. Because I have walked through that door of belief and taken Jesus at his word, that he is the God-man and the fountain of life itself, my questioning has found its answer and my hope has found its home. My personal mission, and indeed every Christian’s calling, is to let Christ, the man of Truth, to come and dwell within. Any argumentation or persuasive speech that we may communicate about him must be birthed by his Spirit…but thankfully we have been promised that when “the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth.”
My own hope rests in the continuing work of his Spirit within me, his church, and the world, and it is according to his timeline. I have many questions still about this life, about humanity and meaning, but my peace does not hinge on whether I have a clear and immediate answer. I know that God will make himself known to humankind—this is the heart of his working and will throughout every age. I only wonder, do we really want to know? Are we ready to have our minds enlightened by the true Light, the One who existed before everything?
As Christian apologists, we may answer the world’s question of “what is truth?” by pointing to Christ, but the real question each person must face is beyond even this—it is not merely knowing the truth, as Groothius explained, but it is how we respond with our lives. “Living according to [truth’s] requirements” is another way of saying that it is all about our response. It is ultimately how we position ourselves according to the nucleus of truth, to Christ himself, that truly matters.