If recent events have taught us anything, it is that critical thinking and logic are in short supply. During the presidential debates, Facebook was on fire with comments from people who gave very little thought to sound argumentation. Many of the online discussions—if they can be called discussions—were filled with bold and inflammatory assertions followed by little or no evidence, frequently repeated regardless of the objections raised against them. Believers everywhere should be aware that the same goes on in discussions concerning Christianity.
A quick Internet search will reveal dozens of websites dedicated to the criticism of biblical faith. But upon closer inspection, it quickly becomes clear that they have no intention to discuss, only to condemn. There is very little attempt to truly understand and engage Christians and their beliefs. Such websites are often filled with caricatures, misrepresentations, and mistruths.
I co-presented a seminar on Christian apologetics in New Zealand in 2008. The other speaker covered evolution and Bible contradictions, while I took the topics of biblical archaeology and the new atheism. On the first night, a fellow named Ian dominated the Q&A time, asking very pointed questions. We quickly and neatly answered all of them, mostly because they were rather simplistic. The next night, he softened his tone but continued to ask questions. Almost all of them concerned something that could be found answered in an introductory apologetics textbook or on the Internet.
By the end of the four-night seminar, we learned something of Ian’s story. He and another fellow in attendance admitted that they made a habit of attending Christian meetings and asking confrontational questions. They also admitted that at most of these meetings they had Christians leaving in tears, questioning their faith. Ian had chosen to ask “problem questions” that can be found in lists on many atheist websites. Such websites often bill these kinds of questions as “unanswerable.” After the first night, Ian quickly abandoned his line of questions for me and chose to focus on Brad’s presentations on evolution instead.
I took great care to ensure that my responses were professional and objective. But Ian gave no appearance of wanting genuine answers. His goal seemed to have been to disrupt and confuse. I think he was disappointed in his uncustomary lack of results. On the last night of the seminar I shook his hand and thanked him and his friend for coming. Neither looked me in the eye. Both were fairly rude. Apparently, Ian didn’t want to hear informed answers. Neither do many other critics.
There are lots of Ians out there, meaning that the need for quality Christian apologetics is at an all-time high. Not just from the experts, but from everyone. The apostle Peter commands every believer to be prepared, saying, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Since Peter addresses every believer, the next few weeks we are going to be covering two problem areas: bad reasons for belief and common myths about Christianity.