Chapter 1. A Reasonable Faith

Opening

Write several false or nonsense statements on index cards, one statement per card. Place all the cards in a paper bag. (Examples: The sun is actually powered by your local electric company. / Playing sports is actually bad for your body. / Ketchup and mustard are made from the same ingredients, etc.) Call on volunteers to come to the front of the room, one at a time, and draw one statement from the bag. Instruct the student that he/she is to defend the validity of the statement. Give the volunteer 30 seconds to consider how to defend, then instruct him/her to read the statement aloud. Students should ask questions that attack the statement and the volunteer must defend the statement. Allow several students to defend statements.

ASK: What was hard about defending your statement? Have you ever felt that way when trying to defend what you believe? Explain.

The Story

There I was, sitting in church with my head down and my eyes closed, asking Jesus to come into my heart—once again. Don’t worry, I wasn’t alone—pretty much the entire congregation was doing it with me at the time. The reason being is because we had an evangelist come to our church that evening who said, quite emphatically, “If you are 99% sure you’re saved, and 1% doubting, then you are a 100% lost!”

Who could argue with that mathematical argument? I knew my own heart, and knew that I had been dealing with doubts or questions—intellectual roadblocks if you will. I wanted to overcome these, and according to him, the way I could do that was to say the sinner’s prayer once more.

Come to find out, the evangelist, even though he meant well, was wrong in what he said. Being a genuine follower of Christ, one who has been transformed from the inside out, doesn’t mean one will never experience doubt or have questions that arise. Doubts don’t equal unbelief, in the same way that a lack of knowledge over how my car works doesn’t lead me to abandon it altogether. Unlike unbelief, doubts are simply mental roadblocks that need to be overcome and answered by the person having them.

I was already a Christian at that time, and like other young believers who are growing in their knowledge of God, I had questions that would often come up. My questions and doubts had nothing to do with the truthfulness of the Christian worldview—quite the opposite, they had to do with my lack of understanding. It was like being in biology class for only a week—I was able to pick up a lot of foundational things, but still had much more to learn. Thankfully, I had people and influences in my life that helped me think through the things I was wrestling with mentally. And it was during this time that I heard about Christian apologetics (which simply means a reasoned defense of the Christian faith). Apologetics not only helped me to see that I wasn’t the only one with similar questions, but also gave me the resources and tools to think deeply about the things I believe. Something you are about to do throughout this study.

The Question

Call on a student to read the question for the session:

Isn’t Christianity all about faith and not reason?

First Response

ASK: If you had to answer that question today, how would you respond?

The Skeptic’s View

Discuss the skeptic’s view of this issue using the information below.

It’s probably no surprise to you that there are those who question the validity of the Christian faith. The doctrines and beliefs that we, as followers of Christ, hold dear and base our faith on, they scoff at and try desperately to punch holes in. In this study, we will refer to these people as skeptics.

What is a skeptic?

A skeptic is a person who has an attitude of judgment against, and frequently criticizes, religious beliefs.

What does a skeptic look like?

These days, a skeptic could take on the form of your Biology teacher, a Hollywood celebrity, the new kid in class, your college professor, a TV talkshow host, even one of your friends at church. Religious skepticism abounds, and seems to be growing in our world of tolerance and acceptance.

Why is their voice heard and their arguments given such credence?

1. Their arguments sound good. Some skeptics can state their case in eloquent and convincing fashion. They will even use compelling, personal stories of their own journey of questions and doubts that led them to abandon the faith. But truth is not confirmed or denied based on heart-stirring stories.

ASK: Have you ever heard a skeptic give a stirring argument for his or her belief? Were they convincing? Explain.

2. We are vulnerable. Most of us have not invested much time in studying the foundations of our faith. We don’t know much, if anything, about the origins of Scripture. We haven’t contemplated the reason for suffering and evil, or how we would prove the historicity of the resurrection. We know what our personal experience with God has been like, but not much beyond that. So, when the skeptic asks hard questions and speaks with authority on issues, we don’t know how to respond.

ASK: So, have you ever thought much about the deep or hard questions about origin of Scripture, the problem of suffering and evil, and proof of the resurrection? Why or why not?

3. We live in a world where tolerance is king. To hold to the exclusive truth claims of Christianity, such as Jesus being the only way of salvation, puts us in an ever-increasing minority. While our beliefs are seen as backward, out-of-date, and intolerant, the skeptic’s views are welcomed and seen as more enlightened.

ASK: Do you agree with this statement? Have you ever faced opposition because you held to our exclusive truth claims? Explain.

4. They pit faith vs. reason. The skeptic wants to say that if you choose Christian faith, you check your brain at the door. And in the past, believers haven’t done much to combat that. We’ve made faith about what we feel, about our heart and emotions. However, faith and intellect should go together.

ASK: Do you think faith and intellect can really go together? Explain.

The Response

WHY STUDY APOLOGETICS?

Discuss the following material to reinforce the reason an apologetics study is so important.

1. Apologetics helps us to better understand our faith. Not only that, but apologetics also helps to increase our faith commitment. As Christians we are charged with the task of not only knowing “what” we believe, but also “why” we believe it.

STATE AND DISCUSS: “Few issues plague believers more frequently than doubts concerning Christianity in general or their own faith in particular.”

Call on a student to read 1 Corinthians 14:20.

Brothers, don’t be childish in your thinking, but be infants in regard to evil and adult in your thinking.—1 Corinthians 14:20

ASK: Based off this verse, what is the difference between a childlike faith and a childish faith? Which one should Christians pursue? Which one are you currently pursuing?

Point out that a childlike faith is a growing, maturing faith.

2. Apologetics shows us that faith is not at odds with reason. Many of the critics we will see throughout this study misunderstand what the Christian worldview means by faith.

Faith, however, does not need to be blind. Believing in Christ and accepting the Bible as his true Word is not automatic anti-intellectualism. The Bible doesn’t ask us to adopt a BLIND faith but a REASONED faith—a faith that can honestly ask the hard questions and then go out in search of real, measurable, credible answers.

Call on a student to read 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.—1 Corinthians 15:3-4

ASK: Is Paul advocating for a blind faith or a reasoned faith? Explain. Could you describe your faith as a reasoned faith? Why or why not? Which can stand up to the skeptics? Explain.

Use the following information to help reinforce Paul’s emphasis on a reasoned faith.

Paul backed up his claim with eyewitness testimony, saying that Jesus “appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; most of them are still alive” (vv. 5-6).

Paul conceded that if his assertions about the resurrection of Christ didn’t hold water, “then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith” (v. 14). In other words, if you can give me no proof whatsoever that Jesus did what He said He did, then you really have no reason to believe in Him. That’s why Paul’s comment that “most” of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were “still alive” is so impressive. It’s one thing for him to say the risen Christ was seen by a bunch of people who could never be confronted or challenged to their face, whose story could never be interviewed for inconsistencies. It’s quite another to dare someone to go find somebody who was actually there: Ask them whatever you want! See if they don’t tell you the same thing! Paul wasn’t afraid of people following up the evidence. In fact, he encouraged this kind of historical investigation.

3. Apologetics helps give us a reasoned defense against critics. Faith is reasonable—whether critics want you to know it or not.

They want you to believe that faith can only play within safe, churchy cloisters where it doesn’t need to validate itself against anything other than itself. However, as you’ll see throughout, the problem is not that they’re making historical accusations against orthodox Christian faith. That’s fine. Our problem is that their arguments are simply not the best ones, the most likely ones, the most reasonable ones.

STATE AND DISCUSS: A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”—John Calvin

Warning!

Discuss the following information, noting the emphasis on not allowing our faith to just be an intellectual exercise.

So have fun, learn, and allow this study to stretch and grow you in your walk with Christ. Walk in the comfort and confidence of a reasoned faith beyond the challenge of the skeptic. Yet while doing so, be careful to not sink so deeply into the mission of defending your faith as to reduce belief to intellectual acceptance. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and Jesus rose from the dead, stated as if they’re each of equal importance and consequence. No, your faith in Christ is not only well placed because it makes reasonable sense, against all other worldviews and patterns of thought, but because this Jesus can change you and us and inspire us to lives that brim with our created purpose.

ASK: What is the danger of reducing our beliefs to intellectual acceptance?

ASK: How does a reasoned faith influence every part of one’s life? What are some examples?

Stay in the Scripture, not merely to prove it true but to show that it’s alive and enlightening, transforming you into someone who thinks, acts, speaks, and responds with Christlike character because of the Holy Spirit that works inside you. The God whose eternal truth and nature stand behind the Bible is not only your champion as you claim that truth matters, but is also for your heart and soul as a devoted believer. Be His disciple as well as His defender, and you will love the places your reasoned faith in Him can take you.

Call on a student to read John 8:32.

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.—John 8:32

ASK: Why do you think it is important to focus on truth? How can knowing the truth be freeing? What does this look like on a daily basis? Are you focused on the truth? Why or why not?

Group Discussion

  1. What are some doubts or critiques you’ve heard about the Bible and Christianity? What are some of your own doubts?
  2. What is the difference between blind and reasoned faith?
  3. How would you go about pursuing a reasoned faith?
  4. Do you consider yourself prepared to give a defense of the Christian worldview if asked? How can you make sure you stay in the Scriptures so that when questions come you know what the Bible teaches on a given subject?

Closing Thoughts

Use the following information to summarize and reinforce key points in the session.

C.S. Lewis once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This quote affirms the fact that the Christian worldview makes sense—it is reasonable, coherent, and compelling—but also the fact that it helps makes sense of all other aspects of life.

The task of apologetics is to help connect those dots so that both believers and non-believers are able to see that. If you are a believer, apologetics will help strengthen your own faith and help you overcome any mental roadblocks you are having.

But in addition to increasing our own faith, apologetics is to be used as a witnessing tool as we live on mission for Jesus. Christians are a missional group of people. Just as our God set out on mission to rescue and redeem us, we too are to live our lives with the intention of sharing and displaying the gospel to those around us.

By focusing on these truths, we accomplish at least two things:

  1. We move forward in our maturity as believers in Christ.
  2. We grow stronger in the defense of our beliefs as we begin to understand “why” it is we believe what we do.

Application

Remind students that as we saw in this session, it is important to never separate the mind from the heart and hands. In light of that, direct students to spend some time reflecting/writing on how this session challenges them both inwardly and outwardly.

PERSONAL:

  1. How has the information in this session strengthened your personal faith in God?

MISSIONAL:

  1. How has the information in this session helped prepare you to answer the skeptics and share with the unsaved?

Continue the Story

Direct students to write their own personal story of coming to faith in Christ, and whether their Christian walk up to this point has included any doubts or questions. Encourage them to list the questions and doubts and how they have approached them.

Take a few minutes to discuss the students’ responses, reminding them of the difference in disbelief and doubt. Relate to students that you are available to pray with them and further discuss these matters to help them work through lingering issues.