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Review of apologetics book by pastor shows where church needs to improve

Whenever I talk to Christians, I find that they hold one of two views about what faith is.

The first view of faith is the Biblical view of faith as active trust in propositions we know to be true, because we have reasons and evidence to believe those propositions. This view is not only rooted in the Bible, but it extends through Augustine and Aquinas to the present day. I have written about this view of faith before, and quoted many theologians in support of it. In the Bible, people use miracles as a sign in order to convince skeptics. For example, Peter appeals to the resurrection in Acts 2. The Bible teaches that faith is active trusting based on evidence.

The second view is blind faith. This view is nowhere in the Bible, and this view asserts that becoming a Christian is a leap-of-faith in the dark against all the evidence. This view not only minimizes evidence, but it actually opposes presenting evidence to unbelievers and skeptics in the way that the Bible teaches. This view is nowhere in the Bible, and it was not the method used by Jesus or his followers. It is an unBiblical way of viewing faith, but it is very popular in some circles of Christianity. It is also popular among atheists, because this is what many Christian leaders and pastors tell them that faith is.

Consider this review of a recent book that defends the Gospels and the historicity of the resurrection by a blind faith pastor.

He writes:

There are, however, two significant shortcomings to the book.

First, Cold-Case Christianity places far too much emphasis on the role of extrabiblical sources. No doubt there is a legitimate role for biblical archaeology and extrabiblical writing from antiquity. Christianity is, after all, a faith firmly rooted in human history. But there is a grave danger when truth is suspended because of an apparent lack of corroboration from extrabiblical sources. And Wallace, I’m afraid, wanders too close to this dark side of apologetics.

All of chapter 12, for instance, is devoted to proving the Gospels have external corroborative evidence—“evidence that are independent of the Gospel documents yet verify the claims of the text” (183). Wallace then addresses the historicity of the pool of Bethesda and makes another worrying statement: “For many years, there was no evidence for such a place outside of John’s Gospel. Because Christianity makes historical claims, archaeology ought to be a tool we can use to see if these claims are, in fact, true” (201-202, emphasis added).

In other words, Wallace seems to suggest we cannot affirm the truth of the Gospel accounts without the stamp of approval from archaeology and other extrabiblical sources. Such reasoning is dangerous, not least because it cannot affirm the inerrancy of the Bible. But also, it places the final court of appeal in the realm of extrabiblical sources rather than of God’s all-sufficient, all-powerful Word.

If you’re wondering why The Gospel Coalition is now derided everywhere as “woke”, this article gives you a hint about what happened. Many pastors today have embraced blind faith, and are unable to defend any of the Bible’s teachings to non-Christians. Instead, as I wrote about last week, they are just taking orders from the secular left, and demanding action on the priorities of the secular left from their parishioners. So, they’re focused on using their pulpits to promote critical race theory, LGBT activism, refugees and illegal immigration, socialism, etc. When you can’t defend your worldview with evidence, you start to slide to the left in order to remain “relevant”. And that’s what happened with The Gospel Coalition. They didn’t want to have to do the work to learn about evidence, so they just consulted with the secular left about what they thought was virtuous, and promoted that. It’s really that simple.

If we accept the blind faith view, we will limit our ability to raise children who can maintain their worldview through college. The phrase “The Bible says” is used by Christians all over the world to parent their children and to “engage” non-Christians. But does it work? Quoting the Bible isn’t going to work on people who don’t accept the Bible as an authority. But some people who don’t accept the Bible as an authority do accept evidence as an authority. We can get them to accept the Bible later by starting with evidence.

There’s another problem with adopting the “make a leap-of-faith” view. It doesn’t allow Christianity to be any more correct than other religions. If we are promoting Christianity on the basis of the “beauty” of the words in the Bible, then Muslims have been making that exact same “argument” for centuries about the Quran. What about praying to God to see if the Bible is true? Mormons have been doing that for decades. They call it “the burning of the bosom”. Like Christian pastors, Mormon pastors tell people to read their holy book and then pray to see if they get a burning of the bosom. But no one in the Bible ever took this approach to establishing the truth of their worldview. In the Bible, people use evidence.

In Bible, Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. all point to evidence to support their claims. What do you think Jesus was talking about when he said that he would give a “wicked generation” a sign – the sign of Jonah? The sign of Jonah is his bodily resurrection, which was intended to show people that he was who he claimed to be. He didn’t tell people to read the gospels and pray about it. There were no gospels at that time!

A much better approach to discussing Christianity with other people is to start with the scientific evidence for a Creator, and then move on to the historical evidence for the life of Jesus. A Christian cannot sustain a conservative view of the Bible and systematic theology if he goes through a secular world with nothing testable to say to non-Christians. Eventually, blind faith Christians break from the strain of being “spiritually weird”, and start craving the acceptance of the secular left.

11 thoughts on “Review of apologetics book by pastor shows where church needs to improve”

  1. Yes, TGC is a huge disappointment. Way too much wokeness and pandering to the culture.

    I weaved apologetics into the things we taught our girls as they grew up. Small sample size, of course, but they grew up confident knowing that we had good reasons to offer for any objections to Christianity. There was never any hint of “just believe” teachings. They are still committed Christians as adults and married terrific Bible-believing guys.

    God uses his word to transform people, but the general population is so biased against the Bible that they won’t pick it up. I use apologetics to give them reasons to take the Bible seriously and read it for themselves. I trust the Holy Spirit to do what He does.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think there is this view in the church that Christian parents can just help themselves to influential Christian kids by osmosis. They think, if i take them to church and behave nicely, the kids will go to church and behave nicely. Their goal was never to pass truth on to their children.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, that’s another big fail for many parents. The Bible doesn’t teach that you hand over your kids to the youth group for Christian education. Some youth groups are good, but others are just fun and games. The youth leader at one church (which we later left) liked Joel Osteen — yikes! My kids had no interest in youth group at that stage. We preferred to enjoy family time on Sunday evenings and taught them ourselves.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. The faith or feelings view that you listed is also not unlike the faith of most atheist skeptics. No evidence or facts needed. No science or study of what is most likely.

    As a result if a Christian is feeling based in grounding their faith it is easy to move to a socially cool and popular atheist agnostic view of believing in your starting assumptions and who cares about evidential support.

    So besides not being a biblical way to think without evidence the obvious hard times of life of desire to sin with no regret leads to a compatible thought pattern of atheism

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For my part, what sent me down the secular road in my youth was not really any rational propositions I found in support of it. It was simply in direct proportion to the rise of my hormones. However, the fact that I wasn’t getting any apologetic content from the church didn’t help.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think that the woke crowd takes the Bible very seriously at all. But, one underrepresented area that I think is especially important to emphasize in apologetics is the area of Christian history, particularly in the last few hundred years. I know that you emphasize military history too in that context, WK, and I would also look at the great social reformers and missionaries, and point out that they are much more like us, and not like the world-pleasing “progressives,” who are actually regressives.

    Just as one example, William Wilberforce would be considered a hyper-prude in these loose days. He not only abolished the slave trade, but he encouraged missionaries in India, fought for politeness in culture, instituted preventions against animal cruelty, and castigated the woke, country club, churches. In other words, he was hardcore and not generally taken very seriously by the culture that he lived in, at least not until much later.

    I would definitely include Christian history in our toolkits. I use examples like that a lot, and find that fruitful conversations emerge from them.

    Liked by 2 people

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