A while back, I was debating some Christian feminists about what men want from a wife and mother. At one point, I asserted that Christian women ought to have some knowledge of how to defend their faith using scientific and historical evidence. Some women asked me: “are you joking?” In this post, I’ll explain why I’m serious, and then I’ll ask them some questions of my own.
Let’s start with Jesus. Jesus set an example by showing the importance of knowing how to answer questions and challenges from skeptics in the New Testament. His favorite way to answer a challenge was by using evidence to support his truth claims.
In each version of the story, there are 4 steps:
- Jesus forgives the sins of a paralyzed man
- The Pharisees say that he doesn’t have authority to forgive sins
- Jesus miraculously heals the paralyzed man
- Jesus explains the evidence of the healing supports his claim that he has authority to forgive sins
And this is an example that you will find repeated in many places in the life of Jesus. You can see it in the Old Testament as well, where God performs miracles so that people who don’t believe in his existence or respect the Scriptures can still be convinced.
Christian apologetics is the skill of being able to give a defense for the Christian worldview when presented with a challenge from a non-Christian.
So, who has to be ready with a defense?
Look at 1 Peter 3:15-16:
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
This passage applies to every one who claims to be a disciple of Jesus, whether they like to prepare a defense or not. How much work must you put into it? It depends on the sophistication of the challenges you get. In the mountains of Pakistan, you don’t need to know much because there might not be a sophisticated challenge. In an American society filled with college graduates, the challenges are more difficult. So you will need to prepare a lot more, because the challenges will be a lot harder.
Those who take this passage seriously are doing something difficult, and time-consuming, in order to serve Christ. Buying books costs money. Reading books takes time. Debating with non-Christians can make you look bad to others. But the Bible commands us to be ready with answers for the people around us. Sometimes, doing what the Bible says makes us feel bad, or look bad to others. But we have do what the Bible says anyway. Part of being a real Christian is being obedient even if it feels bad or makes you look bad.
What’s in an apologetics book?
So, with that said, let’s look at the table of contents of my favorite introduction to Christian apologetics, which is “Is God Just a Human Invention?” written by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow.
In that book, you will find 18 topics.
- Is Faith Irrational? (Commentary by: Gregory Koukl)
- Are Science and Christianity at Odds? (Commentary by: John Warwick Montgomery)
- Are Miracles Possible? (Commentary by: Gary R. Habermas)
- Is Darwinian Evolution the Only Game in Town? (Commentary by: William A. Dembski)
- How Did the Universe Begin? (Commentary by: R. Douglas Geivett)
- How Did Life Begin? (Commentary by: Fazale R. Rana)
- Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? (Commentary by: Jay W. Richards)
- Has Science Shown There Is No Soul? (Commentary by: Dale Fincher and Jonalyn Fincher)
- Is God Just a Human Invention? (Commentary by: Garry DeWeese)
- Is Religion Dangerous? (Commentary by: Douglas Groothuis)
- Does God Intend for Us to Keep Slaves? (Commentary by: Paul Copan)
- Is Hell a Divine Torture Chamber? (Commentary by: Frank Turek)
- Is God a Genocidal Bully? (Commentary by: Clay Jones)
- Is Christianity the Cause of Dangerous Sexual Repression? (Commentary by: Kerby Anderson)
- Can People Be Good Without God? (Commentary by: Mark D. Linville)
- Is Evil Only a Problem for Christians? (Commentary by: Randy Alcorn)
- What Good Is Christianity? (Commentary by: Glenn S. Sunshine)
- Why Jesus Instead of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? (Commentary by: Darrell L. Bock)
Prominent atheist scholars are quoted in each chapter to introduce the challenges, and then scholarly arguments and evidence are presented to defend the Christian worldview. The language is simple enough, but the material is solid enough to use in a real debate. I would say that introductory books like this one are more than enough to equip you for everyone who will challenge you.
Why are these 18 topics important? Because these are the questions that atheists ask. These are the questions that cause Christians to leave the faith. These are the questions that your children will face in high school and college, which might cause them to leave the faith.
Let’s start with chapter one. One of the most prominent arguments by atheists is that faith is irrational. This chapter allows you to define faith using the Bible’s definition of faith, which relies on logic and evidence.
Atheists also say that Christianity is at war with science. In chapter 2, they discuss the history of science and how Christianity provided the framework that allowed scientific method to take root and flourish.
Atheists like to claim that miracles are impossible. Chapter 3 defends the view that God, if he exists, is capable of interacting with his created world.
Atheists love to put forward Darwinism as means to deny that God is the designer of life. Chapter 4 explains the concept of intelligent design, and why intelligent design is a better explanation for the history of life.
Atheists love to talk about how the universe has always existed, and there’s no need for a Creator. Chapter 5 contains a philosophical argument that is supported by mainstream science to argue that the universe had a beginning, just like the Bible says.
Atheists love to argue that life can emerge from non-life, and the process is simple. Chapter 6 is written by a biochemist, and it takes a look at the real complexity of the simplest living cell.
Atheists like to argue that the universe itself is just an accident, and there is no need for a Designer. Chapter 7 introduces the scientific evidence for fine-tuning and habitability.
Atheists like to say that there is no soul and no afterlife. Chapter 8 gives some arguments for the existence of the soul.
Atheists like to argue that Christians invent God because God makes them feel good. But chapter 9 explains that having an all-powerful God who can hold humans accountable is the last thing any human would want to invent.
Atheists like to talk about how religion, with it’s habit of teaching to believe in things that can’t be tested, causes religious people to do a lot of harm. Chapter 10 takes a look at the real record of Christianity as a force for good in the world.
Atheists like to talk about slavery in the Bible. Chapter 11 talks about what the Bible really says, and provides some rational responses to the accusation.
Atheists like to talk about eternal punishment in Hell isn’t a just punishment for just getting a few questions wrong on a theology exam. Chapter 12 provides an explanation and defense of the concept of Hell.
Atheists love to talk about how God commanded the Israelites to attack their enemies in the Bible. Chapter 13 explains who their enemies really were, and what was really happening in those wars.
Atheists feel that unrestricted sexual activity is very healthy and normal, and that the Biblical prohibitions outside of male-female marriage are repressive and unhealthy. Chapter 14 explains why God has these rules in place, and supports his rules with evidence.
Atheists love to assert that they don’t need God, because they can behave morally on their own. Chapter 15 explains how to answer this claim by talking about how well atheism grounds objective moral values, objective moral duties, free will and moral accountability: the minimum requirements for objective morality.
Atheists think that the mere existence of natural disasters and human immorality are incompatible with the God of the Bible. Chapter 16 explains why this argument doesn’t work, and why even the concept of evil requires God to exist.
I had an atheist co-worker who couldn’t really defeat the scientific arguments for God’s existence, but he would say that even if God exists, why would that matter to my life? Chapter 17 explains what difference Christianity makes in a person’s life.
Atheists think that the life of Jesus has no relevance to their life, and that he has nothing to offer them anyway. Chapter 18 explains the uniqueness of Jesus and explains why his resurrection is relevant to our lives today.
I guess that many people think that reading a Christian book means reading Christian fiction or Christian devotions – things that are entertaining or produce feelings. But fiction and devotions do not equip you to answer realistic questions from non-Christians.
Wife candidates ought to know apologetics
So, back to my original point about how some Christian feminists responded when I said that during courtship, I ask women questions about how much preparation they have done to answer objections from atheists, like the ones answered in this book. Am I joking?
Well, I think the problem is that Christian feminists don’t understand how Christian men view marriage. Christian men are interested in marriage because they think that their marriage will be an enterprise that produces a return for God. They like the idea of having a clean, comfortable home to host debate viewings and discussions over dessert with skeptics. They like the idea of raising children who will be effective and influential. Men don’t see marriage a means of making us feel better, or having fun, or getting our peers to approve of us. We see it as a way to promote Jesus’ agenda in the world. Men are looking for a woman who think that Christianity is true, so that they will have a wife who will act like a Christian when it goes against her self-interest. Men want a wife who knows how to persuade others that Christianity is true – first the children, then others.