Several years ago I was challenged by a skeptic to defend my belief system. I didn’t do a very good job at understanding why I believed the way that I did other than my subjective feelings about it. This encounter inspired a passion in me to put 1 Peter 3:15 into action in my life.
Over a period of time I discovered that to be most effective at defending the faith you must first be willing to question your most sacred beliefs. You must be willing to see your beliefs from the skeptic’s perspective so that you can meet him where he is and then try to persuade him using the evidence available and under the power of the Holy Spirit.
With this in mind, and experience as a guide, I have detected what I believe is a flaw in how we train people, especially our young people, to defend the faith. In this article I am first going to disclose the flaw. I am then going to cite three ways the flaw manifests itself. The three examples I offer happen to be in the field of science which should be no surprise since this area is popular among skeptics. As I discuss each of these I will offer a solution to correct the flaw so that ultimately we will become improved trainers, and most importantly, improved ambassadors for the Gospel of Jesus.
The most prominent flaw I see when we try to defend our Christian position is often a failure to understand terms. For example, it may be the case that a pro-life Christian assumes that a pro-abortion individual is in favor of killing babies. But if we stop for a moment and listen to the view of the pro-abortionist, we will likely discover that a person in favor of abortion is just as opposed to killing babies as a pro-life person is. The difference in positions is not whether we should or shouldn’t kill babies. The difference in our positions is determined by when we believe life begins. How then do we begin effective dialogue with a pro-abortionist? When a person says they are pro-choice or pro-abortion ask them, “What do you mean by abortion?” Then ask them how they came to that conclusion. If you do this, not only is the burden of proof on them, you will also come to an understanding of their position instead of talking past them.
When we place more effort into understanding terms we will become more effective in communicating our views and being taken seriously by those who oppose us. There are three scientific areas where skeptics will pound a wedge between themselves and believers. In each of these wedge topics, believers can be left vulnerable if their position is not communicated properly.
Wedge Topic #1: Evolution
I’m an evangelical Christian and I believe in evolution. Say what? That’s right! But, wait a minute. Hear me out. Remember what we just discussed? We have to define our terms. But before we do that, we need to understand why we should focus on evolution when training people to defend the faith.
Evolution is one of the most popular avenues skeptics use to discredit Christianity. After all, if life simply evolved then we have no need for a Creator. Darwinian evolutionists believe all life is descended from one common ancestor and it happened only by natural causes, precluding belief in a Common Designer.
Many Christians will flat out deny any truth to the evolutionary theory. This is why skeptical people who believe in evolution don’t take Christians seriously. They see Christians as anti-science, bronze-age numbskulls. Of course we aren’t those things, but there is truth in some parts of the evolutionary theory.
There are two facets of evolution. There is macro-evolution and there is micro-evolution. Macro-evolution is the portion of the theory that says all life forms have descended from one common ancestor and it happened only by natural causes. It describes one species magically changing into brand new species. This form of evolution, due to the near-absence of evidence, is largely faith-based. It’s almost certainly not true and contains many, many problems including the inability to be reproduced in a lab.
Micro-evolution on the other hand, describes the ability of life forms to change or adapt to its conditions. This form of evolution is not only true, but it is verifiable and repeatable. Micro-evolution is what Darwin observed on the Galapagos Islands when he was studying finches. He noted that in years with an abundant food supply, the finches beaks were shorter because they presumably did not have to forage as deep for food. In years with short food supplies, the finches beaks could adapt to be longer so they would be more successful finding food to survive. Micro-evolution does not contradict Biblical creation in any way.
As Christians, we should not be denying this type of verifiable “evolution.” This is why the skeptics do not take us seriously. But when we can come to understand our terms, we find that we actually have more common ground than we thought. We are doing a disservice to our children and others when we train them to be completely against evolution. We know a certain form of evolution is true and we should be teaching our kids the difference between good science and bad science. When we do this, we give them a huge advantage when they are trying to find common ground with unbelievers.
(As a side note, I could write pages on the failure of macro-evolution but it is beyond the scope at this time. Comment below or message me if you want to discuss evolution further).
Wedge Topic #2: The Big Bang
I’m an evangelical Christian and I believe in The Big Bang. That’s right, I do! But, like evolution, you should be asking, “what do you mean by that?” This topic is a little easier to explain. Science has proven beyond all doubt that the universe has a beginning. This is agreed upon by virtually everyone.
When talking with a skeptic, there is absolutely no reason to disagree with him on the main idea regarding Big Bang Cosmology. After all, the science does not indicate what caused the Big Bang, it can only demonstrate what happened after the bang was banged. If you’re arguing the merits of the Big Bang verses the merits of Creation with a skeptic then you may find that you’re more interested in scoring points than you are in leading them to Christ. Now, I’m not saying Christians should believe in those portions of the the Big Bang Theory that have very little evidence. All I’m saying is that both skeptics and believers agree the universe has a beginning. In simple terms, that’s what the Big Bang Theory describes. It’s also what Genesis 1:1 describes. We all believe the universe was “banged” into existence. Christians believe they know who banged it.
We are doing our children and others a disservice if we teach them to be against the Big Bang. When we define it in terms of good science and scripture, we can meet the skeptic where he is and begin fruitful dialogue.
Wedge Topic #3: Age of the Universe
I’m an evangelical Christian and I have no clue how old the universe is. That’s right, no clue. In fact, it is impossible to know the answer to this on this side of Heaven. We were not there at Genesis 1:1. The Bible and science leave room for many assumptions. There are very good assumptions made by young universe people and there are very good assumptions made by old universe people. I don’t have space to dissect them all here. If you want to discuss it more, comment below or message me.
In the end, I believe that remaining dogmatic on this point can be counter productive. If you’re dealing with a skeptic who is scientifically inclined, forcing him to swallow something that seems counter-factual in his mind may permanently turn him away from hearing other evidence about the truth of Christianity. I guarantee you that salvation is not predicated on your belief on the age of the universe. The fact that God actually created the universe, not when he created the universe, is what is important when reaching the lost. I believe Satan uses this point of contention to sow division among all of us and when we entertain it as dogma we are playing into his hands. This is an in-house debate which should rarely, if ever, be discussed among unbelievers. It is not productive and I’ve never known anyone to come to Christ by their belief on the age of the universe.
As for me, I wake up believing in a young universe and I go to bed believing in an old universe. Neither position contradicts the fact that the universe is created.
We are doing our children and others a disservice if we teach them to be dogmatic on this issue. We should expose them to both scenarios and if we want to be intellectually honest, we will admit that we have no idea how old the universe is.
People have doubts. Christians should be prepared to engage the doubters in order to be effective witnesses for the truth about God, Jesus, creation, sin, and redemption. Intellectual honesty about science and Christianity always works in the Christian’s favor. Good science will never contradict God’s word and should be viewed as way to study in awe of God’s creation work. We should release ourselves from old-fashioned dogma and embrace sound scientific discoveries as confirmations of God’s awesome creation. When our children are released into the real world, we should want them to be taken seriously as ambassadors. To enable that we need to teach them how to communicate what they believe effectively and convincingly without coming across as backward, religious fruit cakes. We can teach them the things of the scientific world that line up with God’s word. We should be able to show people that Christianity will never be compromised by science or any other field of study. Let’s give the next generation of Christians the tools necessary to engage an increasingly skeptical world.