By: Justin Wishart
Is apologetics important? Is it effective? As our Be Ready Conference draws closer, I wonder how many people would answer “no” or “I don’t know” to these two questions. A biblical mandate for apologetics could be provided here, or a philosophical reason could be explained; but I wanted to give you a personal testimony of how apologetics deepened my faith and how it made me a more effective witness for Christ.
In many ways I view my childhood in two parts, as if I have two childhoods, because my parents divorced when I was very young. I only remember this time in my life, when we were all a family, in small fragments. I later discovered how this affected my self perception, how I think, and how effective apologetics were to me.
After my parents split, my brother and I moved to the West Coast with my mom while my dad stayed here in Calgary. Between my dad and I stood the Rocky Mountains, and I only saw him a few times a year.
My mom was a devout Christian while my dad was a Socialist, and while he never actually outright denied Christianity, he became very agnostic about it. My mom had grown up on the mission field in Asia and was about as committed to the faith as anyone could be. I don’t think she had many deep questions, or if she did we didn’t discuss them, and so there didn’t seem to be a great need to search for why one should believe that Christianity was true. It simply was true.
My mom raised me in a very godly manner, but I didn’t ask these hard questions. When I was 14 years old I decided to move in with my dad in Calgary. With my faith firmly intact I headed out over the mountains. While living with my father, he would ask me questions over dinner, or while driving, about why I thought Christianity was true. He didn’t do so in any mean-spirited way, he just wanted to give me something to think about and was curious about my answers. This started me thinking for the first time about why should I believe in Christianity.
My dad avidly listened to CBC radio, and one day he called me into the kitchen to listen to a broadcast. It featured a member of the Jesus Seminar, and what the speaker claimed did not fit my views at all. He said that biblical scholarship had demonstrated that the vast majority of words attributed to Jesus were in fact fabricated by Christians after Jesus had died. I was stunned and troubled, and even though this didn’t cause me to renounce my faith, it planted a little seed of doubt.
As the years rolled on, that seed started sprouting roots and my life reflected this as I started acting more and more away from how my mom raised me. I started spiritually shrivelling up, and it caused me to become anxious. I studied differing religions, philosophies, and opinions trying to find answers. Outwardly, no one would have seen this anxiety but inwardly I was in spiritual turmoil. The sure faith of my mother battled the doubt of my father.
I reached the climax of my doubt in a college history course. The professor was possibly my favourite instructor at the college and I looked forward to his classes. I will always remember one particular class. We were to study the effects of Christianity on Western civilization. At the beginning of class he covered how and why Christianity spread so quickly in the Roman Empire. He gave many reasons why, but none of them were because Christianity was true. One student bravely offered the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus as another explanation. The professor became indignant and went on a tirade, ending with a challenge to this shocked student for a public debate.
Aside from the odd emotional outburst of the professor, what he said made sense to me. But the brave student didn’t want to, or could not, offer a reply, and I was glad not to be in the same situation: defenceless, with no explanation. I realized that I thought Christianity was true because I thought it was true, and that shook me. I could almost see my faith crumbling around me in the next few months that followed. At the time, I would have said I was a Christian, but there was no conviction behind those words.
Years later, situations in my life caused me to reevaluate Christianity. This time I had Christian men in my life who told me about Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell. I read ‘The Case for Christ’ and ‘Evidence that Demands a Verdict’, and while I saw flaws with their arguments, I was stunned that Christianity could be presented in this way; that it could be demonstrated in an objective manner. No other faith or eastern philosophy I had read, and no one in church I had grown up in, presented their message in a way that could be demonstrated or argued outside of subjective experiences.
I dove into reading and learning to the point where some people called me obsessed, but I was simply thirsty. Studying eventually lead me to reading the Bible regularly, but instead of the confusion Scripture caused me before, I read with much greater understanding. All this has caused me to grow spiritually and I became confident. No longer was I afraid to publicly call myself a Christian; I knew I was, I knew why I was, and I learned how to articulate this to others.
Far from being afraid, I now look forward to sharing my faith with others and doing so brings me great joy. Even though I now take an apologetic approach that is different then Strobel and McDowell, I can only thank God that their works ended up in my hands. These books were the first stepping stones back to an authentic relationship with God. Looking back I am also profoundly grateful to both of my parents, as my relationship with God would not be as it is without both of their perspectives.
This brings me back to my original questions. Is apologetics important? Is it effective? I would easily say yes!
Do you question aspects of Christianity or do you know of anyone who does? If you do, I would strongly recommend you come to our conference (clickhere), and if you know someone, bring them along. Is the price of admission and time spent too much a cost to potentially change your life? Possibly you don’t question Christianity; I would say that you should come also. You never know if you will run into a guy like me who is struggling to hold onto a faith in which he sees no reason to believe is true anymore.