Our world is in the midst of unique times. No one alive, not even the brightest or most seasoned among us, has experience with a global pandemic on this scale. Yet I would encourage us to view these near unprecedented times as having opportunities for unique conversations. Many people may be more open to discussing faith, the afterlife, and spirituality as a whole. However, I have also felt a greater animosity and mockery towards people of faith from secular people in this time in conversation and on social media. Therefore, we should be open to speaking about our faith, inviting questions, and also asking challenging questions as well.
In Ajay’s sermon on April 5th, he took a moment to speak directly to any unbelievers who might have been watching. Many of them likely had questions about Christianity, some that may even scoff at the idea of an all-powerful, all-good, creator God who became man and dwelt among us. Rightfully, he welcomed those challenges and encouraged skeptics to seek out truth but then he did something important that many Christians don’t attempt frequently enough: he challenged the skeptics to question their own beliefs. This is actually a way of defending our faith that is sometimes called “presuppositional apologetics.”
Presuppositional apologetics is based on the fusion of two fundamental ideas. First, because all truth ultimately comes from God, any belief system that denies God will end up inconsistent and illogical. Next, as Romans 1 states, all humans inherently know that God exists but we suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Therefore, those who deny the God of the Bible will ultimately have an irrational and inconsistent worldview. So how might we apply these truths in practice?[I want to make a side note here, there are too many examples of people using apologetics as a tool to make unbelievers feel stupid or to win an argument. This is a time for winsome discussions that cause people to consider their own beliefs and consider our faith.]
In the face of all of the suffering and death someone may ask (either truthfully or mockingly) whether or not God cares or if He is even good. That is a question well worthy of a long answer, but a simple answer (because this isn’t the focus of this post) is that the cross shows that God very much cares about our suffering. If the questioner is secular, it is worthwhile to question them about how they define what is good. The natural conclusion of a worldview based entirely on evolution and naturalism is that life is a cosmic accident and therefore meaningless. So, while everyone can have moral feelings, no one’s moral feelings are more valid than anyone else’s. This is because secularism teaches that everything develops out of natural, measurable processes. In that case, morality is something that developed by evolutionary processes and can be reduced to brain chemistry. If we accept this, there is no way of judging morality as correct or good, there is no universal standard for morality, and people have no reason to actually follow morals. In addition, secularism denies any transcendence and cannot give life any lasting meaning, thus, it doesn’t really matter if people live or die.
Thankfully, very few people actually live consistently with those ideals. Unbelieving people live their lives like they matter, that how people treat each other matters, and they rightfully mourn when those they love suffer and die. With good questions, you can gently challenge an unbeliever to ask themselves why they decide to live moral lives when the beliefs they claim to hold give them no reason to. The proposed answer is that deep down, they have morals because they are made in God’s image, and they feel their lives and the lives of others matter because they do.
Tim Keller has a quote that sums up the challenge of presuppositional apologetics for unbelievers well: “If your premise that there is no God leads most naturally to conclusions you know are not true—that moral obligation, beauty and meaning, the significance of love, our consciousness of being a self are illusions—then why not change the premise?”
Your unbelieving friends and family have deep senses of morality, beauty and love. It is there because they are made in God’s image. As these kinds of conversations come up, I pray that we would have boldness and grace to not just accept the challenges of unbelievers but also to challenge them as well.