I have been challenged about my beliefs more than ever in the past few months. I have had non-believers question things about my faith, and particularly Christians and the church (judgemental, hypocrisy, contradictions in the Bible, etc.). I have had believers, friends, and students bring up questions about various issues and Scriptures (content & context), and have definitely been challenged on a whole new level. Unfortunately, there have been several times I haven't known answers and had to look them up or ask someone else. I know that is okay, but it could have been so much more powerful if I had known the answer at the time. There isn't always an opportunity to go back and correct or address what I did not know. It makes me sad to think about how long I have been a Christian and how little I actually know about the Bible. And the Word calls us to be prepared. 1 Peter 3:15-17 says "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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil." We need to defend the Gospel in order to be obedient, and we can only do that if we are prepared. Our own testimony is definitely a powerful tool that no one can take from you, but it goes much deeper than that.
I think a part of the reason I've never had really studied the way I should is because I do not struggle with having faith or believing in or trusting God. The Lord is to real and prevalent to me, as is my relationship with Him. I have experienced Him in my own life in a very real way and am content with believing because I know it to be real in my own heart. I know that not everyone is that way, for various reasons, and it is certainly okay to have questions and want explanations about God and faith and the Bible. I should still be prepared with answers for others who do have those questions.
I feel as if this is more important than ever because people have so many different views, so many questions about Christianity, and they want answers. That is totally acceptable; however, as believers we need to be able to provide those answers. They are all in Scripture. Unfortunately most of the time we are not taught how to answer the tough questions with Biblical-based answers. I found a statistic in a book I'm reading called Already Gone that says that only 20% of teens who went to church are still active by age 29, 61% of teens who went to church disengaged by their 20's, and 19% who were never churched as a teen are still unconnected. One big reason for this is that no one ever answered the hard questions for them....like why do bad things happen to good people? why can'y all religions go to Heaven? etc.
I had never even heard of apologetics until about 6 months ago when talking to our assistant principal. Apologetics is being prepared to discuss, defend, and explain your faith. Logically explaining the gospel message provides evidence why they should put their faith in Jesus. Apologetics also serves as a defense against false teachings in the church and against our own gullibility to clever deceit from our enemy, Satan. Apologia in Greek actually means “a speech of defense, clearing one’s self, or a self-defense”- not "to apologize for" as the name indicates based on what we know about the word apology. A pure heart, a gentle spirit, and respecting others are necessary attitudes each time we defend our faith. Our lifestyle should also match our defense of the gospel.
So, I have recently started studying some on my own. I typically use websites like carm.org, along with some books we purchased at a Reasons for Hope conference at our church. I would really LOVE to go back to school once I finish my Specialist's to study apologetics....or at least take some classes so I can just LEARN more about the Bible. I don't know if Big Jon would be down with that, seeing as how I've paid about $24,000 out of pocket in the past two years for my Master's and Specialist's....ha! I think my education budget has reached its max capacity for a little while. But I'm going to work on him... :) I do read the Word, and it is always amazing to me how the Lord reveals something new to me every time I read it, even if it's a familiar Scipture I have read several times. That just goes to show it really is the living, breathing, infalliable Word of God that is sharper than any double-edged sword.
2 Timothy 3:14 – 17 (NLT) "But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work."
Anyway, I wrote this post today because it has really been on my heart the last few months and it is also the topic of our Sunday school lessons for the next month (which I'm pumped about!). I just wanted to encourage you to start studying and really dig in the Word of God. Why do you believe what you believe? How can you know that is truth, despite what science claims. (By the way, science has way too many "theories" and "suggests" and "possibilities" for me to believe it. After studying evolution, it is just absolutely LUDICROUS to me! I am going to stick with what I know as truth.)
Can you defend your faith to others, like we're called to do?? My heart longs to be able to do that...