As the advocates of the New Atheism rant in books that sweep the American popular culture, what are Christians doing to counter act this movement? In the first epistle of Peter, the Apostle Peter encourages Christians scattered in Asia Minor to endure suffering and persecution. In chapter three, he, then instructs Christians to “ sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always [being] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame (1 Peter 3:15-16, NASB). Christians are commanded here, by God, to set Christ apart as Lord over their hearts, and to be prepared always to rationally defend the Christian faith in gentleness, humility and respect. Our defense, behavior, and lifestyle should consistently honor Christ as Lord to put the nonbelievers’ false accusations to shame.
These verses tell us our starting point in defending the faith must honor Christ as Lord. We cannot talk with nonbelievers in a way that dishonors Jesus. So our approach must transparently honor Christ as Lord and Savior. We cannot be closet Christians in our arguments and lifestyles. We either defend the Christian faith or betray it. We either defend the Triune God of the Bible or we defend idols of the heart. As our Lord Jesus plainly said, “He who is not with Me is against Me…”(Matthew 12:30). Many Christians today are attempting to be faithful to Jesus by defending the Christian faith. But the problem is they are defending the faith at the cost of denying Christ as Lord. They are telling nonbelievers to judge God and the Bible by limited human reason. They have implicitly consented in arguments, God is on trial and, the nonbelievers are the judges and jury. Christians argue as though nonbelievers have the right to count up the evidences in favor of Christianity and then judge if it’s true. However the biblical teaching contradicts this. God alone intrinsically is the judge and jury, while the nonbelievers are on trial, regardless of their desperate attempts to hijack God’s judgment seat. The Bible tells us God is not to be tested (Luke 4:12). God is the source and standard of truth (John 17:17, Det 32:4, John 16:13). Yet such passages are read with no affect. Christians continue to argue for a generic theism or a probable God; but they do not argue for the certain Christian God.
With the above criticisms made, we must move to construct then, a biblical approach to defend the Christian faith against the New Atheism. There are at least two fundamental principles that should set boundaries to the arguments we give to nonbelievers. The first is the no-neutrality principle that states Christians should not be neutral in word, thought, and deed, (including any argument) in commitment to the truthfulness of Christianity. Implicitly, this means Christians will not pretend Christianity is false with nonbelievers and then seek to prove Christianity from pretended disbelief to belief. The second principle, the no-autonomy principle, flows from the commitment to the truth of Christianity. It articulates, and reserves, the right to judge truth claims solely to God. Only God and His Word are our ultimate authority and standard for every facet of life. This runs counter to the idea man is autonomous, and, in turn, is the standard of all things. We are to transparently presuppose, proclaim, and argue from the necessity and authority of God’s revelation in Scripture and nature.
Ideally, then, every argument we make to defend the Christian faith in some way should conform to these principles. If we stick to these biblical principles then we will effectively practice apologetics to the glory of God.
Tips for Apologetics
1. Study: Study and memorize the Bible, Systematic Theology, Evangelism and Apologetics to know what you believe, so you can Biblically preach and defend it. Apologetics presupposes Theology, and Evangelism. One cannot properly engage in Biblical Apologetics without engaging in Biblical Theology with the goal of Evangelism.
2. Prayer: In apologetics one’s defense is only as good as one’s offense. So both study and prayer must be properly indulged in first before engaging in apologetics with the unregenerate. Remember all men have a sufficient knowledge of God but suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Only God can open the nonbeliever’s eyes so we ought to pray God would do so in our apologetic encounters. Apologetics can only show the foolishness of rejecting the gospel. But God can make the gospel and our defense effective.
3. Respect: Respect the unregenerate as made in the image of God. Don’t assume you know what the nonbeliever believes even if he associates himself with a particular religion. Let the unbeliever articulate his views and arguments. When refuting the unbeliever always refute and articulate the nonbeliever’s position accurately. Further, always refute the strongest argument the unbeliever can make in favor of his position.
4. Wisdom: When dealing with the unbeliever’s arguments against or from the Bible always read the scriptures in context and look up the original Hebrew or Greek meaning. Since often times the unbeliever takes scriptures out of context or twists the original meaning of any given passage. Moreover, we should anticipate the unbeliever’s objections and arguments.
5. Fellowship: Talk among believers about theology, evangelism, and apologetics. Fellow Christians can learn and encourage one another. Christians possess resources, skills, and experiences that can be shared to proclaim and defend the faith.
Apologetics Multimedia Recommendations
Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, Way of the Master.
Sye Ten Bruggencate, How to Answer the Fool.
Jason Lisle, Nuclear Strength Apologetics.
Apologetics Book Recommendations
Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation: resolving the origins debate (Master, 2009)
John M. Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God (P&R, 1994).
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Dutton,
Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready (Covenant Media Foundation, 1996)
Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman, Jr., Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative
Approach to Defending Christianity (Paternoster, 2nd edition, 2006).