But that doesn’t make any sense…how can you believe that a man died and rose again after 3 days, and your ‘eyewitness’ accounts are written more than 70 years after the fact. -Sam Atheist
Pastors are (or should be) encouraging their flock to go out into the secular world and share their faith. But often we are ill prepared to do this. Many times we will encounter people who are outright antagonistic and think Christianity is outright stupidity. Indeed many can present seemingly challenging criticism like that mentioned above, and the conversation especially in an online forum goes downhill from there. Our evidence comes from the Bible, yet our hearers don’t except that as an authoritative source. Many faithful, rather than effectively evangelizing, find their faith genuinely challenged by others questions…
William Lane Craig talks about the difference between “knowing” the gospel to be true and “showing” the gospel to be true. We can know the gospel to be true based on the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit in our lives. During his time at Wheaton, Craig was exposed to an ideology that faith must always give way to reason. Therefore, if faith was countered by reason one must give up their faith.
Craig argues in the book , Five Views on Apologetics, that this is absurd! No we aren’t supposed to give up our personal faith, even when seemingly defeated by reason. “Some persons simply lack the ability, time, or resources to come up with successful defeaters of the antitheistic defeaters that they encounter” (Craig 34). The Holy Spirit is a ‘self-authenticating’ witness that, while not directly countering defeating arguments, overwhelms them.
We “know” our faith based on the Holy Spirit, but when we seek to “show” our faith we need to provide evidence. Reason is the only way to break a deadlock between those who claim to have a conflicting experience with the Spirit, or who do not accept the Spirit as a valid witness at all. The role of the Spirit in showing others is prevenient grace, working on their hearts and minds to promote honest consideration of our arguments.
I think Pastor’s would be well advised to prepare their congregations to face the questions of the “Sam Atheists” of the world. We need to have both faith and reason; the faith to withstand questions, even those we may not have the answers to and the reasoning and apologetics to “show” our faith effectively to others.