Sunday, April 21, 2013

Keeping the faith

1.  Focus only on the issues that make or break Christianity.

Realize this: People can and do easily get off course, discussing, debating, and getting depressed over issues that are not linchpin issues to Christianity. From the details of creation/evolution to the inerrancy of Scripture, some people’s faith can be quite disturbed—quite unnecessarily disturbed. For example, while I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, if one of the authors happened to get a detail wrong, this does not mean that the entire Christ story is false. In what area of life do we find the same standards? This can be called a “house of cards” theology. In other words, if one card falls, they all fall. Our faith should never be a house of cards. There are so many things that we are all going to be wrong about when we get to heaven. I have often said that theologians need to be well rehearsed in recantations in order to get prepared for heaven!

However, while the Christian faith is not a “house of cards”, there is a definite foundation. This foundation, first and foremost, is the resurrection of Christ. If Christ rose from the grave, Christianity is true. If he did not, it is false (1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 Cor 15:17). Since this is an historic event that took place in a public arena, with dates and people involved described, from a historians standpoint, it longs to be examined. As Daniel Wallace has put it, “The fact of the incarnation demands an incarnational method of inquiry and examination” (i.e. not a merely a “spiritual” examination).

Therefore, from a purely intellectual standpoint, I would set down all other studies, including conversations with those who are representing another religion, books about atheism, or the destiny of the unevangelized. Just to focus on this central issue of Christianity. There is so much good stuff out there on this subject, but I would start here and graduate to here and here. Listen or watch to the debates with William Lane Craig about the historicity of the resurrection. Again, if Christ rose from the grave, Christianity is true, God does love you, and we just have to work out the details. If he did not raise, the journey goes on and we look elsewhere. Rarely have I found someone who is in the crucible of intellectual doubt, yet has a strong conviction about Christ’s resurrection. A conviction about the resurrection goes a long way to stabilize your faith.

i) A basic flaw in Michael’s reductionistic approach is that he’s confusing theology with apologetics. He’s taking a particular school of apologetics, which centers on the Resurrection, as his theological yardstick. But apologetic priorities arent the same thing as theological priorities.

ii) His argument is patently fallacious. From the syllogism that if the Resurrection is false, then Christianity is false, it doesn’t follow that if the Resurrection is true, Christianity is true. Christianity has more than one foundational doctrine. What about the Incarnation? What about the redemptive death of Christ? What about the history of God’s providential dealings with the patriarchs? What about Messianic prophecy? And so on and so forth.

iii) He appeals to evidence for the Resurrection. Well, what about evidence for the Bible? Yes, “there’s so much good stuff out there” on the Resurrection. What is more, there’s so much good stuff out there on the Bible.

iv) Just from a practical standpoint, if a professing Christian suffers a crisis of faith, how does it help him to tell him to go through the Bible, cover to cover, marking each verse as either “essential” or “nonessential”? Doesn’t that impose a huge weight on his wobbly shoulders? It’s so much simpler to just believe the whole Bible.

v) Is it really easier to just believe one miracle rather than several? Don’t the dominical miracles in the Gospels furnish precedent for the climactic miracle of the Resurrection? Don’t OT miracles furnish precedent for NT miracles? If miracles are part of God’s modus operandi, then the Resurrection is part of a pattern. Doesn’t that make the Resurrection more credible than treating the Resurrection as a totally anomalous event, like a freak accident?

vi) How does the isolated truth of the Resurrection mean “God loves you”? How did Michael draw that inference?

vii) If the objective is to stabilize someone’s faith, then instead of comparing and contrasting faith in the whole Bible with faith in the Resurrection, they should compare and contrast Christianity with nihilism. That’s the real alternative.

The typical apostate is incredibly shallow. He thinks he knows what he’s against–he’s against Christianity. Mind you, the average apostate has a very crude understanding of Scripture and Christian theology.

But apostates have rarely thought through the implications of atheism. They just plunge straight into the murky frigid waters of atheism without any serious consideration of the ethical and intellectual cost. 


  1. "But apostates have rarely thought through the implications of atheism. They just plunge straight into murky frigid waters of atheism without any serious consideration of the ethical and intellectual cost."

    That's true.

    Of course, I think the cost of the foolishness of atheism is far, far greater than the world's perceived cost of the foolishness of Christ and the Cross.

  2. I agree that Patton gets it wrong here. The hard issues pertaining to (his example of) 'creation/evolution' should not be fudged.

    You would say that atheism entails nihilism?

    1. Yes, I think atheism entails nihilism. But many atheists aren't that consistent in theory, much less in practice.

  3. I think many of Patton's recommendations are good and useful psychologically for doubting Christians even though the reasons he gives for his methods are problematic (as Steve has shown many times in his various blog posts critiquing Patton).

    The following is a link to a blog where I provide many resources for Christians dealing with doubt. One can ignore my commentary and scroll down to the many useful links I've provided. I especially recommend Gary Habermas' videos and the TWO BOOKS on Doubt that are FREELY AVAILABLE at his website. To get a flavor of what's in his books, you can watch some of the videos of Habermas I've linked to.

    Dealing With Christian Doubts

    1. Some of his other suggestions were better.