Christian Living

How to Answer the Harshest Critic You’ll Ever Face—Mentoring Letter October 2014

Author Greg Koukl Published on 10/01/2014

You can answer the harshest critic you’ll ever face.

October 1, 2014

Let me tell you why every church needs to care about apologetics—about defending the faith—other than that Scripture commands it, Jesus and the apostles practiced it, and it works. (I’ll set those points aside for now.)

Ask yourself a question: If you had Jesus standing beside you at this moment—not spiritually present, but really, physically there—would it have an impact on how you live? Do you think your conduct would be different? Would it affect your sense of peace and confidence in God’s control over your life? Would it rid you of timidity and fill you with boldness?

Of course, it would.

One reason we falter in those areas now is what one person called “pockets of agnosticism,” the private places of uncertainty every Christian who is honest must admit to having. I have them, so do you, because if we were completely psychologically certain of our convictions—like we’d be with Jesus physically standing at our side—our lives would be very different because our pockets of agnosticism would shrink to zero.

Clearly, our confidence that what we believe to be true is actually true—not just “true for me,” but true in the deep sense (“true truth,” as Francis Schaeffer used to say), true to what actually is—has a powerful impact on how we live our lives as Christian ambassadors. Spiritual confidence translates into spiritual action. What could be more obvious?

Sadly, it’s not obvious in many churches. Some pastors think apologetics is window dressing, fine for those who like that sort of thing, but an extravagance, a non-essential. Agreed, not everyone will make a vocation of defending the faith. But sooner or later each Christian will be forced to face the harshest critic of all: his or her own inner doubts.

That’s right, the toughest opponent you’ll ever have to confront is you. Someone once said, “The heart cannot believe what the mind rejects.” This is also obvious. If you’re not confident the message of Scripture is true, you can’t put your trust in it even if you tried. Trust cannot be manufactured. Faith cannot be squeezed out by acts of sheer will.

However, if you get your hands on substantiating evidence—if you find out the facts and are equipped with compelling reasons—your confidence grows automatically, deepening and invigorating your faith.

The Apostle John understood this. Which is the very reason he wrote the final eyewitness account of Jesus’s life—and the best selling biography of all time—the Gospel of John. Listen to this:

Therefore, many other signs [literally, attesting miracles] Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book, but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30–31).

Did you get that? According to John himself, the central purpose of his Gospel was to give hardcore evidence for faith. And that’s not a contradiction in terms. Luke made the same point in Acts 1:3: “To these [apostles] Jesus presented Himself alive after His suffering by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days...” And Paul: “According to Paul’s custom... for three Sabbaths [he] reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead... and some of them were persuaded...” (Acts 17:2–3).

Take note. Spiritual growth involves increasing our understanding of the truth, to be sure. That’s what happens every week at church or Bible study. But we also need confidence that the things we learn are actually true. We’re taught in church what to believe; we’re not usually taught why we should believe it. We’re not given the “many convincing proofs” that what we’re learning is reliable, so our pockets of agnosticism swell and our doubts increase.

Want your doubts to fade and your faith to increase instead? Want to silence the critic in your own head? Then study, learn—even a little—about the powerful evidences supporting Christianity and you won’t be wishing on a star about eternal things. Increase your knowledge of the evidence and watch your agnosticism wither.

When those pockets shrink, it changes your prayers (they’re more aggressive), it changes your sense of trust (you’ll rest more, knowing God will accomplish what concerns you), and you’ll work harder (confident your efforts are not in vain). In short, apologetics can make all the difference in the world.

Stand to Reason is not about wishing, but about confidence. With your help, every talk we give, every broadcast we make, every article we write is meant to turn shaky belief into confident knowledge, confidence that Christianity can stand on its feet.

Your gift to STR this month will mean thousands of others will receive the gift of confidence from you. And when you send a gift, request The Ambassador’s Guide to the Voice of God, a tool to help you think biblically about the claims many Christians make about “hearing from God,” and the silence, perhaps, you experience when you listen for Him. It’s our thanks to you for your faithful partnership with us.

Yours because His,

Gregory Koukl