For the last six years of my life, I’ve been exposed to the church, Christians, and Christian writings of various kinds. I’ve been immersed in Christian theology and philosophy of religion as well as some Christian history, devotionals, and spiritual formation. I think it is safe to say that I “know Christianity”, at least my strand of it, due to my exposure to the churches I’ve gone to, the Christians I’ve met, and the Christian writings I’ve read. Of course, I do not know everything, but I’d like to think I know true things about it.
I come across objections to Christianity quite often through simple web searches, Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere. It might be a claim that the arguments for God’s existence don’t work, or a rant about the evils that the church has committed and still commits in history. Maybe it’s a standard argument against Divine Command Ethics or an example of an apparent contradiction in the Bible. It can be anywhere from arguments that the Christian worldview fails intellectually in some way to claims that the church and Christian teachings are bad in some way. The internet is full of them.
Many of these objections are ones that I do not have an adequate ability to respond to. Much of the reading, listening, and learning that I’ve done on Christian theology, philosophy, and worldview issues have addressed the objections I see, but I cannot always articulate why the arguments do not work in a way that could convince others.
Despite the fact that I do not always know how to adequately respond to objections, through my immersion to Christian teachings, I still know that something is amiss with many of the objections I hear. I know when these objections I hear to Christianity are shallow, straw-men, or based on ignorance more than anything else. This is why so many objections do not bother me and can even cause my eyes to roll, despite not necessarily knowing how to answer them properly. (1) This emphasizes the difference between knowing and showing. One can know something without necessarily having the ability to show that it’s true.
I think a big reason why Christians need to be exposed to apologetics, philosophy of religion, critical thinking, church history, science, and Christian thought in general is that it inoculates them so that they are not swayed easily by the arguments they hear. It gives them a more stable faith. Many people say that apologetics is something you should do. Don’t just read apologetics, use it to serve the church. This is true, but a Christian should also read apologetics for her own benefit. More knowledge can inoculate Christians from various things that try to destroy faith.
It is great that there are Christians out there who know a lot about philosophy, history, science, or theology and are skilled at using it to defend the faith, but it is also great if exposure to these things makes Christians more immune to intellectual attacks on Christianity, despite the fact that they might not become apologetic evangelists. Using apologetics to keep people in the faith is just as important as using apologetics to bring people into the faith.
(1) Of course, none of this is to say that there are no strong objections to Christianity. There are. But even then, more knowledge and critical thinking skills help even with the strong objections.