How do you determine if an answer is true? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
In this field, you often get emailed questions. Many times, people want an answer and often, they want an answer and they don’t want the books to read or the talks to listen to to get the answer. They just want the answer. Is this really possible to do?
Here’s a simple answer.
Often times, I have seen this kind of event happen where someone asks me questions and before too long, I realize I’m doing the argument for them. If you want to succeed in apologetics, this is not going to do any service for you. In the end, you will know what the conclusion is but you will not know how you got to that conclusion or why the conclusion is the true conclusion.
People also often want to know how they can be absolutely certain that their answers are true. If I’ve looked up something as an answer to a question, how do I know it’s true? Is there a way to be absolutely certain?
Again, a simple answer.
Now some might be asking how you can believe in Christianity and hold this, but the real question to ask is how can you believe in anything and hold this? The only areas we often have absolute proof in are math and logic. That doesn’t stop us from holding beliefs and holding them incredibly strongly. Some beliefs are much more backable than others. This isn’t even saying something like scientific beliefs are much more capable of having known answers than religious beliefs. In every area, there are degrees of assurance.
The truth is that you will just have to work. This is something many people do not like to hear today and by the way, you have to work on both sides. If you’re a Christian, you should not go around and say “The Word of God says XYZ” and expect audiences to take you seriously. If you’re an atheist, you don’t need to do an atheistic presuppositionalism where you say “Dead people don’t come back to life!” and think that you’ve made a killer argument that no one in Christianity has ever thought of.
If you are a Christian doing a debate, you need to read and study what you are debating. When I talk with Muslims for instance, for the time being, I don’t discuss Islam as Islam. I will discuss what it has to say about Christianity or the claims Muslims make about the New Testament, but I won’t present myself as an authority on the Koran, because I am not. I will not present myself as an authority on science, because I am not. If I speak without study, as soon as I encounter someone who actually is studied, I am prone to embarrass not only myself, but the Gospel.
If you are an atheist, what I call a presuppositional atheism will not help you. You will actually need to study the religion you’re going after, which is usually Christianity. Some people think reading the Bible is enough, but you need to see what learned Christians have said about the Bible. I often ask many atheists I debate when the last time was they read an academic work on religion that disagreed with them. I can’t remember the last time I got an answer. It won’t work to presume you are smarter because you’re an atheist or automatically rational or that all Christians are automatically gullible. It might surprise you, but I kow many Christians who I consider more skeptical than atheists.
One key example of this I see is Jesus mythicism. Atheists who hold to mythicism have no basis going after Christians who question evolution or who hold to a young Earth. (I have no problem with evolution and with an old Earth.) The view of mythicism is in fact held by fewer authorities in the field than the view of Young-Earth Creationism. Too many I think believe in mythicism because it seems like you possess the secret knowledge no one else knows, you’ve seen through the miasma that the scholars have been hiding, and you know a secret truth. It’s really a way of thinking like a conspiracy theorist.
In all honesty, it looks like too many atheists will believe anything because it argues against Christianity. On the other hand, too many Christians will believe anything because it agrees with Christianity. Neither are willing to investigate the claims. (The exception is April 1st, the one day of the year people actually check claims before sharing them on Facebook.)
The bottom line is that in any case, if you want to debate, you will need to study. Many Christians tell me they don’t have the money to buy books or go to Seminary. Fine. There’s a place you can go and get books for free. You can’t keep them, but you can hold on to them long enough to read them. That place is called a library. Use it well. Learn to use Interlibrary loan. I use it constantly to get books.
Listen to podcasts. Of course, I’m biased, but I happen to think my podcast, the Deeper Waters Podcast, is a great source of information. Other shows include Unbelievable? where you can actually hear a debate between a Christian and a non-Christian. If money is an excuse, don’t let it be one.
Then finally, I’m all for time for play and relaxation. I have a wife. I can’t read all the time. We often want to watch a show together or go out on a date. Still, take some private time to read and learn that which you need to learn.
Also, if you’re just starting in this field, try not to be intimidated. Everyone who got where they are started where they were. It will take time. It will take practice. You will get beat a number of times. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Just spend more time preparing yourself.
It will be worth it.
Christ is worth it.