I hear about a lot of people who go off to college and Ďlose their faithí, and I think thatís a shame. Because you can be a Christian and be educated. You can be a Christian and be intelligent. I believe that the Christian outlook on life makes better sense than any other outlook, by far. Therefore, Christians have the potential to be the smartest and wisest people in the world.
My goal is not to teach you everything the smartest Christians in the world think. That wouldnít be possible at this stage. What I want to do is simply convince you that there are good answers to the problems that nonChristians raise about Christianity.
Hereís a pretty normal situation: someone like you goes off to college and goes to a lecture with 500 other students. It could be almost any topic: Biology, Philosophy, English, History, Math, Art, Politics, or whatever. The teacher has a PhD from Harvard and seems really smart. You come to admire him. This guy seems like the smartest guy youíve ever heard. And over the course of the semester, he makes negative comments about Christianity, either indirect comments or direct criticism. He presents what seem like the fatal flaws of Christianity, things youíve never heard about in church. And you assume that heís right.
What might those criticisms be?
authority of Scripture Ė something like the Scripture canít be a reliable account of history
the history of the church Ė with such sinful history, how can God be in it?
arguments from experience (well, I donít know any good Christians, therefore there arenít any. Or I knew some really bad Christians once, therefore theyíre all bad)
Hereís what I want you to get: just because a professor gets up and says something doesnít mean sheís the last word on the subject. Itís going to seem like sheís the final authority on the subject. And sheís going to say it like sheís the final authority on the subject. But I assure you that there are intelligent Christians who think differently.
Hereís a very crucial point: worldviews depend on presuppositions. If you presuppose that God doesnít ever act outside the laws of nature, eg miracles, then you will develop your beliefs in a certain direction. And if you believe that God does do miracles, that God is active and at work in the world today, then you will develop your beliefs in an entirely different direction.
A lot of people believe that just because they havenít seen or felt or heard God, that God doesnít exist. You know what that is? Itís arrogance of the highest order. Did we ever stop to think that maybe we havenít been looking in the right place, or on his terms? Paul wrote inRomans 1.19-21 that creation shows plainly that there is a Creator so that no one can have an excuse for saying they donít believe in God. Are we going to believe Paul, or our professors? Are we going to believe Paul or our own eyes? Paul said that things we can see are temporary, but unseen things are eternal (2 Corinthians 4.18). And we have this world of people running around saying the only real things are things you can see and touch and measure and weigh. Those people are missing all of the eternal things.
Youíre going to have professors who believe that itís not possible to be intelligent and educated and still be a Christian. But thatís not true.
Hereís the way to approach these situations: you donít have to know all the answers to your professorsí seemingly unsolvable objections. Simply withhold judgment.
What does it mean to withhold judgment? Itís like if you have a friend that your other friends accuse of lying. You hopefully donít make a judgment about whether your friend told the truth or not until you have all of the facts. Itís the same thing.
First, you need to know that there are smart people who have answers.
Hugh Ross, Michael Behe, James Davison Hunter, Stanley Grenz, Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolsterstorff, Dallas Willard
Second, you need to know where to get those answers (eg, call or email me for references).
Third, get the answers if youíre interested.
If you take this simple attitude thereís no excuse for you to go off to college and get blindsided.
Hereís the bottom line: a lot of us are spiritually lazy. If we pray for a Land Cruiser and donít get it, we conclude that God doesnít answer prayer. Or, more seriously, if we pray for someone who is terminally ill and she doesnít get better, we conclude that God doesnít answer prayer, or that God doesnít care about us, or the God doesnít exist. Those are lazy conclusions. Any scientist who operated like that would be out of a job quickly. Whatís the scientific method? You test your hypothesis, and then revise your hypothesis based on the test. You seek out new data.
Thomas Edison reportedly failed to figure out how to make a light bulb more than a hundred times. Someone asked him if he was going to quit. He said ĎNo, now I know 100 ways not to make a lightbulb.í.
Thatís how we should be with our faith. We should test our beliefs by living them out, and if they donít work, we should reformulate them, seeking out more data.
Was Jesus God?
Is Jesus the only way to know God?
Jesus said ĎI am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14.6)í.
Now letís be specific. Can your friends know God without knowing Jesus?
Youíre probably tempted to say yes. But the clear answer is no. Because Jesus said so. And you canít have it both ways.
People today believe that there is no objective right and wrong. People today believe there is no such thing as the Ďtruthí. They say things like ĎWell, God might be true for you, but God is not true for me.í. This attitude is called relativism Ė that everything is relative. Itís sometimes called subjectivism or postmodernism. I bet most of you in this room unconsciously believe that there is no objective, single truth that is true for all people.
Relativism is wrong. Subjectivism is wrong. Postmodernism is wrong.
There is Truth. If youíre a Christian, you have to end up in that place. Jesus said ĎI am the truth.í. Another way of translating that passage in Greek is ĎI am truth.í, as in ĎThere is no truth apart from Me.í.
Now part of the problem is that some Christians have claimed to know too much. Some Christians have made Christianity too narrow and too strict. Some Christians have said ĎReal Christians donít drink, or dance, or smoke, or watch movies or play cards or ever have fun.í. Some Christians say you canít be a Democrat and be a Christian. Some Christians say you canít be a Republican and be a Christian.
Thatís baloney. Let me assure you, there are intelligent, faithful, Christians who drink sometimes, dance sometimes, watch movies sometimes, play cards sometimes, smoke sometimes, and have fun.
There are intelligent, faithful Christians who are Democrats and who are Republicans. And itís not because theyíve separated their faith from their actions. Itís because they believe their faith is so important that it needs to be active. Iíll tell you what, for a lot of people, voting Republican or Democrat comes down to who you trust less: big business or big government. And thatís not a decision thatís dictated by the Bible or by Christianity.
Now part of the problem is that some Christians have claimed to know too much and a lot of people have reacted against it. Itís a fine line to walk, sometimes, what to say we know and what to say weíre not sure about.
So what do we want to immunize you against? We want to immunize you against the idea that educated and intelligent people canít believe in God. And we want to immunize you against the idea that there is no single truth that applies to everyone.