5 Things to Remember When Facing Intellectual Challenges to Your Faith

It’s the kind of thing that happens to all of us. You’re looking at your favorite news site and you come across an article that says the Bible is full of errors and contradictions. You have a friend who says a good God wouldn’t allow so much evil and suffering. You take a religion class in college that portrays Jesus as a good teacher, but certainly not the Son of God. You see someone on TV suggesting that different religions all lead to the same God.

These are the kinds of situations that can cause us to question the truth of Christianity, particularly when we haven’t wrestled with them before. That’s why it’s important for us to keep a few things in mind whenever we find ourselves facing intellectual challenges to our faith.

Michael Kruger, who is president and professor of New Testament and early Christianity at Reformed Seminary in Charlotte, NC, speaks in this video posted at The Gospel Coalition from his own experience as a young undergraduate at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Kruger is talking specifically about the challenges of a college setting, but the principles he mentions, which I’ll summarize below, are relevant to all of us.

1. Manage your expectations.

Kruger points out that we often seem to think that, if most people affirm something, it must be true, and likewise if most people reject something, it must be false. But this notion doesn’t fit with the Bible’s insistence that human beings don’t believe the truth about Jesus and the gospel unless his grace intervenes. One implication of this: we shouldn’t expect everyone or even most people to share our basic Christian convictions. We’re more likely to find the opposite, but that certainly doesn’t entail that Christianity is false.

(I’ll add this general point: the idea that widespread acceptance of an idea equates with its truth, or vice versa, is not only problematic in terms of logic, but we could find countless exceptions in history that demonstrate the opposite.)

2. Those questioning the claims of Christianity aren’t neutral.

Kruger notes that the academics who often level serious challenges against Christianity aren’t neutral observers merely raising unbiased questions (and the same is true of reporters, other media personalities, etc). They, too, have particular backgrounds, worldviews, and ideologies. They’ve often been educated and trained in contexts in which historic, orthodox Christianity is presupposed to be false. And while that doesn’t mean they’re always wrong, it does argue they aren’t simply reasonable, objective analysts who are trying to correct those who are unfortunately blinded by their beliefs.

3. There are answers to your questions.

“Don’t confuse your lack of having the answer with there not being an answer,” says Kruger. Odds are overwhelming that the questions and challenges you’re facing aren’t new (even if they’re often presented as such). In addition to the large body of contemporary Christian academics and theologians that routinely address challenges to the faith, the church has, in many cases, been responding to them virtually since its inception. That means there is a wealth of resources one can access to defend and commend Christianity.

4. Look at opposition as an opportunity, and not just a curse.

Sometimes wrestling with intellectual questions can be disconcerting. But it can also be the means by which we deepen and clarify our faith. The history of the church has proven this time and time again.

5. Don’t face the challenges alone.

Challenges and questions aren’t a reason to go into isolation. That means being involved in a local church and other associations where you hear from God’s word and you can receive support and encouragement from other Christians. The biblical model for dealing with challenges to our faith, whether intellectual and otherwise, involves engaging with and leaning on fellow believers rather that simply relying on our own resources.

One Comment

  1. Jack Bragg said:

    On Sunday June 26th and Monday June 27th in the Columbia Tribune there were two editorials describing religion as the real problem and stating that believers should keep their beliefs out of the public square. I responded to both editorials with an opinion piece in the July 5th issue of the Tribune. It relates to Nathan’s excellent column here.

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