(English version of a presentation made to Japanese pastors in Nara, Japan on Sept. 7, 2009. I am indebted to Greg Koukl and his website: www.str.org, an excellent source for apologetics, for some of this material.)
Today, I’d like to take a look at what’s called “Apologetics” and think a bit about how it applies in a Japanese cultural setting. First of all, what is “apologetics”? The English word itself comes from the Greek word “apologia”, which means to make a defense of oneself or ideas. The English word “apology” also comes from this, but the meaning becomes rather different, to be sure. Making an apology, in the sense of saying you are sorry for something, is not at all what is meant by “apologetics”. To give an “apologetic” for some concept means to give the reasons and rationale for accepting that concept to be true.
Why is it we Christians believe what we believe? The answer to this question is what “apologetics” is all about. So let’s look at how the Bible uses this word “apologia” in the Greek, and see what that has to say about this concept in general. The Greek New Testament uses this word 8 times as a noun and 10 times as a verb (apologeomai). Almost all of these usages are in the writings of Luke and Paul. Luke uses the word twice in his gospel in reference to Jesus telling his disciples not to worry about what they would say when being accused before the authorities, and then in his writing of Acts, he uses it numerous times in describing Paul defending himself before various authorities when he gave his testimony. Paul uses the word several times in his letters to refer to this same thing, and so of the 18 times the word is used, 15 of the uses refer to this kind of personal defense — a telling of the reasons for one’s actions.
The other three times this word is used, however — twice by Paul in his letter to the Philippians and once by Peter in his first letter — refer to giving a defense of the gospel itself. It is a presentation of rational reasons to believe the gospel message. This broader usage, then, is the basis for the development of this field of “apologetics,” and this is what I want to focus on today.
First of all, let’s look at these three verses that use “apologia” in this sense. Philippians 1:7b states, “For whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Here Paul uses the words “defending and confirming” together to describe his preaching. A few verses further down, in verses 16-17, Paul uses the word again in the same way. Acts 17:2-4 describes how Paul went about doing this “defending and confirming (of) the gospel”: "As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’ he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God‑fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women." So we can see that Paul focused on the evidence to persuade his listeners that his message about Christ is true.
The other passage I want to uplift is the one in 1 Peter 3:13-16. “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
“Always be prepared to give an answer (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” This is probably the clearest call we have in the Scriptures for us to be “apologists” for the Christian faith. People have lots of questions about the meaning of life in general and their own lives in particular. They want to find out why things are as they are. They want to know what the reasons we, or anyone else with a confident point of view, believe what we do.
It’s interesting to note that Peter implies that the Christians he is talking to have a different quality about them that sets them off from other people in the society. These Christians have “hope,” which implies that others either don’t have hope at all or at least not of the same kind. This, of course, is exactly what the gospel message offers. It gives us a hope that is based in what God has done for us. It doesn’t depend on us, but on God, and therefore we can have confidence. This is what gives us real hope. And so when people see this kind of hope displayed in our lives, they sometimes ask what it is that allows us to do that. Thus, Peter is telling us to “always be prepared to give an answer” to the questions people ask.
It takes some preparation, of course, to be prepared. We need to develop the tools necessary to answer the questions people have about what we believe. The first prerequisite, of course, is to have an adequate understanding of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. On top of that, however, we also need to know what the evidences are that support these beliefs. Likewise, we need to develop skills in how to best go about communicating those answers.
This leads us to an important point about the concept of “faith.” What does it really mean to “have faith?” I think there are a lot of misunderstandings even within the Christian community about what “having faith” really means. Religious faith is often portrayed as being in contrast to the “facts” — particularly the facts of science. "Faith" in this twisted sense is what you use when all reason is against you. In effect, it's religious wishful thinking, in which one squeezes out spiritual hope by intense acts of sheer will. I’m reminded of a certain sumo wrestler, Takamisakari, who psyches himself up before the match by exaggerated motions — like he is saying, “Just believe! Just believe!” People of "faith" believe the impossible. People of "faith" believe that which is contrary to fact. People of "faith" believe that which is contrary to evidence. People of "faith" ignore reality.
I think part of the confusion is because Christians are often told not to focus on circumstances — meaning that we're not to get overwhelmed or discouraged by them, because God is bigger than our troubles. "Have faith in God," we're told. I think that's good counsel as far as it goes, but sometimes it breeds misunderstanding, implying that faith is a blind leap in the dark that has no relationship to fact.
Some suggest we shouldn’t bother trying to find facts to support our faith, because faith is not the kind of thing that has anything to do with facts. If we really had evidence to prove what we believe, then it wouldn’t be real faith anymore. Somehow these people think that genuine faith is compromised by knowledge and evidence. We've made a virtue out of believing against the evidence, as if that's what God has in mind for us. But is this what the Bible means by “faith?” No, it isn’t.
Let’s take a look at where that type of “blind faith” would lead us. J.P. Moreland has suggested that if this is really the Christian view of faith, the best thing that could happen to Christianity is for the bones of Jesus to be discovered. Finding his bones would prove he didn't rise from the dead. When Christians continue to believe that he did, then, they would be demonstrating the most laudable faith, believing something that all the evidence proved was false.
Needless to say, this is ridiculous. We are encouraged to have faith in part because we have evidence that Jesus really did rise from the dead. If we're encouraged to believe because of the resurrection, then that proves this other view of faith is false. It may be a view that some Christians hold, but it is not the view of the Bible. It is not the view of Christianity.
Frankly, if religion is merely an exercise in wishful thinking, then I certainly wouldn't want to wish up Christianity. It's far too inconvenient. Indeed, it seems that's part of the reason people hold many of the ludicrous religious views they do. They're appealing. They wish God really were impersonal, because an impersonal God can't make the kind of demands on them that a holy God can. An impersonal divine force doesn't get in the way of doing what they want. New Age religions, along with the “religion” of atheistic humanism, are high on individual liberty and low on individual responsibility, and that is appealing to many people.
No, biblical faith isn't believing against the evidence. Instead, faith is a kind of knowing that results in action. If we want to exercise biblical faith, then we ought first to find out how the Bible defines faith. The clearest definition comes from Hebrews 11:1. This verse says, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Note that there are three important words that describe biblical faith in this verse: assurance, hope and conviction (or confidence). So, what gives us this confidence?
Let’s look at a modern-day example. If you buy a lottery ticket, do you hope you'll win the lottery? Yes, of course you do. But do you have any assurance you'll actually win the lottery? Absolutely not, unless you have some way of manipulating the drawing to make your number will be the one that is drawn. You have no way of knowing that your ticket is any better than the millions of other lottery tickets out there competing for the same prize.
But what if you had some way of manipulating the machine to cause the numbers on your lottery ticket to be the ones chosen. In that case, would you merely hope you'd win? No, you'd have assurance, wouldn't you? You'd have assurance of those things you previously only hoped for. It would be hope with conviction, not a mere hope, but a hope buttressed by facts and evidence.
Now, in using this analogy, I don’t mean to imply that the Christian faith is like a lottery that is being manipulated — at least not by mere humans, anyway. The point I’m making here is that true Christian faith is a faith based on assurance and not mere wishful thinking. That's why the Christian faith cares about the evidence. For the biblical Christian, the facts matter. You can't have assurance for something you have no idea if you're really going to receive. You can only hope for it.
This is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. It gives assurance to the hope. Because of a Christian view of faith, Paul is able to say in 1 Corinthians 15 that when it comes to the resurrection, if we have only hope, but no assurance — in other words, if Jesus didn't actually rise from the dead in real history — then we are of most people to be pitied. That's what he says: “We are of all people most to be pitied.”
This confidence Paul is talking about is not a confidence in a mere "faith" resurrection, a mythical resurrection, a story-telling resurrection. Instead, it's a belief in a real resurrection. If the real resurrection didn't happen, then we really are in trouble. Our faith would be a false faith with no real hope to it. Biblical faith is not like a mere hope that you’ll win the lottery. It’s not a blind faith without evidence. On the contrary, if the evidence doesn't correspond to the hope, then the faith is in vain, as even Paul has said.
Thus, true biblical faith depends critically on the whether the historical events that define it really happened. Compare that, for instance, with the Buddhist faith. When it comes to finding the “bones of Buddha,” for instance, that would not be a problem at all, since Buddhists don’t claim that Buddha rose from the dead. In fact, there are many temples that claim to have such an actual bone from the body of Buddha! But what if we discovered proof that Buddha never had this experience of being enlightened while contemplating under a tree? Or what if we could prove such a person never really existed at all? How would that affect a Buddhist’s faith? Apparently not very much. Because a Buddhist’s faith is in a concept and not an historical person. It is not dependent on the actual historicity of the events attributed to the Buddha, but to the concepts surrounding it. But not so for the Christian faith. It is dependent on real history.
At any rate, biblical faith is having a knowledge based on real evidence that results in confidence. But biblical faith is more than that. There's another element. Faith is not just knowing something. Faith is also acting. Biblical faith is a confidence so strong that it results in action. You're willing to act based on that belief, that faith. Thus, faith is not just intellectual assent. It's not just acknowledging that certain facts about Jesus, the Bible, the resurrection, or whatever, happen to be true. After all, even Satan himself acknowledges those same historical facts. But he doesn’t place his trust in the person behind those facts. So, biblical faith is not simply acknowledging certain facts about Jesus. It's betting your life and eternal destiny based on your confidence in those facts.
Let’s take a look at a story that illustrates this concept of biblical faith. I’m not sure if it is based on a real historical event, or whether it is just a modern “parable,” but it sounds very plausible, and so I think it likely to have been based in an actual occurrence. I would imagine that you all have seen westerns that had scenes similar to this and so can picture in your minds what I’m about to describe. There was an old prospector who went by the nickname of “Desert Pete,” and he travelled around in the desert with his pack mule, loaded with supplies, looking for gold. The story became famous because of a letter that he wrote.
Anyway, it seems that back in the 1930's, there was a man walking along a seldom-used trail in the Arizona desert that got lost and ran out of water. There was no water to be found anywhere around there, and he was getting desperate. He was loosing hope of getting out alive, but he happened to come upon an old well that had been dug many years earlier. The well had an old hand pump on it, and it was his only hope of replenishing his empty water containers. But the pump was dried out, and without water to prime it, there was no way to get it started. Pumping the handle brought no water to the surface. But then he noticed a can that had been wired to the pump, and it contained a handwritten note from “Desert Pete” inside of it. It was the contents of this letter that makes this story so wonderful.
"This pump is all right as of June 1932. I put a new sucker washer into it, and it ought to last for at least 5 years. But the washer dries out and the pump has got to be primed. Under the white rock, I buried a bottle of water, out of the sun and cork end up. There's enough water in it to prime the pump, but not if you drink some first. Pour about one fourth in to the pump and let it soak to wet the leather. Then pour in the rest medium fast and pump like crazy. You'll get water. The well has never run dry. Have faith! When you get watered up, fill the bottle and put it back like you found it for the next fellow. (signed) Desert Pete. P.S. Don't go drinking up the water first! Prime the pump with it and you'll get all you can hold!"
That's really a wonderful letter, isn't it! It puts forth the basic principles of faith about as clearly as anything I've ever heard. We often think of faith in terms of it being a mysterious and nebulous thing, but it really isn't. When we talk about Christian faith, it is really just like any other kind of faith, except that it is God that gives us the ability to have that true faith and, of course, the contents and object of the faith are different from other faiths. But in its outward workings, it works essentially like any other kind of faith.
In fact, most any aspect we can think of in life contains at least an element of faith. We have to place our faith and trust in something or someone for practically everything we do. If we didn't place our trust in such things when there is no apparent reason not to, we would be so paralyzed that we couldn't do anything. For instance, if I didn't have a basic faith in a restaurant's cleanliness and a belief that I wasn't being purposely poisoned, I could never eat out. Without this sort of faith, we would all be so paranoid as to be paralyzed. This is, of course, exactly what happens in certain forms of mental illness, when such basic levels of trust in one's surroundings have been severely damaged. Thus, we need to have this kind of faith just in order to lead normal lives.
Now, when it comes to the Christian faith, the difference is basically only in the object of that faith — namely, we place our faith in God. This story of Desert Pete and his letter illustrates what I mean. What would you do if you found yourself in such a situation? Your actions would reveal what your own attitude towards faith is. Should you trust old Desert Pete? Or is that too big a risk to take with that precious little bottle of water?
When we compare what Desert Pete says in his letter with what we find in the book of Hebrews, which we read from earlier, we find the same three basic ingredients. First there must be an object of faith. These expressions we so often hear, like "Have faith!" and "Keep the faith!" are really rather meaningless unless the object of that faith is understood as well. For you can't just "have faith" — to "have faith in faith." You have to have faith in something or in someone.
Now, in this case, faith would be putting your trust in an unknown friend named Desert Pete, and that certainly wouldn't be very easy. After all, you really have no idea who he is. Maybe he's a warped personality out playing some cruel joke. But then again, maybe there is enough evidence in the letter and in the situation as a whole to convince you that he knows what he's talking about and that he's gone through a lot of trouble to get you out of a real life and death situation — no water in the desert.
So, the first ingredient of faith is to trust in someone or something based on a reasonable amount of evidence. And I stress "a reasonable amount" — but never on such overwhelming evidence that no faith is necessary. To use the example again of eating out in a restaurant: if I were to demand direct proof each time that there were no poisons in the food by, for instance, standing by the chef in the kitchen while the food is prepared and having the chef eat a portion of the food first, that would not be exercising faith. A "reasonable amount of evidence" would be seeing that the restaurant looked clean, that the food looked and tasted good and that the other patrons showed no evidence of getting sick, and then basing my "faith" on that.
This, then, leads into the second element of faith, which is risk. If you were walking down that trail without water and came upon that old pump and letter, you'd face a situation that involved risk. The most precious thing in the world to you at that time would be that small bottle of water. Now, Pete tells you that if your drink some of it first, you won't be able to get any water from the pump. So you have to make a decision. Either you partially satisfy your immediate thirst, in which case you will have no more water, or you risk that little bottle of water — which is all you have — in order to get a really adequate supply. Faith always has a price to pay, for it demands a decision, which, at its heart, has a certain element of risk.
The third ingredient of faith, then, following the object of faith and the risk of faith, is action. When you make the decision to risk by placing your trust in something or someone, you must then follow through with action. Desert Pete says that after you trust and after you risk by pouring the water down into the pump, you have to "pump like crazy."
When it comes to believing in and putting your trust in the Creator God of the universe, we are actually in a very similar situation as that man lost in the desert was when he found Desert Pete’s letter. We have, in effect, a “letter” written to us, namely the Bible, the Word of God. It tells us a lot about God, but the Christian faith is not really a faith in those teachings; it is faith in the character of the one who is behind those teachings. It is not faith in a set of religious principles or theological dogmas or ethical propositions. These have their place, but faith basically has its object in the person of God. It is the trust that his character is reliable, because we have seen that character revealed to us first in creation and then to its fullest in the life of Jesus Christ. Thus, the basis of one's faith does not depend on some spiritual experience one has had, however wonderful it might have been. It is not “enlightenment.” Neither does it depend on your feelings right now. It doesn't even depend on the Bible itself! Physically speaking, it is just paper and ink. It contains many wonderful promises, of course, but those promises are only as good as the character of the one who gives those promises.
Thus, with respect to God, our faith depends on the character of God — on his reliability and trustworthiness. His character is good, and thus his word is also good. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. And then it takes it a bit further when it says that "whoever would approach him must believe that he exists" — but more than that! One must also believe in God's essential goodness — "that he rewards those who seek him."
You see, a lot of people have trouble deepening their faith or even really getting started in the first place because they don't have a clear picture of the character of God. They have mixed up and cloudy concepts of God — especially on the subconscious level, with many sub-Christian and even unchristian ideas about him; like for instance, he's really not the kind of God Jesus portrays at all, but is a capricious and unpredictable cosmic killjoy who doesn't want us to be happy and who allows bad things to happen to us for no reason. And then there is the "old watchmaker" concept, where God is an old man way off in his heaven somewhere who simply got everything going in the beginning, but who is not involved in things today.
Here in Japan, the word "kamisama" is used to translate the word "God," but it is such a vague term that it means entirely different things in different situations and to different people. In certain situations, practically anything can be referred to as "kamisama" — a baseball player whose having a really good season, an unusual rock, tree or other thing in nature, the spirits of departed souls — all of these and more can be referred to as "kamisama," the same word as that used to express the Christian concept of the Creator God of the universe! Thus, you can't assume that when you say something about "God" that others will be thinking of "Kamisama" in essentially the same way you are. Needless to say, this problem has been one of the several significant causes of the slow growth of Christianity in Japan.
So, if we are to develop an “apologetic” that is relevant to people here in Japan, we have to make sure that the concepts we communicate are clear. Likewise, we need to develop a wide variety of apologetic tools to work with, since the people we interact with come from such a wide variety of educational and experiential backgrounds. The particular aspect of apologetics I have been working on is “science apologetics”, namely the use of the discoveries of science to give evidence in support of the biblical worldview. And, of course, this particular apologetic tool is most suited for a certain type of person — namely, someone who is familiar with the sciences.
So, I want to look briefly at historical background of science and the philosophy behind it. In my research on the historical development of modern science, one thing that has become increasingly clear to me is how important one’s philosophical understanding of the world has been in the development of modern science. We call this philosophical understanding “worldview,” and it is the “lens” through which each or us views the world and interprets its meaning. Historians of science concur that the very beginnings of modern science depended on people coming to have what we can call “the biblical worldview,” namely that natural phenomena are not governed by the whims of various competing gods, but are governed by laws set up by a single, universal Creator. They recognize that this basic prerequisite first came together with other necessary factors during the Renaissance in Europe. (Those other factors included, by the way, an economy that allowed certain people the time and financial resources to focus on the study of the natural world.)
The absence of this basic concept is the reason science was “stillborn” in every other culture prior to that. Ancient civilizations like Egypt and Greece advanced very far in mathematics, since that doesn’t depend on worldview. Thus, they were able to build marvels of engineering, but they could not really begin anything similar to modern science, because their worldview didn’t let them even get started. With the exception of the Jews and Christians, who accepted the message of the Bible, all other ancient societies believed that natural phenomena were governed by various gods according to how they felt at the moment and by various events in the realm of the gods as they fought with each other or whatever. Thus, such phenomena were not thought of as something human beings could understand in anything other than a superficial sense.
As an example of this mindset (which we might label the “non-biblical worldview”), take the Japanese word for “weather,” “tenki” (天気). It is made up of two characters, “ten” for “the heavens” and “ki,” which has to do with “feelings.” Thus, in this very word you can see that ancient concept. The weather is governed by the “feelings” of the “gods.” If the “weather god” were angry about something, there would be a destructive storm — or so the reasoning went. Such thinking would surely short-circuit any attempt to actually understand such natural phenomena. Instead, people would focus on how to placate the gods through various religious rituals and magical incantations. It’s interesting to note that this ancient mindset is what is behind the Shinto religion, just as it is with every other animistic religion. What does a Shinto priest, or “kannushi,” do? He tries to control the gods through various rituals to get them to do what he wants. The very characters of “kannushi” (神主) mean “lord of the gods.” But this is the opposite of the biblical view — “God is Lord!” It was the biblical worldview that overcame this ancient mindset, by giving people the tools to realize that natural phenomena are governed by natural laws instituted by the Creator. It was only as people realized this fact that modern science became possible.
It is also important to note that essentially all of the early scientists were dedicated Christians. They had gleaned out of Scripture the principle we now call the “scientific method” and used that as their methodology to try to understand the world that God had created. Their work, then, became the foundation on which all of modern science is based.
Many people are surprised by this, as they have been told that modern science makes faith superfluous. Science is “objective facts,” while religion, including Christianity, is “subjective faith.” The implication of this, of course, is that modern science has shown the idea that God created the earth and life to be “myth” — in other words, primitive explanations thought up by people before they knew the “facts” of science.
This is the type of thing taught in universities all over America in recent years, and yet polls show that the percentage of Americans that actually believe what they’ve been taught has not changed very much at all. In fact, about 90% say they still believe in a Creator God of some sort. The idea that our existence as beings that seek purpose in life is simply the result of purposeless, random chance just doesn't make sense.
Not only doesn’t it seem reasonable, but when you start looking at the actual evidence, it becomes increasingly clear that there is very little real evidence in support of the Darwinian paradigm and a rapidly increasing amount of evidence against it. Thus, this is a powerful tool that can be exploited by a Christian apologist to give evidence for the Christian faith. The ministry I have been associated with since 1994, Reasons To Believe, is doing exactly that.
Reasons To Believe was founded by astronomer Hugh Ross in 1986, and it has since developed into an influential ministry with chapters all over the world. Its staff includes several scientists in various fields, and many volunteers, who are either practicing scientists themselves or persons such as myself who have a deep interest in science, help in a variety of ways. My own involvement has including translating several books and videos into Japanese as well as putting together a Japanese website, www.konkyo.org. We’ve had Dr. Ross come to Japan on 6 different occasions for speaking tours.
There is much that needs discussing concerning this topic, but I’d like to bring this session to a close with a few observations I’ve made and elicit your comments and questions. Apologetics has several important foundational concepts that I’ve briefly touched on, but they need to be stated clearly.
Primary among these is the importance of testing and following the rules of logic. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 states, “Test everything. Hold on to what is good.” In other words, before you accept something as true, test it out first to confirm its truthfulness. Sometimes, of course, this is easier said than done, as some things are not easy to put to the test. When it comes to religious and philosophical concepts, however, there are two important tools that can often be used to test things out. They are the established facts of science and of history. And, of course, on top of this are the universal rules of logic.
Truth is important and it is concrete. You can’t logically believe that your spirit goes to heaven at death, while at the same time believing that it is extinguished in a Buddhist nirvana. And yet we find many people whose ideas contain such contradictory thinking. One role of apologetics is to help people to see these contradictions while at the same time showing them a better way.
Now, many worldviews downplay logical thinking, and I think it’s proper to view traditional Japanese culture as being among them. In fact, when you really get down to the basics of worldview and how the various worldviews that exist in the world developed historically, I think there are really only 2 basic categories — namely the “rational/logical” way of thinking and the “non-rational/non-logical” way of thinking. I realize, however, that these labels I am using are not entirely satisfactory, and I don’t mean that “non-rational/non-logical” is “irrational” or “illogical,” for such a way of thinking operates on a “logic” all its own.
Another way of making this distinction is with the terms “ratiocinative" and "contemplative" approaches to knowledge and experience. The ratiocinative approach is characterized by a calculating reasoning process where one reasons to a conclusion from premises with logical rigor. The contemplative, usually associated with oriental philosophies, values personal, thoughtful examination or study of experience with a view to understanding experience and life, fully willing to adopt as real what “logical” thinkers would say are contradictions and absurdities.
Whatever terminology is used, these two ways of processing thought are seen in every worldview that exists, often being a mix of the two, where some aspects of a worldview are in one category while other aspects are in the other category. A good example of this is where a scientist uses the “rational/logical” way of thinking in science, but reverts to the “non-rational/non-logical” way of thinking in other areas of life. This is probably true of everyone in one sense, as no one is totally “rational” in all aspects of one’s life.
Now, what is the basis for these two basic types of thought processing? It is my conclusion that they are derived from two fundamental ways of viewing the world, which I am labeling the “biblical worldview” and the “non-biblical worldview.” As I mentioned earlier, the “biblical worldview” entails the understanding that the natural world is controlled by natural laws set up by one universal Creator God, while the “non-biblical worldview” is its opposite. Traditionally, of course, this was the idea that various spirits or gods that ruled the natural world capriciously, and therefore natural phenomena could not be rationally understood.
Modern variations on these two themes even include such worldviews as materialistic atheism, which borrows heavily from the original biblical worldview but simply rejects the notion of a transcendent Creator God. In a very real sense, atheism exists on “borrowed capital” from the biblical worldview. It prides itself on its “rational” thought, but it has nothing to base that rationality in. It’s a kind of “orphan” of the biblical worldview. It has rejected its “father” and has become a kind of “parasite.” For instance, Darwinism claims that the human brain functions as a complex interaction of chemical reactions that all evolved together by random, purposeless chance. But if that is true, then there should be no rational reason to trust anything it thinks.
I’ve seen interesting studies that backup this conclusion that atheism is an “orphan” of Christianity. This includes one by an atheist organization itself that in effect admits that atheism is based in an emotional reaction to negative experiences related to Christianity, particularly in the context of the family. In a poll of the members of this atheist organization in the United States, they discovered that 98% claimed to have been raised in “fundamentalist Christian homes.” Thus, for these people, atheism is simply an attempt to rationalize their rejection of their upbringing, and it often contains a further element of justifying an immoral lifestyle.
On the other side, we have in western culture a pronounced shift back to a “non-biblical worldview” in the form of “postmodernism.” Worldviews that fall within the postmodernist mindset do not typically describe themselves in terms of belief in a world under the control of spirits of one form or another, but they do share a belief in relativism — that there are no absolutes. “New Age” beliefs certainly fall into the postmodern camp, and they do end up pretty much reverting back to a belief in natural phenomena being controlled by spirits.
While this “postmodern” trend in the West is a new thing there, it is certainly not “new” at all, as many of the features we see in western postmodernism are simply revived ideas from ancient eastern religions. Many in the West have abandoned the “biblical worldview,” either living off of its “borrowed capital” in the form of secular humanism, or adopting some revived form of the “non-biblical worldview” through various New Age religions, etc.
Here in Japan, I’ve experimented with “science apologetics”, learning as I proceeded, and I’ve made a few interesting observations. One thing that has surprised me is that I have met a few Japanese Christians working in the sciences that have expressed reservations about this approach. Most scientifically-minded Japanese Christians I’ve met are quite open to this, but a few resist it, and at first this puzzled me. These people seem to feel that their beliefs as Christians and their beliefs as scientists are of a different type and we shouldn’t attempt to relate the two together.
As to why this should be the case, the conclusion I reached is that they are afraid that if we push this, the scientific facts might end up undermining their faith, and they just don’t want to take that chance. They’ve convinced themselves that they should keep these two realms totally separate, and they don’t allow themselves to think about the logical contradiction this entails. As for myself, I can’t imagine having a schizophrenic worldview such as this. As a Christian, one believes in a purposeful Creator, while as a scientist, one believes in purposeless, random evolution. I would find such a conflicting worldview very unsatisfying, and I think it is so unnecessary.
Frankly, if I thought that the facts of science and the facts of history contradicted the Christian faith, I would abandon it. And that’s the point. The more we learn about how the natural world works, and the more we discover about what actually happened in history, the more evidence we see that supports the Christian worldview, and the more problems that become evident with the naturalistic and other worldviews. So we need not fear the truth. We can have confidence that what the Bible reveals to us is consistent with what we can discover in the natural world and in history. And this, then, is powerful evidence that we can use to both strengthen our own faith as well as to introduce others to the God who is behind it all. That is what apologetics is all about.