Apologetics is a reasoned argument in defense or justification for something. In Christian philosophy, apologetics uses intellectual frameworks to uphold the biblical worldview. Though we may not all be skilled debaters, we must be ready to defend our hope in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15). If you would like some introductory tools for engaging in apologetics, you can read The Daily Grace Co.'s blog, How to Defend Your Faith. But, in this blog, we will go a step further and discuss some common critiques people have of Christianity as well as the logical fallacies behind such accusations.
All people are prone to logical fallacies, which are false arguments based on faulty logic. The noetic effects of sin refer to the impact sin–or disobedience to God–has on our minds. Because of the inherited fallenness from Adam and Eve, as well as our wrongdoing, we make erroneous deductions while pridefully believing we are correct. Our rebellious natures lead us to argue against God. We can probably recall a time before we were believers when, with flawed arguments, we contested a Bible study teacher or Christian friend. Or maybe you still wrestle with these thoughts even after placing your faith in Jesus. If the latter is true, please know that you are not alone, and God will guide you to the truth because you are in Christ.
Knowing sin's effect on human reasoning can help us identify logical fallacies with kindness and humility, for if it weren't for the grace of God, all of us would be ruined. Therefore, as we continue our discussion on apologetics, it is important to defend our faith against lies and lovingly point to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Below are two common critiques of Christianity and corresponding gospel-centered responses.
- Christians Pick and Choose
Nonbelievers may critique Christianity for selecting some laws in the Bible to follow while ignoring others. They argue that Christians are inconsistent for regarding certain actions as sins, like sex outside of marriage, while permitting other behaviors that the Bible prohibits, like eating pork. The logical fallacy behind this claim is a strawman, which is attacking a misrepresentation or distortion of someone's belief rather than the actual belief itself. The opposing argument contains a fundamental misunderstanding of biblical laws and the old and new covenants.
Gospel Response: God gave laws to the Israelites, a people with whom He formed a covenant so that they could live in His holy presence. Though the Israelites strived to maintain the Old Testament commands, the laws ultimately pointed to human sinfulness and the need for a Savior. For instance, the ceremonial laws, like abstaining from certain foods, were outward signs of inner purity. As the Israelites avoided pork, they exercised faith in the coming Savior who would cleanse their hearts from sin.
As the perfect Son of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ kept the Old Testament laws. He also fulfilled them. Jesus Christ's fulfillment means that He exceeded the expectations of the ceremonial laws and erased its burdens for today's believers. Therefore, Christians do not pick and choose what laws to follow and what to disregard. By His saving work, Jesus accomplished purity for God's people. We, who are in the new covenant by faith, can rest in God's presence because Christ's sinlessness covers us.
Though we no longer have to avoid eating pork, we are still called to follow the moral laws, which are the enduring commands that God wrote in Exodus 20:1–17 and that Jesus later affirmed in the New Testament. This category of laws identifies sin, not only sex outside of marriage but also lust in one's heart. And it calls us to inner integrity only achieved through the sanctifying Spirit of God.
2. Christianity is Exclusive
The second critique you may hear is that Christianity is exclusive. Today's culture is pluralistic, which means there are many different belief systems and worldviews. A nonbeliever may claim Christianity is too narrow and discriminates against other perspectives with its belief that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. Instead of upholding a single idea, opponents may champion a middle-ground approach–that accepting all philosophies is truth. The logical fallacy behind this argument is the middle ground fallacy, which says that truth can be found when compromising or finding the middle ground between extremes.
Gospel Response: First, it is important to note that it is never right to belittle someone for his or her beliefs. We always want to be curious and respectful toward those who are Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc., because we are called to love people as God has loved us through Jesus.
At the same time, we must highlight that finding a middle ground between opposing religions or worldviews is unrealistic and untruthful. For instance, Islam holds that righteousness is earned through good works, while Christianity holds that righteousness is a gift from the Lord's unmerited favor. It is impossible to find a middle ground between these two viewpoints without nullifying a core tenet of either. Truth cannot be found in accepting both Islam and Christianity when they are so contrasting.
While Jesus affirms He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), Jesus is also inviting. In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus states, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." In these verses, we see Jesus open His arms to embrace anyone who longs for His salvation. Therefore, Jesus does not present exclusivity in a secretive or elitist way. Rather, Jesus desires to meet our deepest needs and claims He is the only One who can. Other worldviews will leave us depleted. But in Jesus, there is satisfying bread for the beggar, living water for the thirsty, a home for the lost, a friend for the lonely, and a safe retreat for the hurt.