The Reason for Hope

The modern apologist stands on the shoulders of faithful Christians from previous generations. That is because apologetics is a basic expectation for every believer in every generation. As one apologist noted, preaching the gospel is “inseparable from defense [of the gospel].”[1] Every person whose life has been transformed by Jesus is necessarily an apologist, someone called to proclaim, explain, and defend the Good News.

All followers of Jesus are obligated to give a well-reasoned explanation of his or her hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). The Apostle Peter says to give a reason for the “hope that is within you.” This calls for, not a presentation of abstract and detached arguments for Christian hope, but a deeply personal account. Every Christian should be able to give a simple explanation of how they first believed the grace of God in Christ: an objective reason for their hope in God.

R.C. Sproul’s definition of faith as well-reasoned trust[2] is helpful to understand what Christians mean when they say they hope in God. The word trust implies that faith is not unreasonable, as we usually trust things for which we have good reason. Yet, trust goes beyond reason. Trust communicates that Christian faith is no blind leap, it is not mere existential wishful thinking. Trust is a response to someone who has proven himself or herself to be trustworthy.

Tim Keller provides another helpful example for understanding the concept of faith. Keller shares that the pathway to faith for a secular person might begin with their recognition that atheism requires at least as much faith as Christian belief. The next step, Keller explains, is to recognize that atheism requires more faith because it explains less than Christianity.[3] This argument seeks to show that Christianity is both plausible and reasonable. But Keller carefully points out that to know God requires more than rational arguments. It requires a commitment, an act of faith, or to use Sproul’s definition, it requires well-reasoned trust[4].

 

[1]    See Greg Bahnsen, “The Encounter of Jerusalem with Athens” (http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa045.htm)
[2]    R.C. Sproul speaks to this definition in many places including his article “Faith and Reason” available online here: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/faith-and-reason/ and in his book What Is Faith? Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Trust, 2010.
[3]     A reductive, materialistic account of reality has no compelling explanation for basic human values like volition, love, beauty, truth, purpose, justice, equality, or personhood. See Alex Rosenburg’s The Atheist Guide to Reality: Living Life Without Illusions. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. Rosenburg, a philosophy professor at Duke University, argues that the atheist must embrace nihilism to be consistent with their view of reality.
[4]    Tim Keller shared this outline as a ladder with three rungs as an illustration of the kind of path that could lead to faith in God while discussing his book The Reason for God at Google authors in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxup3OS5ZhQ