Five Smooth Stones
Five Smooth Stones
by David. B. McGrew
“Have you ever wondered if all this isn’t true?”
My ten year old was sitting with me in my study at Church over lunch break. We had been talking about some challenges raised against the faith by non-Christians. As perfectly normal as the question was, it knocked the wind out of me for a moment.
“Yes I have,” I finally replied. “But to be persuaded that Christianity is not true, I need more than just objections against it. Anybody can raise problems against a system of belief. What I need to be shown is that these objections against Christianity really outweigh the difficulties I have with other opposing belief systems.”
There are two key issues that Christians need to deal with when discussing their faith with others. First, we must overcome the fear of sharing our faith. Sometimes we fear giving offense. Other times we fear difficult questions. But persuasion need not be offensive, and reasoning through questions is part of our important spiritual vocation. Second, we need to seriously consider the beliefs of non-Christians. It is only reasonable to listen as faithfully as we evangelize. Wanting non-Christians to accept Christianity as true should involve a genuine interest on the part of believers in understanding the world-views of others.
When these key issues are not resolved, there is a tendency for the Church to become insular. Conversations on all fronts remain “in-house,” and breed an untested faith. Rhetoric that stems from unchallenged ideological communities is not persuasive.
We need to be agreed that intellectual currency in a free society is like a beautifully minted coin. On one side appears an image of the freedom we have to rationally persuade each other. The other side pictures the freedom we have to civilly disagree. Good things happen when this coinage is deposited in the marketplace of respectful conversation.
Sadly, on many fronts we appear to be moving away from both a free society and a great culture because of carelessness towards civil disagreement and rational persuasion. Disagreements are too often filled with vitriol and acts of persuasion are either irrational or received as if they posed an unethical threat to freedom. Truth matters, and to appreciate this, we need to exercise these freedoms.
I propose five touchstones for engaging in conversations with non-Christians, along with some reasons why Christians should be excited about these. They are questions about origins that can open the doors to evangelism. Apologists may recognize this as a form of “cumulative case” apologetics. Both Christians and non-Christians should consider the answers proposed by each other carefully.
1. Where did the universe come from?
The universe began to exist a finite time ago. Why? The explanation cannot be given in terms of any physical mechanism, because the origin of the universe was the origin of all physical stuff. Abstract objects like numbers cannot create or destroy anything. So where did it all come from? Why is there something instead of nothing? What best explains the origin of our universe?
2. Where did life come from?
How did any life, even the simplest form of life come into being? Theories involving the development of more complex organisms from less complex ones are out of order here. The genome of even the simplest living systems is written in a coded language that is rich in information. The only known cause of information is intelligence. What explanation best accounts for the origin of life?
3. Where did consciousness come from?
Human beings are conscious – we are aware of ourselves, our thoughts, and the world around us. Which best accounts for this fact: a materialistic, closed-system where consciousness is no part of fundamental reality? Or a spiritual one where self-aware minds are “built in” on the ground floor of reality?
4. Where did objective morality come from?
Objective morality – the kind that says that rape and murder are really wrong, not just socially condemned or psychologically distasteful – is alien in a materialistic universe. In a theistic universe, however, there is an anchor for right and wrong in the character of God himself. What best explains these objective morals?
5. Where did Christianity come from?
However it happened, Christianity does exist. Its existence is a historical phenomenon. How did it get started? If we reject the account given in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, we are left with a very serious problem of explaining the origin of this religion. But if these histories are partially true, what reasons are there for rejecting other parts? Who is Jesus Christ?
David B. McGrew
Dave McGrew, his wife Vicki, and their sons Benjamin and Samuel moved to Cumberland, Maryland from Illinois in June 2016 to join the staff at Cornerstone Baptist Church. Dave serves there as Assistant Pastor for Worship & Discipleship. For eleven years before that, Dave was an Assistant Professor of Music & Fine Arts at Baptist Bible College & Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA. Dave received his undergraduate education from Cedarville University and master’s from Ithaca College. Dave has also taught college courses in historical apologetics. Dave and Vicki are avid readers and could single-handedly sustain the business of several local coffee houses. On his days off, Dave and the family can also be found outside hiking, fishing, and playing soccer.