Introduction: by Gavin Matthews
“A Beginner’s Guide to Apologetics” is a BRAND NEW series of articles introducing reasons for belief.
Opponents of the Christianity frequently misunderstand what faith actually is. Richard Dawkins infamously caricatured faith as ‘belief without evidence’. This, as is repeatedly pointed out, is not a definition which anyone who actually possesses faith would remotely recognise or accept. Neither is it a definition of faith that any theologian or competent philosopher would use. Such a definition is possibly one of the most strawy of straw-men ever to have been deployed by a public intellectual.
The truth is that there are many Christian people who are confident in their belief in the existence of God, and His intervention in this world in the person of Jesus Christ; because that is where the evidence and the argument have led them. The term ‘apologetics’ simply means looking at some of this evidence and argument and exploring those reasons for belief.
The world of Christian apologetics is rich in top-flight scientists, philosophers and ethicists; usually defending their positions in academic debates which are often inaccessible to the general reader. While the case against Christianity has been very loudly articulated in the public square, too often the good reasons for belief have been hidden from view.
This series of articles entitled “A Beginner’s Guide to Apologetics” sets out to explain some of the most important lines of evidence and argument for Christian faith, in straightforward terms. The aim of this series is to equip the Christian reader with an array of approaches to use in speaking confidently about their faith.
In order to do this, we have assembled a range of scholars who are experts in their fields, such as scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, and historians. We have asked each of them to explain in accessible terms, but with academic rigour, why there are good reasons to believe; found within their discipline. The articles do vary a little in their complexity, (but none of them are long reads). As such we’ve given each piece a rating from 1-5, where the most introductory pieces are given one chilli 🌶, while a 5-chilli article will require a little more effort 🌶🌶🌶🌶🌶. We also want to say a huge thankyou to all those who have written these pieces for us all.
Most non-believers, and sceptics today seem to assume that Christian reasoning relies on the ‘god-of-the-gaps’. That is to say that we invoke a deity to explain things for which science has not yet provided an answer. In this view, the medievals saw disease as the result of divine wrath, but we now know that its’ cause is biological. As such the ‘need’ to invoke God reduces as knowledge grows – or so it is claimed. Many Christians are ill equipped to deal with this challenge and so here in this series we will see that, from the fine-tuning of the universe, to the existence of physical laws; science itself provides a compelling case for God. This is the God of the universe, not the god of the gaps.
Most non-believers and sceptics today are also well-versed in the sins, failures and hypocrisies of religion, and rightly ask ‘who needs faith to be good?’ Yet, Christians are not always quick to grasp that the very concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ which their critics invoke have deep roots in Christian thought. This series will demonstrate that human rights and dignity has its surest foundation in a Christian world view.
This series will help Christians to see that there are many positive reasons to believe. Apologetics is not just about defence of the faith from criticism, it is also about filling Christians with the confidence to share their faith with others, in a winsome, yet persuasive way. It is our prayer that this collection of essays will stimulate thousands of positive gospel conversations, in which ordinary Christian people are given robust, but comprehensible arguments for belief.
At the end of each article, along with a short author biography there will be a list of further reading suggestions to enable you to explore the topic further. These will be from introductory to specialist levels, but labelled accordingly.
We hope you really enjoy this forthcoming series, look out for the articles appearing fortnightly over the coming months!