Apologetics and the Object of Our Faith

In an article on “street epistemology”, Dr. Travis Dickinson, Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, made the case that faith without an object is no faith at all. For example, in marriage, the object of one’s faith is one’s spouse. So with Christianity, the object of our faith is Jesus. Specifically, we have faith that He is the Messiah, the Son of God who paid the price for our sins and rose from the dead.

This intrigued me for a number of reasons, but chief among them was the role of apologetics in faith that emerged.

What is Faith?

In the article, Dr. Dickinson defines faith as “a state of trust.” However, he makes a key distinction between “trust at a distance” and “trust in action”. “If we trust (from a distance) the safety of the airplane, but we never get on board, then we haven’t really placed our faith in the airplane.”

The distinction here is between nominal faith and true faith. Or, as James puts it, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).

So faith is not belief alone, but “ventured trust”. Again, this trust must be in something, or someone.

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What is Apologetics?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you well know what apologetics is. For those who don’t, apologetics, in brevity, is the rational defense of Christian doctrine.

For example, Christians believe that God exists. If one gives evidence for the existence of God, one is partaking in apologetics. The same goes for giving evidence for the Resurrection and other doctrines.

Apologetics and the Object of Our Faith

The Object of the Christian faith is unmistakably Jesus of Nazareth. More specifically, faith in His resurrection. Remember Paul’s words about the resurrection:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

If Jesus did not literally raise from the dead, Paul says two things can be certain:

  1. He is a liar.
  2. The Christian faith is useless.

Paul would be a liar because he testified to virtually the entire Roman Empire that Jesus did in fact raise from the dead.

If Jesus did not raise from the dead, the Christian faith would be useless because the object of the Christian faith (Jesus and the Resurrection) would be a lie.

The question then is did He raise from the dead? This is a question of apologetics. Now the relationship between apologetics and faith becomes clear.

It would seem then that if one can engage in apologetics and walk away with a strong argument for the Resurrection, one could also walk away with a stronger faith.

Personally, I know this to be true. As doubt overcame me as a seminary student, I stumbled upon apologetics for the first time. What I found shocked me. It also revived me. Blind faith was no longer an option. I needed reason and evidence. I found them both.

As I began to study the arguments made in favor of Christianity and the corresponding rebuttals made by skeptics, I found the arguments for God, Jesus, and the Bible most compelling. My faith became solid. It was no longer based on blind emotion, but sound evidence and reason. The result was a hunger to grow closer to Jesus through His word, prayer, and church life. Blind faith led me to doubt and despair, but apologetics led me to a Savior whose Resurrection is grounded in history.

This is not to say that apologetics is necessary for faith. It is to say that a historical Resurrection is absolutely necessary for faith. Otherwise, the object of our faith is a lie. It is also to say that apologetics lends its hand in making the case for a historical resurrection. The study of apologetics can lead to a much more solidified faith. This has been true for me and I hope it is for you.

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20 Replies to “Apologetics and the Object of Our Faith”

  1. Sorry for my bluntness. I have never apologized for my beliefs nor have I ever needed to defend Christianity. Our Savior did though, “Lived”, and needed no defending. Is by definition, Apologetics the defense of our own question?

    1. Are you defending the position that we shouldn’t be defending positions? Sorry for my bluntness.

  2. But that trust in Jesus is a trust in texts, namely the NT canon. You might have some sort of inner feelings that you are convinced come from Jesus, but that is always open to interpretation. Therefore, you don’t “know” Jesus in the way that you know a spouse. As such, your trust is in the texts, not in Jesus.

  3. You stated — ” It is to say that a historical Resurrection is absolutely necessary for faith. Otherwise, the object of our faith is a lie. ”

    My response — I believe in God and yet have no evidence of the resurrection, so the statement is wrong in respect to certain belief systems. We have historical records of other religions where people performed miracles and we don’t believe those so I’m not sure why history would be a factor in faith.

    1. I was speaking as a Christian, to a Christian audience. If the Resurrection isn’t historical and didn’t actually happen, then the entire Christian faith collapses.

      1. It doesn’t in fact collapse because everyone is believing for different reasons. It may in fact for you and you may in fact be justified but that’s only your opinion.

        There are some Christians right now Haden that believe the Bible is a set of stories not historical facts. They believe God is conveying an understanding not a book of actual events.

        Your belief is your opinion, it’s not fact. What Haden believes is not the truth it’s perspective. People use the Bible through interpretation not literally so you are in fact incorrect.

      2. By your own very flawed epistemology, the statement, “what haden believes is not the truth it’s perspective” is just your perspective and is no more correct than my own. So how can you say i’m incorrect?

        The set of stories says in Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain.” End of story.

      3. I think you are misunderstanding me, I was simply responding to your statement, “It is to say that a historical Resurrection is absolutely necessary for faith. Otherwise, the object of our faith is a lie.’

        Hebrews 11:1
        11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

        We have not seen the resurrection so we simply do not need historical evidence of it.

        We, in fact, believe in what we cannot see and do not have evidence of.

        You are conflating two separate concepts, 1) historical evidence and 2) belief in the resurrection.

        You are also dismissing those who do not believe for the same reasons (38000 denominations). Some think the resurrection is a story to be interpreted not a fact. (I am not one of them for the record). Those people disprove your comment outright. We may not agree with them but you don’t have the authority to denounce another persons faith.

      4. Those folks who do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus are in fact not Christians.

      5. That’s your opinion but it’s not fact. People believe for many reasons, you are not an authority to judge them.

      6. Fortunately we have definitions, and that’s what being a Christian means. Otherwise I could say, “I’m a Christian, but I worship Satan instead”, and that would be true…but it’s not.

      7. Your analogy is to dramatic and has no bearing on what we are talking about. There are 38000 denominations via interpretation of scripture in the belief of Christ.

        If you are so clear and sure and have the proof to backup what you are saying then I suspect you could unite the 38000 denominations easily. I challenge you to share your understanding with them and clear up these simple misunderstandings that are leading them down the wrong path.

        I suspect, however, that you will encounter a wall of the same words you are using with me (and we both agree in the resurrection). You will hear all of them say the very same words to you that you are saying here and on top of that, they will claim you lack understanding and possibly lack faith.

        How will you convince all of them Matt that you are right and they are wrong? Or does it even matter to you to do so?

      8. That’s what definitions are for my friend. I don’t have to convince anyone. This is the same flawed logic that tragically leads people to claim they’re a woman when they are clearly a man. We don’t get to determine truth.

      9. I’m not sure I understand , I agreed that you are right and was asking why not prove it to the pletera of denominations that are clearly misguided.

        The problem is that you make it sound so easy when you say it but offer no way to promote it.

        Either you can or it’s not as simple as you are making it out to be.

  4. Love this Haden. This has just begun to be true for me in the last year. Watching apologetics videos of Frank Turek really sparked my interest and intellect. Just reading through his book now and love how much confidence it brings me to have historical facts to back up my emotions and heart.

  5. I think your apologetics needs to pass on now to the true center of our Christian faith. This is the Risen and Ascended Christ who is eternally on the heavenly throne with God the Father and rules our world without end. This will be a much harder project than you have taken up so far since you have far fewer secondary sources. The primary source is the evidence of history and life on planet and how they can only be explained in terms of what I have said of the risen Christ. You are probably aware that there are no satisfactory theories of human history. The same can be said of theories of the formation and history of life forms. A book you led me to, for which I am thankful, Evolution: The View for the 21st Century states that it will probably be 50 years before microbiologists have cellular functioning fully understood. That should be long enough for Christians to be able to figure out an apologetics showing that all other explanations of life and human history (anthropology) have fatal errors. This will need to be, I think, a subtractive apologetics, that shows what could not happen, rather than one that shows positively what happened. The only way all these things have happened the way they have is the Christian understanding of the work of the Second Person of the Trinity.

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