Tony Brickner cringed at the voice. He turned to face Clay Andrews’s ridicule for roughly the billionth time.
“You can’t tell me you really buy that bit about Jesus dying and coming back to life again!”
Why is Clay always giving me such a hard time for being a Christian? Tony swallowed hard and cleared his throat, hoping his voice would sound confident.
"Why don’t you tell me what you believe, Clay?" he said. "Then I'll give you reasons for what I believe.”
Tony's position was uncomfortable, but he got off to a good start by asking Clay about his beliefs. Many people challenge Christian beliefs, such as the resurrection, without stopping to consider what they themselves believe—or why. By inviting Clay to voice what he believed (and sincerely listening while he answered), Tony laid some solid groundwork. However, if Tony is like most of us, however, he will be mostly unprepared to answer Clay’s question. Unless he happened to read this article beforehand. And if you’re anything like Tony, you can prepare yourself for those kinds of encounters—from peers to professors—by familiarizing yourself with the following top ten defenses to have ready when your faith is challenged.
1. How can you know for sure that anything is true?
Among your acquaintances are likely to be some people who don’t believe in truth. That is, they don’t believe truth can be known. However, that idea is easily refuted, as this fictional conversation in the 2011 novel, The Quest, illustrates:
“I think truth is out there, somewhere. I just don’t think we can ever really know it.”
“You don’t think truth can be known or discovered?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Do you think that’s a true statement?”
I blinked. “What do you mean?”
“What you just agreed to: ‘I don’t think truth can be known.’ Do you view that as a true statement?”
“Well, ye-eah,” I said slowly. Something didn’t sound right.
She smiled and leaned forward in her chair. She didn’t say anything, but looked at me like she was waiting for something.
It took a minute, but I finally realized what she was waiting for. “You’re saying that if I think that’s a true statement, then I’ve claimed to know something that is true….By saying truth can’t be known. I contradicted myself.”
“It’s called a self-refuting statement,” she said.1
2. Is God a human invention?
A popular view these days is the idea that humans invented God in order to meet their needs and fulfill their desires. But it is at least as reasonable to believe exactly the opposite: that the innate desire humans have for God exists because there is Someone who satisfies that desire. As C. S. Lewis wrote,
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire, which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only arouse it, to suggest the real thing.2
3. Doesn’t the Big Bang disprove Creation?
There is a common misconception that the Big Bang has pretty much eliminated the idea that God created the heavens and the earth. But the opposite is true. Former atheist Antony Flew, in his book There Is a God, explained that the Big Bang model eventually led him to believe in a God who created the universe, because it pointed to a beginning point in the universe, and to something (or Someone) behind that beginning that was too big for science to explain.3
4. How can an intelligent person not believe in evolution?
Atheist Richard Dawkins has famously written, “Beyond doubt evolution is a fact,”4 adding that no reputable scientist disputes it. However, neither statement is true. First, it is necessary to understand what people mean when they use the world “evolution,” because it can refer to both micro-evolution (the observable process by which change happens over time within species) and macro-evolution (the arguable claim that starting with a common ancestor, over time simple organisms have changed into the species that exist today). Macro-evolution is not as widely accepted as some claim. In fact, more than eight hundred world-class scientists have signed a formal dissent from Darwinian evolution.5
5. How can you trust the Bible when it has been changed and corrupted so much through the centuries?
I (Josh)6 set out as a young man to refute Christianity. I aimed to show everyone that Christianity was nonsense. I thought it would be easy. It wasn’t. In fact, I discovered that the Bible is far and away the most meticulously preserved and widely attested documents of the ancient world. No other book even comes close (we go into greater detail on this subject in our book, Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door). This reliability was confirmed by the 1948 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which showed that after a thousand years of copying, the text as it appears in modern Bibles was more than ninety-five percent the same, word-for-word and letter-for-letter, as it had been three thousand years earlier! And what differences did exist were mainly spelling variations.
6. Hasn’t modern science pretty much disproved the Bible?
It’s hard to imagine anything that is farther from the truth than the idea that modern science has disproved the Bible. In fact, the science of archaeology, to name one field, has repeatedly confirmed the trustworthiness of the biblical accounts (we devote a chapter to this subject in our book, Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door). Archaeologist William F. Albright wrote,
The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.7
7. Who even knows if Jesus ever really existed?
The existence of a man named Jesus who lived in Galilee and Judea in the early part of the first century is utterly indisputable from a historical standpoint. In fact, if you ever encounter such a view from a friend or teacher, invite that person to travel with you to Israel. In the land where Jesus once lived, everyone—Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists—consider the idea that never existed to be laughable. Why? Because the evidence of his historicity is a daily reality there.
8. Don’t you think Jesus could have been just a good teacher who didn’t intend to be worshiped a god?
Though Christianity and Christians can be pretty unpopular these days, Jesus remains widely admired… even by many people who don’t profess to believe in him or worship him. He is revered as a “good teacher,” as a “philosopher,” but not as who he said he was, according to the historical record. C. S. Lewis famously wrote about this phenomenon:
I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic— on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg— or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.8
9. Do you really believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead?
Many theories have been put forth to try to cast doubt on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. All of them are inadequate; some are even ludicrous (we devote three chapters to these theories in our book, Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door). In fact, the historical evidence for the resurrection is so overwhelming, historians have to become “anti-historical” in their efforts to build a case against it. As Lord Darling, a prominent English judge, once said, “No intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.”9
10. How can you believe in that stuff?
The most convincing evidence for the Christian faith is not historical, textual, or archaeological; it is the testimony of a changed life. When I (Josh) set out to disprove the Christian faith, my mind met unassailable facts… but my heart met irresistible love. I met a group of Christians at Kellogg College in Battle Creek, Michigan, who exposed me for the first time to the love of God. Oh, how they loved each other. And I wanted what they had. That love paved the road of faith for me, and thus began my journey of faith. All the evidence in the world—the most powerful arguments and most convincing proofs—probably wouldn’t have gotten through to me if the transforming power of God’s love had not reached my heart through that student group and others.
Always keep in mind that the same will be true of anyone who challenges or questions your faith. Your answers can help open their hearts, but the vibrant evidence of a changed life will always be the most convincing apologetic you can offer.
Josh McDowell is a speaker, author, and traveling representative for Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ). His books include The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, More Than a Carpenter, and Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door.
Bob Hostetler has coauthored many books with Josh McDowell and is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives in Ohio. His books include American Idols and Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door.
1 Sean McDowell and Bob Hostetler, The Quest (Vista, CA: Outreach Publishers, 2011).
2 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001), 136-137.
3 AntonyFlew, There Is a God (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2007), 123-141.
4 Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth (New York: Free Press, 2009), 8.
5 See the list at dissentfromdarwin.org.
6 Josh McDowell.
7 William F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible (New York: Revell, 1933).
8 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001), 52.
9 Quoted by Michael Green in Man Alive (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968), p. 54.