Sally has been perusing the religion section at a local book shop, and has been intrigued by the books of a New Testament scholar who, while arguing that Jesus of Nazareth was a genuine historical figure, claims to Jesus’ divinity were not a part of the earliest teaching of Jesus as found in the gospels, but reflect mythological accretions of the early church. As a result, she’s no longer so sure that we can know anything of what Jesus said, much less what Jesus did.
Ronald is increasingly disturbed by the constant reports of violence around the globe—whether between ISIS and more moderate followers of Islam, between Christians, Jews, and Muslims over holy sites and relics, numerous incidences of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and pastors against innocent children, or fundamentalist Christians bombing abortion clinics. In the face of such atrocities, he now accepts the claims of the “new atheists,” who argue that the world would be a more peaceful place if we did away with religion, quite convincing. Not only does Ronald have no need for religion, he believes that it is down right toxic for anyone’s moral development.
Carol has been seriously thinking about becoming a Christian, but believes that her career as thinks an evolutionary biologist precludes her from embracing the Christian faith, especially since Genesis teaches that God created the earth in six days.
Frank is a devout Christian who regularly interacts with agnostics at his job. He’s had the opportunity to argue for God’s existence over the past several years, but hasn’t really gotten anywhere with his arguments. He’s beginning to wonder what good—if any—can come from defending the beliefs of Christianity by appealing to certain features of nature, or by asking where we have come from, or by engaging in philosophical arguments that always seem to end up in a stand off.
The concerns of Sally, Ronald, Carol, and Frank have a common thread: they deal with the discipline of Christian apologetics—a defense of the core claims of Christianity in the face of doubt, skepticism, and unbelief. How should we respond to their concerns? To be sure, while there are no air-tight arguments that readily elicit faithful ascent to the claims of Christianity, we are called to provide a defense—an apologia—for the hope that lies within us (1 Pet. 3:15). This Spring I’ll be offering a course that will address the issues shared above here, and several more. If you struggled in how to respond to Sally, Ronald, Carol, or Frank, you’re not alone, and you’re invited to join us as we consider how to best communicate the truthfulness of the Christian faith while remaining sensitive to both the reality of doubt, the limits to logic, and necessity of faith.
(This class will be offered in a modular system, meeting four times, one weekend a month, throughout the semester. It can be taken for three credits or audited)