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The Logic of God: 52 Christian Essentials for the Heart and Mind
by Ravi Zacharias
Learn More | Meet Ravi Zacharias
Behind Every Question
We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be
reconciled to God. God made him who had
no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we
might become the righteousness of God.
2 CORINTHIANS 5 :20–21
We are living in an era when apologetics is indispensable, but at the same time, we need a Christian apologetic that is not merely heard—it must also be seen. The field of apologetics deals with the hard questions posed to the Christian faith. Having had deep questions myself, I listen carefully to the questions raised. I always bear in mind that behind every question is a questioner. The convergence of intellectual and existential struggles drives a person to a brutal honesty in the questions he or she has.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is beautiful and true, yet oftentimes one will ask, “How can it be true that there is only one way?” Odd, isn’t it, that we don’t ask the same questions of the laws of nature or of any assertion that lays claim to truth? We are discomfited by the fact that truth, by definition, is exclusive. That is what truth claims are at their core.
The question really is, how do we know this is the truth?
Whether religious or irreligious, everyone has a worldview. A worldview basically offers answers to four necessary questions: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. In turn, these answers must be correspondingly true on particular questions and, as a whole, all answers put together must be coherent.
Taking it a step further, the three tests for truth must be applied to any worldview: logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. When submitted to these tests, the Christian message is utterly unique and meets the demand for truth.
Consider the empirical test of the person, teaching, and work of Jesus Christ. A look at human history shows why He was who He claimed to be and why millions follow Him today. A comparison of Jesus’ teachings with any other claimant to divine or prophetic status quickly shows the profound differences in their claims and demonstrations. In fact, none except Jesus even claimed to be the divine Savior. His offer of grace and forgiveness by being the perfect sacrifice of our offense—“that we might become the righteousness of God”—is profoundly unique.
I position the sequence of fact and deduction in the following way: Love is the supreme ethic. Where there is the possibility of love, there must be the reality of free will. Where there is the reality of free will, there will inevitably be the possibility of sin. Where there is sin, there is the need for a Savior. Where there is a Savior, there is the hope for redemption. Only in the Judeo- Christian worldview does this sequence find its total expression and answer. The story from sin to redemption is only in the gospel with the ultimate provision of a loving God.
The verification of what Jesus taught and described and did make belief in Him a very rationally tenable and an existentially fulfilling reality. From cosmology to history to human experience, the Christian faith presents explanatory power in a way no other worldview does. Our faith and trust in Christ are reasonably grounded and experientially sustained.
I was born to Indian parents and raised in India. My ancestors were priests from the highest caste of Hinduism in India’s Deep South. But that was several generations ago. I came to Christ after a life of protracted failure and, unable to face the consequences, I sought to end it all. It was on a bed of suicide that a Bible was brought to me and in a cry of desperation, I invited Jesus Christ into my life. It was a prayer, a plea, a commitment, and a hope.
I hardly knew what lay ahead of me, except that I was safe in Christ’s hands. Now over fifty years later, I marvel at the grace of God and am convinced that Jesus Christ alone uniquely answers the deepest questions of our hearts and minds.
- How does the idea that “behind every question is a questioner” affect your understanding of apologetics?
- What does it mean to “become the righteousness of God,” and how is the gospel unique among other worldviews?
- Is your faith in Jesus reasonably grounded and experientially sustained, or do you struggle with doubt? How might you address any doubts of the mind or heart this week?
- When someone asks you to explain either why you go to church or why you are a Christian, how would do you respond?
The Ultimate Calling
Be likeminded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to tis you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. . . . In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.
1 PETER 3 : 8–9, 15–16
A starting point for taking on the responsibility of the work of Christian apologetics is recognizing the role that living out a disciplined Christian life plays. Even a brief examination of the Scriptures reveals this striking imperative: one may not divorce the content of apologetics from the character of the apologist. Apologetics derives from the Greek word apologia, “to give an answer.” First Peter 3:15 gives us the defining statement: “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
I have always found this to be such a fascinating verse because the apostle Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, knew the hazards and the risks of being an answer-bearer to the sincere questions people would pose of the gospel. Indeed, when one contrasts the answers of Jesus to those of any of His detractors, it is easy to see that their resistance is not of the mind but rather of the heart. Furthermore, I have little doubt that the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the gospel has not been its inability to provide answers, but the failure on our parts to live it out. The British evangelist Rodney “Gipsy” Smith once said, “There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, and some people will never read the first four.” In other words, apologetics is often first seen before it is heard.
For that very reason the Scriptures give us a clear picture of the apologetic Christian: one who has first set apart Christ in his or her heart as Lord, who responds with answers to the questioner with gentleness and respect. Therefore, one must not overlook the stark reality that the way one’s life is lived out will determine the impact. Few obstacles to faith are as serious as expounding the unlived life. Too many simply see the quality of one’s life and firmly believe that it is all theory, bearing no supernatural component.
I remember well in the early days of my Christian faith talking to a Hindu man. He was questioning the strident claims of the followers of Christ as being something supernatural. He absolutely insisted conversion was nothing more than a decision to lead a more ethical life, and that in most cases it was not any different to those claims of other “ethical” religions. So far, his argument was not anything new.
But then he said something I have never forgotten and often reflect upon: “If this conversion is truly supernatural, why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians I know?”
His question is a troublesome one. After all, no Buddhist claims a supernatural life but frequently lives a more consistent one. The same pertains to many of the other faiths. Yet, how often the so-called Christian, even while proclaiming some of the loftiest truths one could ever express, lives a life bereft of that beauty and character.
This call to a life reflecting the person of Christ is the ultimate calling upon the apologist. Skeptics are not slow to notice when there is a disparity, and because of that, may question the whole gospel in its supernatural claim. Yet when they are met with gentleness and respect, we will help meet the deepest longings of the heart and mind—and they will find where true discovery lies. Let us live so accordingly.
- What does it look like to “revere Christ as Lord”? Why does Peter begin his charge with this injunction?
- What is “the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the gospel” and what is so difficult about “expounding the unlived life”?
- How has your conversion experience made a visible difference in your life and those around you?
- What might you do this week to become a more effective witness for Christ?
Point of Exclusion
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
With the numerous religions in the world, how can Christians claim exclusivity? I am often asked this question in different settings. But I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the Christian faith is the only one that seems to have this question posed. The truth is that every religion has its starting points and its deductions, and those starting points exclude.
For example, Hinduism has two nonnegotiable beliefs: karma and reincarnation. No Hindu will trade these away. In Buddhism, there is the denial of the essential notion of the self. Buddhists believe that the self as we understand it does not exist, and our ceasing to desire will be the cause of the end of all suffering. If we deny these premises, we devein Buddhism.
Islam believes that Mohammad is the last and final prophet, and the Qur’an is the perfect revelation. If we deny those two premises, we have denied Islam. Even naturalism, which poses as irreligion, is exclusive. Naturalism teaches that anything supernatural or metaphysical is outside the realm of evidence and purely an opinion, not a matter of fact.
In the Christian faith, we believe Jesus is the consummate experience of God in the person of His Son and is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. We cannot deny these premises and continue to be Christians.
The question is not whether these are mutually exclusive. The question is, which one of these will we deny as being reasonable and consistent? Which one of these will we be able to sustain by argument and by evidence?
It is the very nature of truth that presents us with this reality. Truth by definition is exclusive. Everything cannot be true. If everything is true, then nothing is false. And if nothing is false, then it would also be true to say everything is false. We cannot have it both ways. One should not be surprised at the claims of exclusivity. The reality is that even those who deny truth’s exclusivity, in effect, exclude those who do not deny it. The truth quickly emerges. The law of noncontradiction does apply to reality: two contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense. Thus, to deny the law of noncontradiction is to affirm it at the same time. You may as well talk about a one-ended stick as talk about truth being all-inclusive.
So where does that leave us? We must not be surprised at truth’s claims, but we must test them before we believe them. If the test demonstrates truth, then we are morally compelled to believe it. And this is precisely the point from which many are trying to run. As G. K. Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
Jesus said definitively, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Apply the tests of truth to the person and the message of Jesus Christ. You see not only His exclusivity, but also His uniqueness.
- Why must truth be exclusive?
- How does understanding that every worldview has exclusive claims impact the way we proclaim the Christian faith?
- Has your life been changed by Jesus’s statement, “I am the way and the truth and the life”? Consider reflecting on His words throughout this week.
- Do you know someone who has found Christianity difficult and walked away from the faith? How might what you’ve read today help you reach out to this person?
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