Spiritual growth objective: Learn to share reasons and evidence that show the Christian faith to be rational and true.
Introduction to reasons to believe
Why knowing reasons to believe is important for personal spiritual growth
Spiritual growth is strengthened not only by knowing what we believe but also by knowing reasons supporting belief.
Knowing reasons to believe strengthens our faith by putting it to the test.
The Christian faith claims to be the true story of the world. It is not merely private opinion but public, objective truth, truth about the way the world really is. Because Christianity makes specific claims about what God has done in creating the natural world and acting in human history, the Christian faith is testable. And our faith is strengthened when we put these claims to the test. Our confidence in the rationality of our faith grows as we see Christian claims confirmed by well-established knowledge in many fields of human research, including philosophy, history, and natural science.
Knowing reasons to believe helps us discern truth in the midst of contradictory claims.
Navigating the world of modern media leaves us feeling immersed in an ocean of conflicting messages and truth claims all clamoring for our attention and allegiance. In this social environment, it becomes increasingly difficult for our faith to withstand the challenges on every side if we merely trust our feelings or our inherited traditions. We need training in thinking critically about our faith so that we are able to discern the light of truth rather than simply wandering lost and adrift in the fog of competing opinions.
Why knowing reasons to believe is important for commending Christian faith to others
God calls us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others not only by sharing the claims of the Christian faith but also by reasoning with others about what is true. The apostle Peter wrote, “[I]n your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” In the history of the early church in the book of Acts, Luke recounts the highly educated apostle Paul regularly engaged in reasoning with both Jews and others about his teaching. For example, in a synagogue in Thessalonica, “Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead” (Acts 17:2). In the city of Athens, “he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17). In the city of Ephesus, he “took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:9-10; cf. 18:4, 14, 19; 24:25).
In the ministry of Jesus and his followers, talking about God was not a monologue but a dialogue, an opportunity not only to present and explain claims about God but also to listen and respond to questions and objections to analyze both our own views and the views. To do this with genuine respect, we must work hard to understand the views of others and to offer reasons for our own views in ways that speak to the concerns and perspectives of others. Thus, when Paul reasoned with Jews, he related the news of Jesus to their beliefs and writings, and when he dialogued with Greek philosophers in Athens, he reasoned with ideas and sources known to them.
Sharing the Christian faith in the modern world requires that same ability to reason and dialogue with understanding and respect. Large numbers of Americans have both a growing skepticism or mistrust toward established religious traditions but also an undeniable hunger for spiritual experiences and meaning. Some are very familiar with religious ideas and writings, and others are not. But all religious viewpoints and philosophies are contested; none are easily accepted without suspicion and scrutiny. Thus, in order to commend our faith to others with intelligence, respect, and love, we must know what we believe and be ready to offer solid reasons that support our faith in dialogue with others.
Study and learn reasons to believe
The following resources are general works offering many reasons to believe on many questions and topics. These are good places to begin investigating the rational reasons that support the truth the Christian faith.
“Tough Questions” from Christianity Explored.
Short, 2-3 minute videos on a variety of hard issues and objections.
Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion (Crossway, 2019).
Strongest on cultural and moral questions such as the social impact of Christianity, morality, diversity, treatment of women, sexual ethics, slavery, and suffering. Look for complementary resources on questions about historical reliability of the Bible and issues related to natural science.
For a 30-minute taste of McLaughlin’s book, see this talk where she addresses the way that Christianity can and must address cultural and ethnic diversity, the university, morality, and sexuality, and all with humility.
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Dutton, 2008).
Offers arguments and evidence that show the truth of the Christian faith with arguments about the existence of God, the Bible’s account of human personhood, sin, salvation through Jesus, and its relation to other religions. It answers key objections related to the historical reliability and interpretation of the Bible (with a whole chapter on Jesus’ resurrection), natural science, suffering, hell, the exclusive claims of Christianity, and injustice.
For a 1-hour taste of the book, see this lecture presented at Google:
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World (Viking, 2016).
Explains why we should care about finding answers to ultimate religious/philosophical questions. Keller shows how Christian beliefs provide solutions to existential challenges that many modern people experience as acute problems, such as finding meaning in the midst of suffering; finding satisfaction, hope and joy not dependent on circumstances; finding a secure identity not dependent on personal achievement or denigration of others; finding a foundation in reality for universal moral obligations and principles of justice; finding justice that does not turn the oppressed into oppressors.
For a 1-hour taste of the book, see this lecture presented at Google:
Doug Powell, Holman Quick Source Guide to Christian Apologetics (Holman, 2007).
Filled with colorful visuals, this is a wide-ranging introduction providing solid reasons to believe in the Christian faith that addresses topics such as the existence of God, the historical reliability of the Bible, miracles, biblical prophecy, Jesus’ resurrection, the problem of evil, and Christianity’s relationship to other major religious philosophies.
William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Crossway, 2008).
This work by an internationally respected Christian philosopher is a more advanced presentation of a range of topics including the relationship of faith and reason, several arguments for the existence of God, how we obtain knowledge from history, miracles, and the identity and resurrection of Jesus. (For group discussion, see the study guide HERE.)
For resources on more specific topics, see the following pages:
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (coming soon)
Historical reliability of the Bible (coming soon)
Evil and suffering (coming soon)
Moral objections (coming soon)
Social/cultural impact of the Christian faith (coming soon)
Evidence from transformed lives (coming soon)
(1) Check your understanding.
Select one or more resources to study. If you have never studied much about reasons that provide rational support for believing the Christian faith, you should consider one of the general works listed on this page above. The works by McLaughlin and Keller are especially accessible.
(2) Build a good foundation on the major issues.
Use some of the additional pages linked above to extend your knowledge in specific areas. Can you provide some solid reasons for believing in response to these foundational questions?
Why should I believe in a Creator God?
Who is Jesus, and why should I believe what the Christian faith says about him?
Why should I believe that the New Testament’s accounts about Jesus and the early church are historically accurate?
Why believe that Jesus rose from the dead?
Isn’t religion just about morality, and can’t I be a moral person with good moral beliefs without religious belief?
Hasn’t the Christian faith had a mostly bad effect on humanity by encouraging violence, intolerance, and bigotry?
Doesn’t all the evil and suffering in the world demonstrate that the Christian God is not real?
(3) Learn to talk about these issues in dialogue with others.
The goal of studying reasons to believe is not only to strengthen our own faith but also to share those reasons with others. Practice discussing some of these reasons in conversation with others. Learning to articulate these reasons in our own words is an excellent way to evaluate and improve our understanding, and hearing the questions and responses of others helps us identify where we still need to grow by identifying gaps or mistakes in our knowledge and reasoning. And hopefully patient, respectful dialogue gives us the opportunity to help other people grow in these same ways.