A New Dawn for Apologetics
I had the privilege of writing for Desiring God on why I believe we're at a tipping point. You can read the original piece here.
I have waited my whole life to read The Lord of the Rings to my kids. Last night, we hit my favorite scene, in which the shield-maiden Éowyn confronts the Witch-king of Angmar: a terrifying agent of evil, before whom all, but she, have fled.
When Éowyn challenges this undead King, he mocks her with the words of a prophecy. “Thou fool! No living man may hinder me!” But Éowyn, who has gone into battle disguised, laughs at the line. She pulls her helmet off, her hair flows free, “No living man am I,” she says, and kills her foe. What looked like a promise of victory for the enemy only prophesied defeat.
After nine years working with Christian professors at leading secular universities, I believe we are on the edge of a similar reveal. If we look beyond the secularizing West, which prophesies Christianity’s demise, to the global stage, we’ll discover that Christianity is thriving and growing, while the proportion of people without religious affiliation declines.
If we look more closely at each seeming roadblock to faith, like the three examples below, they turn out to be signposts to Christ.
Christianity is an exclusivist faith. We claim Jesus is Lord, regardless of race or place or culture. But rather than pulling against diversity, as many assume, Christianity is the greatest movement for diversity in all of history. Jesus tore through the racial and cultural barriers of his day (John 4:5–29) and commanded his followers to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Two thousand years later, Christianity is not only the largest global worldview (and expected to remain so) but also the most racially and culturally mixed.
To be sure, Christians have sinned time and again in this respect, and turned the love-across-differences (to which Christ calls us) into hatred, racism, and xenophobia. But the New Testament texts and the global church are the two greatest rallying points for diversity in all of history. Indeed, far from stamping out diversity, Christianity insists on it.
Christianity proclaims an all-powerful Creator God. But far from that belief pitting us against science, it aligns us with the very origins of the modern scientific method.
The first empirical scientists believed that the God who created the universe is rational, and so they hypothesized that he built the universe according to rational laws. But they also believed this God is free, so the only way to find out what those laws are was to go and look. These two beliefs laid the foundation for empirical science, the project (in early astronomer Johannes Kepler’s words) of “thinking God’s thoughts after him.”
To be sure, science can raise complex theological questions, but Christians have been at the forefront of science from the first, and today, there are Christians at the cutting edge of every scientific field that is thought to have discredited Christianity. Rather than conceding science to atheism, we should be thrilled to discover more about God’s world — not because we don’t believe in a Creator, but precisely because we do (Revelation 4:11).
Believing that sex belongs only in marriage between one man and one woman puts us at odds with unbelieving friends. Indeed, we may find ourselves accused of hatred and bigotry. Rather than being a tiny candle in the wind of progressive morality, however, biblical sexual ethics are well supported by the data around human flourishing.
For women in particular, increasing numbers of sexual partners correlates with more sadness, depression, and suicidal ideation, while for both sexes, stable marriage is measurably good for one’s mental and physical health. Married people have more and better sex than their unmarried peers, and the happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the last year turns out to be one!
When it comes to same-sex sexuality, we are utterly at odds with our immediate culture. But in this area as well, Christianity has more resources than most think. Some of the first Christians experienced same-sex attraction and came to Christ with homosexual histories (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). The same is true of the church today, as increasing numbers of same-sex attracted Christians are standing up for biblical sexual ethics on a costly platform of personal sacrifice.
The Bible calls us to firm boundaries around sex. But these are not hateful barriers designed to keep people out. Rather, they are marks on the playing field of human life, designed to create space for different kinds of love, each mirroring a different aspect of God’s love. In light of this, the Bible calls us to a particular model of marriage, a high view of singleness, and deep intimacy in friendships, where we are brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:50), one body (Romans 12:5), “knit together in love” (Colossians 2:2), and comrades in arms (Philippians 2:25). Indeed, Paul calls his friend Onesimus his “very heart” (Philemon 12) and tells the Thessalonians he was among them “like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
In true Christian community, no one is left out. So, our response to the secular mantra “Love is love” need not be hostility or defensiveness. Rather, it can be our single Savior’s radical claim: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
The Ultimate Answer
In the area of sexuality, as in every other area of apologetics, Jesus lies at the heart of the answer. We believe that marriage is one man and one woman for lifebecause it models Christ’s love for his church (Ephesians 5:22–33). We believe that the scientific method works because the universe is sustained by the all-powerful word of God (Hebrews 1:3). We believe in love across racial and cultural difference because one day people from every tribe and tongue and nation will worship Jesus in fellowship together (Revelation 7:9–10).
Just as Éowyn’s revelation of her sex spelled death for the Witch-king of Angmar, so time and again, when we look more closely at supposed obstacles to faith, they point us to Christ. So, let’s not sound the retreat. Instead, let’s arm ourselves with love, prayer, and humility — and with the best insights we can glean from God’s world through careful study — and let’s meet our unbelieving friends where they are.
Christ’s love compels us to embrace the hardest questions, knowing his truth will surely win the day.