by Mary Jo Sharp
In today’s marketplace of ideas, Christians often feel overwhelmed by the frenzy of questions coming at them.
Many of us want to have meaningful conversations about faith with people who hold a different view of God. But we often feel ill-equipped and worry about saying the wrong things
As an apologist—someone who explains the Christian faith for a living—I’ve had a lot of practice discussing faith with nonbelievers.
Here are the common questions I am most often asked by nonbelievers and how I answer them.
If God is good, why is there suffering?
This is one of the most important questions about our faith. It’s also a difficult question since all of us experience pain and suffering in this life.
To view suffering as something that is evil implies that good and evil have recognizable standards.
Christians say God’s nature is good, and so we can look to who God is to figure out what is good and what is evil.
We can say that His original creation, which was perfectly good, was not intended for suffering. Suffering and death are corruptions of God’s good gift of life. They weren’t originally part of this world and are only temporary.
In a universe void of God as the standard of good—a standard that does not change with human preferences or culture—we end up with no objective good or evil. Things that happen are just the way they are.
What if there is no God? Without an objective standard of good, we have no reason to think that these things that happen are good or bad.
If the Church has the truth, why is it full of hypocrites?
This question is near and dear to my heart. I began to doubt my belief in God because of the disconnect I noticed between the people who professed the Bible as the Word of God and how those people behaved.
Some of my most hurtful experiences in life came by the mouths of professing believers in God, those saved by the abundant grace and mercy of the Lord.
You will live out what you truly believe. Jesus discussed this in the Sermon on the Mount. The inner life and thoughts work their way into our actions.
Others notice the discrepancy in our lives between our beliefs and our actions. It can provide fodder for their minds as they turn from God.
But the church is full of hypocrites because we are all hypocrites: the entire human race. A hypocrite can be any person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.
I’ve said in the past I would never drink coffee and now I do. I have stated I don’t like postmodern art, but there are works I enjoy. By Webster’s definition, I’m a hypocrite.
The same principles apply to the subject of God.
The hypocrisy of humanity can be explained within the Christian worldview (“the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”).
But the idea that hypocrisy exists is based on the belief that there is a standard for how humans should behave.
There can be no hypocrisy when every individual decides for themselves what is good. Without a standard in place, we would have no rule for suggesting the person is being hypocritical.
Hasn’t the scientific endeavor shown that belief in God is unnecessary and unintelligent?
When a person assumes the only knowledge we have is what we have discovered through science (the scientific endeavor), they fail to realize that this belief itself is not discovered by any method of science.
Rather, the belief that science discovers knowledge about the universe, is a philosophical statement. There’s no lab experiment we can do to discover if the knowledge we gain about the universe is accurate.
If the Christian God is real, then as the perfectly good Creator of the universe, He has gifted us with the ability to actually know things about our universe.
He has not created a grand delusion in which to trick humans into thinking this universe is real, when in fact it is not real. Rather, He has given us an actual universe to learn about and discover.
As we learn about the universe, we also learn about its Creator. So there’s a reason for the knowledge we gain about the creation to be true and not a delusion: to help us know the Creator.
Do you have to choose to trust in either science or faith? Can you trust both?
Here we have a misunderstanding of both the realm of science and the definition of faith. What we call science is the study of the natural realm.
Faith is not a study of the natural realm. Faith is a trust in God. You can trust in God and study the natural realm. You can even believe that your faith in God is what provides a foundation for your study of the natural realm.
As Francis Bacon noted in The New Organon, it is because God brought all of creation into existence that makes all of creation worthy of our investigation.
It is also belief in God as Creator that gives us a foundation for understanding the physical universe as actually existing. If God is real, and He is responsible for creation, then we can reason His creation is real as well. Faith and science are not only compatible, but complementary.
As we seek to provide arguments for our beliefs to share with the world, we must not forget that everyone has a worldview. We can minister to others by not only being ready to answer questions asked of us, but by asking more questions.
As part of loving other people, we need to help them discover or uncover the truth about why they believe in a certain view of the world.
By asking questions, we will find points of communication in which we can discuss and discover truth together. Don’t worry if you are not an expert communicator or conversationalist; just start talking.
Yes, you’ll make some mistakes and maybe even feel you failed from time to time. However, you’ll learn from those mistakes and know how to better handle a similar situation the next time around.
Remember, it is a privilege, not a burden, to discuss the big questions in life as part of loving and caring for the people God places in our lives.
MARY JO SHARP (@MaryJoSharp) is a former atheist from the Pacific northwest who thought religion was for the weak-minded, but who is now a Christian author and director of Confident Christianity Apologetics Ministry.