Hope for doubters
JONATHAN LICHTENWALTER has written and edited for the website evidenceforchristianity.org and is currently writing articles for renew.org. He is currently taking classes from the Apologetics Research Society under John Oakes, Ph.D., and is planning to begin a Biblical Studies Masters. Most importantly, he has a love for God and a passion for spreading the gospel. He lives in Dallas, Texas where he currently leads a Bible discussion.
I've always wanted to have a relationship with God from a young age. I looked out at the stars at my church youth camp and promised God that I would seek a relationship with him throughout my life. But it's not always easy to have a relationship when you have doubts. Over the years, I've struggled to find certainty in my faith and I've had to wrestle with my relationship with God and what I believe about Him. I didn't want to lose my faith, but I also felt I had to be honest and real about the questions I was facing.
As a teenager, I started to dig deeper into the scriptures, questioning not only my Christian upbringing but the main doctrines of the Christian faith. I wanted to know how Christianity held up to other belief systems, and I still strive to look honestly at what I believe. I was always very drawn to apologetics and sought to understand why I believe what I do.
Without apologetics from some objective Christian thinkers, I’m not sure where I’d be in my faith. Addressing my questions has helped me tremendously. I continued to learn more because the more I learned, the more questions I had. I devoured books and audio on biblical scholarship, apologetics, and Church History.
Through this site, I want to use what I've learned to bring people into a deeper knowledge of--and relationship with--God, their faith, and scripture. If I'm able to convince some outside the Christian faith, that's a plus.
There are a variety of ways to approach the subject of apologetics. I'd like to lay out some aspects to my approach. For one, I believe the Bible is inspired by God, and--when accurately translated--shows the truth about how God has worked in the world from past to present. There is a lot of nuance in the term "scriptural infallibility" that I don't have time to go into here. But suffice it to say, I seek to defend scripture as from God and showing God's heart and actions in the world, past and present.
At the same time, while I seek to defend scripture, I remain open to change in my interpretations of scripture. This is because truth can be complex, as is the Bible, and I'm going into things assuming that I won't hit everything right on the mark in terms of a "perfect" understanding of scripture. I see the discovery of truth as a journey, not a destination. Indeed, scripture is meant to continue to shape us throughout our lives, and we will never "arrive."
This is the same way I approach other aspects of Christian philosophy, not just scripture. I don't think God is glorified when we are so afraid of getting something wrong that we are afraid to even think or challenge our beliefs! Won't God correct us if we may be a little off in our understanding, but remain humble and open to new information God may send our way? I believe he will. Consider James 1:5: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
I also believe that our attitudes matter as much as our opinions.
Consider James 1:19-25. This verse tells us to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." It also says that if we merely listen to the word and don't do anything about it, it's worthless. From reading this scripture, I want to do two things in my writing:
1. I want to have charity towards those whom I disagree with while being open to listening and possibly changing my mind. My hope is that I will have respect among those whom I disagree with on important issues because of my humility towards them.
2. I don't want to fill people with knowledge that does not lead to action or a changed life. What use is apologetics or digging deeper into the Bible if we ignore this principle? Yes, I dig deep into these subjects because they are very interesting. But more importantly, I explore and share what I am learning so that more people will be able to put God's word into practice.