With all its twists and turns, joys and pains life certainly has a common thread. It is filled with many questions. Questions are a peculiar thing. Through them we can discover life and learn something about the universe and ourselves. Yet they can also yield great confusion. At times we ask, “What in the world is my life about?” and to be honest, the answers do not always come easily. The beauty of creation, the glories and horrors of human beings, the mystical call of the spiritual life, the centrality of love and the finality of death all provoke deep questions. What can we learn about life, beauty and meaning if we ask them honestly? Questions can be like breadcrumbs marking the trail that leads to truth and hope…even God.
When I became a follower of Jesus as a university student I had so many questions about my new faith. I had questions about the interrelations of science and belief in God. I had questions about the Bible, a fascinating collection of ancient writings I was reading for the first time. I had questions about why Christian college kids seemed to be trying to avoid both sex and beer. I had so many questions I didn’t know what to do but ask them. So ask them I did: to anyone and everyone who would listen and seemed to have some wisdom around the subjects of my interest.
At this point I ran into a couple of interesting responses. The first was a strange response from some students who grew up in certain churches. They told me that we should not ask questions but that we should just have faith. I had no idea what that meant but it sounded like a recipe for disaster. How could I learn more without asking questions about what Christians taught and believed? Furthermore, all my non-Christian friends had nothing but questions for me which sort of reinforced my desire to find some answers. In this same season of life, one of my friends said to me, “you would really enjoy reading some Christian apologetics!” Being a science and math guy and not having the most sophisticated vocabulary at the time, I quipped in response, “I’m not saying sorry to anyone for believing in Jesus.” Of course the word apology and apologetics have a nuanced meaning that I was unaware of in my own etymological ignorance. Apologetics is actually a discipline of theology that gives answers to questions about the Christian faith. We’ll pick that back up quite a bit in a moment.
What I found that God was not afraid of my questions and by following them in faith, I always ended up following him. I found God in a deep way by asking them. Questions for me were not a hindrance to faith in Jesus; they were a portal and entry way. They were a portal to a great appreciation for the breadth and depth of the truth of the gospel and led to an actual deepening of intimacy with the God I loved.
The Role of Questions
Human questions can be used in one of two directions in relationship to God. They can be used in following God or they can be used in rebellion against God. Many times people ask questions to which they really do not want answers. They only want to provoke doubt and leave people in a dark forest of skepticism and disbelief. Such questions are simply smokescreens to avoid getting to the heart of the matter, or they can also be a wicked suppression of the truth like little middle fingers before the face of God. Over the years I have noticed that deeply intellectual people handle questions about faith in different ways. I have observed some with hostility to God and a mind completely closed towards the truths and possibilities of Christian faith. I have watched others with an open mind and a heart willing to follow the trail wherever it may lead. It seems to me that God’s intervention and activity in a person’s life has been the main difference here. I do know this: coming in humility and openness always leads to a better place when asking questions about God. Questions asked in the posture of faith, hope and love can be a wonderful tool guiding us towards God’s truth. Asking them with a sneering cynicism can lead one into a damnable place.
In this essay I hope to take us towards our questions in hope of finding sturdy answers for the soul as it sojourns on the earth with God. To do so I want to first introduce you to the discipline of Christian Apologetics and its helpfulness to the task of the church. I then want to encourage all of us to interact in wisdom with questions people actually have: real people, our friends and their real questions. Finally, I want to conclude with some thoughts about the interplay between our intellectual questions and the necessity for God’s help and illumination at every stage of seeking answers. There will also be two appendices on apologetic systems and the content of apologetics both ancient and modern. Now, without delay, let’s move to our introduction to Christian Apologetics.
 Smokescreen questions is a term I first observed used by Dr. J. Budziszewski in coaching college students to deal with questions. See J. Budziszewski, How to Stay Christian in College (Colorado Springs: Nav Press, 2004), 64-72.