In 2018, a Ligonier Ministries study showed that 78% of professing Christians believe that “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.”
Continuing with that unbiblical trend, 52% of evangelicals agreed that “everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.”
These two foundational truths—one about the center of our faith, Jesus Christ Himself, and the other about what we believe about man’s nature—are critical to an orthodox Christian worldview. By these statistics, many professing Christians are literally heretics.
To give the “benefit” of the doubt, I believe these statistics are more indicative of Christians simply not knowing what they believe, rather than actually being a heretic. Either way, we can’t continue on that path.
But alas, there’s still an issue. It’s an epidemic, really. We were sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16) but we can’t even describe who our Shepherd is. As RC Sproul once said, “We don’t know who we are and we don’t know who God is.”
We need to understand something: as Christians, it’s imperative for us to know (1) what we believe; (2) why we believe it; and (3) how to defend it.
Know What You Believe
Too many times, if you ask a Christian what they believe, you will get a vague answer. You’ll hear something about Jesus—whether he is the Christian Jesus or the Mormon Jesus for example, nobody will be able to tell. It’s important to be specific and make distinctions. Simply regarding Jesus, be very specific, because other religions believe in Jesus.
I think it’s fair to partly blame evangelical pastors for this problem of Christians not knowing what they believe. Pastors—most of them—don’t preach doctrine anymore. They “preach” what is popular, whether it’s self-help talk or lessons on “being a better you.” Even if the preacher does preach on the Bible, it’s usually a topical sermon—as opposed to sequential, verse-by-verse preaching—and misses key doctrines that have practical application in Christian’s lives.
If pastors don’t preach (at least) key doctrines of the Faith, then we shouldn’t expect the congregants to know much about the Faith.
Christians need to know what they believe.
For example, the orthodox Christian faith has always taught that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, and that repentance is a necessary component of saving faith (as in, faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin).
Should an outsider ask, an everyday Christian should be able to convey this, consequently distancing Christianity from works-based religions like Roman Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, and the like.
Of course, this is just one example. The bottom line is this: Christians need to have a firm grasp on what they believe. If you struggle with this, ask yourself these questions:
- What do you believe about God?
- How is man saved?
- Is man inherently good?
- Who is Jesus?
There are a multitude of other questions you need to ask, but those are foundational.
Know Why You Believe It
Not only should you know what you believe, but you should also know why you believe it. This issue correlates with the accusation that Christians have a “blind faith.”
It you speak with a skeptic, and they ask you why you believe in the virgin birth, or the resurrection, or that God is triune, and you can’t really tell them why, then you need to examine your own belief. Why do you believe it?
Why do Christians believe the things we do?
In short, we believe what we believe because the Bible says it.
We believe what the Bible says because we believe that God’s Word is final and He is good and right.
We believe God is good and right because of the revelation of His character and nature.
Don’t be afraid to ask yourself why you believe what you believe. You might come to find out you don’t actually believe it. We are commanded to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). Challenge yourself. We need to be thinking Christians.
On this subject, John Piper said this:
“I think there’s a never-ending call for the Christian church to exercise its intellectual life on behalf of the Bible, understanding it and defending it.”
We need to be Christians who deeply on things in Scripture. We need to think.
Know How to Defend It
Maybe an even bigger epidemic are Christians who don’t know how to defend their faith. (A great book for Christians to read on Apologetics is The Reason for God by Tim Keller, shown above). Friends, we are commanded to defend our faith. We are called to “make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [us]…” (1 Peter 3:15). But this doesn’t happen for the majority of Christians.
When you enter a conversation with a skeptic, your answer to their question should not be, “You just need to have faith.” Well, there’s one problem: they don’t have faith. And that’s their problem. But that’s not a good answer.
Let me give you a hypothetical scenario. John Doe walks up to you and asks if you’re a Christian. You say “Yes.” He then asks, “So I assume that means you believe in the Bible?” Again, you say “Yes.” He then quickly retorts by saying, “How can you trust a book that was written by man and has so many contradictions in it?”
At that moment, wouldn’t you like to know how to biblically answer that? (You can here.) This might not be something you think about, but it’s surely something skeptics think about. We need to be Christians who engage in the practice of apologetics.
Christian, God has not called you to live a non-thinking, anti-intellectual Christian life. He has called you to use the brain He’s given you. Use it for His glory! Honor Him by thinking on these things.
The lost world around us is only going to continue to push back against Christians and our faith. We need to prepare ourselves.
Know what you believe.
Know why you believe it.
Know how to defend.
Soli Deo Gloria