[Originally posted, in slightly different form, on July 27, 2007]
Debating apologetics can be a tricky matter: Christians have 2,000 years of experience in rationalizing their beliefs, and generally know better than to allow themselves to be pinned down to anything that would settle the matter fairly and objectively. There is, however, one undeniable fact, with one inescapable consequence, which can be used to force Christians to face reality no matter how much they would like to twist away from it.
The undeniable fact is this: God does not show up in the real world, not visibly, not audibly, not tangibly, not for you, not for me, not for saint or for sinner or for seeker. Many people, of course, have already pointed out this fact, and tried to use it against Christianity, with little or no effect. For 2,000 years, believers have been rationalizing their way around that one. That’s why, for maximum effectiveness, we need to combine the undeniable fact with the inescapable consequence.
If God does not show up outside the stories, superstitions and subjective feelings of men, the inescapable consequence is that we have no alternative but to put our faith in men rather than in God. If I promise you that God will put ten solid gold coins under your pillow tomorrow morning, and you believe that this is true, whom are you believing, God or me? If those coins are not there tomorrow morning, who lied, me or God? When you believe what one person tells you about someone else, are you trusting the someone else, or the one who tells you?
When men say things on God’s behalf, and make promises that God is supposed to keep, the word they tell you is the word of men, not the word of God. That’s true even if what men say is, “This is the word of God.” They’re not giving you God’s word, they’re giving you man’s word about God’s word (or at least what they claim is God’s word). Sure, you can believe what men tell you about God if you like, but if you do, you are putting your faith in men. Before you can have faith in God, God has to show up, in person, to tell you directly the things He wants you to have faith in. Otherwise it’s just faith in men.
This is an important point, because Christians tend to believe that they are doing something noble and spiritual when they put their faith in Christian teachings. Because they believe that the Bible is the word of God and that Christian teachings in general are the teachings of God, they count their belief in these teachings as a mark of loyalty towards God. Because God does not show up in the real world, however, they are not putting their faith in God, they are putting their faith in the fallible men who brought them these teachings and told them they were from God.
Psychologically, it makes a big difference to the Christian whether he is defending faith in God, or only defending faith in men. The most effective approach to unapologetics, therefore, is to keep directing the believer’s attention to the undeniable fact that God does not show up in the real world, and the inescapable consequence that God’s universal absence means all these apologetics are merely the words of men. Believe in them and defend them if you want, but you’ll be defending men, and not God. And will your faith in men save you?