When someone rejects the Christian faith he rejects a worldview that answers the deep yearnings of the human heart and the difficult questions of the human condition. The reason for this is that the Christian faith is centered in a person, not an ideal or an abstract idea. Because Jesus is the center of Christianity, all the glory of the divine Son of God is behind the answers Christianity gives. Only the Christian worldview truly makes sense of the following questions:
- Why am I here? What is my purpose?
Each worldview, belief system, and religion has an answer for these questions. Let’s take one, atheistic naturalism (AN) and show how it fails to answer these questions with any degree of satisfaction. Atheistic naturalism denies the existence of God and believes that all questions can be answered by science because the physical world is all that exists.
The answer AN gives to the first question is that we are here because the random forces of natural selection, guided by blind chance and time, just happened to produce this universe and everything in it. Since evolution is a blind process, there cannot be purpose, because purpose implies intelligence. There is no intelligence or design in the universe, so whatever happens to be, just is. There can be no purpose or meaning to life. We are here for nothing more than survival.
In contrast, the Christian worldview tells us that we are a special creation by a personal God who not only designed this universe for the purpose of human life, but has communicated purpose to us in his Word. Our purpose, as human beings made in God’s image, is to bring God glory. This other-focused purpose frees us from thinking we are the center of the universe. Life has inherent meaning because of God’s design in creation.
There is a universal longing for purpose and meaning in every person. Even when a person believes in AN, he longs for his life to have meaning. When talking to an adherent of AN, push the issue of meaning and purpose. Show how AN cannot provide purpose or meaning, and in fact makes it impossible. Only in the Christian worldview can a person find meaning.
- Who am I? Where did we come from?
In AN the individual is an accident of nature. He is nothing more than the sum total of his genes. He is no different from animals, and therefore has no more significance than a snail on the sidewalk. Ultimately AN has no answer for the origins of life. The universe came about by the Big Bang, but no one knows from where the original elements came.
In contrast, Christianity says we are unique among all created things. We are made in God’s image, made to know him, and made to reflect his glory. This provides us with an identity directly related to the divine God. Our identity does not consist of our performance, failures, successes, family, anything we do or what is done to us. Since God is our creator and sovereign, we are not our own. We belong to God and owe him our allegiance. Only in acknowledging this can we find our true selves and find joy.
- What is wrong with the world? Why is there evil and suffering?
Those who hold the AN worldview face a real crisis with these questions. If evolution is true, and we are just the sum total of our genes, and life is guided by blind chance, and there is no meaning in the universe, then there is nothing wrong with this world. The world is exactly the way it is supposed to be, with all the murder, rape, genocide, slavery, human trafficking, theft, hatred, cancer, disease, poverty, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, and so on. Yet, atheists cannot escape the urge to see many of the things mentioned to be wrong, or in need of correction. They are often deeply concerned with human suffering, even though they are inconsistent in their concern. In the AN worldview, whatever happens in this world is what is supposed to happen. Whatever happens is simply the result of natural selection. Ultimately, this is a very dissatisfying conclusion for most people, who want there to be meaning in suffering.
The Christian faith teaches that the world is NOT the way it is supposed to be. God created the world perfect, with no death or sin. Since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, however, the world is under the curse of sin. Nothing in the universe is as it should be, and the whole creation groans for the day when Christ will transform it (Rom. 8:22-23). Evil resides in the human heart, and anyone is capable of evil. God is sovereign over all events, so nothing happens outside God’s control. We suffer in this lifetime, but God has saved us from ultimate suffering by the death of his Son, Jesus.
- Where are we going? What is the end of all this?
In AN there is no ultimate end or final purpose of life. There is nothing after death. There is no afterlife, so life on this earth will continue without change until the resources of the earth are used up. There is no heaven or hell, so there is no reward for living a good life, and no punishment for those who have done evil. There is no good or evil so whatever you do to be happy is all that matters. There is no real value such as justice because all values are relative. No God will ever judge you, so do what you want with your one life, because after this life is nothing.
The Christian worldview teaches that there is an eternal destiny for each person. This world will soon come to an end, and life in this sin-cursed world will be over. Justice matters in this life, and in the end God will bring justice. Every evildoer will be punished and those who have been saved by divine grace will enjoy eternal bliss with God. Every desire that has been frustrated in this life will be satisfied for believers in the next life. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
The centrality of Jesus in apologetics and evangelism cannot be emphasized enough. There is nothing more powerful to dismantle the unbeliever’s opposition to Christianity than to discover that the gospel is not about keeping a moral code, or attaining some enlightenment, but rather meeting a person. God has provided overwhelming historical evidence for what we believe about Jesus. This lesson touched on some of that evidence, but this topic will be greatly expanded in later lessons. For now, what has been presented in this lesson is a good start for a student to learn and have ready when challenged by an unbeliever.
We want to develop a Jesus-oriented apologetic, where we are always trying to work Jesus into the conversation. The person and work of Jesus are the central issue in the gospel, so the sooner we can clear away obstacles and talk about Jesus, the sooner we can get to the heart of the issue. The more we learn how Jesus answers the questions of the human heart, the more we will be able to present a compelling, attractive understanding of the gospel that appeals to the unbeliever’s awareness of his separation from God. Even when people still have intellectual objections to the gospel, if they find Jesus to be a gentle Savior and Shepherd, they will be drawn to him.