Elevator Apologetics, Part 4: Proof and Packages

Are you new to graduate school and looking for ways to respond when people around you ask questions about faith? Or searching for some helpful shorthand to distill your years-long study of apologetics into a brief conversation? In this series, Rick Mattson shares some ideas from his extensive work in apologetics. Click here for the rest of the series. 


In this series of “short replies” to skeptics of Christianity, we’ve looked at four issues:

  1. Religious pluralism
  2. Science and faith
  3. Religion and ignorance
  4. Religion and good works

In each case I suggested an “elevator apologetic” that is meant to invite skeptics into deeper reflection on the issue.

Here’s a fifth example:

The skeptic’s objection: God has to prove himself to me, or I’ll never believe.

Theological background to our reply (not actually verbalized): Jesus performed many signs and miracles throughout his ministry in order to “reveal his glory” (John 2:11). But rarely if ever did he submit himself to a direct demand for proof (see examples in Luke 4:9, Matt 12:38). Rather, his message seemed to be, “Open your minds to the unique ways in which I reveal myself. Then you will find me.” In other words, we must come to God on his terms, not ours.

Elevator reply (what we actually say): In Christianity God has chosen ways to reveal himself that don’t necessarily look like scientific proof. For example, he showed himself most fully to us by sending his Son, Jesus, into the world to provide a pathway to God. He sent a personal messenger, not a scientific experiment.

Parting questions to the skeptic: Have you carefully read the accounts of Jesus in the Bible? Would you like to read one of them together with me?

An analogy to use if you have a little more time with the skeptic:

Trying to find God through only the means you choose is like cutting a slot in your front door, a foot wide and six inches high. You tell the Post Office and UPS to deliver all your mail through the narrow slot. It may be easier to sort and categorize your mail with this method. But of course you will miss many packages this way.

That’s how it is with God. His revelation through Jesus Christ is not always what we expect, just as the size of a package isn’t always predictable. But that’s the way he chose. If we open ourselves to God’s methods of revelation and not confine him to one narrow slot called “scientific proof,” we are more likely to find him.

Resources:

James Sire: Apologetics Beyond Reason: Why Seeing Really is Believing

Blaise Pascal: Pensees (see esp. Section VII)

C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity

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Rick Mattson

Rick Mattson is a national evangelist and apologist for InterVarsity, speaking at over fifty campuses the past few years. He lives in St. Paul, MN with his family. As part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Rick Mattson’s call is to strengthen and encourage Christian students and faculty in their faith, and invite seekers and skeptics to consider Christ for their lives. He studied at Bethel Seminary of St. Paul, MN, where he received his masters in the philosophy of religion. Rick’s committed to compassion, reason, and respect in his interactions with both “friend and foe” on campus. He’s also highly committed to InterVarsity’s value of multiethnicity. Rick loves talking with students and faculty about the great questions of life! What could be more fun??? At home, Rick’s a committed family man, serious golfer, and plays e-guitar in the band at his church. . . . And of course he spends a lot of time reading theology and philosophy :)

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