The Limits of Apologetics: the Difference Between “Faith That” and “Faith In”

by Rob Lundberg

Some time ago, we were walking through a great little apologetics book by Norman Geisler and Joseph Holden, entitled Living Out Loud: Defending Your Faith, as part of our family apologetics discipleship and training in our home.

In thinking what apologetics does and what apologetics does not do, I am often reminded that there is difference between having an “accidental faith” (having a faith “that” something is true) versus what it means to have an “evidential faith” (having “faith in” something being true).  What is the difference between these phrases?

A Common “Real Life” Illustration

I am sure many folks might share this real life illustration that I am about to share. Allow me to start off by saying that many professing Christians today have what could be considered an “accidental faith.” They “believe that” there is a God that exists. They “believe that” Jesus died on a cross for our sins. They “believe that” He rose from the dead. All of these facts are true, and embraced by all Bible believing Christians. But if you were to ask the average believer, they really have not been equipped to articulate why these cardinal truths are true.

One of the most annoying sounds for anyone is hearing fingernails going down a chalkboard. Something very similar is when someone who is big on old fashioned evangelism has told me that one does not need to have reasons for their faith. What is the rationale to this statement?

For the one making this comment, the thinking is that in sharing the gospel you are going after the conscience. But the conscience is where conviction resides. What produces convictions?  Facts that are true, once investigated, produce the conviction for those facts being true.  Investigating facts involves using the mind, which is part of the soul. The soul, being a multichotomous{1] facet of our being, is popularly broken down to the mind[2], the will, and the emotions (which are seated in the heart [3]). So if one uses the mind, evidences cannot be avoided.

In fact the King James Bible calls faith, “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”  So if evangelism goes after the conscience, “belief in” is not a mindless exercise. Also if we are to say that one does not need reasons to believe, why believe anything to be true? Why believe that I need Jesus to be my Savior?  It makes no sense what so ever.

So having said all this as preamble, the purpose of this post is to discuss this whole idea of the difference between having an “accidental faith” is insufficient for a truly biblical faith; and how an “evidential faith” makes a real biblical faith robust…

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The Limits of Apologetics: the Difference Between “Faith That” and “Faith In”