A Faith Unafraid of the Hard Questions

I believe very strongly that the Christian faith has nothing to fear from hard questions.  If what we believe is True, then it can withstand even the most intense cross-examination.  In fact, I think we ought to welcome hard questions, because hard, honest questions are often used by God to bring people to faith.  This was certainly the belief of the great missionary and evangelist E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973), friend to Gandhi and missionary to India.  In his missionary work Jones often fearlessly debated with people who were hostile to Christianity, and in his most famous book he explains how he came to be unafraid of even the hardest questions about faith.  Facts, he realized, are faith’s friends.

 

In his best-selling book The Christ of the Indian Road (1925), Jones writes:

“I have found a good many nervous Christians since coming home who are afraid that this whole thing of Christianity might fall to pieces if someone should get too critical, or if science should get too scientific. Many of the saints are now painfully nervous. They remind me of a lady missionary with whom I walked home one night after a very tense meeting in a Hindu theater. She said, ‘Mr. Jones, I am physically exhausted from that meeting tonight.’ When I asked her the reason she said, ‘Well, I didn’t know what they were going to ask you next, and I didn’t know what you were going to answer, so I’ve been siting up there in the gallery holding on to the bench with all my might for two hours, and I’m physically exhausted!’ There are many like our sister who are metaphorically holding to their seats with all their might lest Christianity fall to pieces under criticism!

I have a great deal of sympathy with them, for I felt myself in the same position for a long time after I went to India. The whole atmosphere was acid with criticism. I could feel the acid eat into my very soul every time I picked up a non-Christian paper. Then there came the time when I inwardly let go. I became willing to turn Jesus over to the facts of the universe. I began to see that there was only one refuge in life and that was in reality, in the facts. If Jesus couldn’t stand the shock of the criticism of the facts discovered anywhere, if he wasn’t reality, the sooner I found out about it the better. My willingness to surrender Christ to the facts was almost as great an epoch in my life as my willingness to surrender to him…. I saw that [Jesus] was not a hothouse plant that would wither under the touch of criticism, but he was rooted in reality, was the very living expression of our moral and spiritual universe—he was reality itself….

The only way to kill Christianity is to take it out of life and protect it. The way to make it shine and show its genius is to put it down in life and let it speak directly to life itself. Jesus is his own witness….

I am therefore not afraid of the question hour, for I believe that Jesus underlies our moral and spiritual universe deeper than the force of gravity underlies our material universe.”

from The Christ of the Indian Road, by E. Stanley Jones

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4 thoughts on “A Faith Unafraid of the Hard Questions

  1. There is a parenting application here. Depending on who you ask, something like 3/5 of all Christian teenagers leave the Faith when they exit the household, particularly those who end up on college campuses. According to J. Warner Wallace of Cold Case Christianity only 1/5 ever come back. I hope that I boldly and persistently train my children in the Truth, so that they will they will defend it when they are out on their own. I pray that I have the peace of mind that the Truth will prevail, no matter what they are exposed to.

    • And, we should never ever discourage children from asking us tough questions, nor feel the pressure to have perfect answers. To some questions, “I don’t know” is the best response.

      Also, we should be sure that our kids know that no matter what the question, someone else has already asked it. Many of the questions that skeptical people ask today were asked and dealt with by the Church Fathers 1500 years ago.

  2. I think when you are talking to someone about your faith, there are a few principals I try to stick with, when it comes to hard questions. They are:
    1. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” or “I am not sure” or “I have been thinking about that”
    2. Don’t act like you know it all or act like you are an expert on anything
    2. It is best to listen more and talk less. At the end of the conversation, ask yourself if the conversation was more about them or you (in most cases, it would probably be better if it was more about them).
    3. Lots of time it is good to answer a question with a question. Example might be – “That is a good question, what do you think?”
    4. Try not to draw lines in the sand (be respectful of the other persons views or opinions and do not present you own view as an “absolute” truth – even if you think it is). There is often no right or wrong answer. And even if the other person has the wrong answer (in your opinion), don’t try to convince them they are wrong. Plant the seed of what you think is the right answer and let God do the rest.
    5. If you think they are really off track, don’t let the conversation end in a negative way. Let them know that you have a different view, don’t mislead them into thinking you agree with them, but leave the conversation with a willingness and invitation to talk more about it. Don’t be judgmental or critical. Keep the conversation going.