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