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Relational Apologetics: “Overcoming Unbelief: A Safe Process for those Interested in Christian Faith” Part III

May 24, 2011

III. Engage with Intellectually Distinguished Christian Thinkers

            The above set of questions asks the seeker to explore certain intellectual assumptions that have formed his or her own beliefs, but also to explore certain emotional and experiential factors that have also influenced these beliefs.  Though there is always room for deception (in the Christian or the seeker) in such a process, when one is approaching faith from the position of humility, then a searching process will undoubtedly be deeply enriching.  However, after such a searching, a seeker may find that his or her objections to Christianity are a variety of intellectual problems.  He or she may have come to adopt many beliefs about Christianity based on the supposed incompatibility between faith and reason.  How can anyone hold such archaic beliefs and maintain intellectual integrity and respectability, the skeptic may ask.  Unfortunately, because of the influence of the now defunct Enlightenment paradigm, a large percentage of westerners “believe” that Christianity is intellectually untenable.  However, now that the skeptic as begun a seeking process, he or she may be open to discovering that there are a great many distinguished thinkers who are, in fact, Christian.  The goal would not be to engage in a name-dropping  program as if the mere fact that there are effective Christian thinkers somehow places Christianity above criticism.  This is certainly not the case.  Yet, while the fact that there are eminent Christian intellectuals does not prove Christianity true, it can, at least, demonstrate that there are plenty of “reasonable” people who consider it intellectually viable.   With that said, the goal would be to share some Christian thinkers that have been influential in my own life as a way of exposing my skeptic friend to the intellectual side of faith.

Based on my own spiritual journey, there are several intellectual thinkers and several “spiritual” thinkers who I feel exquisitely “explain” the Christian faith.  Again, while the intellectual component will be very important in dialoguing with a skeptic, we should not ignore the emotional/spiritual/existential components of a person.  With these considerations in mind, I would recommend the readings of C. S. Lewis, Gregory Boyd, and N. T. Wright as extremely helpful resources for the intellectual questions of faith.  I choose these authors for their accessibility in that all of them have gone to great lengths to make some of the more challenging academic discussions available to the lay-reader.  They are by no means the only influential Christian thinkers; they are simply the ones whom I have benefitted in reading.

For the still deeply reasonable, but more “spiritual” issues of the Christian faith, I would recommend the writings of Dallas Willard and Henri Nouwen.  Willard, being at one time the head of philosophy at the University of Southern California brings his philosophical expertise to the issues of spirituality and discipleship.  Nouwen, at one time, a lecturer at many leading universities, seems to grip all of my existential longings in his writings.  Reading these five thinkers would, in my view, greatly aid the journey of the skeptic towards faith.  While choosing belief may not be possible, jumping into the wealth of insight from such thinkers, and exposing oneself to the Christian faith at its best, is certainly within the volition of any individual.  It may be that the seeker may “find himself” seeing the validity and spiritual vitality of Christian faith.

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