The Importance of Answering the Right Question

I can remember it as if it were yesterday. I was in my second year at West Point and had undergone some experiences that made me question my faith. Strangely enough it was attending a Bible study and leading one that brought me to this point.

The Bible study that I was attending was led by Chaplin James Ford, the Assistant Cadet Chaplin who would ultimately become chaplain for the House of Representatives. One evening he casually mentioned Martin Luther’s negative perspective of the Book of James. Chaplain Ford did not intend for this statement to undermine the faith of those attending, but it stuck with me. I thought that if a pillar of the faith like Martin Luther had questions about the veracity of a portion of Scripture, maybe it wasn’t as trustworthy as I had thought.

The Bible study I was leading was attended by another cadet whom I had “led to the Lord,” using the old Romans Road approach to the gospel. He was a very nice guy and by nature a moral type person, but he did not display an in-depth commitment to the Lord, and soon seemed to drift away. This outcome brought to the surface an issue that I had wrestled with for some time. What is the essence of saving faith? Is a person saved by believing some theological facts, receiving a free gift, and praying a prayer? And what if after all that it doesn’t really seem to make much difference in his life?

These issues were sufficiently troublesome to me to cast a shadow across my whole belief system. I decided that I would not reject Christianity, but that I would just put it on hold for a while—live in spiritual suspension.

That didn’t last very long. One night I walked out the front door of the barracks and looked up at the sky. It was a clear night and my eyes took in the countless expanse of stars. It dawned on me at that moment that I must either assign natural causes to this vista or attribute its existence to God. In other words, I had to choose between the existing options. Rejecting a Christian worldview left me with a materialistic one.

Though this conclusion does not seem especially profound, it helped me to realize that in choosing a worldview, the issue is not whether that perspective on life answers all the questions to my satisfaction but whether it answers more questions than whatever might be in second place. Yes, I was struggling with issues related to Christianity, but they were quite insignificant compared with the overwhelming problems of explaining the existence of billions of stars or the complexity of the human brain from a purely naturalistic perspective. In comparing these two options, this was not a close race. It was more like pitting a Ferrari against a rusted out car in a junkyard.

Though I could not answer all of the questions regarding Christianity then, nor can I now, I see the overwhelming evidence for the existence of God everywhere I look. One blade of grass or one ant embodies more complexity than natural forces could ever assemble, not to mention the creation of a vast universe of such complexity.

And having reaffirmed my faith in the existence of God, for me the question of which God was a simple one. Though I didn’t know much about world religions at the time, I knew enough to be aware of the vast superiority of Christianity. I was quite sure that I did not want to move to Saudi Arabia or India or Tibet, and therefore I was convinced that the spiritual force that shaped my own culture was preferable to that which shaped theirs.

Across the years I have been confronted with other questions regarding my Christian faith, but each time I would go back to the lesson I learned that night at West Point and would quickly conclude that whatever questions Christianity might present, no alternative could hold a candle.

So often when Christians discuss their faith with unbelievers, they position themselves as responsible to answer all the questions. That is a mistake. The proper alternative entails asking, “Tell me, what do you believe?” and then making a comparison between the two positions. Doing so will put Christianity in a very favorable light every time.

One comment on “The Importance of Answering the Right Question
  1. Steve and emma says:

    Thank you, Dr. Brownback. A much needed perspective.

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