In our interview with former achaeologist and current Old Testament and Apologetics lecturer, Chris Sinkinson we discover why quick sound bite answers to the Christian message can be ineffective.
1. What is Confident Christianity about?
The title came late in the process. Confident Christianity seemed to fit what I wanted to suggest in the book: Christians have a right to be absolutely confident. We’re confident that our faith is based on truth and that there are good reasons and sound arguments for what we believe. But that confidence in what we believe doesn’t mean we’re arrogant. There should be a humble confidence in what we believe. We should be humble about the limits of our knowledge but confident in what we believe.
2. Is the book aimed at Christians or non Christians?
It was definitely aimed at Christians. It’s based on a course in apologetics that I teach at [Moorlands] college. It’s been written to help Christians think about how we deal with difficult questions. But I’ve been quite encouraged by the way its been picked up by some non Christians. I’m just sending off a copy right now to the head of the Humanist Society that I’ve been engaging with.
If you have a thoughtful non Christian friend whose a little familiar with some philosophy and the issues but skeptical of Christianity then this is the kind of book you can pass on to them.
3. What are your hopes for the book?
I hope it’s going to be helpful in encouraging Christians to take further their use of apologetics and engage with our non-Christian culture. I’m convinced that we need to strengthen the foundations of our faith and the credible solid reasons we have for our faith in Christ.
The new atheists aren’t going to let this sleep. If we’re not engaging in apologetics, other worldviews will. We need to improve in our use of serving God through apologetics.
4. Some books give people prepared answers that you can give in response to specific questions. Does your book do this?
It doesn’t give you any simple sound bite answers. I imagine some readers could be frustrated because they’ll be looking for what’s the quick knock down answer to a difficult question. This doesn’t provide that because I’m not sure there is a quick knock down answer.
What this book tries to do is help us to think about the issues that tough questions raise and how we can get into a longer conversation with a friend to help them see that we as Christians don’t have all the answers. But we do have some answers and those answers help us to see that the cross provides a solution that’s lacking anywhere else.
5. What are some of the dangers with using soundbite answers?
There are examples in the book of Christian urban myths that do the rounds in sermons and talks.
They sound like pretty good arguments against atheism but they don’t hold water. The problem with those arguments is they give you a quick victory in an argument with a friend, but long term they do us no favours at all. If they are not sound and genuine and based on credible evidence, in the long run we look a lot worse off for it.
6. What books on apologetics would you recommend?
You have to read half a dozen books to get a feel for the subject. I’d recommend What Kind of God? by Michael Otts which is a really good introduction to some of the difficult issues people have.Nick Pollard’s Evangelism made slightly less difficult is about evangelism but also about apologetics.
You can still find so much value in the classic evangelical works by CS Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. There’s something that is timeless in the way they construct their arguments. They stand the test of time.
7. Some people hold the view that we shouldn’t get caught up with apologetics as Christianity requires faith, and people will either believe it or they won’t. How would you respond to that?
Yes, there are many who have a very shallow view of what faith is. Faith is not simply believing because of some feeling or experience we have. Faith is trusting God’s revelation with good reasons. A genuine faith is a faith that will engage with difficult issues, that will be able to explain itself. In the end we’re only doing what the Bible tells us to do which is to give an answer for the questions that people ask us or the hope we have within.
8. What are you working on now?
I’ve got another book I’m working on at the moment about the background to the Old Testament, looking at how many of the things that we find obscure like warfare and slavery fits with the teachings of Christ.
I’m thinking about how we should be more at home in the Old Testament. It’s a strange place when we lose ourselves in Leviticus or activities in Chronicles, we can feel out of our comfort zone. But that shouldn’t be the case as believers because this is our heritage and it’s the worldview of Jesus.
9. What has God been teaching you lately?
As a pastor of a church, the ongoing teaching of the Bible is very important to me. We’ve been thinking about what it means to be church. I’m very challenged about what it means to be in community and live in a real sense of genuine relationships. Where we’re not concerned with denominations or buildings, but we’re concerned primarily about who we are and the quality of relationships we should have with one another in the body of Christ.
10. Do you enjoy being being both a lecturer and pastor?
The college emphasise applied theology and the applied bit is very important. The theology that we teach and study has to be applicable to everyday life and I find that enormously helpful in terms of pastoral ministry. Even though what we’re studying can be obscure to some people, it does have application to preaching, pastoral issues and contemporary culture. That’s what I find so helpful in having the two hats that I wear.
March 26th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes