Most Christians Cannot Explain their Faith, Says Apologist.

The following from an article at the Christian Post says what we’ve been warning about all along.

The faith of most Christians, even that of many pastors, will not stand up to intellectual scrutiny, according to renowned apologist Josh McDowell.

This is a concern because pastors’ inability to present biblical truth comprehensibly and relevantly has led to children from Christian families leaving the church, research has shown.

In the United States, the age at which nearly all such children leave church has decreased to 18 years.

Not even the children of many successful ministers are spared.

McDowell made his comments at a recent networking dinner among various men’s ministries organized recently by Men-in-Covenant. MiC is the men’s ministry of Covenant Evangelical Free Church.

He recalled speaking with the pastor of one of the largest U.S. churches, a man known for his expository preaching. Confiding in him, the pastor said their church was losing its youth right after high school graduation.

In his 50 years of ministry, McDowell has asked several thousand pastors and leaders how they could be certain Jesus Christ said “I am the truth” and not one of many truths or a truth.

“Not one person has ever given me an intelligent, biblically-based answer,” said the author of The New Evidence that Demands A Verdict.

During the past six years, he asked hundreds of Christians and leaders why they see themselves as Christians. Again no one gave him an “intelligent” answer.

In the past 17 years, he has asked over 4,000 pastors, leaders and parents why they believe the Bible is true.

A mere six “came close to giving an intelligent answer,” McDowell noted.

“If anything is based upon truth, it’s the Christian faith,” he said. “Christians who do not know why they have faith or believe have a very difficult time expressing themselves to others.

“The saddest thing is people come to me and say, ‘What’s the answer?’”

“I say, ‘There’s no answer… There are hundreds of answers.’”

Most Christians, even some pastors, don’t even know one. On the other hand, the apologist said he could give 50 reasons for his belief that the Bible is true.

Ninety-five percent of Christians gave disappointing responses when asked why they believe Jesus is the Son of God.

Asked why the Bible is true and historically reliable, Christians replied that it was what they had been taught by their church or parents.

A common response that most Christians gave to both questions was that it is “what I believe.”

McDowell responded: “That’s voodoo thinking. Where did we ever get that crazy idea that something is true just because we believe it?

“If that is true, then there will never be heresy. Everybody would be right.”

On one occasion, 13 youth pastors at a large convention were unable to reasonably answer the apologist’s question.

Finally one young person stood up, walked toward him and told him he knew the answer.

The young man promptly held up his Bible and said, “Because I believe it.”

And to McDowell’s dismay, all the youth pastors applauded him.

McDowell said, “Young man, do you know the difference between you, me and the majority of Christians in the world?

“To you, it is true because you believe it. For me, I believe it because it is true.”

Another response the apologist received was: Because I have faith.

He commented, “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that faith makes something true? That’s idiotic. That’s so unbiblical you can call it heresy.

“God doesn’t use faith to create truth. He uses truth through the Holy Spirit to create faith.”

Christians, the apologist stressed, are called to explain their faith when asked. They are set free by the faith in the truth, he expressed, referring to John 8:32.

Yet others say Christianity is true because Jesus changed their lives.

Even this will not stand up to intellectual scrutiny, McDowell argued.

“Lies change lives; cults change lives,” he said.

To make such an appeal is “not the essence of Christianity,” the author emphasized.

McDowell said: “We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children, we owe it to our neighbors, we owe it to the lost, to tell them not just what we believe but why do we believe it.”


24 thoughts on “Most Christians Cannot Explain their Faith, Says Apologist.

  1. Having read this article, it made me wonder if I could explain my faith. Thank God I can. I also questioned if my family could, or my pastor, other believers that I know.

    We should be able to, and if we cannot, why not?

    Scripture tells us to always be ready?

    Are we?


  2. Good post. It was hard to read though because of the color of the text. I’m amazed at how little this is emphasized in most churches, my own included. Now I’m thinking perhaps I can try to change that within my church and perhaps offer some leadership in this direction.

    There is one caveat here though. I knew a guy who was a newly converted Christian, and very zealous in his faith. He knew the arguments for his belief fairly well. When he met some very smart men who argued against him point for point, he wilted. He doubted everything, and lost his faith. And it can be done; to argue point for point against a reasonable belief in Jesus. Although personally, I believe our position to be stronger, it could still shake someone with an immature faith, who only bases it on logic or arguments. The mature faith is rooted in the community of Christ, in the personal relationship one has with Him. When you meet God for God, for who He is, in fear and trembling, nothing then can shake you out of your belief. But if you lack that personal experience, and only rely on what you’ve read in an apologetics book or heard in a lecture, I fear that you will likely fall just like my friend did. This is what I think many people who are believers today lack: the personal experience of knowing God for who He is. Many are just cultural Christians.


  3. As a new Christian some years ago I wanted to share my faith with my family and friends. Paul E little’s book “know why you believe” helped me to know what I believe but why I believe. Apologetics and a good Pastor-teacher is where I learned the most. I don’t share my testimony because many cults do the same but I share the Law to convict and the gospel to give them sweet news of forgiveness of their sins.

    1Co 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
    1Co 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
    1Co 15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.


  4. Here’s the ultimate question: how can one be called a Christian who cannot explain their faith? That would be like saying I know who I am but I don’t know my name. Our faith is based on solid, Biblical truth and the substance of the doctrine of the true knowledge of Christ and the Gospel. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ so if there is no substance to our faith there is no true faith.

    If someone cannot articulate the gospel would that not indicate that the person does not know the gospel?


  5. I understand this. While Jay Wingard may have good questions, I wonder about something else. Is the root of it that we have no grip on logic anymore? When one has an understanding of logic and rhetoric and higher reasoning, I wonder how it transforms the communication of our deepest beliefs.

    I walk this tentatively for the simple reason that Jesus said a little child could understand it. Plus, our faith is ever so much more than a logical argument (2 Peter 1:3-8).

    Just thinking out loud…


  6. I dont have to “explain” in an intellectual setting the ins and outs of my faith. In other words I need not go around ‘apologising’.

    Sure I can give a defense of the faith I have. And I must.

    I hope that makes sense 😉


  7. You make some very good points Jennifer. First, a study of logic is very important as so many conversations/discussions/debates are chock full of logical errors such as straw men, red herrings and ad hominems. I can testify I’ve been guilty myself I’m sure more times than I know. I have on my to-do list returning back to a study of logic and critical thinking.

    Second, we all need to be able to give an answer for the hope within. The degree as to how we articulate this will be based on many factors where I don’t think there is a grading scale for how well one does. The bottom line is that we need to know what we believe and why we believe it. If not, than we really are not much better than the cradle-to-grave Romanists who have rote religion that they abide in simply because it is what they have been taught as truth regardless of how it compares with the Scriptures.

    This leads to my last point which ties in with Jennifer’s second point about our faith being more than a logical argument. Precisely. Because at the end of the day you can believe that you have your beliefs and theology all wrapped up in a nice package, but this will all be for naught if your confidence is in your knowledge and apologetical prowess, and not in the one on whom you have believed. And the tie that truly binds the package together is faith.

    Faith is key for it tells us that Messiah was born as a babe, even though we never heard the angels announce his arrival nor saw him lying in the manger. Faith tells us that he grew in favor with God and men even though we never saw him him walk the streets of Galilee, nor heard him confound the Pharisees with his knowledge of the Scriptures. Faith tells us he was God manifest in the flesh even though we never heard the Father’s voice from heaven telling the people this is my beloved son. Faith tells us he confirmed his ministry with signs and wonders even though we never ate of the loaves and fish, nor saw Lazarus raised from the dead. Faith tells us he was tried under Pontius Pilate, beaten and crucified even though we never witnessed his trial, nor saw him bleed and die while hanging on the tree. Faith tells us on the third day he rose again even though we never saw the empty tomb, and were unable to thrust our hand into his side as did Thomas. Faith tells us he ascended into heaven even though we did not stand with the disciples and see a cloud take him out of sight. And finally, faith tells us one day he will return for his saints, raise them from the dead and judge the world in righteousness.

    Truly faith is key.


  8. Is it not also faith that leads us to a changed life also? Without faith it is impossible to please God, the just shall live by faith,etc.
    Having a working knowledge of what we believe and why is only part of our life, and yes we should be able to give an account of the faith that lies within us, but our changed life, our changed way of thinking is also what proves our faith is real.


  9. Why i believe? I grew up the son of a preacher, left the church for a cult, left the cult for satanism/atheism (depending on which would fit the situation), and and was cornered by a true Christian, not juat another one.

    Later on my brother told me to ask God for a spirit of judgement and understanding, to let the Holy Ghost clarify what i read. I drop my new translation and got a KJV – somehow, once one is willing to actually learn the meaning of those old time words, the new translations seem nonsensical – like adding water to milk so the baby can swallow it easier. Believe me, even the version of bible had an influence on why i believe on Jesus Christ.

    Later on my faith was in part damaged, then restored, by warnings to pray for protection and people getting into trouble soon after – three of us survived a vehicle accident that the medics thought that no-one could have. It broke me, because i could not see the protection. It built me, because i saw afterwards that i live literally by and on God’s grace.

    Yet this was not the clincher. What convinced me of the Truth of Christianity, was merely that there is no other religion that is universally despised, persecuted by its own adherents, and no god that is blasphemed and then it is shrugged off as “human nature” by those claiming to worship that same God, as the God of Christianity.

    Majority has never been right, and only a minority of Christians still seem to even think of berating others who use the names “Jesus”, “Christ” and “God” (in whichever form). To do that means to be argumentative, judgemental, quarrelsome, divisive, have a God-complex…. and that is before the world-, non- and occult religions come into the equation.

    As Edison said, had he found a thousand ways NOT to make a lightbulb. Same way, just listen and see how the other religions live and teach, and know why they are compatible with one another and even atheism (or at least, they tolerate – except for islam, which demands the death of all others, Shia even demands the death of different believing muslims), and incompatible with and intolerant of, true Christianity.

    When was the last time a preacher read Mark 10:30? As it is in the KJV? Chances are, after the second time he’d be fired for spreading a negative gospel…


  10. Koos,

    What is it about Mark 10:30 in the KJV that has anything to do with the Gospel? Any why is it the NAS or ESV (for example) do not accurately convey the Word in that verse? FYI, one verse does not make a message nor a doctrine.

    As for why one should believe the Bible – neither argument you present is proper, as your reasons for believing are based on man’s reaction. The Bible is True because it is God’s revelation of Himself to man and, well let my pastor explain it far better than I am able:


  11. Manfred

    granted, i checked on Mark 10:30 and the verse is the same in many translations. Still, how many times have you heard a preacher give a sermon which included persecutions with the blessings?

    As for Isaiah 14:12 and Revelation 22:16, have you checked them out? That is why i stick with the KJV – along with 1 John 5:7-8.

    In the KJV, it goes:

    For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
    And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

    See if the modern translations have that. Also keep in mind the difference between “are one” and “agree in one”.

    Indeed, one verse does not make a doctrine; but one verse can change an entire message.

    You may find the article by Mike Hernandez: “Which version of the bible do you read?” on the Chronicle Watch ( ) enlightening. He points there at many verses i never thought have been changed – these examples i gave above, God graciously had me see already.

    I do not know why you believe in the bible or on God; i know why i do. I saddens me to see the youth of today going down, both in the flesh and in the spirit, because the Truth is either withheld from them, or only in part given to them – the more modern the translations become, the more questions instead of answers they give people. I recall a video i saw on YouTube, a long time ago, where a girl actually gave quotes out of the NIV to explain why she had decided to turn atheist. I checked on those verses she read in the KJV and found the meanings to have been destroyed and replaced with others which made no sense.

    Thus far on the translations. I believe the truth and infallibility of the Word as written in the KJV, and i believe in the Way and the Truth and the Life as given to us in Jesus Christ, and i believe in the supreme, inerrant goodness, grace, love, light, righteousness, judgement and justice which is God the Father.

    I literally live by His grace alone.

    Or a shorter answer, i believe the KJV to be inerrant because that is the only translation i could not find Rick Warren using in his Purpose Drivel Lies…


  12. Koos:

    I hope you were joking about the KJV being inerrant because Rick Warren doesn’t use it.

    Personally, I do my study out of the KJV. Not because I think it is “inspired” per say. It’s N.T. is an English translation, (which had to undergo some minor early revisions) of a compilation of texts commonly known as the “Majority” text, closely following the Byzantine family. But I hold to it because, though the language itself may be hard to read (I’ve gotten used to it), I believe it is the most accurate to the text handed down faithfully by the true church. It’s variance with the modern translations is at the points where the Alexandrian perversions conflicted with the Majority text. And that’s a whole long study involving Arius, Alexandrian Gnosticism, Constantine, the Vatican and Sinai MSS, Westcott and Hort (and Lightfoot) and the infamous “Revision Committee” of 1881, the Oxford Movement, etc. (way too long to get into here).

    I believe your initial premise is correct, in that, if we are to defend the faith, we need to accurately understand God’s truth. And for that we need to turn to the most faithful text we can get as our source and foundation.

    Even though I use the KJV for personal study (along with Stephen’s Greek and the Masoretic Text), I hold the KJV subservient to the underlying Greek and Hebrew. As for preaching the Gospel, and teaching others, I sometimes use the KJV, sometimes the NKJV, sometimes the NASB. Only because the purpose is to reach them with God’s truth. And in so far as the NASB and NKJV hold soundly to the Majority Greek (NOT Nestle-Aland) and Masoretic Hebrew, I use their wording with more in depth explanation as needed.

    The problem with pushing the KJV today is that those who have not presented sound arguments in it’s favor have played into the trap of what has been stigmatized as “KJV-onlyism”. And I’ve heard foolish arguments that if you don’t use the KJV you aren’t preaching God’s word. That has produced a backlash. I’ve also heard all sorts of ridiculous arguments and accusations that those who hold to the KJV are “wooden-headed”, “bigoted”, “outdated”, “ignorant”, “Biblioloters”, who “think the King’s English is God’s English”. And Gail Riplinger hasn’t helped with her poor defense of the KJV. Most of these anti-KJV people know little or nothing of the two main competing Greek families, nor the Oxford Movement, nor the details of the 1881 Revision Committee, nor early church history. Nor have they compared the gross majority of unbelievers of the 1881 Revision Committee with the preponderance of believers who were Greek and Hebrew Scholars, that worked on the 1611 version. So they judge the KJV as a sentimental but basically outmoded, outdated relic of the past which has been surpassed by “higher criticism” and “greater scholarship”.

    I encourage you to continue studying God’s word and I’m glad you have come to value the KJV. But realize also that those who may not use the KJV may still have a solid Faith, understand God’s Truth (at least the basics of the Gospel), and have perhaps done a great deal of Greek and Hebrew study as well.


  13. I am a “new” Christian and admit I’m probably at a disadvantage here because of it, but I have to say a few things about this subject. All of my adult life I prided myself on my “logical” and “reasonable” approach to life based on all of it I was forced to injest after eight years in University life. It didn’t work out well. Three years ago God called me to Him, all by Himself, in my home…I was alone, He came to me and brought me to Him. No one had preached to me, I didn’t attend Church nor read the Bible. God did this one morning in early Spring. A most amazing experience. I didn’t hear voices, logical instructions, directions, etc. But it WAS God. Now, how in the world do you explain that to someone using logic and reason? Impossible. And yet, it was God, and I will believe that all of you reading this know that it was. I don’t have to convince you, I’m sure, using logic and reason. Now, in reading the Bible (again, please grant me a little mercy since I am still an “infant”), Jesus tells us why He came, and to go into all the world and tell everybody else. The New Testament tells us how He came, about His early Ministry, His commandments, His death and resurrection, and the “fact” that if we believe in Him and follow Him, we too will live forever. Now, I see absolutely nothing “logical” or “reasonable” in any of this. In fact, it is quite unbelievable on the face of it! But, isn’t this the wonderful point? If Jesus could be boiled down simply to logic and reason, why that would make Him ordinary wouldn’t it? Logic and Reason are manmade constructs…good for electricity, gravity, or eating when we’re hungry. But, I prefer to disregard them when I talk to someone about Jesus. I’m not looking to convince them, I’m looking simply to share with them what Jesus told me to say. I then leave them with a loving smile and “trust” that what the Bible says is true…that God’s word has supernatural power and is sharper than a two-edged sword and then leave the rest up to Him. In other words, I know that if God can call a Heathen to Him without the help of apologetics, logic, reason, debate, or even hearing the Gospel spoken to me, on a beautiful Spring morning in my bedroom, then I will simply trust that if I tell someone about Jesus, then He will do the rest. But, I am only about six years old, spiritually speaking, so maybe I’m wrong.


  14. DavidW, that was a serious joke about Rick Warren vs the KJV (though i am seriously serious about what i call his books).

    To push the KJV in order to get all to read KJV would be to worship the book instead of the the God who’s Word it contains. I read some Geneva bible also, once in a while (gotta love ye olde Anglaise…). And since my mothertongue is Afrikaans, i read the Afrikaanse Ou Vertaling (Old Translation) also.

    If the bibles were to be translated verbatim from one to the other, there would be no sense to or in it, as nobody would make be able to make any sense from the translated work. But removing two times half a verse (as in 1 John 5:7-8), or using the term our Lord uses for Himself in Revelation 22:16 (the Bright and Morning star) for satan (ex lucifer) in Isaiah 14:12… that is where i draw the line and burn the book. Those who do not have the gospel, may still be saved by the modern works; but those who read and obey without questioning glaring discrepancies such as these, ought to do some serious soul-searching.

    (Another stable for the modern church, was Romans 8:1 – they would do well to compare that with Jeremiah 31:33 to find the equilibrium).

    I am illiterate when it comes to Greek and Hebrew; but i know that God is not the author of confusion. Any bible that has verses that makes it contradict itself or detract from the gospel, is not of God. Then it might be inspired by god, but not by God.

    Marilyn: Your story is reminiscent of that of Bilquis Sheikh. See if you can find the book, “I dared to call Him Father”, her testimony of how Jesus Christ Himself called her out of Islam.


  15. Koos,

    Revelation 22:16 (the Bright and Morning star) for satan (ex lucifer) in Isaiah 14:12

    I like the ESV or the NASB personally… although KJV is fine as well.

    More accurately, Satan was originally the ‘son of the morning’ or ‘day star.’

    To push the KJV in order to get all to read KJV would be to worship the book instead of the the God who’s Word it contains.

    As long as we keep that in mind — always — we are on the right path.

    – Jeff H


  16. JeffH,

    you quote Isaiah 14:12 from the KJV. In the new translations, it becomes Day star or morning star. The description the Lord Jesus gives of Himself.


  17. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!” (Isaiah 14:12 ESV)

    “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12 KJV)

    The name Lucifer does not come from the Hebrew or even from the Greek translation (Septuagint), but from the fourth century AD Latin translation of this verse:

    quomodo cecidisti de caelo lucifer qui mane oriebaris corruisti in terram qui vulnerabas gentes.

    But this is not quite as obvious as it sounds even in Latin. The term Lucifer in fourth century Latin was a name for Venus, especially as the morning star.

    The Latin word Lucifer is composed of two words: lux, or in the genitive form used lucis, (meaning “light”) and ferre, which means “to bear” or “to bring.” So, the word Lucifer means bearer of light. The same word is used in other places in the Latin Vulgate to translate Hebrew terms that mean “bright,” especially associated with the sky:

    Job 11:17: And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning.

    2 Peter 1:19: You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

    This reflects how the Latin word Lucifer was used in classic Roman poetry, such as this passage from Virgil (Georgics, III, 324-325):

    Luciferi primo cum sidere frigida rura
    carpamus, dum mane novum, dum gramina canent

    Let us hasten, when first the Morning Star appears,
    To the cool pastures, while the day is new, while the grass is dewy.

    The term also occurs in the plural (luciferum) in Job 38:32 to refer to an astral constellation. Other forms of the word are used in similar ways to refer to light or the stars. This reflects the Greek (Septuagint) translation’s use of heosphoros, “morning star” to translate the Hebrew of Isaiah 14:12.

    The original Hebrew word in Isaiah 14:12 (helel) comes from a verbal root that means “to shine brightly,” as well as “to offer praise” (where we get the phrase hallelu yah).

    In any case, the noun form is the Hebrew term for the morning star, in most cases the planet Venus. Both the second century BC Greek translation in the Septuagint, and the fourth century AD Latin translation in the Latin Vulgate understand this to be the meaning of the Hebrew word helel.

    Note that I am not a proponent of the Latin Vulgate, but that strings together the origins of the term ‘Lucifer’ to which you cling.

    In 2 Corinthians 11:14, Paul writes about false apostles:

    “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

    And in Luke 10:18-19, at the return of the 70 as they comment on their success, Jesus says:

    “And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.'”


  18. While I don’t agree with Dennis Bratcher’s conclusion concerning who Lucifer is, I think his scholarship is sound.


  19. We are going over defending your faith in Sunday School. Being prepared. Can i defend my belief. Why do the christians believe in the bible. Because they were brought to church by their parents and that is just the way it is. Because “they said so”. Why do you think so many christians crumble under crossfire. These are questions that i will be discussing in my class. I think it is the most difficult question. Because it questions the entire foundation of faith.


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