A Goal for Christian Apologists in 2014: Explaining the Difference Between the ‘What’ and the ‘Why’

Given we are close to the end of another year, I know many of us are thinking and talking about  New Years Resolutions.  Two things we know for sure are the following:  

  • All of us are closer to our own death
  • We are one year closer to the Lord’s return

Many of us then go over the typical resolutions:

  • Resolve to “lose weight”
  • Resolve to “manage debt”
  •  Resolve  to “save money”
  • Resolve to “get a better job”
  • Resolve  to “get in better physical shape”
  • Resolve to “eat right”
  • Resolve  to “get a better education”
  • Resolve  to “break an addiction”  
  • Resolve to “reduce stress”

Then many of us have our spiritual discipline resolutions:

  • Pray more
  • Read the Bible more
  • Share our faith regularly
  • Be rooted in community
  • Commit to disciple someone
  • Read a good book on the attributes of God
  • Focus on areas of repentance
  • Get involved with a ministry

 New Years Resolutions for Christian Apologists

One of my favorite texts in the Bible is the following:

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,  since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”- John 17:1-4


Eternal life is something that involves both quality and quantity. It is a quality of life that starts in this life and extends through eternity.  While I  am excited that John has recorded what Jesus has told us about ‘what’ we need to believe to have eternal life, it will most likely lead to what Tim Keller calls the ‘why’ question:

“I’ve heard plenty of Christians try to answer the why question by going back to the what. “You have to believe because Jesus is the Son of God.” But that’s answering the why with more what. Increasingly we live in a time in which you can’t avoid the why question. Just giving the what (for example, a vivid gospel presentation) worked in the days when the cultural institutions created an environment in which Christianity just felt true or at least honorable. But in a post-Christendom society, in the marketplace of ideas, you have to explain why this is true, or people will just dismiss it.” – Tim Keller

When I recently spoke on John 17 and talked about the relationship between the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ question, I quoted Keller. After all, to say the average person that the ‘what’ involves believing in the one true God and Jesus for eternal life, it will lead to ‘why’ questions such as:

“Why should I believe in this God and not another God?”

“Why is Jesus unique?”

When these questions come, the Christian will generally punt to the authority of the Bible. But that leads to an entire new set of ‘why’ questions such as:

“Why is the Bible any different from any other book?”

“Why is the Bible reliable?”

“Why are the Gospels reliable sources for Jesus?”

I could go on and on.

As apologists if we can keep the simple truth of explaining the difference between the ‘what’ and the ‘why,’ I believe we will make great progress.  

Happy New Year!


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