I don’t know how many escalators it took, but it was a deep descent to find the basement of the Louisville convention center. At the bottom of the last escalator an open door invited guests into a large room of chairs and tables. Off to the side a circle of 20 empty folding chairs waited. I was here out of curiosity.
Upstairs a large and loud Christian conference for college students was in full swing. From the stage just moments ago, Mark Dever invited anyone who was questioning the faith, or skeptical, to join him in the conference basement where they could ask him any questions they wished.
They came, one by one.
The quasi-anonymous gathering of agnostic strangers, religious rebels, and family outcasts, who must have been unsettled already from having found themselves at a charismatic Bible conference for college students, found their way to the basement. The awkward, anxious silence, was broken by Dever who greeted each individual personally, and to invited the questions.
The stories represented in the room were diverse. One young man had grown up in the church, but towards adulthood became increasingly skeptical towards the church. One young woman talked about her struggles in her transition from Eastern religions to Christianity and how she was not convinced Christianity was an improvement, or if the transition was worth the hassle. Another young man was interested in the faith but held tightly to questions that he believed contradicted the inerrancy and validity of scripture.
The meeting was off the record, and I don’t recall all the specific questions that were asked (there were many of them), but I clearly recall one moment when Dever responded to one question with a very simple answer — “Yes, I do believe in that, because Jesus said it happened, and I’m with Jesus.”
At that moment something in my mind “clicked.” Like the first marble dropping in a Rube Goldberg machine, Dever’s statement set off a series of mental and spiritual connections. I scribbled in my notebook one simple line: “I’m with Jesus.”
After the meeting I found my way out of the conference center basement and out onto a sidewalk, tossing around in my mind a new, simpler apologetic. I call it the “I’m With Jesus” method. Now of course this is not the only thing to be said about Scripture, the authority of the text, and the infallibility of the Old Testament, but it’s a very handy apologetic approach for settings like this one.
Perhaps it would help if I demonstrated this by asking and hopefully answering a handful of common questions to illustrate how it works.
Question: In that silly story about Jonah getting swallowed by a whale, certainly you don’t believe that really happened, do you? Was he a real man or a fictitious character to begin with? Did he really spend a weekend inside a whale? Did he really go on to preach in Nineveh?
Answer: Yes, I believe Jonah was a real man, a prophet, who was also swallowed by a “great fish” (whale?), who spent three days inside that fish, before eventually finding his way to Nineveh. How do I know? I know because Jesus confirms these facts by the testimony of his own mouth (Matt. 12:39-41). Jesus assumes the validity of the story, so I affirm it, too. I’m with Jesus.
Let’s try another one.
Question: Did the Genesis flood really happen? Did Noah really build an ark? Did the flood really destroy the population? Wasn’t the flood story just a rip-off from some ancient flood myth told by the Babylonians?
Let’s ask Jesus.
Answer: “And he said to the disciples, ‘… Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:22,26-27). I’m with Jesus.
The same works on a critical issue of personal salvation.
Question: Is Jesus really the only way to God? Aren’t there multiple paths to heaven?
Answer: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). I’m with Jesus.
That’s how it works.
Actually, consider collecting your own list of difficult questions and then go read the gospels. See if Jesus answers your questions or makes allusions that help to answer your questions. You may be surprised at what you learn.
This apologetic will not answer every question (I know), but it certainly helps out with some big ones.