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.
23 thoughts on ““I’m With Jesus”: A Simple Approach to Apologetics”
Thanks for this post. I’m finishing a B.S. in Biology this semester and have (in the past) had troubles with a “not high enough” view of scripture. Though I think there is a place for a deep, fleshed-out apologetics method (whichever method you favor) I can appreciate the personal benefit of “I’m with Jesus.” It’s fairly cathartic and I think I’ll use it too.
Best, Matt Dowling
Thanks for the comment, Matthew! As a presuppositional VanTil-ian myself, I know how complicated apologetics can become. And there is a place for this more robust approach. But I think there is a place for the simple apologetic, too. Hope it helps in some small way. Blessings! Tony
Sorry to be a downer, but I just left an atheist site where this would be like blood in the water.
“I’m with Jesus” may work with the Christian skeptical of certain stories, but for just about anyone else it would require an explanation of why we believe Jesus even said any of those things and why he has any special authority in the matter just to begin.
I’ve even come across Christians who think Jesus could have been wrong about historical facts (e.g., assuming Moses wrote Genesis) in his humanity.
Not a downer at all, Chris. The authenticity of the gospel accounts are not difficult to prove (cf. Bruce Metzger). Then it’s back to the question of whether one will take Jesus at his words or reject those words. From here we rely upon the testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti.
(My three little words!)
Though apologetics have a place, no doubt, convincing skeptic unbelievers seems to come down to that question,
“Who do you say that I Am?” and the two little words you mentioned “reject” or “trust”.
Convincing “skeptic believers” is another story.
I think “I’m with Jesus” is the essence of all apologetic methods. Most people would fail to be convinced that it is a cogent defence of the faith though and so inevitably greater explanation would be requested.
As to whether it, or any other apologetic, is convincing is not within our power.
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Heb 11 v6
I’m with Jesus. I don’t think we should strain too much in ‘a posteriori’ proof or an empirical method of apologetics. God is and Jesus Christ is. This is imbedded in us all. If the atheist doesn’t want to accept Jesus, then he suppresses the truth through his darkened mind. That’s his problem and his responsibility.
I agree with the general idea of this post because it brings out the fact of universal responsibility to believe the truth and our personal faith in the truth (simply because it is truth and that it has been revealed to us).
Tony, Good thoughts here — I think the line will go a long way in simply bolstering confidence and boldness in tentative believers. Much hesitation or foreboding in sharing/witnessing arises from feelings of person inadequacies… (we take our eyes off Jesus if you will). The declaration “I’m with Jesus” simply affirms we’re not alone, but rather in the best of company!
There is one more component needed:
Jesus said this, I’m with Jesus.
Jesus rose from the dead proving he is God.
I think that this is a brilliant approach. I shall keep this very much in mind in my next journey through the New Testament.
I am reminded of an evangelistic approach by a gentleman I once new. He considered himself a harvester. He sought those who were ripe for salvation, and kept his message focused.
I am inclined to believe that appologetics is for the encouragement of the believer more than a tool of evangelism. It is like taking a tour of the ship after having come onboard. Knowing how sound the ship is proves encouraging, but touring the ship can only happen after you have come onboard.
Great tool, great t-shirt, and great web site.
Good one, Spurgeon. Thanks!
Sorry; just realized you’re Stephen!
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Great question Joseph. I would begin by reading the gospel accounts and see what you come up with on the topic.
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