Let me touch a sensitive topic here. Let’s talk about the Christian bubble. We all kind of know a little bit about what it looks like. It is a pretty comfortable place. It is a nonthreatening place. I can go into my Christian bubble, and my beliefs are probably not going to be challenged. I can simply say that Jesus rose from the dead, and everyone will agree with me by virtue of being members of this particular subculture. Nobody will think it is weird when we pray before we eat dinner. In short, we get it because we are all members of the same community.
Going outside of the bubble is a little bit different. If I try to explain to someone that the Holy Spirit lives within me, I’m going to encounter a series of questions. What is the Holy Spirit? Why is it inside of me? What does it do? Why do I care? The shared knowledge and assumptions that I encounter within my Christian bubble simply aren’t there when I go outside. That should not be surprising, but I do think it is a little bit intimidating for some people. Everything becomes different when you face an inquisitive audience that will not simply accept the same assumptions that we all have in the Christian bubble.
To be entirely honest with you, this was a large part of the reason why I wanted to start studying apologetics. I live in Vermont. It is not exactly the Bible Belt. A lot of my friends are not Christians, and a lot of them have really good questions. They want to understand why I think it is possible for a dead man to come back to life and why that even matters to me even if He did. They want to understand why I think that the universe came into being at the command of some all-powerful being that I can’t see. They want to know why I believe a book that has been around for a few millennia. These are questions that you never really have to answer within the Christian bubble. Because Christians share the belief that Jesus rose from the dead (nonnegotiable), God created the universe (although we debate on method/timing) and the Bible is trustworthy (although we banter over terms like inerrancy), we don’t normally have to justify our rationale. Perhaps at one point we had these questions but we had them answered, so we perhaps settle into complacency. We simply understand what each other is talking about, so sometimes we are not always as sharp as we ought to be.
That’s why apologetics is so important. We don’t live in bubbles. Try as we might, there are going to be those times when your faith is going to be challenged. People are going to bring questions, and you need to be able to have an answer. You might not convince the other person, but for the strengthening of your own faith, it is really important to understand why Christianity actually makes sense. I don’t know how many people I have heard tell stories about falling away from their faith because they were met with an objection that they simply did not know the answer to. It is really sad to be honest with you. What makes the situation worse is that most of the answers are out there somewhere. Christianity has a pretty proud intellectual tradition, and many of the greatest thinkers in the history of Western civilization dedicated their lives to explaining Christianity.
I know the immediate rebuttal on this though. You’re probably going to tell me that if you stay in the bubble, don’t need to have all of the info because, like I mentioned above, we don’t tend to challenge people of our own tribe as rigorously as people from the outside will. The questions that a lot of Christians ask other questions are safe. I do it as well. I get it. That said, you have to think that we were not meant to live in bubbles. From the beginning of the Christian movement, starting on Pentecost, you see a very outwardly focused movement. We don’t huddle down, hiding from everyone on the outside. We don’t necessarily wait for people to come to us, but we go to them. The entire missionary project is built on this commitment. Therefore, while there is a time and place for enjoying the comfort and security of the Christian bubble, there is also very little precedent for that in the early church.
And, by this, I am not taking a shot at people who have intentionally decided to live a certain way any type of community. Traditionally we associate monasteries with this type of activity, but I think that today we often times see these tendencies in Christian education or homeschooling communities. While these are types of bubbles, you have to remember that these communities are also outwardly focused. Monasteries and convents were often dedicated to service to their communities. Christian education or homeschooling also provides the service of educational alternatives. For some, it can be seen as a type of retreat or a type of bubble building if you will. However, at their best, monasteries and Christian educational communities are the types of places where there is a strategic withdrawal to prepare its members for service to the greater community. This is similar to the spirit I got from The Benedict Option. Yes, it is the construction of institutions specifically intended for Christians. Nobody doubts that. However, you need to look at the intention of those institutions. If they are focused on organizing for a greater service, then I think they still meet the criteria outlined above. They are not retreating simply for security. They are organizing for greater eventual impact through proper training, discipline and coordination.
Consequently, I know the Christian bubble is a nice place. I know it is a safe place. I know that we like to be comfortable, and we don’t necessarily want to run into challenges that may make us nervous. That being said, there is a real world out there, and people have real questions. My greatest fear for the future of Christianity is that by building too many bubbles, if they are the kind that do not have the organizational intent I referred to in the previous paragraph and are intentionally preparing people for service outside their walls, we weaken our intellectual foundation. That’s not what we want to do. Any bubble we are part of should intentionally prepare its members for life outside the bubble. That does not mean that we cannot have these times of Christian community. They are necessary. I have written that multiple times. However, the extension of these communities is our impact on the world around us, and a large part of that impact is going to be intellectual. People have questions, and we have answers. Let’s make sure we are the type of Christians who don’t become soft from time in our bubble but use the benefit of that community to strengthen ourselves and be prepared to engage outside.