Quick Challenge Answer: Are Apologists Putting God On Trial?

Pre-Birth Objections To Jesus' Birth Narrative

Are apologists putting God on trial?  Since Christ first appeared in the scene, people have been challenging both His message and His identity.  The leaders in Jerusalem did not believe He was the Son of God.  They argued against the fact.  

And despite recent claims to the contrary, the main reason Jesus was arrested and put on trial before the Jewish leadership was because of His claim to be God.  And it is perhaps His reaction to being questioned at that trial that cause many Christians to mistakenly believe we should not make a case for Jesus or God.  After all, if Jesus didn’t try to defend Himself against accusations, why should we?  Aren’t we just putting God on trial again if we offer a defense for His existence? 

Jesus Had A Purpose   

Jesus had a purpose when He came.  And that purpose was to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  Jesus was not making a statement about how we should evangelize at His trial.  Events were unfolding that would ultimately lead to His sacrifice on the cross.  He knew it had to happen.  There was nothing to be accomplished by His debating the Pharisees at His trial. 

What We See In Scripture

There are several verses that tell us specifically that we should be engaged in answering sincere questions about God and Jesus.  One of the clearest examples is 1 Peter 3:15:

15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. [1]

Some might say that this is the Apostle Paul making this claim, and we should instead follow the example of Jesus.  But did Jesus really believe people should follow Him blindly, and not ask for proof?  I think there are two examples from Jesus’ ministry that show otherwise.

Jesus Offers Proof To John The Baptist

John the Baptist was one of the first people to recognize the deity of Jesus. In fact, he came to this realization before he was even born! It is somewhat surprising then that when John was put in jail, and just before he was ultimately executed, he began to doubt that Jesus was who he said he was.  Even to the point of sending his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He truly was who He said He was.  

So how did Jesus handle this request for proof?  Did he tell the disciples to go and tell John to have more faith?  Did He tell them not to put God on trial?  No, He didn’t.  He had this remarkable response.

20 When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’” 21 Jesusd had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. 23 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” [2] Luke 7:20–23 (NRSV)

Jesus offers John’s disciples evidence of who He is.  

Doubting Thomas

Doubting Thomas gets a bad rap in my opinion.  He was asking the hard questions.  Questions probably any of us would have if we were told one of our close friends had just come back from the dead.  So, it’s unsurprising that he would not believe in the resurrection and want proof.  Jesus responds with the following. 

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” [3] John 20:26–29 (NRSV)

Again, people point to the last line as evidence that Jesus is rebuking Thomas for asking for proof.  But Jesus does show him the evidence he seeks.  And the rebuke is that Thomas should have believed the eyewitness accounts of the disciples.  In other words, Thomas should not have rejected the evidence he was given. 

Should We Offer Evidence?

So no, apologists are not putting God on trial.  If anything, we are making the case against those who “put God in the dock”.  Apologists are following the example of both Jesus and the disciples and offering a reason for the hope that is in us, and hopefully doing so with gentleness and reverence.


[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (1 Pe 3:15–16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Lk 7:20–23). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jn 20:26–29). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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