Sunday, August 24, 2014

Articulating One's Beliefs Can be a Challenge

Introduction.

Despite the fact of my not posting since the beginning of the month, I have not lost sight of the mission. Working with the people I work with, some of them being some of the most profane people that I have ever come across, I have not lost sight with how I am “wired” and the ministry mission. Even though where I am (on my job) during a good chunk of the week, I know the presence of the Lord and the conviction of His Holy Spirit, even while I “occupy Mordor” and pray for a change.
Thankfully I still do get to enjoy a day off during the week, and I am going to be protecting that day in the coming weeks for specific reasons, that I will not mention here. In spite of all the demands of my job, this week was a wonderful day off and allowed me to speak to a repair man for one of our appliances, and a handful of students at the Germanna campus.
What was the nature of these conversations? They were spiritual in nature, and I would like to share here some thoughts on what I learned about these conversations.
The Need for Articulating the Christian Faith
One of our appliances stopped working and we needed some outside assistance. Even though I was able to unstop a bathroom sink and our bathtub drain (thank you YouTube), I was not able to work this task.
The appliance repair company “rep” that came and assisted us is a Christian and attends a large local Baptist church regularly and adult Bible fellowship on a regular basis.  How did I know he was Christian?
Thankfully he shared that with my wife and I, by sharing the message on the back of his business card. When I asked him his understanding of his message, he started sharing with me a basic message of salvation and how Jesus’ died  for our sins on the cross. Of course I was happy to see him start there. However when I continued with him on his understanding at a deeper level, he started struggling. Why was there a struggle?
Allow me to share my concerns and they are very similar ones that I am hearing in other conversations.
Responses from Well-Meaning Believers
Before I share these, please know that I love Jesus’ church (at large). I am “wired” the way that I am because the Lord redeemed me some 34 years ago from a “hard skepticism.” After I was changed by the Lord, I wanted to know why, and He has given me a passion to share the answers to the “why” questions with His saints, as a means of encouragement, equipping and even discipleship. That’s my final answer on that!  Now to the concerns:
1. Concerning Christian Sayings on a Business Card
I appreciate fellow believers sharing their Christian convictions and their testimonies. Having a Scripture verse on a business card, or a trite Christian truth like “Jesus Saves” is not a bad thing. In fact, before our dealership got taken over by another one, we used to have the first part of 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ. . .” on our previous dealer business card.
You know that struck up some conversations, as opinions both positive and negative from the clientele emerged during some of the visits. When it stirred up uncomfortable thoughts with the clients, we did not say anything but lived it out. When it stirred up confidence and solace, it made it easy for the customer to trust us.
That being said, if one is going to put “Christian-ese” on any kind of advertisement, whether it is a business card, or flyer or whatever, they need to understand that not all people in our culture embrace our worldview. We need to be able to articulate our Christian convictions in an intelligent manner and  not just think our living it out is going to convince them. Not living it out gives Christianity a “black eye,” while living it out can have some wonderful results.
2. Why are you a Christian? Answer: “Why Not!”


Not a bad answer among Christian believers, who are into discussing subject matter about God's creation and incredible evidence for intelligent design in our world.

However it is not a good answer when it comes to dealing with the question coming from someone outside the biblical worldview. A person embracing Buddhism, Islam, Judaism or Hinduism can answer the question of why they embrace the religion that they do, in the same way. “Why not?!!”

The differentiating factor between Christianity and the other religions is a very important one. We can talk about Jesus dying for our sins all day long. But sharing that He is also resurrected from the dead is equally if not more important. Before someone’s temperature rises out of the thermometer, know that you cannot have a resurrected Savior without Jesus’ atoning sacrificial death. The resurrection of our Lord is the capstone of the Christian faith. Of course I enjoyed sharing this with our repairman. And it was well received.
3. Why do you believe the Bible?” Answer: “Because it is God’s Word”
Again not a bad answer, but why is it God’s Word? Why isn’t the Qur’an, the Gita, Vedas, and Upanishads or any other religious writings the words of “God”? Many Christians have not been taught by their ministry leaders how to answer that question.
Some might think that it is not a relevant question and unimportant to the church. Try telling that to the atheist or the skeptic that is challenging you with this question. Try telling that to professors on the university campus, like Bart Erhman or locally James Goehring, who are knocking the moorings out from under our Christian students sitting in their classes.
The New Testament alone was complete well before the end of the first century. The first copies of the gospel of John are within 25 years of the original. Who cares about over 400,000 variants in the New Testament text? None, not a single one of them attacks a doctrine of the Christian church. Also variants are not the same as errors, when it comes to spelling errors, usages of the definite article, word order, and the moveable nu (“n” in the koine Greek text). What we have now is 99.5% of what they wrote back then. The missing .5 come from the variant texts.
The Bible is a reliable collection of 66 books, written in the span of 1500 years. It is written by eyewitnesses, during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. And these eyewitnesses record for us supernatural events that are in direct fulfillment of prophetic events, some of which point to the One who would come; the same One who came to die for sinners; and who is coming again. And guess what? These writers claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin (see 2 Peter 1:16-21).
4. We don’t need to go into all the details, I have the facts from the Word of God.” Answer: “Would you care to defend that?”
There are a couple of issues with this one. First, on the front end of it, this brother is saying that we don’t need apologetics. The problem with that is, as soon as one says that we don’t need apologetics, they are (a) moving themselves to give an apologetic for why we don’t need apologetics and (b) they are telling us to disobey key passages that tell believers to “contend for the faith” and “give a reason for the hope that we have.”
The second problem is when one appeals to just take the facts from the Word of God, they are arguing in a circle. It is like saying that the Bible is true, because it says it’s true.
Please understand, as you can see, I believe the Bible is the Word of God. But one needs to be able to articulate why it and it alone is the Word of God. That means that one needs to engage themselves in a biblical apologetic.
Another thought to this, Muslims argue the same way for the Qur’an, saying that it is “the eternal Word of Allah.” But you want to know something? Muslims still do not get this.
It is because of Jesus of Nazareth. He offended His critics, He challenged the simple, and He rose from the dead. But the reason that we can say that the Muslims are short-sighted in their claim of divine revelation is because of what we read from John’s gospel,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God. . . And the Word became FLESH and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14).
The Muslim’s claim is that the eternal ‘Word’ is a book. The Christian claim is that Word became FLESH in historical time and space.
Closing Up this “Articulation”
Do you know why we need apologetics?  It is because we need to be able to articulate our faith intelligently in a culture that is on the rise against the Christian faith with increasing intensity? Not all the questions we receive are “friendly fire.” Some of it is coming and will come from those looking to rip your faith apart and bring you to the other side. But remember this, not all unfriendly fire is unfriendly.
Some people are frustrated with religion, but are wanting to know the truth. It is an intelligent response that they are looking for. Sure some will accept Scripture and we need to be discerning and ready to go right to the Word. There are others who will not be willing to go there, and we need to know how to reach these individuals too, with a slower process. That is where apologetics comes in. All this said, I think I have articulated enough to show how important it is to get below the surface and go deep into our Christian convictions. We will need them as the temperature continues to rise against our Christian faith.

This posting also appears on the Christian Apologetics Alliance web page

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