Every so often I find myself frustrated, wondering how long it will take Christians to get the idea that our culture is changing right before our eyes and that we need to update how we share with our ever increasing skeptical culture the gospel of Christ. Please understand I am not advocating changing the unchanging message. Some of you who follow me on Facebook may have seen this from some of our postings on the need for apologetics in evangelism and why it is necessary for the church to incorporate it into the ministry of the church today.
This posting is not going to discuss the "how," but what I want to do is get to the real issue and respond to the criticisms toward apologetics and provide a response to what I think are the top three criticisms today.
Before I do, let me explain that apologetics is not just for those in the scholarly circles but for the church at large. When Peter wrote his first letter, he wrote to a displaced church and not to the academically elite of the day.
Another thought here is that apologetics addresses the specific hard and soft questions coming against our Christian faith. A soft question can be described as a question that addresses a biblical issue, and where the questioner will accept a biblical answer. The hard question is totally different.
The hard question will not accept a biblical answer, no matter how hard you or I try to force the biblical answer. And if we give a biblical answer, we run two risks. First we run the risk not addressing the real need underlying the question. Secondly, we run the risk of falsely applying the passage that "God's word will not return void" thinking that we have done a great thing. The only thing we have done is sown some seed on some very hard ground, and shown the person we shared Scripture with that we really don't care about them, but just spouted off what how much we know Scripture.
Pardon my rambling here, but some of you reading this will then raise the objections that I am going to address. Here are the objections:
1. Apologetics denies biblical authority.
2. Apologetics usurps the role and authority of the Holy Spirit.
3. As tough minded as apologetics is, you cannot prove God.
While each of these objections may have some legitimacy to them, their charge is only one side of the coin. My purpose is to show both sides of these objections and give an "apologia" why we need apologetics in this "post truth" culture. Let's look at them shall we?
Objection #1: Apologetics denies biblical authority. If the apologist uses apologetics and does not keep in mind that it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that has the power to save, then I would agree with this objection.
However the Bible is ALREADY authoritative, and so long as your and my apologetic keeps taking that person to the Word of God and not to ourselves, then we are obeying the biblical mandate "to give a defense (reason) for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15).
At the same time, keeping in mind that one of the hallmarks of Billy Graham's ministry was "the Bible says. . . " we need to keep this in mind, but remember that our culture is now in the mindset of cultural, religious and moral relativism, where the mantra is "that's true for you, but not for me."
Objection #2: Apologetics usurps the role and authority of the Holy Spirit. This objection falls along the lines of the first one. If the one doing apologetics is thinking that they are going to win the skeptic with their apologetic or polemic, they have usurped the role of the Holy Spirit and just relieved God of His job in drawing the person to faith.
There are many zealous folks out there, "doing apologetics" and not taking into consideration that the Holy Spirit is wanting to be involved in the exchange. In fact the Holy Spirit does use evidence. He uses the general revelation in the creation as well as Scripture to confirm what is seen in the universe, and in the disciplines of science, history, philosophy and theology ("the queen of the sciences").
The Holy Spirit was totally involved in my conversion as I looked at the evidences for Christianity, bringing me back to seeing the risen Jesus in the gospels, and the fact that Jesus historically died for sinners, and that He rose from the dead in literal time/space history. That was not done by evidence of alone in my life. No. The Holy Spirit was actively involved in all of this; and if we as apologists keep this in mind, I think God will work mightily in our apologetics and evangelistic endeavors.
Objection #3: As tough minded as apologetics is, you cannot prove God. Lastly this is a legitimate criticism. We cannot indubitably prove that God exists. If we could, there would be no room for faith. But God has placed enough in this world to make faith a most reasonable proposition. At the same time He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by reason alone.
There are a ton of arguments for the existence of God available to for you and I to examine. However none of those arguments have the power to save a soul. The only power they have is to point a skeptical heart and mind to see that "the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament of His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1).
It was Blaise Pascal who wrote this statement, "the heart has its reasons that Reason does not know." There comes a point when we have to transcend shear rationality. We may not be able to prove the existence of God, yet we need to understand that the arguments for God's existence show the secular mind of man that life is meaningless without Him.
In closing, let us remember that when a person comes to Christ, it will be because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and not because of your or my brilliance. How many times do some of us get involved in debates hands down and yet no one comes to Christ. The role of apologetics is to be "a handmaiden to evangelism." Apologetics clears the bushes so that the skeptic can get a clear look at Jesus Christ. They may not read, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, but they are reading you and I.
It is okay to be tough minded and loving at the same time. People will see our confidence in Christ. We need to rely, at all times, the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all of our exchanges with those who need Jesus. And never forget that the Bible is our authority in life, faith and practice.
Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to any comments you would like to post below.