In a recent post, we looked at the validity of the discipline of apologetics from the perspective of the Bible. In essence, we asked and answered the question, “is apologetics biblical?”
I believe it is, but there is also a second fundamental question that must be asked and answered–“is apologetics necessary?” If you have a pretty solid understanding of the nature of apologetics, I think the answer is an easy and resounding, “yes!”
But perhaps you are not sure where apologetics fits. Perhaps you feel as though we should leave intellect out of the church and out of our evangelism. This post may not address all of your doubts and it may not sway you, but I understand where you are coming from, and think there are some definite answers to be discovered.
In looking at this topic, I have identified 6 “realities” if you will where I believe the church and the culture are intersecting, and where apologetics would be a valid (and possibly the most valid) form of engagement in those situations.
Reality #1: The Dilemma of the Church
If you think today is not a difficult day for the Church, you have your head in the sand.
Yes, the church has always faced persecution. In fact, Jesus was adamant that we ought to fully expect persecution, and love our persecutors anyway (Matthew 5:44)!
But the dilemma I am addressing is quite different. In 2017, we have access to more knowledge than ever before. What was once reserved for only the highest thinking of minds is now accessible to anyone–any everyone–who wants it.
Opinions on the answers to the toughest questions in life are available just a Google search away, and many believe that as we grow more and more in our pursuit of knowledge, God will eventually be replaced.
I contend that the best way to combat this problem is to “beat them at their own game.” As Christians, we believe that the Word is necessary and foundational to understanding Truth. Why then do we not communicate truth through reasoning instead of acting as though we operate under blind faith?
I think many of us operate under the assumption that what we know goes beyond “blind faith,” and yet we don’t communicate it in such a way. This is our error and this where apologetics comes into play.
It has been said that 90% of solving a problem can be attributed to simply discovering what the problem is. We have found the problem–people have access to knowledge, and we’re not satisfying their needs in this area.
The question is–what are we going to do about it?
Reality #2: The Disdain of the Skeptic
I chose the word “disdain” very carefully. The reality is, the skeptic in today’s culture is growing increasingly cynical–that is to say, they are moving past simply no belief in God. Today, the skeptic actively pursues and persuades our culture to believe that the opinion of the Christian is not even worth considering on ANY matters of general consensus.
Thus, the apparent contradiction in their fight for “tolerance.” We are to tolerate their worldview, but they are not to (nor “should have to”) tolerate ours.
I plan to address the fallacy of their position at a later date–for now, we should simply take a look at the way things are and figure out how to respond as the body of Christ.
What does it look like to engage a culture who says that Christians have no right to an opinion? What does it mean to share the gospel as reality when culture believes it to be a fairytale full of wishful thinking?
Here again, I believe we can appeal to the validity of apologetics. When we engage skeptics, we must show them that we have not simply turned a “blind eye” to the world as they see it.
We are all looking at the same evidence–we need to show them that yes, we HAVE considered that evidence, and “here is what we make it of it.” There is no reason for a Christian to be afraid of the truth. Skeptics need to be shown that their assertion of God’s absence is just as much a religious view as Christianity.
Once we show that we are on the same playing field, we then have a basis on which to move forward with them.
Reality #3: The Distance of the Public
By “distance” I mean to portray the “lack of care” shown by the general public for matters of spiritual significance.
When the disdain of the skeptic takes a prevalent position in a society, the lethargy of the public concerning spiritual matters is not far behind!
It was not that long ago in the history of our American culture that the Bible was indeed seen as the primary source of truth and morality. The reliability of Scripture was seen as foundational to our society, and almost everyone had a basic understanding of the Bible and its most commonly repeated “stories.”
However, it is not this way anymore. Today, the public square has a large marketplace of ideas from which to choose, and Christianity is simply another vendor at the mall.
To combat this, an apologetic must be offered for why it matters whether or not God exists. As Lee Strobel put it, “If God exists, this has profound implications on my life!”
This is why relevant truth is not consistent with Christianity.
If we can convince the public that there is a definite need to explore whether God exists and can do what He says He can, we will have a much easier time when preaching about His nature and His love for the world.
Reality #4: The Danger of Our Culture
If you haven’t noticed, I am building a case for the necessity of apologetics based on arguments that flow logically one to the next. So far,
- The church has left intellect out of the conversation.
- Therefore, the skeptics say our opinion doesn’t count.
- This leads naturally to the public distancing itself from spiritual matters entirely.
- Therefore, culture adopts and celebrates practices contrary to biblical teaching.
We are looking at premise #4. Subject matter such as homosexuality, euthanasia, and abortion are on the table today because of the public’s departure from spiritual significance.
Because objective truth has been “overruled,” culture is now free to do whatever feels right in the moment. “If the baby is inconvenient, kill it! If life is too hard, kill me! If I want to be a woman, I have every right to do so!”
Of course, people have lived this way for centuries (read Romans 1)! However, only recently is Christianity being widely dismissed as a viable option in the marketplace of ideas. So, naturally, everyone who has their own idea of the world wants not only to be accepted but celebrated.
These new ideologies have begun to permeate our Universities and even our elementary schools, to the point where children are now being taught that there is so such thing as “boys and girls” as early as Kindergarten.
Apologists are doing a great job confronting these matters in the public square by appealing to common sense notions that like it or not, most people realize are true! Yes–I believe we should begin with Scripture. But reality is complementary to Scripture–not contradictory (Romans 2:15; Psalm 19:1).
When a person can be shown that his or her worldview is not logically coherent whether or not there is a God in heaven, it helps them open up to the possibility that there is One.
Reality #5: The Dare of the Educators
The next element in play here is the dare presented by those who wish to indoctrinate culture with their “anti-God” ideology.
The best example I can give of this is the fact that self-professing atheists are tasked with teaching the Bible in our Universities! Bart Ehrman, for example, teaches New Testament studies at a prominent educational institution in North Carolina.
This man’s sole purpose in life is to attack Scripture–make no mistake.
Debates are being held between Christian apologists and theologians and some of the upper echelon in the atheistic community. These debates are a wonderful thing, and I think they should continue.
But we must not lose sight of the fact that more and more teachers are cropping up daily who wish to discredit the Word of God, and someone has GOT to be there to oppose them.
All voices have a right to be heard, but these professors are not proclaiming the truth. They claim to be, but they are not. And not only that, but they are not giving Christianity a “fair shake.”
We need apologetics in these settings because you cannot appeal to the authority of Scripture when the authority of Scripture is what is “up for debate.” Please don’t lose me on this point. All I am saying is that reality proves the authority of Scripture, and therefore it is OK to appeal to reality as a Witness!
The truth is, not many know how to do that. This is the apologetic endeavor. Most Christians give the same answer to the “why?” question as Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses. There is something different about Jesus, and it’s our job to show the world what that is.
This brings me to the last reality,
Reality #6: The Defense of the Christian
Can I be real honest? Most Christians have a weak defense for their faith.
Here are some common (and potentially miserable) reasons given for why someone is a Christian:
- My family is Christian (i.e, I have always been a Christian).
- I’ve been in church all my life.
- The Bible says I’m a Christian.
- Jesus was a good person, so I want to be like Him.
- I feel something “warm and fuzzy” inside.
- I prayed a prayer.
I’m sure there are more. The reality is that some of those answers can be true, some of them are DEFINITELY false, and none of them are convincing.
Allow me to sum this up with an example: The Bible teaches, without a doubt that God can be personally known and experienced (see John 16:7-9). I believe this is a strong witness (see Romans 8:16) internally of our salvation and communion with God, but this is not an apologetic, per se, that could persuade someone to consider the truth of Christianity. I’m not saying God doesn’t use this–I have seen Him do it–but this occurs more often in emotionally broken individuals than intellectually hindered ones (in my experience).
My pastor always says, “Religion can keep you out of jail, but it won’t keep you out of hell.” Point being that your personal experience of God is easily refutable (externally) because religion has changed the behavior of thousands in days gone by.
Therefore, you can certainly begin with this logic, but the conversation with an unbeliever will almost always go further than this.
I really believe that the strength of apologetics lies in the fact the Bible is historically accurate, and scientifically and empirically verifiable.
I’m not saying you should become an expert in these areas; I am saying, though, that there is nothing more important to God than for us to be fishers of men, and any good fisherman will tell you that certain “bait” is needed for various conditions.
In this overeducated culture we live in (see Romans 1:22), it is time for Christians to step up, and make our voices heard as a credible source of Truth–the Truth found only in the divine person of Jesus Christ.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!