Addendum: forgot to mention the prime motivation for apologetics–love of neighbor. I mention it in the post, but don’t emphasize it to the degree I should have…booo, me.
You simply have to check out one of Wintery Knight’s posts from yesterday. He calls out Christians who do not defend the faith in public.
After detailing an ultimately fictional, yet all-too-real scenario of a Christian (“Eve”) who remains silent while she overhears co-workers malign God, he says:
Eve double-majored in business and computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology, and has an MBA from the London School of Economics. She has spent a ton of time, effort and money studying very difficult subjects for her job, and she even publishes research. She works full-time and runs her own business part-time, and earns about 200K per year. She lives in a huge house, drives a huge car, and vacations out of the country every 4 months.
Eve thinks she is a Christian. She has attended church since childhood, her husband is a church elder and she sings in the church choir. She reads the Bible and prays. She gives money to the poor. She teaches Sunday school to children. She has even read the Narnia novels three times.
But even though God is being maligned in Alice and Bob’s conversation, Eve is not going to stand up to defend God’s reputation to them, (or even to her own children, who are both committed atheists).
Like I mentioned, though the scenario is fictional and might be exaggerated slightly for effect, it is not far from reality. The point is that the rank-and-file Christian, far too often, is poorly equipped to be an ambassador in the public square…and most are quite content to stay that way.
Pastors, as well, are quite content to reinforce that attitude. Every time, and I mean every time, I’ve heard of reason, evidence, and apologetics talked about from the pulpit, it comes with a but. As in:
“Apologetics has a place, but….as Paul says, knowledge puffs up.”
(Misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 8 )
“Evidence is great for those that need it, but…God cannot be pleased without faith.”
(This understanding of faith is not biblical…it’s a false dichotomy. How many times in the book of Exodus alone does God give objective evidence, then say, “so that you may know”? Go ahead and count…it will take a while. This post will still be here when you are done.)
“Apologetics is wonderful…but God is more concerned with your heart.”
(Awful. More false dichotomies. I tire of them.)
“Showing Jesus to people is not about winning an argument…you just gotta ‘love on’ others.”
(Whoever said it was about winning an argument? Granted, apologetics can be abused, but so can love! Ever heard of “love bombing”? It is a favorite practice of cults. Besides, letting people stew in enslaving ideologies about God is not loving. Hell is real, and people will go there. Just ask the Boss. Don’t even try to paint the enterprise as running people over with debate or “shoving a philosophy text down someone’s throat.” Outlying abuses are no reason to disregard the whole ball of yarn. Don’t set fire to straw men.)
You can come up with your own trite “yah but.”
This leads to timidity, lack of courage (Afterall, who would want to stand up, when he knows full well he’ll be dumbstruck with nothing to say?), and a devaluing of God’s holiness.
You might balk at that last one (devaluing of God’s holiness), but there is a reason the mind is included in the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37 and in our total response of worship to God’s greatness in Romans 12:2. In fact, WK hits on this later in the post:
So why is it that Eve is able to go to church for 20 years, sing in the choir, read the Bible, read the Narnia stories, pray on her knees, and yet still be unwilling to do the best thing for God and the best thing for her neighbor?
My boy, Wintery!
This one had me cheering from the ramparts. I have often wondered the same thing, and have scratched my head over the attitude of many when it comes to learning how to defend the faith…heck, strike that: when it comes to even learning how to share the gospel clearly! Our propensity to resort to empty and vapid bumper sticker sloganeering is breathtaking.
The most surprising part of all this is that such an attitude and way of life is found absolutely nowhere in the Bible! Paul, for example, never resorted to the simplistic, you-just-gotta-believe-and-have-faith-ism that is so popular today. He gave evidence regularly, and so did the other apostles. The first sermon ever preached in the Church age, by Peter in Acts 2-3, had apologetics laced throughout. And these fellas were not Phd brainiacs…they were simple fishermen and tentmakers (in the case of Paul). They were as blue collar as the Maytag man.
Another thing is that when people are caught in an environment where they have to defend God’s honor, they suddenly become starved for the kind of training Wintery advocates. If you regularly find yourself amidst a bunch of atheists, agnostics, and Muslims who are constantly challenging you on the reasonableness of your faith, chances are, you’ll start searching for answers pretty quickly. Hey, it happened to me. In other words, if your pants fall down, buying a belt suddenly moves up a few notches on your priority list.
The kicker is that many people never experience that felt need; they are sequestered in an environment of comfort. A decent number go to great lengths to maintain this bubble, avoiding being exposed. They are walking around in closeted quarters, with the shutters drawn and drapes pulled down, oblivious to the fact that their trousers are hanging around their ankles.
Many people assume apologetics is all about merely “winning an argument,” but nothing could be further from the truth. WK puts it in the proper perspective: it’s about defending God’s honor in public. If someone were clowning on your spouse at work, wouldn’t you want to stand up and say something? We have many Christians in the Church who refuse to do that when it comes to God’s reputation, and what’s worse, many pastors and Church who happily applaud such a cowardly attitude.
All the while, people continue to mock:
“Jesus had a wife. Haven’t you read the Da Vinci Code? The resurrection is a bunch of bunk designed to keep old white men in power.” Spare me the lecture about how it’s just fiction. Studies have demonstrated that people are all too willing to let Hollywood influence their beliefs. Check the link for details. Dan Brown himself sure thinks there’s something behind the story.
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” That’s a direct quote, by the way, by a very popular and widely influential atheist, Richard Dawkins.
“The Bible is full of contradictions and errors. It’s a bunch of myths.”
“Tsk tsk, there goes those intolerant, homophobic, misogynistic, crazy, backwards, hateful, narrow-minded, bigoted, fundamentalist (gasp!) Christians again.”
“Don’t judge, lest ye be judged. (walks away, with an air of superiority)” You mean, kinda like you’re doing now? Good to know.
And my favorite:
“Constantine! Ha-hA!” Somehow, just saying the name is enough to make an “unassailable argument.”
The worst part is the effect all this is having on our youth. They are exiting the Church in droves, and a big reason is because they are not being given answers to all the challenges they face from secular culture.
As C.S Lewis once said,
To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.
If you get caught at work without a good response, that’s ok. I’ve backed down plenty in my time. Don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s allright to get caught with your pants down once…but not twice! After you walk away without a response, go and do a bit of study. Find an answer. In the age of Google, it’s not that difficult! It’s not cowardly if you don’t have all the answers every time. God doesn’t expect you to confidently stand up without pause every time. But…if you blow it off and refuse to better your ambassador skills after you miss an opportunity, that is cowardice.
Speaking about study, you can start by blogrolling Wintery. Then, surf around the following websites often:
The following books will help you get started:
Kingdom Triangle, by JP Moreland
Love Your God with All Your Mind, also by JP Moreland
Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Midair, by Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith
If you want to take a step up, go to the following website:
And read the folowing textbook:
Be sure to check out the following related posts:
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