What is apologetics? Why do we persist on it in the Western Church? What is it about our church life or our tradition of faith, that we would believe we must have apologetics?
What do you believe? Why do you believe it?
These are important questions. These are important journeys for us to be on.
My thought going into this however, is… Do we feel like we need to defend our faith because it’s not very strong?
Apologetics, is the churches response for us, to have an answer ready for the hope that we have inside of us. 1 Peter 3:15. Peter tells us to be ready and to give an answer for our hope, an answer for our belief. This is what apologetics typically is described as.
Apologetics is our response to the world when it says things that we believe are not true. Apologetics is our weapon against evolution, against human trafficking, against a myriad of intellectual pursuits.
We have apologists that have studied the worlds knowledge. We have many that are as bright as any other person.
Yet, we lack something, something perhaps not defined often, but something none-the-less.
Is Apologetics working?
While I must admit, I grew up loving apologetics, studying the great apologists of our time. But the deeper I got into it, the less joy I had in the Lord. In fact, I had more joy in myself. That was not right. Let me explain.
I was not confident in what I believed, so I developed my arguments. I was good. But what I missed, was that I honestly didn’t need God for it. I could develop my arguments void of Him. As I look back now, I realize that I had such strong arguments not to share the gospel, but build myself up from a lack of self esteem. But what’s worse, I had learned from the best how to prove God, without introducing anyone to Him.
God is not needed for our work with apologetics.
So then, what shall we do?
As I humbled myself to this reality, which took years, I found myself consistently going back to our western worlds perhaps most hated and avoided verse. Ok, that’s an overstatement, but I’m leaving it in to show something.
1 Cor 2:4-5. This is Paul speaking. Remember, he trained academically under some of the greatest teachers. He was an expert in the law. He could out speak anyone and pull the weight of many institutions behind him. Yet, this is what he said.
“And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom, but in the power of God.
Ouch. Reading that verse in the context of apologetics is painful.
WAIT!!! What about in Athens, when Paul spoke clever speech. He contextualized yada yada yada. Yes, that’s true. There is a time for clever wisdom. But, if you will stick with me, let me explain something.
It seems pretty clear that Paul did not rely on clever speech. He used it, but he didn’t rely on it. Too often, as we approach apologetics, we rely on clever speech, or well pressed arguments. This is not how Paul functioned.
In doing so, we have converted our faith into an argument. We have too often not prepared a response for people to the hope we have, but we have learned to articulate a logical, no God needed argument, for the doctrine we are defending. We defend doctrine not hope. HOPE. That’s what the verse says we should explain.
Let’s be honest… Does God need defending? Even further, does truth need defending? I must admit I used to think yes. But, truth does’t need defending, it needs diffusion into the people Jesus loves.
Throwing pebbles at Castles.
Imagine if we were in a large Castle. We look over the walls and some really big guys are coming. They are BIG. We get frightened. Then, they pull out of their war bags some weapons. But, the weapons are little rocks. We are intimidated. We don’t know what they will do. Will they throw them at us? Oh no!!!
But Wait. They actually start throwing them at the Castle. They yell and scream and froth at their mouths, but they are literally throwing pebbles at the Castle.
I’m sorry, but nothing will happen to the castle. We are not that important to the scenario.
You see, Castles don’t need us protecting them from pebbles. Even if the pebbles are shiny.
More often than not, however, we find ourselves impressed with the glitter of the pebbles, because we don’t know intimately the king of the castle. I know I didn’t. I used my knowledge to avoid the King. I used my arguments to avoid being humble and vulnerable to the working of the Holy Spirit.
So then, what could this new apologetic be? Why am I writing? Is it because I now suck at apologetics and I’m trying to find something I’m better at to build myself back up?
First of all, I want to recall what a professor of mine shared with me once. It changed my world. He said, there are 2 kinds of arguments. One that sounds good and another that is good. I love that. Thanks Rod Remin. 🙂
We have so many arguments that sound good, and frankly, they might be solid logical thought about God. But even if you believe them, it doesn’t put you into a position to believe in Jesus. It just defeats your defense, which makes you vulnerable and a victim of truth. This is not grace. Again, you become a victim of truth.
But then there is another way of showing people about Jesus. There is another way to communicate the love of God so that people feel loved, not beaten up by a better argument.
A Man with an Argument
I really must apologize, I really don’t remember, but I heard it said once and it forever changed me. So to whoever said this, I give my gratitude. “If you can argue someone into the faith, they can be argued out of the faith. But a man with an experience seldom leaves it.”
This is so brilliant.
Let me explain.
Information, verses Truth
In my ministry career, I’ve been blessed to see the Kingdom of God at work. While I come from a Western traditional denomination and school of thought, those I’ve met around the world have captured my attention. Why do I say this? Because, they believe very different than me, or at least they used to, but their relationships with God and the evidence of Him in their lives blew me away.
I remember one time in India. The christians seemed to believe a whole lot of more charismatic stuff than I could justify. But their love of God was amazing. In fact, just like we hear out west, there are more miracles. In fact, that is a major topic in the Western church. Why don’t we experience the same miracles as the church around the world. Perhaps, these thoughts of mine you are reading can give some insight.
Here is what I experienced that trumped my argument, my apologetic.
I met a man. He looked sick. He was a pastor. So I did my pastoral duty and asked about him so that I could encourage him and pray for him. But here is what I found out.
He was actually not really sick anymore. He was getting better. “You see, Pastor Brad”, they said, “He died and was dead for 3 days. But God healed him, so now he’s back at work.”
He had died. He was dead. Not for a moment, but for days. But the faith of his family, and the people of Jesus prayed for Him and God sent him back to work. Yikes. This looks like the Bible. (FYI, I just found out in Sept, 2019, he has a wife and kids now. This is the real deal.)
When I came back to Canada, my sweet talking arguments lost so much of their punch. I remember telling one more traditional western Christian about this and he said to me, “So you are a believer?” Before I heard what I said I blurted out, “I don’t know if I’m a believer or not, but the man was dead, and now He is alive.” I then realized I sounded like the man who Jesus healed when questioned. He didn’t understand the whole experience, but he knew that once he was blind, but now he could see.
You see, my arguments for resurrection meant very little without my experience. But now I had experienced what I has always believed.
Yet we tend to dismiss experience in the Western Church. We belittle it. But a man with an argument can be argued out of a belief, while a man who see’s the dead come back to life, has resolve that even the “best” logic, can’t destroy.
Perhaps this is why Paul decided to leave fancy words and show fancy works. Perhaps, this is why the power of God is more persuasive than the words of our mouths. Perhaps, the power of God is the NEW APOLOGETIC. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t think through what we say, but perhaps the new defense of the faith is less about words that the world thinks are meaningless anyway, and more about something that can’t be defeated.
Now let’s be clear. I am not suggesting that well organized thought is not important. In fact, I think it’s very important. But remember, we are literally in a world that now says, your truth is true and so is mine, so believe what you want. Truth does not carry weight anymore, so relying on it to carry Jesus is a moot endeavor.
My prayer for you.
I would be drinking my old cool-aid if I didn’t recognize the irony of our conversation. I have given you a good argument. I just said that it’s not enough. So let’s go here to.
As you reflect on this matter, may it not be by my fancy words, or even my testimony that moves you to grow deeper in your faith in Jesus. But may He grant you a need miraculously that you never thought was possible. May he heal you. May He free you. May He show you who you are. May your life look like the Bible. May He meet you right where you are, so that you too can say, I don’t know what I believe, but I was once blind, and now I see.
AMEN and Let it be.