Posts tagged Apologetics
Everyone believes something. All people have a worldview that they hold to. Some are thought through well, and others not so much. Daily, people’s worldviews collide as they interact with one another. The beliefs and ideas that people hold to are varied and often contradictory. It should be obvious that all contradictory ideas and belief systems cannot all be correct. They may all be wrong, or one may be correct, but two or more conflicting ideas cannot all reflect reality accurately. That being said, people from varied worldviews often argue, or make a case for, their beliefs. Some offer strong and well seasoned arguments, while others give shallow and putrid arguments. The Christian must be able to sniff out the poor arguments if he is to properly engage the varied beliefs of the world around him.
One problematic manner in which people argue is referred to as “begging the question”, which is also known as circular reasoning. This is where a person assumes their belief to be correct in the first place. This happens all the time. “The Bible is inerrant because everything it says is true.” “Science is the only way to know truth because science can’t be false.” “America is the greatest nation on earth because no other nation is so great.” Look at the evidence.
There is also the “straw man.” People often try to exaggerate, distort or misrepresent an opponent’s argument. They construct a man of straw that they can easily tear down instead of actually engaging the real argument. “Atheists just hate God.” “Christians don’t believe in science.” “Intelligent design advocates believe the world was created 6,000 years ago.” “If everything needs a cause, then who created God.” “The Bible advocates murdering homosexuals.” All of these are misrepresentations of someone else’s ideas and allow the person stating them to look as though they are destroying the competition. Look to make sure that ideas presented are correct and not exaggerated or misrepresented.
Another, often employed, fallacious attempt to win an argument is where the only evidence provided supports the person’s belief or idea. Here, the arguer assumes the other person’s ignorance. They ignore contrary, and often overwhelming evidence, that opposes their point. One such argument often heard is, “The fact that Christianity has started all the wars shows that it has an averse affect on the world.” Well, what about the wars waged by atheistic regimes? What about the good things Christianity has done for the world? Is it possible that some wars have nothing to do with religion? We must make sure that the person we are having a discussion with is not appealing to selective evidence and leaving the contrary evidence out. True discussions examine all the evidence.
Some people fight really dirty when arguing their point. They intentionally try to distract the other party or change the subject. This is often referred to as a “Red Herring”. The term comes from Fox Hunting, where the fish, a Red Herring, would be drug across the path of the fox to throw the dogs off of it’s scent. This is often a last ditch effort when a person is losing an argument. They may try to change the subject, create an uproar, tell a joke, anything to take the focus off of the immediate discussion. “While the Christian believes that Jesus rose from the dead as evidence for Christianity, we know that many Christians just assume the beliefs of their parent.” Here a new topic is introduced and the data about the resurrection of Christ is avoided. “Atheists support evolutionary theory to explain life on earth, but the fool says in his heart ‘there is no God.’” The topic of evolution is avoided and scripture quoted instead. Stay with the original argument like a dog on a bone. Additional points can be addressed after the current item under discussion is dealt with satisfactorily.
Another common fallacy is where people make generalizations to quickly. They take the exceptions and make them the rule. “Laws condemning abortion are wrong. Think how horrible it would be for a woman raped to be forced to raise the child that resulted from that rape.” This is clearly the exception. The vast majority of abortions are elective and have little to do with rape. A universal case is made from atypical evidence. We must look at the big picture. There are always exceptions and they must be dealt with, but the exceptions cannot be generalized too quickly to the overall issue or population.
So many poor methods are employed to make a case for an idea or worldview by Christians, Atheists, liberals, and conservatives. No one is exempt from using poor logic or crafting bad arguments. Yet, the Christian has been commanded to “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 NKJV) This means growing the ability to identify faulty arguments. The Christian needs to learn how to think instead of allowing people to tell them what to think!
Walk good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
When it comes to having discussions with people about beliefs, worldviews, and ideas, we can often miss poorly constructed arguments and poor thinking without realizing it. We know that ideas come in many shapes and sizes. Some of the arguments, or cases that people present, stink, while others are formed with much precision and consideration. Part of the Christians calling in sharing the Gospel is looking for poor ways of thinking, including our own.
When it comes to arguments we must constantly work to make sure the other party stays on task. Often, irrelevant matters are smuggled into a discussion to win an argument. It happens all the time. We have to learn to spot these fallacies when they are employed.
Some people try to dodge the issue under discussion by attacking their opponent. They try to bully people into buying into their ideas. Logic goes out the window and threats are used. Often people will attack a person’s character in an attempt to win the argument or because they have not thought through their position well. For example, in court a lawyer might try to persuade a jury to throw out the testimony of a witness because he is a drunk. The fact that a person drinks does not necessarily damage what he witnessed while sober. Just because a minister had a sinful past does not mean he is not dedicated to the Lord’s work in the present. Some people will attack a person’s argument based on circumstances surrounding them. I once had an individual tell me that we should not employ the apologetics of C.S. Lewis because he studied Norse (pagan) mythology. This is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Some people bypass logical principles by trying to argue from ignorance. This is where people hold to an idea until it is proven false. In other words, ignorance is bliss. This is a land where closed minds are grown and thrive. Ignorance doesn’t prove anything. We must look at the evidence. I have heard atheist argue, “God doesn’t exist because I have never seen any evidence for him.” Then Christians are just as guilty, “God must exist because no one can prove he doesn’t.” Both of these arguments lack any substance. We must examine the positive evidence and weigh it.
Many people employ the weight of what the majority holds to be true in attempt to win an argument. “Everyone else believes this and your are stupid if you reject it.” There is a problem with this line of thinking. Everyone can be wrong. The vast majority of people use to believe the world was flat. The majority of Germans believed that Jews were an “inferior species”. Just because everyone holds to a belief does not make it so. What is the positive evidence? Don’t be bullied by the “everyone else believes this” steamroll.
Along similar lines, some will appeal to authority figures to give weight to poor arguments. “Lawrence Krauss holds to the idea that the universe arose from nothing so it is true.” “Stephen Hawking believes we live in a Godless universe so there is no God.” “Fox news said that the President has an alcohol problem so you can take that as the gospel.” “Joel Osteen says if you just live right all your problems will go away and so it is.” Just because someone in an authority position makes a statement does not make that statement irrevocably true. What is the evidence? We should listen to people in authority, as long as they are an actual authority. Often authorities in one field try to act as though they are authorities across many other disciplines and this diminishes their weight of their statements. The theological and philosophical rantings of Richard Dawkins is a prime example of an authority overstepping their bounds. Ultimately, all appeals to authority boil down to the evidence that authority has to support their statements.
In attempt to shape a discussion in their favor, advocates of certain beliefs often attempt to appeal to pity or tug at people’s heartstrings in order to win an argument. “Well, if abortion isn’t legal women will be having back ally, coat hanger abortions that are unsafe.” “A loving God wouldn’t allow people to suffer in hell.” What are the facts? Leave emotion out of it. Let’s deal with the arguments.
Some people will try to eschew arguments based on the age of said argument. “That idea went out years ago.” “Believing that sex before marriage is wrong went out of vogue with the sexual revolution.” Ideas do not have expiration dates. The soundness of an argument or correctness of a statement has nothing to do with age. At times people may also implore you to accept their statement based on the future. “One day research will prove this.” “Data will eventually show that God does not exist.” The available data in the present rules the day. We can deal with future discoveries as they arise.
The more we practice sniffing out poorly constructed arguments the greater our sense develops for doing so. Continue to scrutinize the worldviews, ideas, and beliefs that people present, whether in the media, in online forums, from those in academia, or sitting in a circle of friends; you will spot bad arguments everywhere.
I am not encouraging an attitude of skepticism, only clear and correct thinking. When it comes to engaging culture, demolishing false ideological strongholds, or challenging the beliefs of others it is not attacking the opponent, appealing to an authority, or the age of the idea that wins the day. The way an argument is won is due to thinking through one’s own position and holding to facts grounded in evidence that best conform with reality.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Recently, I went shopping with my wife. She had a few things to do and we were in somewhat of a hurry. We decided to divide and conquer. She sent me on quest to buy a candle for a friend of hers in order to save some time. That sounds like a bad idea doesn’t it? Apparently, she trusted my judgment in picking out a fragrance for her friend. I made my way into the alien world of Bath and Body Works. How many different scents can there be? As I started conducting my sniff test, I noticed something quickly. Some of the candles smelled wonderful (Summertime S’mores or Watermelon Lemonade anyone?) and other ones just plain stunk. Some of them made me feel a little nauseous even.
It is this sense that arguments are like candles, some of them stink and some of them don’t. When I say arguments, I don’t mean the form of two people bickering. I am referring to giving a defense for a belief or making a case for an idea. It is the Christian’s job to spot bad ideas and false arguments. We are to expose false ideas for what they are. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)
Bad arguments occur both within and outside of Christianity. At times, Christians construct ideas based off of their own desires or misinterpret scripture. This is how heretical doctrines are birthed or cults take root. There are also a multitude of bad ideas outside of Christianity that do not conform to reality.
As believers we need to be able to spot bad arguments, both our own and those of others. Sometimes people don’t intend to set forth bad arguments and a dialogue about them can change their view. Other times people fear the outcome of changing their view and they argue their point while they remain uncertain about it’s correctness. Then there are some that intentionally try to smuggle in bad arguments so they can be right. With that being said, lets sniff out some of the of the various ways that people argue poorly. These are often referred to as logical fallacies.
First, we may often notice that people use ambiguous terms, or accordion words that can be stretched, when they formulate their arguments. We see an equivocation of terms. Norman Geisler reminds us, “Ambiguity is one of the seven deadly sins of correct thinking.” Words mean different things to different people. Ambiguous language takes different forms. It may simply be a word a phrase with different meanings. Consider the following phrases. “He gave her cat food.” Did he give a lady’s cat some food or did he give the lady the cat’s food? “I like to eat grandpa.” Is someone telling grandpa that they like to eat, or do they consider older men a delicacy? “The lady hit the man with the newspaper.” Did she hit the man holding a newspaper or did she smack him with the newspaper? Words or phrases with different meanings can cause serious problems when trying to defend or engage a worldview.
We should also be aware that personal experience, worldview, and circumstances often affect how people use words as well. Terms like evolution or Christ are often laden with different meanings to different people. I have even seen people equivocate on the word “nothing”, using it as a universal negation and then as an absence of certain properties. Before any discussion can yield positive results, terms must be defined. Each party must know to what the other is referring, and how they view and understand the terms involved in the discussion. Unless each party understands the meaning behind the other person’s words, it is difficult to respond to or critique an argument.
Walk good. Love wise. Be blessed.
God, where are you when an earthquake swallows up unsuspecting people? Where are you God when fires ravage homes that displace thousands? Where are you when hurricanes pound the coast and inflict pain on countless lives? Where were you when tornadoes struck Oklahoma and demolished house after house? What about the kids, God? Why did innocent kids have to suffer and die? You are all powerful. You could have stopped it. Why didn’t you?
This is a big question. One that we all have wrestled with at times, struggled with, and either worked through or pushed to the back of our minds. Yet, when tragedy strikes it pulls the question back to the forefront of our minds. Why does God allow suffering? Why does he allow tragedy? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Many refer to these phenomena as natural evil, as opposed to moral evil, which requires some agent that inflicts pain. Moral evil is when a drunk driver kills an innocent child or a person abuses another. When it comes to moral evil we know that cause is due to sin. A person has the freedom to choose to abuse his free will and harm others. Yet, natural evil, or agentless evil, there is no person or agent that chooses to hurt others. It is the result of the natural order. It is a physical phenomenon that no one, per se, caused. These events happen without a causal agent. Yet, the question lingers, why does God allow it?
Before we seek an answer to this question from a Christian perspective, it is important to understand that every worldview must answer this question. From an atheistic perspective, it is bound to happen at some point. In our world, people will get hurt. It’s an accident we are here to begin with. So when natural disaster strikes, you simply lose the lottery. Someone had to get hurt, and your number was up. Incidentally, it ends there. Life is cut short. Life has no meaning or ultimate purpose. Hopefully you enjoyed the years in the sun you had. Then there are the pantheistic religions that say the tragedies we experience are the result of negative Karma. That is, the bad things you do create negative energy and you must pay off this negative energy by experiencing difficulties. So essentially, you are the reason that bad things happen to you? They might also say that suffering is an illusion, but last time I suffered it felt pretty real. None of these answers seem satisfactory or easy to live out consistently.
So what does Christianity have to say about natural disasters? Every now and then someone like Pat Robertson will pipe up and say that God directly causes natural disasters as a punishment for sin. We see evidence of this in the Bible in limited places. Yet, we are not qualified to make such judgments, and to do so is completely insensitive and downright narcissistic. Furthermore, God using natural disasters as punishment seems limited to a specific socio-cultural context, that is, theocratic Israel.
While God does not cause natural disasters, the question still must be asked why does He allow them? Many question, if God is all-loving and all-powerful, then why doesn’t he stop tornadoes from ripping across Oklahoma? While I believe God is both all-loving and all-powerful, does this mean that God is under compulsion to shield us from all pain and suffering? To fully answer this question man would have to assume the mind of God. God has knowledge of every possible contingency and our knowledge is limited. As Charles Spurgeon once explained, “When we cannot trace God’s hand, we must simply trust His heart.”
Though we cannot assume the mind of God, we can make some observations. First we know that when God created the world, it was good. Suffering and evil were not present. When sin entered the world, death and suffering also did, and this applied to creation itself. Paul reminds us of this, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.” (Romans 8:22, HCSB). So natural disasters are tied to the fall itself.
We could also discuss how God uses pain in our lives, though this is often less than satisfying when we are in the middle of tragedy. Yet, sometimes God uses pain our lives for multiple reasons. At times it is to get our attention, build character, or to keep us from greater pain and suffering by exposing us to a smaller amount of aversion. Again, we do not know the mind of God.
This question has been examined from many different angles, but I would like to approach it from a different perspective. Often natural disasters are referred to as “acts of God.” We must ask ourselves, however, are “acts of God” limited to natural disasters? Might we remember that the very fact that we have life to begin with was an “act of God”? Creation from nothing was an act of God. The suffering of Christ was an act of God. The daily sustaining of the universe is an act of God. The very fact that my lungs continue to breathe in and out at this moment is an act of God. Let us not limit acts of God to the tragedies that strike.
We must also ask, is death underserved? Due to the effects of sin, everyone has an appointment with death. We think that we get some say on when that appointment should be. We deem it unfair when people die before the average age, but say nothing when people live past the average age. Every day we get is solely due to God’s grace. We have no claim on our lives. Because God is the creator of life He can give and take when he sees fit, often for purposes that are beyond our immediate understanding.
Death will come to us all at some point. While it is hard for us to let go in this life, death is not something to be feared for those that know Christ. Death is hard on the survivor, but for the person that dies, they enter into bliss. Yet we forget this when disaster strikes because our emotions are greatly shaken, and rightly so. Yet we blame God for something that would happen at some point regardless, and when it does happen the person lost is in a better state than before. It is hard for us, the survivor. Yet, God gives us the capacity to overcome our grief.
Many would say that natural disasters are undeserved. Again, when we make this appeal we also forget about the good things that are undeserved. Do we, as unrighteous people, deserve anything? Yet, God is faithful to allow good things in our lives. If we make the argument that the bad is underserved we must also be consistent and say that the good is underserved.
In other words, the good that God allows in our lives we accept without thought or question. Yet, when tragedy strikes, God has allowed undeserving bad things into our life, and He is horrible for having done so, and even then, we don’t know His reasons for doing so.
Is it perhaps possible then, that in a fallen world that groans under the weight of sin, that God works in a way where the best possible and loving outcomes result? Is it possible that we focus too heavily on this life at the expense of remembering we were created for another world? Is it possible that we miss all of the blessings and provisions of God and focus only on the seeming injustices and tragedies? Is it possible that amidst tragedy, God is right there with us? Is it possible that God holds our hand through the eye of the storm?
God created the world knowing that we would botch it all up. He knew as a result of this that He would have to send His Son to die for the sins of mankind, that all of humanity might be restored. Would a loving father make a decision that would involve the death of His Son? In the midst of loss we might remember that God is no stranger to our plight.
These questions are not easy, yet; only Christianity offers an explanation that comes close to satisfying. Either the universe is indifferent when tragedy strikes, we brought it on ourselves, suffering is an illusion, or God is in control even when we don’t complete understand it. He loves us, blesses us, and seeks our ultimate good. So much, that He suffered greatly be sending His own son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. We should point out that the reason this answer does not seem fully satisfactory is because we don’t allows get to know the why or connect the dots. We have a low tolerance for cognitive ambiguity. Yet, at this point, we simply have to trust that God is all powerful and all loving and He is in control.
Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny?Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent.But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31, HCSB)
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Recently, I was having an initial conversation with a fellow believer. We were doing the usual guy-get-to-know-one-another chat. Inevitably, when two guys meet for the first time, the question always comes up, “What do you do and what is your background”? I explained I was a minister and psychotherapist, and that I was studying Apologetics. “Oh, your one of those”, he said.” I was confused, “One of those, what?” “You are one of those guys that feel like God has to be defended, but He doesn’t. God doesn’t need anyone to defend Him.”
Is that true? Is apologetics just a waste of time? Well, my newfound friend is right. God does not need anyone to defend Him. I am pretty sure God has it covered with his legions of angels, not to mention all of His attributes like omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and the like. God holds the market on power and can easily defend Himself. He doesn’t need me to do anything for Him, but He does allow me to be a part of His plan.
God does not need defending. His truth also stands on it’s own. God’s truth is true regardless of whether a person wants to accept it or not. Yet, Apologetics is not about defending God. I will let God take care of Himself. Apologetics is about giving reasons for the hope that we have. Apologetics is about tearing down false ideas that obstruct people from coming to know the truth about God. Essentially, apologetics is about removing blindfolds that keep people from seeing who God is.
I am often dumbfounded when I hear Christians make the statement that Apologetics is an unnecessary discipline because God can take care of Himself. Of course God can take care of Himself. That is not up for debate. Yet, if apologetics is unnecessary, then why does God command the Christian to engage in Apologetics? Notice what scripture has to say about giving reasons for what we believe.
I Peter 3:15 is the hallmark verse commanding an apologetic lifestyle, “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 we are commanded to “demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God.” One must be able to give reasons why Christianity is true instead of the many false ideologies. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus states that we are to love God “with all of our minds.” How does one do that? By being informed about competing worldviews and employing logic to show why Christianity is the most compelling belief. We should also note that Jesus and the apostles employed Apologetics. Jesus repeatedly gave evidences and reasons, such as miracles and fulfilled prophecies, as to why people should trust His claim to be the messiah. The apostles did the same. Paul’s address at Mars Hill in Acts 17 is a brilliant apologetic!
We are commanded in Matthew 28 to go and share our faith with those around us. We are directly commanded to evangelize the world and present the good news to all we can. Apologetics is pre-evangelism. It removes obstacles so the good news can be heard!
God doesn’t need defending, but people need help making sense of the many competing ideas. We have been commanded to give a reason for the hope we have. It is only the lazy Christian that cannot give reasons for his faith. Evangelism doesn’t happen within a vacuum. It happens amidst many different subcultures. People’s background, experiences, history, education, etc. effects how they relate to the gospel. While we can never be completely prepared, we can do our best to have an understanding of our own beliefs and be able to offer a reasonable explanation of them.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Have you ever paused to consider the importance of words? We take them for granted, don’t we? Thousands of words pour out of our mouths on a daily basis. Sometimes they are well crafted and seasoned, while other times they are impulsive and frivolous. The use of language plays an immensely important role in our daily lives.
Language flows out from God. The world was brought into existence by divine fiat through the spoken word of God. The Genesis account repeatedly says, “Then God said.” Whatever God spoke came springing into existence. John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Later, the Word, the second member of the Trinity, would become flesh and walk among us. The Good News itself is communicated to us through language. Words are the vehicle for understanding and communicating truth.
Yet, in our postmodern times, the deconstruction of language is one of the greatest ways that truth, good, and morality have come under attack. In fact, the dismantling of language is the hallmark of the postmodern worldview. We are told truth can’t be known and words carry no meaning. Mankind has used language in attempt to eradicate God, personal moral culpability, and attain autonomy and sovereignty over his own life.
Think about the ways language is twisted, distorted, and mutilated in attempt to redefine morality. Think about the ways people use language as a means to mask their agenda and motives. Hitler was a very skilled lingual craftsman. Government has used language as a tool for manipulating people throughout history. For example, taxes are redefined as “sacrifice” and health care a “universal crisis.” Hitler redefined murder as “ethnic cleansing” and it was justified as being a “health issue” for the rest of mankind. Words are powerful and they help define the way we think about ideas.
What about morality? The twisting of words is commonplace here. Suicide has become “death with dignity.” Murder is simply “a woman’s right to autonomy” or “terminating a pregnancy.” Prostitutes are “sex care providers”. Homosexuality is “an alternative lifestyle” or “being true to who one is.” Pornography is labeled as “adult entertainment” or is said to be “provocative.” Sex outside of marriage is always called “an act of love.” My, how language can be sanitized to mask mankind’s moral transgressions. We have become good at twisted words.
Under Sharia law murder is called an “honor killing.” Terrorists are often called “freedom fighters.” Illegal aliens are now “undocumented residents.” The cavalier teaching in many universities is redefined as “academic freedom.” The trend in culture to replace the sacred with the secular is called “democratic liberalism.” Even the atheists now want to be called “brights”. We have become good with toying with the meaning of words.
It was G.K. Chesterton that once said, “When somebody wishes to wage a social war against what all normal people have regarded as a social decency, the very first thing he does is to find some artificial term that shall sound relatively decent.” He captures the spirit of our day remarkably well. Truth itself is under an attack and is being murdered under the knives of our words.
People no longer use the word “sin”. It has become obsolete as well. Instead of sinning, people make “mistakes.” We are no longer sinners, simply “mistakers.” If we are no longer sinners, then we no longer have anyone to answer to. We have become our own God. Sin itself has become sanitized in attempt to free ourselves from answering to a higher power. But surely deep down we know that a mistake is forgetting to pick up that item from the grocery store, not carrying the one when handling numbers, or knocking the vase of the counter. Sin is our moral transgressions. Sin is what we do wrong. Sin is all the evil we act upon which ultimately ends in death.
The Christian must be honest. We must call things what they are. A spade must be called a spade. Sin must be called sin. We must be honest in our use of words. We must speak truth in the context of love. We must look in our own lives and not attempt to sanitize the most hideous facets of our sinful nature. Instead of trying to deny the problem, as Adam and Eve did when they covered their naked bodies with leaves, we must look to Christ to cover our sin with His blood.
We must also be reminded that another attack on language involves those that say “words have no meaning.” That is, words don’t carry their own meaning. Instead we give meaning to words. In this sense, language becomes pointless.
I was recently watching a question and answer session with a well-known academic. He has published extensively and has had several best selling books. He stated that, “Words don’t mean anything, people ascribe their own meaning to words. Truth is thus unknowable.” Then someone with some sense in the audience asked, “Then why should we buy your books if truth is unknowable and words don’t carry any meaning. What could they possibly tell us?” That is the price my fine, academic friend. Your words have killed your very argument.
Words have meaning. We don’t get the luxury of defining words in a way that is convenient for us. Language carries with it an original meaning whether we understand it or not. Scripture communicates truth to us. The original author is presenting a specific meaning. The author transmits the meaning. It is not the reader that applies his own meaning to the text.
When we attempt to deconstruct language and reconstruct it in ways that suits ourselves, we do so at a price. We are paying the price now socially, morally, and spiritually. We have torn down moral fences without giving pause to ask why they were put there in the first place.
Words have meaning. Let us not toy with them. The Christian must stand firm on truth.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
For the Christian, Apologetics is a necessity. In the pluralistic, hodge-podge-of-beliefs culture that we live in, one must always be ready with an answer. The Christian is ever presented with ideas that attempt to challenge the credibility of theism or cast Christianity in a disparaging light. Indeed, to say that apologetics is important would be an understatement. It does much to bolster the faith of the believer, while empowering them to share their faith. It also serves as pre-evangelism because it tears down false ideas that might obstruct the truth in someone’s mind.
Granted, some believers feel a greater calling to invest themselves more heavily when it comes to defending the Christian faith, but all believers should be prepared to give an adequate defense of their faith in Christ, theologically, historically, and philosophically. If one cannot articulate and defend their own beliefs, it places them on uneven, or even shifting, ground when it comes to sharing their faith with others. Worse, their own faith may be shaken when presented with evidence by skeptics or when life deals them something unsettling.
Yet, when it comes to developing one’s defense it is easy to be lazy. Giving a strong apologetic requires much study, thought, and discussion. I think we can all say that it is easy to be lazy in this area. Yet, thankfully, many Christians rigorously devote themselves to defending the truth of Christianity. It is here, that we need to be reminded that the hard working apologist that is diligent to study can also find himself being lazy, relationally lazy.
Sometimes, it is hard to find the balance. Apologetics is not just a cognitive endeavor; it is intended to be a highly relational pursuit. The idea behind apologetics is to know truth, understand that truth to one’s best capacity, grow in the faith (both intellectually and experientially), build close relationships with others, and present that truth to them within the context of that relationship.
In many ways, Christianity has gotten relationally sloppy. We make evangelism a cognitive exercise. “Just present the truth.” “If they don’t like the truth that is there problem.” “They just don’t want to hear the truth.” These sorts of phrases smack of laziness. Sure, sometimes the truth is uncomfortable, but it is bearable, even if disagreeable, within the context of a close relationship. Within apologetics, one is forced to walk a tightrope between truth and love. We are reminded in Ephesians 4:15 to present truth, coupled with love. Truth and love are inextricably linked together and find their ultimate expression within the confines of close relationships with the people around us.
The apologist will find that his efforts yield meager results outside of sharing truth with love within close relationships. As a matter of fact, 71% of individuals who come to know Christ say that it was due to the efforts of an individual, and less than .05% came to know Christ through tracts, radio, or television. We cannot strictly make apologetics a cognitive endeavor and marginalize the relational significance.
The apologist has much to overcome if he wants the precious truth of Christianity to be heard. In 1996, 15% of unbelievers said they had a bad impression of Christianity. In 2007, those who viewed Christianity unfavorably leaped to 38%! That is a tremendously large shift in just 10 years!
We should note that 85% of non-church goers view Christianity as hypocritical while, get this, of people that do go to church, 47% say they believe Christianity is hypocritical! Only 20% of non-Christians believe that churches are loving environments, while less than 50% of church goers believe their church demonstrates unconditional love! This is a problem!
No one will listen to our truth unless they first see our love lived out daily in their lives. As Christians, and apologists, we have a lot to overcome before the truth even gets a hearing. And it is interesting, because people never had a problem with Jesus’ attitude or behavior, but there were certainly those who had a problem with his teachings and convictions. Today, there are those that resist Christianity due to the moral limitations it places on their lives, but I dare say a great many people push back due to the attitude and behavior of the Christian! Is it possible that Christianity needs an attitude adjustment and a reminder that Christianity is relational to its very core?
Here we should again look to the Apostle Paul. He writes in the familiar I Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in the tonguesof men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” We may be well versed in scripture, be familiar with the right questions, and have our philosophy perfectly logically valid, but if we don’t have love for other people then we are just making noise. If we aren’t seriously investing into the lives of people around us we are just making a sound.
A cymbal sounds wonderful when crafted into a drum solo or song, but played repeatedly by itself it becomes increasingly annoying. As Christians, if our truth isn’t crafted into the context of strong relationships and presented with love, then we become annoying and affirm what many say about Christianity. That is a tragedy.
We must walk the tightrope well. Apologetics is certainly highly cognitive, but it is also incredibly relational! People will not care what we know until they legitimately believe that we care. Invest in people and speak the truth in love.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
The Barna Group recently published some new findings that we as Christians should be privy to. While 7 out of 10 Americans identify themselves as “Christians”, one can quickly see by looking at the research that there are some deep theological and lifestyle problems. While many label themselves as Christians it seems apparent that it could be in namesake only. You can read the full article here.
What are your reactions to these figures? Let us know!
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
This is a sad week. Tragedy has visited us once again. Life has been taken unjustly, pain inflicted without cause. Evil has shown its face as the world looks on in horror. It was as if the world stopped for a while Monday, as everyone watched the events unfold at the Boston Marathon. Our hearts and prayers go out to all who have been touched by this maleficent act of villainy.
During times such as this, it often forces people to ask questions. Why did it happen? What does it mean? We want to connect the dots and have a certain degree of understanding. We watch the media coverage hoping to find answers. What was the motive? Who did it? Will justice be served?
Yet, there are even deeper questions. There are questions that flow deep beneath the shallow waters of our culture that must be delved into. Where is God in the middle of this tragedy? Why does He allow evil and pain? What does this say about mankind’s very nature? These are big questions that deserve everyone’s reflection.
The tragedy in Boston reminds us all that we live in a world that is broken. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” We see the effects of evil daily because we live in a world that bears the weight of sin. In the beginning, mankind was afforded a choice. We were given the option of choosing to trust in God’s goodness or to do life our own way. Man was given complete freedom, with a single rule to obey.
Man could choose life through abiding by God’s edict or destruction by going against God’s divine law. With this freedom came the potential of evil. It could be no other way. At this point many will ask, “Well, why didn’t God just force man to do right so we could avoid the consequences of evil?” This is not possible with the freedom of choice. If mankind has free will, then evil is the natural byproduct of man choosing poorly. I often enjoy asking people whether they would choose losing their freedom of choice to have a perfect life or have the freedom to choose and face the negative consequences of their actions. I have never had a person choose to give up their freedom when I pose this question. We all want to make choices for ourselves, be they good or bad, and with this capacity to choose comes the potential of evil. This is why these tragedies take place. Because mankind choose long ago to sin, and on the coattails of sin comes death and destruction.
Many seek to ask what God’s responsibility is when tragedy strikes, but what if we look at our own responsibility. We are always looking for somewhere to pass the buck. Have we not created a culture of death? Are our own hands not stained crimson as a culture with the blood of those fallen in Boston? Those in the ivory towers of the Ivy League consistently tell us that good and evil are but cloudy figments of our imagination. We live in a culture that denies any universal moral principles. Right and wrong are simply mental constructs that vary from person to person and culture to culture we are told. There is no universal truth. The natural law written on the heart of mankind by God is ancient folklore. If this is the case, then why are we surprised when the calamity of evil manifests itself, such as in Boston? “We cannot have it both ways” we are simply not permitted to live as if justice and truth really matter and yet deny that justice and truth are fixed universal referents.”
This leaves us to ask, where is God in all of this? He is not far from any one of us. He stands right along with us in our times of suffering. He weeps with those that weep. He comforts those that seek solace in the cross. We will do well to remember, Christ also suffered. The physical nature of Christ new pain, suffering, isolation, and emotional turmoil well. He is not some aloof deity that is a stranger to the plights of man. He also promises to right every wrong one day. He tells us to keep an eye on the horizon with the expectation of his return, when He will redeem creation. The Apostle Paul asks us to consider, “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” One day, all will be made right.
Yet, in the meantime, we must morn with those that morn. Make our case for universal moral principles that God has written on the hearts of humanity. And we wait with anticipation for the day that God avenges evil, rights wrongs, and heals the brokenhearted.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed. Pray for Boston.
 J. Daryl Charles, Retrieving the Natural Law: A Return to Moral First Things
Recently, I came across an article written by a woman who discusses the fact that her seven year old daughter is an atheist. The mother was once a catholic and now labels herself as a “recovering Catholic.” She seems uncertain about where her own beliefs fall. She labels herself as agnostic but seems to teeter back and forth between belief, or wanting to believe, to doubt, to feeling assured that belief in God is silly. I found her article interesting, but I found myself sad as I read it.
It also made me think about my own kids. God is extremely important in my life. He is a constant companion. He listens to me when I talk. He consoles me like a loving Father and is also quick to discipline me when I need it. It is a relationship that I greatly enjoy. Though I often cause problems in our relationship, get distracted, and place distance or tension in the relationship, He never moves. I am often humbled by His grace. I want my children to experience this friendship as well. I want them to understand that there is someone who loves them even more than I. I want them to know that God’s love extends beyond their shortcomings and failures.
So what if my kids decided one day that they didn’t believe? That would break my heart. Obviously, nothing will ever change the way I feel about my kids. I will love them until the grave overtakes me. But I hope they can have the same thing I have, life. I hope they choose life when the choice is set before them, but I know the choice is theirs. God lets us freely choose whether we want to have a relationship with Him.
But, it does not mean that I cannot educate my kids. I want them to have all the best information possible when it comes to the most important decision they will make. I know some will balk about my saying that having a relationship with God is the most important decision in life, but it honestly is. If God exists, then we are responsible for how we relate to God. If God does not exist, then there are hosts of consequences that result from “Killing God”, to borrow from Nietzsche. It is of utmost import to understand who God is, what He expects from us, and how we are to relate to Him.
I will not take a passive approach when it comes to the most important decision they will make. The article by Carolyn Castiglia, about her seven year old atheist daughter, is fraught with theological and philosophical problems. It almost seems naïve. Forgive me if I am wrong, but the reader is forced to ask to what degree she grappled with her questions about God, and what depth of study she was involved in. She does not seem to really be able to dialogue with her daughter’s questions about God, possibly because she herself has never settled or considered these questions herself. Of course, one does not have to really delve into metaphysical questions, and Miss Castiglia has every right not to, but the tone of her article seems to imply that she does want answers. As was previously stated, the question of God is not one that can be swept under the rug.
In her article she refers to God as “a giant man in the sky with long hair and a big robe” and then as a “notion” and later an “energy.” Her understanding of who God is has changed through her life, but she began with a rather perverse understanding. Her daughter states that she doesn’t believe in God because she “knows too much science”, when in reality there is no conflict between God and science. The mother also seems to view God as a crutch for the emotionally laden or psychologically distressed. While God does offer much comfort, he is anything but a crutch. In fact, Jesus called us to a life filled with difficulty if we truly seek to be a disciple.
We could continue discussing the theological deficits in Miss Castiglia’s article, but my point in writing is not to take her to task. I would love to discuss some of her assumptions with both her and her daughter, but my point here as that believers must spend time in understanding Theology and churches must teach more about Theology. Church should be a place where people can receive information that can be directly applied to daily life, but without the balance of sound theological teaching they will not understand why they should apply what scripture says. There must be a balance between the theological and daily application.
The current statistic is that seven out of ten adolescents leave the church upon graduation. Why is this? Is it perhaps that they are not taught to articulate worldviews, including their own? Are they provided a firm theological foundation at the church? Are they encouraged to read their Bibles and given the tools need to understand it in its literal, grammatical, and historical context? Are the seventy percent of adolescents that walk away the unpaid bills of the church?
Current research shows that only sixteen percent of church goers read their Bible. Upon those that do read the Bible, the average time spent reading is seven minutes, whereas the average American watches five hours of television a night. The television educates us into imbecility, and we do not spend the time developing our understanding of God and how we relate to Him. According to the Barna Research Group, less than fifty percent of Americans can name the first book of the Bible! If one cannot name the first book of the Bible then what chance does one have tackling the bigger questions?
Believers, we owe it to ourselves and our children to grapple with the big questions and do our best to have an answer ready. Some believers don’t like to think and ask questions, they just accept what they know to be true. I caution those that have this mentality to beware, your children might just be thinkers.
“You cannot evade the issue of God: whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him … If Christianity should happen to be true–that is to say, if its God is the real God of the universe – then defending it may mean talking about anything and everything.” -G.K. Chesterton
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.