Friday, December 16, 2005

Apologetics and Earplugs

The Dawn Treader is musing, over at CADRE Comments, on why the church needs apologetics even when the lost won't listen.

It's true enough that the church benefits from apologetics, and it's true enough that it's rare for the lost to listen. I also am sure that the author of the original piece has a point when he mentions that the will to do what we want (and nevermind God) is often the driving factor away from God.

I think the #1 problem with apologetics is that it's sometimes seen as our only tool, when actually it's just a prelude or accompaniment to evangelism. Apologetics does not convert people just as the defense on a football team typically does not score points. If the problem is the intellect, then apologetics is just the thing. But if the opposition to Christ comes from the will, then it's time to switch to evangelism. If the atheist thinks of God as a cosmic bully, he will act in self-preservation and display hatred, treating arguments irrationally because the desired direction is "away from God" regardless of the "facts" argued for God's existence. The only antidote to this is Christ, and especially the cross of Christ.

When I read the article, I couldn't help thinking that as much as there are some genuine hammerheads in the skeptic row, it's unhealthy to always only look at what the other side is doing wrong and never look in the mirror, so to speak. We find a legitimate fault in many of our hearers and then we quietly give ourselves a free pass; funny, that's basically what we accuse them of doing and think it unfair. If we look in the mirror a little bit, here are some things that would make our apologetics more effective:
  1. The Bible says over and again that the first-line of winning over unbelievers is living pure and holy lives. If we are not a visible light to those around us, if they do not see our good works, then they will not glorify our Father in heaven.
  2. In humility, remember that we ourselves are occasionally part of the problem. It's human nature; everybody is part of the problem sometimes. If we can never see it in ourselves then we're blind and conceited.
  3. Remember that we're doing this for God. If we fly into a rage during a disagreement or treat other people with contempt, we've lost credibility for God even if we're right on the facts and logic.
  4. Care as much about them as about being right. "If I understand all mysteries but have not love, I'm an annoying and senseless noise" (Paul, I Cor 13, paraphrase).
  5. Stop bashing fellow-Christians to score points with the unbelievers. I'm sure the skeptics find that entertaining; I doubt they find it appealing. How well does it demonstrate a Christ-like spirit?
  6. Deal with our own lunatic fringe firmly but not hatefully. Speaking of those Christians that are beyond the pale, remember that every group has its lunatic fringe and we're no exceptions. Jesus instructed us to approach people with whom we have a problem directly.
  7. Know when to switch to evangelism. The good news is Christ: Real forgiveness for real sins; real resurrection after real death. It's simple, it's true, and it's the only thing in the world that can legitimately keep despair at bay.


BK said...

Outstanding and so on point. I would add only one thing that is essential to making for good evangelists/apologists (which I am sure was in mind, but never reached your writing) -- pray. Pray for those who you are attempting to evangelize and pray for yourself to use the gifts that God has given you in a way that is both in concert with God's will and pleasing to Him.

Weekend Fisher said...