An Appeal for Preparation
To the Colossians Paul said, "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should" (Colossians 4:3-4). He went on to tell the church, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:5-6) See also I Peter 3:15 and Titus 1:9.
How is the church fulfilling this today? Are we being wise in the way we conduct ourselves toward outsiders? Is our character and actions impeccable, or are we acting unwise in the way we live our lives before unbelievers? Are we truly making the most of every opportunity we have to proclaim Christ's message to unbelievers? Paul said we ought to know how to answer everyone. This means we must have knowledge before we encounter them. This deals with apologetics; the defense of the faith to unbelievers. I am very concerned with the church's ability to heed Paul's words. It seems that so few Christians can adequately defend their faith to unbelievers. Part of the reason for this is due to our view of faith. Too many Christians view their faith as a blind leap, unable to be supported with evidence in the real world. It is often said that we "simply believe." I disagree that this is a solid foundation for our faith. If we "just believe," then why do we "just believe" Christianity over just believing in Hinduism or Islam? If we believe in Christianity "just because," then our decision is arbitrary. We believe because we have reason to believe. Belief in and of itself has no value. Only believing something worthy of belief has value. The church must be able to formulate and convey the reasons for our faith to unbelievers so that they too can see why they should believe in Christ.
We are dealing with a world that is very different than it was some 40 years ago. Our society has moved from modern to postmodern; from a Christian culture to a post-Christian culture. We are no longer in a Bible-believing society. Fewer and fewer people hold up the Bible as an authority on truth. I bemoan how few saints are able to substantiate their faith in Christ apart from the Bible. We have become so attached to the Bible as an authority (which it is of course) that when speaking to someone who does not accept it as an authority, we have no other base on which to argue for our faith. All too often our entire witness stands or falls on the opinion of the Bible's authority held by the person we are witnessing to. If that person accepts the authority of the Bible then we can argue for our understanding of truth, but if that person does not accept the authority of the Bible we are left with few words to back up our faith.
While we are people of the Book, the Book is not the sole source and foundation of our faith. If our faith in Christ cannot be substantiated apart from Scripture, then we automatically cut off our ability to convert anyone who does not already have a prior commitment to the authority of the Scripture. But if we give no reason for one to accept the Bible as an authority, why should they consider it as such? If our society rejects the Bible as an authoritative source of truth, we must seek other ways to demonstrate the truthfulness of Christianity apart from Scripture, and in the process of doing so the truth and authority of the Scripture will be demonstrated as well.
We must give people a reason to believe in the Christian faith. After all, why should a postmodern world that rejects the very notion of truth believe that Christianity is true, and even more true than other religions? If our faith is not intelligent, how can we expect to reach an intelligent world who has intelligent and important questions they need answered? If we are not equipped to answer those questions and present solid evidence for our faith, why should we expect people to believe what we believe? We do not expect people to believe in Santa Clause because there is no good evidence to do so. We do not expect people to believe that eggs boil in the freezer because such is contradictory to reason and experience. But when it comes to Christianity we expect people to believe because the Bible says this or that, or because some religious leader teaches this and that. But if faith is compelled by such "evidence" we would also be compelled to believe in Allah and Buddha. In fact, we would be forced to believe in Mickey Mouse, the Grinch, and Cinderella because all these "people" have books that tell their stories as though they were true as well. What makes the Bible's story true? is the ultimate question. Why is the story of Christianity true, but not the story of Islam? Why should one believe in Jesus as opposed to Buddha? Why should they believe in a spiritual realm: God, the Devil, angels, etc.? Belief is not based on fairy-tales or mere assertions; belief is based on evidence. While religious claims cannot be entirely substantiated by evidence, we must amass enough evidence apart from the Bible for unbelievers to see the veracity of the truth-claims made by Scripture. Only after having concluded that they have good reason to put their faith in Christ can someone truly have faith. After all, faith is not wishful thinking or a mere hope, but is a reasoned judgment in reality. It is a persuasion based on facts and evidence, yet at the same time not wholly substantiated by them either. Faith consists of both reasonable and spiritual/mystical elements. While we cannot assist unbelievers much in the way of the spiritual/mystical aspect of faith, we can assist them by giving them every reason to take that step of faith, being confident that their step of faith will land their feet on the firm ground of truth, not the shaky ground of wishful thinking.
How can we communicate our faith to a doubting and confused world in an intellectual manner that will demonstrate the solid foundations of the Christian faith? What can we do to help eliminate the notion that religion is a mere blind leap of faith, and often serves as a mere placebo for the daily grind of life? This is the real question. While I do not claim to be an expert on this, nor to have the ultimate answer, this issue has become a burden of mine ever since I became aware of my own lack of preparation to meet the needs and challenges this world is presenting us.
If we are going to be effective with unbelievers we must have knowledge and wisdom to defend and explain our faith against the errors of this world. We need to know our Bible, and we need to be able to think analytically about the arguments against the faith, and respond to these charges/stumblingblocks from a reasonable and Biblical perspective. We must earnestly contend for truth, not by merely asserting it to be true, but by knowing why it is true, and then proclaiming and defending that truth so the world may come to know and experience the truth we have come to know and experience, being changed therein.
An Apologetic for Apologetics
Biblical Examples of Apologetics
God is an Apologist
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