Archive for March, 2011

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Apologetics part 2

March 30, 2011

This blog post is long overdue. I promised a part two to my ‘When Monday school kills Sunday school’ post on apologetics awhile ago. For the two people who read this blog, my apologies.

I want to write about apologetics in its proper place. Again, apologetics involves speaking in defense of Christian ideas without being defensive. Christianity is not a blind faith tradition. There are compelling philosophical, historical, experiential and scientific reasons to believe that Christianity is a reasonable worldview. Apologetics involves presenting these reasons in a compelling fashion.

Here is an example of apologetics: This is called the Kalaam Cosmological argument. This argument seeks to show that it is more reasonable to believe that a personal creator brought this universe into existence than not. I will give you the bare bones of the argument.

1. Everything that comes into existence has a cause (out of nothing, nothing comes)
2. The universe came into existence (Big Bang Cosmology)
3. The universe has a cause
4. Time, matter and space came into existence at the Big Bang
5. Therefore, the cause would have to be timeless, immaterial, powerful and personal
The cause is God

This argument doesn’t prove the existence of God but it makes it probable and certainly not irrational. I give you the above as an example of Christian apologetics at work. The Kalaam Cosmological argument would be the beginning of an accumulative case for the truth of Christian theism.

Well and good.

But what is the role of apologetics in bringing a person to faith in Christ? How far can our reasoning capabilities take us when searching for truth about God? Where does faith come in, or the working of the Holy Spirit?

The Gospel

The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church,

“We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”.

Think about what the above scripture means when preaching the Gospel, or good news about Jesus and his kingdom, in any culture or context. In every context there will be people for whom the Gospel is either a stumbling block, or foolishness.

However, within these two groups there is a third group who respond positively to the Gospel. What is the difference?

One group heard clever arguments and the other didn’t? No.

The difference is the call of God. Or in other words, the Holy Spirit opening up hearts to receive the Gospel as good news.

Apologetics doesn’t make the difference.

Paul says latter on, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1st Corinthians 2:4).

The work of the Holy Spirit makes the difference.

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:17). The Holy Spirit opens people’s hearts to respond to the Gospel (Acts 16:14, 17:32-34).

What role does apologetics play?

Apologetics help people overcome some of the intellectual hurdles that prevent them from giving Christianity a fair hearing. It helps remove some of the intellectual debris that block peoples path to God. Apologetics is not a substitute for faith or for the Gospel.

The Holy Spirit confirms in our hearts that the Gospel is true. As a believer I know Christianity is true through the witness of God’s spirit. As an evangelist I show that Christianity is true through the discipline of apologetics.

But I can’t confuse my responsibility with God’s responsibility. It’s my responsibility to share the Gospel and be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within me. It’s God’s responsibility to call people to himself. If I confuse the two I will manipulate, cajole and engage in pressure sale tactics that disrespect the dignity of the individual.

The greatest power is not my argument, my cleverness or my ability to be winsome and compelling. It is the power of the Gospel. The gospel is the power of God for salvation.

The Gospel is also foolishness and a stumbling block.

Our reason and arguments serve the Gospel they don’t stand over the Gospel in judgement of its truth. Reason is not the judge of the Gospel it is the humble handmaiden of God’s revealed word.

Reason doesn’t replace the reality of Christ in the believers life. Let me end with a C.S Lewis quote,

“I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one’s own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of the faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have successfully defended in a public debate. For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only be falling back continually from the web of our own arguments, as from our intellectual counters, into the Reality- from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself”1.