Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Apologetics- Are We Not to Offer a Defense?

This is a response to the question: "What is apologetics and does it matter if I have reasons for my faith?"

I have to say I don't know how to completely respond, largely because I think there are several glaring issues with his response. I think he makes several good points, but I think this just plays into a relativistic form of Christianity. Feel free to comment here or go over and comment on Mr. Dudley's blog.

Do you agree? Is it enough to just share our experience? What about every other religious or nonreligious group's experience? What separates them from the Christian experience? If it were all about my experience, can't I just get experiences anywhere else? Is it enough to sustain us to maturity?


Funny, I was just having a chat today with some of the other pastors of my church that touched on this issue. First we will talk about what the study of apologetics is, then we will discuss whether or not we should have reasons for our faith.

Apologetics is the term we use for the defense of the Christian faith. There is a part of me that really enjoys apologetics because it is, in a sense, a branch of philosophy, and I do enjoy philosophy. There is another part of me though, that is not a very big fan of apologetics, let me explain why.

Apologetics-by definition-teaches Christians to do something that we were never really instructed to do in the Gospel (and yes, I do realize that I am opening a can of worms with that statement). Here’s what I mean: Jesus teaches us not to defend ourselves (I am speaking of course about the idea of turning the other cheek). I don’t think that it is God’s desire for us to let people walk all over us, rather, as always, I think that Jesus is looking to a deeper issue concerning our hearts with this instruction. There are people in this world that are always ready to pick a fight, I don’t think that Christians should be counted among them. When we devote a large portion of our time to studying the defense of our faith, it would seem to me that we are actually feeding the defensive attitude that Jesus seems to be speaking against. The Bible does tell us that we should “study to show ourselves approved” and that we should always be “ready to give an account” of what we believe, but even here, we are not talking about DEFENDING our faith; in both of these senses we are actually talking about (1) growing in our understanding of the word of God for our personal growth and the growth of the church, and (2) sharing our faith experience with others.

Apologetics does neither of these things.

While it is good for me to know some of the logic behind my faith, it is not an academic, philosophical understanding of what I believe that will cause me to grow in my relationship (much less anyone’s else’s relationships) with God. Being someone that enjoys intellectual pursuits, I do enjoy a good apologetic work, but this is not what brings me maturity as a Christian, instead, my maturity is determined by how much I let my relationship with God affect all of my other relationships.

All that being said, I do think it is important to have reasons for what you believe, but allow me to be very specific about this. In Christianity, there is a great deal of mystery that is an important part of what we believe. We believe that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, these are mysteries to me as I can not fully comprehend a being that is all of these things. We believe that God is an eternally existent trinity, that He has always been three (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and yet only one God. This is a mystery to me, and while I may have a basic understanding of this, it is still difficult to wrap my head around. It’s like the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians, “We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled.”

So what do I mean when I say that we should have “reasons for what we believe?” I mean that we should be able to believe in what we know God has done for us. We should be able to explain what we believe, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. And often our greatest reasoning comes from our experience. Allow me to conclude with this brief story…

“Once, there was a young Christian that left his small midwest town to attend a major university. On the first day of his Philosophy class, the professor stood up and asked, ‘Are there any born-again Christians in this class?’
The young man stood to his feet, his knees shaking with anxiety, and he answered, ‘Sir, I am a Christian.’
The professor proceeded to belittle the young man’s beliefs and explained to him that his beliefs were silly and out-dated, and altogether impossible. After the professor had finished, the young man looked at the professor and said, ‘Sir, can I ask you a question?’
The professor, nodding his consent said, ‘Go ahead.’
The young man spoke up, ‘I have here the core of an apple that I ate on my way to class. Sir, can you tell me, was this apple sweet, or was it sour?’
The professor, a bit perplexed, shook his head saying, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t taste your apple.’
To which the young man responded, ‘Neither have you tasted my Jesus.’”


Lloyd said...

All believers in our Lord Jesus should be able to explain to the lost world what it takes to go to heaven.

I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to my blog to check it out. God bless, Lloyd

Kwame E. said...

I don’t know. I guess if you’re either lazy or intimidated at how complex Christian apologetics has become over the course of past few years or decades or what-not, you might be tempted to opt-out of the logical element of apologetics and just cling to the rhetorical and sentimental elements.

D.B. said...

Kwame, while there are many more resources, I feel in some ways, my study in apologetics has been made a bit easier, with things like Greg Koukl's Tactics in Defending the Faith info.

I can actually simply say I don't know- if I don't know instead of making up something on the spot. I can ask questions and have the person defend their view and give them the burden of proof, where it often belongs with regard to their own assertions.