Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Apologetics and Christianity
Many people think that the role of an apologist is to win an argument to convince people that Christ is true. I honestly cannot think of a worse result for apologetics. Let's take a look at how this plays out, even if you win the argument:
- You argue with a non-believer. You win, they admit it, and because of your argument the believe in Christ.
- They run into another person tomorrow, who is an atheist. The atheist brings up an issue that you had not addressed. New believer asks you about it.
- You either (a) hadn't heard this argument before, and don't have an answer for it, or (b) your answer isn't as convincing to the person as your other arguments, or (c) they can't find you.
- Therefore, since the new believer has found someone with a temporarily better argument, they believe the atheist now.
What's wrong with this picture? They believed the argument, not Christ! The fact is that being a Christian means REPLACING our current method of epistemology (epistemology == way of knowing) with that of knowing and believing Christ first and above all else. In the case of the argument, the person still placed their own reasoning above that of knowing Christ. Therefore, when their reasoning said "turn to Christ", they did, and when it said "turn away", it did that, too. Christ was never Lord -- their mind was.
Likewise Paul said that he didn't come with crafty arguments, but came to declare the power of Christ crucified. Indeed, it is only the power of the cross which causes a change in Lordship, not a good argument. This is why prayer is your most important weapon, NOT YOUR ARGUMENT! (Note that I fail in this area all the time)
So what's the use of apologetics? Well, apologetics has several very good uses:
To Encourage Existing Believers
Apologetics can be an encouragement to existing believers. As mentioned, believers believe because we have set Christ to be our source. However, being fallen people, we are easily led astray. Apologetics helps believers back to Christ when the world tries to paint Christ as a fairy-tale.
To Remove Issues from Non-believers
While apologetics in and of itself should not be the basis of a conversion, it can remove stumbling blocks on the path. Jesus is not deceitful, and knowing that reality is consistent with the sayings of Jesus (even if we only know that consistency in part) can help unbelievers turn to Jesus. If the Holy Spirit is working on them, and they are saying "yes, but....", apologetics can help remove the "yes, but..."s. Also, since Christianity is historically rooted, apologetics can help show that the history of the Bible is true, so the Holy Spirit can work on showing that the claims are likewise true. This is the method used by Paul in Acts 17 -- he showed them where God had been working in the history of man to lead to Christ.
To Help Establish Good Doctrine
Apologetics can help the development of doctrine by sorting out the what is the apparent problems in scripture and the apparent problems in the world/scripture relationship, and showing in which ways scripture answers the world, in which ways it is consistent with the world, and which areas the scripture is silent on. This is the job of most theologians as well, but it has heavy overlap with that of apologetics.
While I have mentioned removing stumbling blocks, I want to point out that we should not remove all stumbling blocks. There are many necessary stumbling blocks, especially as Christ has referred to himself as a stumbling block. We should be careful to remove only the unnecessary stumbling blocks, and leave the necessary ones in. Jesus Himself would sometimes give reasons for people NOT to follow Him. In the evangelical culture, we often forget that the road to Christianity can involve some necessary stumbling blocks, and those are inherent in Christianity and should not be removed. Specifically is the Lordship issue. As I've mentioned, Lordship means that Jesus is your primary source. You should not be modifying your view of Jesus to accomodate your other views. You should be modifying your other views to accomodate Jesus. If a person is not ready to relinquish Lordship of their lives over to Jesus, they should be counselled, with love, in the same way that Jesus counselled: "Warning! This is only for people who will follow Me to the end!"