Monday, November 20, 2017
Speaking The Truth In Love
God's call for Christians to engage in apologetics is not by any means limited to a small group of self-proclaimed intellectual scholars, but is for all who believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ. It is the responsibility of the Christian church to maintain the purity of the gospel because the Lord has entrusted to us that salvific task. We have been appointed by God to function as His representatives on earth through the ministry of reconciliation. However, many Christians worldwide, including pastors, have consciously given apologetics a poor reputation because too many have advanced contemporary methods arrogantly. Furthermore, this significant abandonment of studying logical Christian defense and has made our youth highly susceptible to the secularism being promoted in our educational institutions. If we do not take measures to readjust how we conduct apologetics and instruct uninformed members of our churches concerning the importance of knowing the contents of our faith, then we are in essence undermining the Judeo-Christian worldview.
To preface, it needs to be understood that we must take part in apologetics from a strictly biblical perspective. The most simplistic definition of the word "apologetics" means to give an answer. We must provide biblically sound answers to questions concerning Christianity because we are serving as ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ. Apologetics is not merely about persuading the critic or winning a debate. It is not constrained to "soul winning." Though these factors most certainly should be motivating intentions of being an apologist, the ultimate aim of apologetics is to glorify God in heaven by representing His kingdom on earth. It is not a means in itself (winning an argument for the sake of winning), but rather is a means to an end (glorifying God by advancing His kingdom). We should learn and understand the arguments of those who disagree with the Christian worldview. The repercussions of being overly closed-minded can only give other people the impression that the gospel calls them to be cruel, pompous, and hypocritical. Of course, such a portrayal of the biblical gospel message could not be further from the truth. We must treat our detractors with love. We need to respectfully answer objections to the faith without compromising the teachings of God's Word.
We need to preach the unchangeable gospel of salvation to the world in a humble fashion. There exists a corresponding relationship between truth and love. Truth without love results in a puffed-up heart, whereas love unguided by truth produces empty sentimentality. Thus, partaking in Christian defense without adherence to this biblical principle would be futile. We must love our neighbor as ourselves (Romans 12:9-21). We must not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by disgraceful conduct (Ephesians 4:30-32). Our speech must be seasoned with salt (Colossians 3:8). We need to live out the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), as well as speak the truth in love (1 Peter 3:15). We must always keep a clear conscience, earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). In short, this is what it means to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The notion of glorifying God in thought, word, and deed is not just reserved for apologetics. It is our way of life. If we do not act in accordance with our profession of faith, then society will believe that we who profess to be Christian are actually not serious about practicing our religion. People will not take us seriously if we do not live in accordance with the biblical morals, customs, and values that we claim to stand for. People will develop the terrible misconception that the Christian worldview is unlivable, and that it cannot provide a sense of hope, peace, and joy. If we are going to view walking the Christian walk as the top priority, then we must also make apologetics a top priority, since the Lord Jesus Christ clearly commissioned us to partake in both (Matthew 28:18-20).
Perhaps the greatest way to refurbish the academic foundation of Christianity in our postmodern culture is to introduce to children being catechized the ancient trivium educational system that was originally employed by Greek and Roman societies. It works in three overlapping stages: 1.) what, 2.) why, and 3.) rhetoric. In other words, our youth need to be instructed concerning the essential articles of the faith, the underlying reasons for embracing Christian doctrine, and then transition to formulating logical responses in dialogue format. Methods for this avenue of religious inculcation may include but are by no means limited to reading Bible stories, gradually incorporating difficult excerpts from Christian literature into teaching, memorization of early church creeds, and even interview sessions with speakers from different ideological backgrounds. Questions should be encouraged, and people should learn how to reason out coherent answers to opposing arguments. Additionally, all of the aforementioned details on teaching apologetics to children can be applied equally to adults who do not have the training or experience of providing satisfactory answers to arguments touted by critics or questions raised by honest inquirers in our congregations. Indeed, this proposed threefold approach to studying apologetics sounds as if it may very well be a solution to the lack of religious zeal in our degenerate churches. If we do not know the contents of our faith, then we are making ourselves vulnerable to spiritual deception. Apologetics, if applied appropriately, can strengthen our spiritual fortress of faith in Christ Jesus. It can plant seeds of faith in the hearts of people who doubt.