Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Christian, Apathy, and Apologetics

Apologetics is derived from the Greek word apologia which means to “defend.” The overall purpose of apologetics is to not only to defend the gospel from attacks on the outside, but also to help believers in Christ see the need for defending what they claim to believe is the truth.

As someone who believes apologetics is vital in today’s culture, I continue to be taken aback when I receive as many, if not more, objections to apologetics from Christians as I do from non-Christians! How can this be?

After much thought and study, I have come to the conclusion that it is apathy that lies at the heart of these objections.

It is my purpose here to take a look at two of the most frequent objections I have heard from Christians regarding apologetics.

Objection One

“If someone has decided not to believe (the gospel) it doesn’t matter what you say.”

It is not our job to worry about how the person will receive the gospel, but to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15, ESV). In this verse, Jesus makes no mention of only preaching to those who will hear. We have no control over the response of others. It is God’s job to prepare the soil of the unbelievers heart. Isn’t this clearly the message that Jesus Himself was communicating with the parable of the sower? Let’s take a look:

“And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:3-9, ESV).

It’s imperative to notice in this parable that the sower sowed seeds on all the ground because he could not tell what ground was rocky, lacked depth, or had no root. He could only plant the seeds and pray and hope they would grow.

Imagine if the farmer said, “Well, no matter what I do some of those seeds just aren’t going to grow so I’m not going to plant any!” That would clearly be ridiculous! So it is also when Christians attempt to use the above excuse to avoid planting seeds in the non-believers heart. These seeds can come in many forms: 1) the gospel message 2) A kind act 3) loving encouragement and/or support 4) an ear to listen 5) evidence that supports the Christian worldview.

Some will hear, some will not, but no one will hear if no one is sharing the message. Paul said it best: “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Romans 10:14, ESV).

When Paul addressed the Areopagus in Acts 17, he proclaimed the message of the one who “made all the world and everything in it” (v.24), to ALL who where listening and look at the reaction he received:

“Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them (Acts 17:32-34, ESV, Emphasis mine).

Here we observe the following pattern: some mocked, some were willing to listen to the message again, and some believed. The same is true for us.

Let us stop creating excuses to validate our apathetic approach to evangelism and start planting some seeds.

Objection Two

“Oh, it’s just a phase. It will pass like everything else and God will still be God.”

When attacks upon the gospel come from sources such as New Atheism, The Da Vinci Code, or The Jesus Seminar, believers in Christ need to be prepared, equipped, and bold in speaking out against these false teachings.

While it’s true that attacks upon the Christian message come and go, I personally concern myself with those that may be deceived by falsehoods and when the latest trend is over and done with, the misled believer will “go” with it, turning from his or her faith.

As Christian Apologist Ravi Zacharias writes:

“Malcolm Muggeridge once said that all new news is old news happening to new people. He was right; even as Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl.1:9). All that has happened before so often happens again. But in quoting that verse, we forget something very important. The people to whom it is happening are new, and the answers, however old, must never sound stale.” [1]

Someone may read The Da Vinci Code or The God Delusion twenty years from now and have questions; shouldn’t we be the ones giving the answer or making the answer available to them?

When the Apostle Paul heard of the struggles the church in Colosse was having with the false philosophy of Gnosticism, I’m thankful that he didn’t simply throw up his hands and say, “Oh, it’s just a phase. It will pass like everything else and God will still be God…” Paul attacked the “false philosophy” and exposed it for what it was: a lie.

He writes to the Colossians:

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ“ (Colossians 2:8, NASB).

Conclusion

If you are a Christian and believe the Bible is a message from God, then you are commanded to defend what you believe, plain and simple.

Take into account the following few verses:

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching… As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:1:2, 5, ESV).

“but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV).

If we honestly believe the Bible and the gospel message, what could be important than communicating it in an intelligent manner to those who don’t believe? Rational people who honestly desire to know God, but have questions, deserve to be given answers that correspond with the reality they live in. A good apologetic should 1) meet the person where they are at 2) answer the person’s question or direct them to an answer elsewhere.

As followers of Christ, we must be able to practice empathy and view the gospel from the perspective of the questioner. We are telling them that God came to earth in human flesh, lived a sinless life, died on a Roman cross, and rose from the dead so that we can spend eternal life with Him, and then we wonder why they “just don’t believe?”

Rational answers to the questions of the seeker exist. That is what we started this blog for; to provide answers. However, it’s the job of every Christian to do so. It’s not easy, but since when has being a follower of Jesus Christ supposed to be? Let's get equipped and get in the battle.

Courage and Godspeed,

Chad A. Gross
Truthbomb Apologetics

Resources:

1) Ravi Zacharias, An Apologetic of Apologetics, http://rzim.org/resources/jttran.php?seqid=120, 2008.

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