Thursday, April 12, 2007

Apologetics: It's What We Do, Isn't It?

Yesterday my 16 yr old daughter asked me a really good question:

"Mom, what would you say if someone asked you why you're a Christian?"

She had been having a discussion with a friend, and in some way this was their topic - giving an answer for why they believe, what they believe. It struck me as sort of funny that she's heard me talk about my faith almost her whole life (I was saved when she was 3), and she still wanted a concise answer to that very pointed question. It was also encouraging to me as well, to know that this is a topic of conversation among at least some of her friends. With all the things most 16 yr old girls talk about (and she is no exception), it's really good to know that this is at least one of them. I'm a mom, I'm going to take my little joys where I can get them!

I found it rather interesting the timing of all this considering the theme of apologetics posts on blogs lately. You may or may not read some of the same blogs as me, but if you do you know what I mean. Our topics tend to run in waves like this (sorta like I'm doing now, by continuing the theme), and many of us have a few things to say at our own blogs that would be considered meta-hijacking on other's blogs.

I was talking briefly to a friend of mine yesterday (or the day before, I can't recall, the whole week has been a wretched blur, to be perfectly honest) about how my eyes glaze over and how I turn into mush-head whenever the topic of apologetics comes up. It's not because I don't find it a worthwhile theological pursuit (I certainly do), and it's not because I don't find it in the Bible (because it certainly is). It has more to do with past experiences when men & women debate apologetics, and spend so much effort on the style of apologetics, that it simply bores me to zombie-like status.

I realize I run the risk of oversimplifying here big time, but to practice apologia, isn't it just a matter of telling the person asking you, why you believe what you believe and letting the gospel of Christ be proclaimed in that testimony of His grace? Well... yes, and no.

Some time ago a dear brother and pastor friend gave me some advice that was quite valuable. He suggested that to more effectively be a good witness, we should understand at least the bare minimum of someone else's worldview - so that when they bring out certain verses to 'argue' for some other type of tradition or religious position, we'll already know in advance which Bible verses they're going to use (out of context, since that's the only way you can defend an unBiblical tradition) and be prepared to answer those, with Scripture in fuller context. Since we all know Scripture doesn't contradict itself but instead explains itself - this is a good practice for any Christian to be able to do, in such a situation. In other words, think like a lawyer and anticipate the other side's argument and be prepared.

I know there are some people out there who have the idea that many of the theological/intellectual vollyball games that go on under the banner of apologetics are nothing more than "my pride can beat up your pride" exercise. I'm pretty sure that this description is accurate in some cases, but I know it's not accurate in all cases. It may appear at times like a battle of pride or intellect, but it's just like any other subject that one cares passionately about - you'll find yourself deeply engrossed in the subject and prepared to go on for hours on end - not to puff yourself up but to express what it is you know by His grace, and for His glory. Sometimes zeal and passion can be mistaken for pride, and sometimes it is pride under the cloak of zeal and passion. Weird how that works out, isn't it? We're all guilty of it at times, so we have to watch ourselves carefully.

With all of that said however, the subject can be exhausting for me, and it's one I usually skip right on by, for a variety of reasons. I probably shouldn't do that, but it's "where I am right now" so it's what I do. Unfortunately I've experienced the aggrivating pride aspect of this more often (in the past) than the zeal aspect, and it's left a pretty rotten taste in my mouth. I do however appreciate greatly, brothers like James White who take quite seriously the Scripture that says we're to give an answer with gentleness and reverance. He does that, and if you've never read his books or listened to the Dividing Line (or any of his debates) then you're missing something good. In this field of apologetics, I believe what brother James does is a great blessing to any Christian listening or reading.

So, how did I answer Jessica when she asked that question? Simple, I told her the basic truth of God's most astounding grace:

He showed me just how much I needed Him

Notice there are no 17 syllable words in there & no Christianese. There is however, my total depravity, His unconditional election & irresistable grace, the work of the Holy Spirit in my regeneration and my repentance and faith. All of that and more, really, in one little sentence of simple truth.

You don't have to be a seminary or university graduate to engage in apologetics. You don't have to know all the terminology and/or be able to hold debates. You do however, need to have a burden for the lost and a desire to know God's word forward and backward so that you can be salt and light to them, and minister His precious and living word to them.

Apologetics, is something every Christian should be doing, even if it's just answering their children when they ask.