Does the Church Need Apologetics?
“Oh, you’re a Christian? Why do you hate gays? Why do you want to stop people from love?”
“Oh, you’re a Christian? Why do you hate science and reason?”
“Oh, you’re a Christian? How did Noah fit all those Dinosaurs on the Ark?”
“Oh, you’re a Christian? How dare you judge me, everyone has the right to live their lives the way they want to. Your truth is no more correct than mine, shame on you.”
“Oh, you’re a Christian? I just can’t believe in a God who would kill his own son.”
“Oh, you’re a Christian? That’s great I’m glad you found something that works for you.”
“Oh, you’re a Christian? How can God be good if he allows evil.”
“Oh, you’re a Christian? How can you believe the Bible is God’s word when there’s so many mistakes and contradictions in it?”
“Oh, you’re a Christian? How can a loving God send people to hell?”
The list goes on. These ideas and challenges to Christianity’s relevance have been left unchecked for years because we’ve allowed them to flourish and grow into popular opinion without challenge.
What is the problem with church in North America? Ignorance and anti-intellectualism are the problems in our churches. In American society, we’re considered to be ignorant bigots who want to exclude people. The ethics of Jesus are immoral in our current society. Christianity is perceived as anti-intellectual, a faith of mindless emotional experiences. It is said that we are brainwashed and ignorant, that our faith is blind and disconnected from the real world. Many Christians have been in church for years, but they have had a repeat of their first year, every year. They stopped learning after that initial excitement wore off. How can someone be in a church for 10 years and know so little about Christianity?
This is a serious problem!
In the American evangelical church, intelligence isn’t given a back seat, it’s not even in the room. Mindless emotional worship experiences are the flavor of church today, we’ve already seen the results and in 10 years it’s only going to get worse.
We don’t know what we believe and we don’t know why we believe it beyond a spiritual experience. We cannot stand our ground when threatened and that’s what makes us the biggest threat to Christianity. If we fail, it will be from the inside.
Hosea 4:6-“…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”
All the Ivy League schools used to be Christian Universities- Harvard, Yale, Princeton; across the pond in England and Scotland- Oxford, Cambridge, Saint Andrews…etc. They were all known as intellectual powerhouses for the Pastors and Priests. Jus as these intellectual universities were overtaken by a liberal agenda and lost their minds when it comes to morality, truth, and philosophy so it is with the Church. They failed from the inside, but we can take back lost ground and stem the tide through apologetics. Sure we have a tough enemy, intelligent and deceitful, but if we fail it’s because of people inside the church. The most dangerous kind of atheist is the one sitting in the pews of our churches claiming to know Christ. They act like Christians and believe they are, but they are in fact only nominally Christian. They are fakers, charlatans, deceivers of themselves and others around them.
Our culture has become more connected to information than any generation before. But there are gatekeepers to information. Consider the popularization of social media; Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Look at the power and influence of Google. All of these platforms are shaping our culture and evidence has shown conclusively that these mediums are trying to control what people can know. They are silencing Christian voices from being heard and popularizing the skeptical, scientific, atheistic, post-modern voices.
We have a unique opportunity to share the gospel in a way people have never heard before. When you understand, communicate, and reveal the truth with someone who has never heard it before, you help them remove hurdles and doubts to belief. God has uniquely allowed the current sway of the culture to prepare the truth of the Gospel to be received.
What is Christian Apologetics?
Christian apologetics is the task of showing Christianity to be true, right, and reasonable. Apologetics is knowing what you believe, owning it, understanding why you believe it, and being able to communicate that to others effectively. It’s the proclamation of the Gospel in ways people can understand. The removal of barriers and hurdles that are hindering people from seeing who Jesus truly is and what he’s done. It’s a helping ministry. Beyond helping non-believers, apologetics helps believers work through their serious doubts which increases their trust in our faithful God.
Ask yourself this question: "Why do I believe in Christianity?" Our answers range from, “Because I don’t want to go to hell” to “I experienced God in nature”. The real answer is because it’s true. I believe in Christianity because it’s true. We’ve only got the world’s all-time best seller, talking about the world’s most influential person of all time. Even secular scholars agree the Bible is the most influential book and Jesus is the most influential person of all human history. Now that’s not how we determine if it’s true or not but it definitely warrants everyone’s attention to test that claim, doesn’t it? Apologetics helps everyone overcome hurdles to belief, Christian or not-yet-Christian.
The title of this article is “Does the Church Need Apologetics” I admit that is a little misleading. A better question is, “Does scripture command apologetics?” Do we see the Apostles using polemics and arguments to persuade and convince their audiences? The answer is a resounding, “YES!” (Acts 17 is one of my favorites!).
And who can forget, 1 Peter 3:15-16 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
This is the text we get the word apologetics from…but many of us make an assumptionabout this passage. We see Peter’s direction as optional. It’s like that with a lot of things we don’t want to do isn’t it? Check out verse 8 though, 1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you…”
Did you read that right? It doesn’t say, “Some of you”, or “finally wives”, or “Children” or “Finally to the Navy Seal Christians who are quick on their feet and have specialized training…” Nope, it says, “all of you”. In the Greek it says, “Pantes” which means “all of you”. The only people who are off the hook are those who don’t love Jesus and consequently destined for hell.
At Orange County Church, we're accomplishing the task of helping people through the use of an apologetics ministry called Persuade. On a given Persuade night someone will present on a controversial subject. This past week it was on homosexuality. The presenter will study and prepare to give an answer to defend the faith and after their presentation they stand their ground and handle every objection that we can throw at them. It is intense, it is hard work, but most of all it is worship! There is an exhaustible amount of objections that can be made with any given subject. Once you’ve studied all the objections and prepared good responses, it sucks the fear of sharing your faith right out of the power of doubt. I know every objection that can be brought against the resurrection. I know what could be said to challenge the historical event of Jesus’ resurrection.
Guess what that creates in me?
Hope, confidence, and a desire to help those who don’t yet know, or maybe haven’t heard it the right way yet. Do you have someone in your life who is against Christianity, against the Lord? Is evolution the hurdle they can’t get over? Is it atheism? Perhaps they have a scientific worldview where they believe the only things you can know are what you can test using the scientific method? Maybe there’s a skeptic in your life who doubts we can even know if there is a God. Buddhism might be a conversation stopper for you. Whatever it is, in our day and age there is a correct response to help them see Jesus for who He is. With the advent of the internet, all the bible helps, apologists, and pastors, you can become an expert on one subject. Choose the subject that someone in your life is struggling with, up to and including yourself, the person God has burdened you to reach. Whatever that son or daughter, co-worker or neighbor believes God has placed you in their life to give a defense. Everyone wants to be an expert in our society, few are willing to do the work to become one. Will you?