Have you ever been intimidated at the thought of defending your Christian faith to others? Do you think that because you don’t know every answer to every question someone might say you are not qualified to speak up for Christ? Would it bless you if I could dispel that thought?
But in your hearts, honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to apologian to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. – 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
Christian apologists are thought to dwell in the rarefied air of Christianity; they are the elites, the educated Super-Christians contending for the faith while we lesser mortals look on in awe. For many of us, to watch them in action is to be simultaneously astounded and humbled into silence, wondering if maybe finger painting, rather than defending the faith, is more suited to our intellectual capabilities.
Recently, I watched a promo for an apologetics conference featuring some of the brightest and most respected men and women in the field. One of the speakers encouraged up-and-coming apologists to choose an area of interest to specialize in, like chemistry, and work toward a graduate degree to help them defend Christ.
A lady urged us to memorize all the proofs for the resurrection. She said that people would come to Christ in droves if you could offer them some evidence that Christ did rise from the dead.
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What Would Abraham Say?
Her comments made me think of the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16. Both Lazarus and the rich man died; the rich man went to eternal torment, while Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom, the place of comfort in the interim state. When the finality of his fate began to sink in, the rich man pleaded with Abraham:
“Then I beg you, father, to send (Lazarus) to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”
And he said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” – Luke 16:27-31 (ESV)
This parable has huge implications for how we defend the faith, does it not?
The Problem With Evidence
The passage above illustrates two competing views of apologetics:
- Evidentialism – “If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”
- Presuppositional (or Covenantal) – “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”
Presuppositional apologetics is not opposed to evidence as such; it just recognizes that unbelief is not primarily an intellectual matter. Consider what happened after Jesus did rise. The guards knew (believed) “all that had taken place;” how did they respond?
While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. – Matthew 28:11-15 (ESV)
None of the people in this passage lacked evidence; in fact, some of them were eyewitnesses. Why then did they not fall and worship the risen Christ like our lady apologist friend assured us they would? Paul tells us.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
For His eternal attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:18-20 (ESV)
Every single human being, without exception, knows there is a God. God, Himself has seen to that. The result? They are without excuse. The word for “without excuse” is a form of the same word apologian from the 1 Peter verse above.
So God has left them without a defense, without an apologetic. They are suppressing what they know full well to be true, and they are doing so in willful, culpable ignorance. Let that sink in.
Call to Action
In apologetics, just as in counseling, we are utterly dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts to produce faith in Christ. Again, God has provided ample evidence to every individual.
You, dear brother or sister, are called to plant and water the words of the living God, relying on Him for the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6), and to gently show the inadequacy of any view that robs the LORD of His due glory. I don’t want to be simplistic, but it truly is simple.
Paul said the message of the Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing, and so it is. But the very power that raised Christ from the dead indwells that message, dear one! You don’t have to be brilliant; you don’t have to be afraid; you have only to be faithful.
For now, please take from this article the knowledge that with the Word, the Spirit, and a little sound thinking, you can do an excellent job of defending your Christian faith. If you know nothing more than Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2; Romans 1:16-17), you’re in a good starting place. What do you say? Are you in?
Also published on Medium.