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Behind the Podium vs. In the Field

Photo courtesy of tvvoodoo
I have mentioned before that one of my passions is the discipline of Christian apologetics. I even went so far as to write my master's thesis on the subject and I believe it is extremely valuable for Christians to be able to defend and explain their faith in ways that make sense to the world around us. Of course, there are many who disagree with this position stating that our faith is just that, faith, and reason has no place in it. On the contrary, I believe that the Bible is full of teachings that encourage the defense of the faith using reason, science, history, etc. Peter tells us to be ready at all times to give an account for the faith that dwells within us (2 Peter 3:15). God even tells Isaiah that they should "reason together" (Isaiah 1:18) and we are told that Paul reasoned in the synagogue with the Pharisees (Acts 17:17).

With all of that being said, there are some pitfalls to apologetics that we could fall into if we are not careful. I want to take a few moments today to address what I think could be the most dangerous of these. If we are not careful with our apologetics we run the risk turning our faith, the Faith of Christianity, into a cerebral exercise and forgetting that there must be an interaction between our mind, our heart and our actions. I have seen debates between atheists and Christians where the Christian seems to have lost sight of the fact that we are admonished to speak the truth in love and that our words should be seasoned with salt, as the saying goes. In the end it becomes a situation where the Christian debater seems to be saying, "I'm right, can't you see it? Its obvious you dummy. Ha ha ha, look at the silly atheist." No doubt these thoughts may be running through my mind sometimes while watching such a debate. However, I think it is vital that we remember, as Stuart McCallister has said, we are not trying to win an argument, we are trying to win a heart for Jesus. The goal of Christian apologetics is not to prove that we are right and carry the debate. The goal is to show that Christ is right and Truth.

Recently I was listening to a message by Ravi Zacharias via his podcast "Let my People Think." If you are familiar with apologetics at all you have probably heard of Zacharias and I would submit that he is one of the best, most well-rounded apologists out there. In this message one of his main points was that we need to practice apologetics "with a touch." What in the world does that mean? A touch of what? Quite simply, he means a real, physical touch. Our apologetics, Zacharias submits, must be accompanied by our presence in the lives of those we are attempting to reach. I believe this could become the most powerful argument for Jesus Christ because it was the way of Christ. To have the combination of a solid, reasonable argument for the Christian faith in concert with the tangible evidence thereof is almost impossible to argue with. Let me offer an example of what this looks like. Christopher Hitchens is a journalist and author who hails from Great Britain. He is also one of the most vocal and adamant opponents of religion. He has engaged in debates with well known Christians such as William Lane Craig, Frank Turek and Dinesh D'Souza. Also, for the past year or so he has been fighting cancer. I have heard (I don't have source for this. It is just something I have heard through the grapevine so it may or may not be true but the example still stands) that throughout his battle with the disease he has received many letters from Christians, the very people he persecutes, letting him know that they are praying for him and for his healing. While he was not willing to make the step of admitting faith in Christ, word has it that he was deeply touched by the gesture. That is apologetics with a touch.

There are thousands of other ways that we can put legs to our reasonable faith but I want to turn to the Bible for a moment and see what James has to tell us about the matter. In James 3:17 he tells us;

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 

It is easy for us to line up all of our ontological, teleological, moral and cosmological arguments for the existence of God backed up by our evidence for the reliability of Scripture and forget what really defines godly wisdom. Look again at the verse from James. "Reasonable" is in the list but "pure, peaceable" and "gentle" come before it. We are to be unwavering in our stance on the truth but it is also to be displayed with "mercy" and "good fruits." We, as Christians, should stand as ones who are not only right but have been made right with, and by, God Himself. This verse shows us the wisdom with which Jesus walked and operated on a daily basis while on this earth and it is wisdom we should seek to display to the world.

In science, or any other subject for that matter, it is one thing to come up with a theory that looks good on paper. It is another matter entirely to have a theory that works on paper and in the real world. The theory is not proved on paper, it is proved in the field. Our faith is not proved behind the podium of debate, it is proved in the world in which we live it. That is the kind of apologetic that we should promote. That is the kind of apologetic that will help truth make the journey from a person's mind to their heart.   

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