By Eric Chabot, Director: Ratio Christi-The Ohio State University
The more I go forward in the apologetic endeavor, the more I realize that as long as the Church consistently keeps making the same mistakes in what they teach and what they don’t teach, I can guarantee that there will always be a perpetual need for apologists. Don’t get me wrong: I know the Church belongs to Jesus. He bought it with his life and He is the Head! And I know the Church does a lot of good things. But when it comes to apologetics, I can guarantee we will only see the need for an increase in apologetic material and teaching for the years to come. Let me expand on this and hopefully provide some helpful tips to overcome some of these problems. My suggestion is that within the local congregation it might be really helpful to have some sermons or teachings on these topics:
The Word “Faith”
Yeh, you know that word “faith.” The majority of the culture thinks the word “faith” is something that is just a private and subjective belief that is not grounded in any kind of knowledge. My question is the following: How many pastors and ministry leaders teach on what the Bible teaches about faith? We could use a lot more sermons/teachings on this topic. When I ask my fellow Christians why they think Christianity is true, the average response I get is “It is true because I have faith.” So if this is the case, what would you say if a Muslim or Mormon said they know Islam or Mormonism is true because they have faith? I guess that makes Islam or Mormonism true! Case closed! To read more on this, see our post called “Why So Many People Misunderstand the Word “Faith”
Do you ever hear any messages on doubt? Do you know how many people tell me they are afraid to tell their pastor or fellow Christians that they are plagued with doubts. Maybe it is emotional, psychological, or factual doubt. Did you know there is a new clergy project where atheists try to find clergy that really don’t even think Christianity is true? They actually help these people come out of the closet! One way way or the other, in many cases, people with doubts are looked at as weak Christians. After all, the Bible says you should not have any doubts. Right? No, I am afraid not.
If a Christian is questioning and examining their faith, they should be welcomed with open arms. It is a sign of spiritual growth. Many Christians are tired of being told what to believe and not being able to ask questions. So my suggestion is that congregations should create an environment that welcomes these kinds of issues. As long as we shun people on this issue of doubt, I can guarantee these people will probably end up agnostics or atheists in the near future. Even if the pastor doesn’t have time to dive into apologetics, it is their job to find the person or people in their fellowship that specializes in these issues. We need a lot more work in this area. Also, parents, it is not the pastor or youth pastors job to give you the info about apologetics. You should be doing that yourself!
The local congregation is about the meeting of people who generally share the same beliefs. If we know Christ as Lord and profess that, we are standing on a solid foundation. But the problem that I see is that many Christians assume everyone outside our churches share our beliefs. We seem to try do a lot to equip our people to know and study the Bible correctly. But is it not true that most if not all of our churches start with a set of presuppositions that a fairly large part of our culture rejects. Here are some of the topics that should be discussed:
1. Metaphysics (the study of reality): Do we assume that everyone thinks that there is more than the natural realm? Do we assume everyone thinks there is a God who intervenes into the affairs of mankind?
2. Epistemology (the study of knowledge): Do we assume that everyone thinks we can know God exists?
3. God: Do we assume that everyone thinks the Christian God is the true God? Why not accept a pantheistic God or the God of process theology?
4. Miracles: Christianity is a revelatory religion. Without miracles (such as the resurrection) being both possible and actual, our faith is really not very unique. Do we assume that people don’t think there are miracle claims in other religions?
5. History: Is history knowable? Do we assume that everyone thinks that the documents that speak about Jesus are reliable?
6. Hermeneutics: Do we assume that people know the art and science of how to study a book that was written to an entirely different culture?
7. Bibliology: Do we assume that people think the Bible is an authoritative guide for us? What does it mean to say the Bible is inspired?
8. Ethics: Is the Bible a source of ethics for us? How would we explain this to the world around us?
If we continue to start with the Bible itself and assume skip over these issues, we will end up causing thousands of Christians to beg the question to those we minister to. To beg the question is to take for granted or assume the truth of the very thing being questioned. Trust me, this happens all the time!
These are just a few suggestions. I don’t foresee apologetics going away in the near future! Press on!