In our previous post, we discussed some of the hindrances and obstacles that we face in attempting to implement apologetics into the local congregations. I will go ahead and list a couple of more obstacles or misunderstandings about this issue here:
#1: We should just give people the Gospel
Response: This is true. By all means, “Preach the Gospel!” But guess what? What do you do when you try to open the Bible and use it with someone who doesn’t think the Bible is an authoritative or inspired book? This happens all the time to Christians. And did you know Muslims and other people think their holy book is just as inspired and authoritative as the Bible? If you keep trying to quote the Bible, you would be “begging the question.”
One of my favorite texts in the Bible is the following:
“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”- John 17:1-4
Eternal life is something that involves both quality and quantity. It is a quality of life that starts in this life and extends through eternity. While I am excited that John has recorded what Jesus has told us about ‘what’ we need to believe to have eternal life, it will most likely lead to what Tim Keller calls the ‘why’ question:
“I’ve heard plenty of Christians try to answer the why question by going back to the what. “You have to believe because Jesus is the Son of God.” But that’s answering the why with more what. Increasingly we live in a time in which you can’t avoid the why question. Just giving the what (for example, a vivid gospel presentation) worked in the days when the cultural institutions created an environment in which Christianity just felt true or at least honorable. But in a post-Christendom society, in the marketplace of ideas, you have to explain why this is true, or people will just dismiss it.” – Tim Keller
When I recently spoke on John 17 and talked about the relationship between the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ question, I quoted Keller. After all, to say the average person that the ‘what’ involves believing in the one true God and Jesus for eternal life, it will lead to ‘why’ questions such as:
“Why should I believe in this God and not another God?”
“Why is Jesus unique?”
When these questions come, the Christian will generally punt to the authority of the Bible. But that leads to an entire new set of ‘why’ questions such as:
“Why is the Bible any different from any other book?”
“Why is the Bible reliable?”
“Why are the Gospels reliable sources for Jesus?”
I could go on and on.
Does the Holy Spirit Use Evidence and Reason?
Well if the Holy Spirit doesn’t use evidence or reasons, that seems to contradict the Bible itself. The apostles approach to spreading the message of the Gospel is characterized by such terms as “apologeomai/apologia” which means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15); “dialegomai” which means “to reason, speak boldly” (Acts 17:2; 17; 18:4; 19:8), “peíthō” which means to persuade, argue persuasively” (Acts 18:4; 19:8), and “bebaioō ” which means “to confirm, establish,” (Phil 1:7; Heb. 2:3). (Garrett J. Deweese, Doing Philosophy as a Christian (Downers Grove, ILL: IVP Publishers, 2012), 78-79).
Anyone who does apologetics knows the Holy Spirit has to play an integral part of the entire process. No mature apologist forgets that the Bible stresses that humans are blinded by sin. Therefore, sin has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Is. 6:9-10; Zech. 7:11-12; Matt. 13:10-13; 2 Cor. 4:4). How people respond to God’s revelation depends on several factors such as his/her personal history (both past and present). People can be hardened towards God; sin certainly dampens an individual’s ability to being receptive to God’s invitation to them.
So in the end, this objection misunderstands the relationship between faith and reason. It is not an either/or issue. Apologetics may serve as a valuable medium through which God can operate, but the mature apologist knows faith is never the product of historical facts or evidence alone. For example, in James 2:19, it says that the demons believe that God exists. But just because the demons think God exists, this doesn’t mean they have saving faith. Objectively speaking, apologetics or evidence for God may help someone believe THAT God exists. However, the individual still needs to place their trust IN God. This can only be done with the help of the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15).