As a young person, Christian apologetics held a strong appeal for me.
I thought “having all the answers” would enable me to beat my non-believing friends into a relationship with Jesus.
As a youth pastor, I’d often take young people on evangelistic training missions. Armed with scripture booklets and arguments, we’d randomly accost strangers with the gospel. One of our favorite places was the Los Angeles airport (decades before 9/11). Then I had an epiphany of sorts…
We ran into a philosophy major from UC Berkeley. When he discovered our intent, he attacked us over the resurrection, “If I can debunk the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I can destroy your Christianity.”
Game on. I’d been soaking in C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell. In a half-hour, I managed to defeat his arguments. But my triumph was short. We left him somewhat discouraged, and my two young charges pridefully arrogant that their youth pastor had shattered a stranger’s arguments. However, what little we accomplished was primarily negative.
Though we’d never see that young man again, we’d made an enemy, not a friend. My much-impressed compatriots now believed that they would never know as much as I did, engendering fear more than faith. They now felt that they didn’t know enough to tangle with people who doubted God, his Son and the offer of unyielding love.
In the days after that unfortunate encounter, I began to understand that the doubter who most needed Christian apologetics was me. Call me cynical, but I constantly question my faith. I question everything I hear or read, so why not my Bible? I need to know that I can believe the first three chapters of Genesis so I can believe the rest of the book. Romans 1 describes a culture that has lost its way because its people reject what they can see of God through his creation. I don’t want to be numbered among them, but I doubt I’ll solve the problem by pounding others into submission or teaching people I lead to do so.
The people I lead need to know why it is safe to believe the scriptures. I need enough information and understanding to equip them to trust God’s word as it comes under assault from the surrounding culture. I have a deep personal need to know why what I believe is true. For me, that takes me beyond the books of believers into those of biologists, astronomers and cosmologists who can’t see the brain behind the big bang. Such reading also yields a valuable harvest strengthening the faith of those I lead. But it seldom brings people into that faith.
In the end, we bring people into God’s Kingdom by loving them when they know something is missing. Apologetics helps us, and those we lead, stand firm in that love.
Your thoughts? Do you teach apologetics in the course of your weekend messages? Are they still important in this rapidly changing world? How do you best equip young people to maintain their faith when you send them off to a secular university? We’d like to hear from you in the comments box…
Watch the video https://youtu.be/x4_0K6K0uhI