Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 19)
One of the amazing things I experienced when passing from atheism to theism was how easy it became to accept and understand ideas that I had earlier found unacceptable and absurd. Had I, as many of my atheist friends accused me, lost my mind? Also, why was I suddenly drawn to protect with all my heart and mind that which I had recently attacked with full vigor?
Salvation as described in the Bible seemed silly to me as an outsider (a non-Christian). However, after becoming an insider (a Christian) I found that salvation made more sense than anything I had ever known.
C.S. Lewis, also a former atheist, explained it this way.
“There are certain things in Christianity that can be understood from the outside, before you have become a Christian. But there are a great many things that cannot be understood until after you have gone a certain distance along the Christian road. These things are purely practical, though they do not look as if they were. They are directions for dealing with particular crossroads and obstacles on the journey and they do not make sense until a man has reached those places.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperOne Edition, 2001, p. 144)
What makes the difference? One minute you are lost, the next minute you are saved – from death to life in a fraction of a second. How can we explain that change to someone who has not experienced that change? And how do you explain all the things you learn during your journey as a Christian? I believe strongly in things I once thought ridiculous and laughable. There must be a way to communicate these spiritual things in ways that non-believers can see as possible.
One of the most powerful ‘evidences’ of the truth of Christianity is how it ‘changes’ the human mind and heart. Jesus passed through Jericho one day and a man named Zacchaeus wanted to see Him. Zacchaeus was a tax collector – seen by his own people as a traitor for helping the Roman government heavily tax fellow Jews. Zacchaeus was too short to see over the crowd, so he climbed a tree so he could see Jesus. Jesus came by the tree, looked up and saw Zacchaeus, and told him to come down so He could stay at Zacchaeus’ house. Zacchaeus climbed down and received Jesus joyfully. The people in the crowd who were watching complained saying that Jesus was going to be a guest with a ‘sinner.’ Zacchaeus looked at Jesus and told the Lord that he would give half of his goods to the poor and would restore fourfold to anyone he had taken from by false accusation. Meeting Jesus changes minds and hearts.
Saul of Tarsus had a deep hatred for Jesus and His followers. Saul hunted down believers, arrested them and dragged them into court. Saul consented to their deaths. Saul traveled to Damascus with letters from the high priest for the purpose of finding Jesus’ disciples and bringing them bound to Jerusalem for trial. As Saul came close to Damascus, a bright light shone around him from heaven. He fell to the ground and heard the voice of Jesus saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked who was speaking to him and Jesus said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul knew that the apostles claimed to have seen the risen Jesus and now he had heard His voice calling his name. Saul became a follower of Jesus Christ that hour and went on to preach the Gospel of Christ in many countries leading thousands of people to Christ, establishing many Christian churches and writing almost half of the New Testament. Meeting Jesus changes minds and hearts.
Those are just two of millions of stories of minds and hearts changed by meeting Jesus. If you believe what the Bible teaches about Jesus and Christianity, you should expect that kind of change. Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, as described in the New Testament, will change people dramatically and those changed people will impact the lives of other people dramatically. A changed life is proof of a changed mind and heart.
Evangelistic Apologetics (a reasoned defense of faith in the Christian worldview with the desire and intent of unbelievers becoming believers in Jesus Christ) can be divided into two primary categories: Informational Apologetics and Incarnational Apologetics. How important are they separately and together? Here’s one person’s perspective.
I grew up with Christian parents and attended church with them multiple times a week from soon after my birth until I was 17 years old. That offered me ample opportunity to witness the effect of the Christian apologetic. I was already “in the camp,” so it should have been easy enough to keep me there if the Christian worldview was true. As I look back on my experience I see that Christians fail in their apologetics in two primary ways.
God and the Bible were presented as “the truth,” but with no perspective as to “why” they were true. They were “just true.” Statements about biblical truth were presented regularly but not convincingly. As for “evangelism,” children were expected to “receive Christ” at some point before their 12th birthday. I chose to walk the aisle at 10, attend the baptism classes and get baptized. Evangelism done, another soul saved – or so people thought. I wasn’t saved and was able to hide that fact easily within the framework of how Christianity was viewed by family and friends. Saying one was a Christian, attending a Christian assembly regularly and following accepted protocol was all that was necessary to be deemed by others as being a Christian.
The ages of 10-17 are crucial in many ways. Children become teenagers during those years and they think, feel and see a lot. What people “do” becomes as important, if not more important, than what people “say.” I saw and heard things that were evidence to me that Christians didn’t practice what they preached. That included preachers, teachers and other leaders in the church. The “incarnational” did not match the “informational.” It was acceptable to say one thing and do another and was a dysfunctional model to me of what it meant to “be a Christian.” Living like a Christian was not necessary to be a Christian was the message I saw and heard loud and clear. Hypocrisy is a powerful teacher.
The impotence of the informational and the insincerity of the incarnational combined to open my mind and heart to wander through polytheistic and pantheistic world views and eventually find a home with atheism. There is no way for me to know for sure, but I do wonder if things would have been different in my life if Christians had presented me with a powerful apologetic that was strong in both information and lifestyle.
As we consider how to defend the truth claims of Christianity against the onslaught of the enemies of Christ and His Church, may we not forget the importance of practicing what we preach. It is a powerful and necessary element of Evangelistic Apologetics.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”