Christian apologists cannot get around the fact that they are defending supernaturalism. That’s a defining difference between Christianity and humanism/naturalism. It makes Christianity different, and with that difference, those who preach it are often despised.
Christian apologists should not be surprised that many people despise them for preaching this supernatural ‘good news.’ Jesus told His apostles (who were the earliest apologists) that the world would hate them because they belonged to Him and preached His message.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.'” John 15:18-25
Before we walk away from defending the supernatural Gospel because we will be hated and despised by many people, let’s put Jesus’ teaching in the proper context. There is something special awaiting anyone who is willing to defend the supernatural Gospel.
Before delivering the news of hatred, opposition and rejection to the preaching of the supernatural Gospel, Jesus said these things to the apostles.
- “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3
- “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14:12-14
- “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:15-18
- “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:21
- “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:25-26
- “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.” John 14:27-28
- “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
- “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:7-8
- “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:9-10
- “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11
- “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15
Defending the supernatural Gospel of Christ is not pleasant from the perspective of being popular with and safe in this world, but it does come with great promises from the Christ of the Gospel.
The ministry or work of apologetics comes with a burden of being disliked, misunderstood, and rejected — but isn’t that the joy of identifying with Jesus Christ in defending His Gospel? After receiving warnings and beatings from the high priest and council of elders, the apostles “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (Acts 5:41-42) Christ’s disciples, after enduring arrest, interrogation and beatings, ‘rejoiced’ that they were counted ‘worthy’ to suffer shame for Christ’s name!
I find great solace in the work of apologetics from the words of the apostles and the writings of ancient and modern apologists. Here are a few words about the ministry of the supernatural Gospel that have been a blessing to me this week.
“We are to defend Christianity itself–the faith preached by the Apostles, attested by the Martyrs, embodied in the Creeds, expounded by the Fathers. This must be clearly distinguished from the whole of what any one of us may think about God and Man. Each of us has his individual emphasis: each holds, in addition to the Faith, many opinions which seem to him to be consistent with it and true and important. And so perhaps they are. But as apologists it is not our business to defend them. We are defending Christianity; not ‘my religion.’ When we mention our personal opinions we must always make quite clear the difference between them and the Faith itself….
This distinction, which is demanded by honesty, also gives the apologist a great tactical advantage. The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it is good for society or something of that sort…. This immediately helps them to realize that what is being discussed is a question about objective fact–not gas about ideals and points of view…. Do not attempt to water Christianity down. There must be no pretense that you have it with the Supernatural left out. So far as I can see Christianity is precisely the one religion from which the miraculous cannot be separated. You must frankly argue for supernaturalism from the very outset.” The Business Of Heaven: Daily Readings From C. S. Lewis (C.S. Lewis Pte Ltd, 1984)
So, how does this belief in and defense of the supernatural play out in a Christian’s life? Apologist Francis Schaeffer presents this interesting take on it in his book ‘Death in the City.’
“Christianity is not just a mental assent that certain doctrines are true. This is only the beginning. This would be rather like a starving man sitting in front of great heaps of food and saying, ‘I believe the food exists; I believe it is real,’ and yet never eating it. It is not enough merely to say, ‘I am a Christian’, and then in practice to live as if present contact with the supernatural were something far off and strange. Many Christians I know seem to act as though they come in contact with the supernatural just twice – once when they are justified and become a Christian and once when they die. The rest of the time they act as though they were sitting in the materialist’s chair.
The difference between a Christian who is being supernatural in practice and one who says he is a Christian but lives like a materialist can be illustrated by the difference between a storage battery and a light plug. Some Christians seem to think that when they are born again, they become a self-contained unit like a storage battery. From that time on they have to go on their own pep and their own power until they die. But this is wrong. After we are justified, once for all through faith in Christ, we are to live in supernatural communion with the Lord every moment; we are to be like lights plugged into an electric socket.” Death In The City, Chapter 9: The Universe and Two Chairs, Francis A. Schaeffer, IVP, 1969
From these words I ascertain that the Christian who is connected to the ‘supernaturalness’ of faith in Christ is best qualified to defend it to those who do not believe in the existence of the supernatural.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.