7 minutes to read
As discussed in the previous article, those who do not believe in God lack spiritual discernment. According to biblical theology, providing them with ample factual evidence does not change their hearts. Some may argue that if the Spirit is solely responsible for changing a person's heart, then apologetics and evangelism are pointless. It is important to remember that God ordains both the means and the ends. Therefore, it is essential for us to understand these means. This article will focus on the method of apologetics.
The Lord is Holy
But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
This is the go-to verse for several apologists. Many Christian websites, training materials, and books discuss the importance of being prepared to give a defence for one's faith, using the word apologia, and doing so with gentleness and respect. However, what is often overlooked is the beginning of verse 15, which emphasizes the need to honour Christ as holy in our hearts. While it is important to have compassion for those who are lost and to desire their salvation, our primary disposition should be to honour God as holy.
Consider this scenario: an atheist approaches an apologist and declares disbelief in God. The apologist presents evidence with the expectation that the spiritually dead person will come to a rational decision to believe in God. In this situation, the apologist becomes an advocate for God on trial, and the unregenerate-God-denier becomes the judge who must evaluate the evidence and believe in God. However, is God truly honoured in this exchange? Isn't God the judge of all living beings according to 1 Peter 4:5? How does this scenario show reverence for Christ as Lord in our hearts? It does not.
Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)
In Christ, all wisdom and knowledge are hidden, including Math, Science, Chemistry, Astronomy, and Computer Science. These subjects are all linked to Christ and gain meaning in Him. The Triune God is the foundation of all logic and reason. When we abandon this truth and attempt to reason based on scientific evidence, we make several theological errors, as mentioned above. God explains reason and reasoning, not the other way around. Anselm of Canterbury once said, “I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand. I believe that unless I believe, I shall not understand.” Knowledge is not separate from God; it is intertwined with Him. Reason and evidence are not impartial tools that both Christians and non-believers can utilize as they choose. Reason is of God and is our inheritance as followers of Christ. Atheistic materialistic reasoning assumes unpredictability in nature, stating that the universe came into being without any apparent cause. If a big bang could occur for no apparent cause, then anything could occur for no apparent reason. Materialists cannot confidently state that the sun will set or rise. They can only observe without reasoning. However, a child of God who has not learned physics can confidently declare that Jesus separated morning from night. We are surrounded by an evangelical culture that thinks of Science and Reason as things of the world – by no means!
According to What Standards?!
“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 26:4-5)
Proverbs 26:4-5 at face value appears to be self-contradictory. But it is nothing but the Hebrew author using an idiom to convey deep wisdom. The author is warning us to not be carried away by a fool’s foolery and false premises while answering his question. Also, he expects us to identify his foolishness and give a fitting answer. Say an apologist is confronted by an unbeliever who says “a loving God can’t allow suffering in this world!” How should we respond? Many modern apologists would play right into the foolish assumption that they both have the same standards of right and wrong. Many would say absurd things such as “suffering happens out of God’s control! It is free will that causes evil,” and some might call it a mystery. But, both answers are absurd because both assume that there is a standard of right and wrong that God can be measured against. Then what ought to be our response? Four God-honoring words – “according to what standards?!” We shouldn’t let the foolishness of the unbeliever off the hook and bite onto the argument based on the false premise (Answer not a fool according to his folly). And so, he should address the false and foolish premise of his question (Answer a fool according to his folly). As the proverb says, don’t let the fool be wise in his own eyes. No worldview except for the biblical one is consistent. This is because all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ and no other. Only the biblical worldview provides a consistent standard for right and wrong. When unbelievers question the reliability and morality of God, they borrow objective moral standards from the Christian worldview and use them inconsistently. Because God doesn’t change, his word doesn't change (Numbers 23:19, Ezekiel 24:14). Because his word doesn’t change, the biblical worldview remains consistent, unlike all other worldviews of this world.
How will they Believe?
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14-17)
With the gospel in context, and with a series of thought-provoking questions, Paul teaches the Roman church that faith comes only through hearing the word of Christ! With the repetition of the word “hearing,” Paul emphasizes the need for people to hear the gospel to be saved. Not philosophy, not argument, but the word of Christ! Remember the Great Commission! The call is to make disciples of nations! The call is to preach the gospel. R C Sproul famously said, “There are no maverick molecules in the universe.” God the sovereign has neatly packed every single atom in its most God-glorifying coordinates. He dictates and decrees everything from creation to destruction and life to death. This God saves His people through his word – through his gospel. We would be fools to assume that our wit or intellect can save anyone. God has equipped his church with the means to bring people to his kingdom – his gospel. An apologist who removes the webs of every intellectual doubt of an unbeliever, but fails to preach the gospel to him, fails to obey his primary commission. May our apologetic endeavours never be mere intellectual pursuits but mainly spiritual. We need to constantly detox ourselves from the catechism of the world; that preaches the existence of right and wrong moral standards apart from God. May we be obedient children who honour Christ the Lord as holy, answer the fool according to his folly, and preach the gospel to the lost, unto God’s glory.