And we have answers to some of those questions. Isn't that crazy?
Two of my co-workers, Becca and Kevin, are going to be leading a seminar on Tough Questions at the Winter Conference this weekend. Kevin's done like a million of these and Becca, well, Becca knows this stuff inside and out. They know how to handle questions with both gentleness and respect.
That phrase - "gentleness and respect" - applies to Becca and Kevin and it should apply to all of us when we deal with people's tough questions. 1 Peter 3:15-16 encourages us in this:
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
There is a connection between setting apart Christ as Lord in our hearts and being prepared to always give an answer. And this is apologetics. It's not saying you're sorry; it's defending, explaining, and maybe even persuading.
I love the feeling of being able to answer questions for people as they move closer to Jesus. There's a part of me that always wanted to be a teacher or a professor, to wear sweaters and jackets with elbow patches and grow a beard and smoke a pipe and answer questions. There's something glorious and beautiful to helping people in this way.
That's one of the reasons I love apologetics. I love helping people in this way. But what if this were the only way? What if all I did evangelistically was to engage in apologetic discourse? What could you infer about my motives for evangelism?
Well, you might think that I was wanting to show respect to the asker of the questions by providing the response they asked for. In responding to real questions that are really being asked, we are affirming the intelligence and dignity of the people we are speaking with. And rendering a thoughtful apologetic, answers like the ones Kevin and Becca will be providing, communicates that the asker asked questions worth our paying attention to. And, yes, prepositions end every sentence in this paragraph and none after.
Secondly, you might think that we believe the gospel to be simple enough to explain and complex enough to need explaining. And that is what we believe. Christians are always maintaining this tension: perspecuity and illumination, conversion and sanctification, local and catholic.
Lastly, you might think that we engage in evangelism because we believe in truth and absolutes and right and wrong and that it matters if people believe in things that are real. And that is what we believe. Ideas have consequences and wrong ideas have bad consequences. The debating element of Christian evangelism reveals that we engage in evangelism because ideas matter to us.
But there's more to it than this: more positive (if I had more time to write it) and some negative. Actually, there's enough negative that I don't think I'll be doing straight apologetics anymore...and I don't think that you should either. We need to rethink this a little. And if we do...
We'll do something different.
Did anyone listen to The Great Debate (Bahnsen v. Stein)? How about Hitchens v. McGrath? Palin v. Biden? Okay, that last one wasn't an apologetics debate, but it was very funny (and maybe just as helpful for bringing folks to Jesus).