Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Apologetics and Dishwashing Brain

The Cottages of Freefolk- Life in the Village of Freefolk, Hampshire, England, UK, 1943 D15889
Few jobs can max out my tedious meter faster than doing dishes.  Pick it up, wash it off, rinse it, put it in the drainer, and if you want a fun encore dry the dishes and put them away!  To prevent being transformed into an insipid dishrag myself, I have two effective strategies. Strategy one is make the 11 year old wash them!  Strategy two is to listen to a podcast, audio book or my Bible while I work.

At the recommendation of one our elders I dived recently into Apologetics is the field of study where people "apologize" for God.  Apologize here has its older meaning of explaining something, not the more common one of asking for forgiveness for someone or something.  The website has a rich array of articles, related sites, book reviews, transcripts and podcast files. iTunes has the podcast for free download if you too suffer from dishwashing brain!

This weekend I listened to two podcasts.  The first was Chad Gross, a 1st grade teacher and blogger, giving a lecture on how to use the "moral argument" in evangelism.  The moral argument, famously put forward by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, goes like this.  

Every law has a law giver.Some things really are right and wrong. Thus there is a moral law.Thus there is a moral Law Giver.

Of course in our postmodern world the challenge is to prove the second proposition.  Gross outlined the details and arguments in simple language.  He pointed out that most cultures agree in principle about basic morality. He also showed that moral relativists, those who argue that all morality is opinion, are easily defeated by bringing the argument down to practicalities.  Children may not be tortured for fun.  It's wrong.  Not an opinion.  Wrong.  He also noted many of the basic objections and how they could be answered. 

The second lecture was much more academic.  In it, Professor Peter Williams from Cambridge discussed one of the objections Richard Dawkins has raised to the Bible, specifically, that the God of the Old Testament is "genocidal" when He ordered the destruction of the Canaanites.  Dawkins provides a broad target and many arrows are aimed his way.  The lecture was enjoyable from a nerd's point of view but to understand it one would need a solid background in theology, logic and Ancient Near Eastern history. This left me with a troubling question.  What is the role of apologetics really in our spiritual lives?  

On the positive I can see that all Christians need a basic grounding in "Christian Worldview." We need to know that what the media presents as the only logical paradigms fit for the post modern world -- materialism, humanism, and relativism -- are the very antithesis of what God teaches.   

In addition I feel passionately that young people need their questions about God and the universe answered directly, logically and with appropriate evidence.  I wrote earlier about a professor who changed my husband's life by doing that very thing. I know I want to send my girls out into the world as "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves"(Matthew 10:16).  

On the other hand, Mr King  made a point while he was visiting with us that cannot be ignored, "You can't reason a person out of a position he didn't reason himself into."  In my own experience in evangelism, I deal with very few people who "reasoned" themselves into anything!  Far more often I meet drifting people who have never deeply considered the possibility that the God of the Universe would be interested in them and their actions.  They know they're not perfect.  They feel guilty and ashamed sometimes, and they are often driven to self-justification. They are moved by the story of Jesus, and they struggle to make a decision to give up the world and follow Him.  Their journey may include a pit-stop at some point to discuss why it's reasonable to believe in the historicity of the Bible or the reliability of the New Testament, but by in large its a journey of the heart. 

I had friends who lived in Africa for years and the vast majority of their outreach was to Muslim peoples.  They needed to understand the Koran to do their work.  If the majority of your outreach is among intellectuals and academics, true atheists or hardened skeptics, the depths of apologetics are the place for you.  If you are in charge of a youth group, or have children, I would encourage you to at least be familiar with the basic ideas so as to counter the atheist propaganda our children are bombarded with every day.  However, I can't leave the topic without two caveats.

First, do not imagine that it is necessary to master some kind of program or argument to be prepared to share the gospel.  You have no tool as powerful as your own deep love for Christ.  It is the poor in spirit not the strong in logic who are commended as possessing the kingdom of heaven.  In a world filled to the brim with Greek logicians, Jesus chose instead Galilean fisherman as His heralds. Follow Jesus. Love people. Tell His story and yours.  That's what the apostles did.

Second, remember that intellectual assent is not belief.  If I can logically show the fact that there is a God in the Universe and He is indeed the God who revealed himself in the Bible, does that mean the people who intellectually assent will therefore follow him?  NO!  Something like 90% of Americans would agree with that statement and nothing like 90% of Americans are submitting their lives daily to the Savior.   

I would not discourage you from heading over to the website and checking it out.  Stretch your brain. Don't let the dishes turn you into a zombie.  Learn something new about our amazing world and all the ways that people "apologize" God.  Just don't let all those professors make you forget that God called you to witness to His glory from your place just like they do from theirs. 
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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