Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apologizing For the Gospel

It seems that everyone is entitled to their opinion these days, even if their opinion is crass, disrespectful, unpatriotic, ignorant, or down-right devoid of objective proof. Scientific naturalism is touted with religious zeal as the answer to all of life's problems, while moral relativism is being championed with equal fervor. Somehow these two worldviews seem to be tag-teaming Christianity to shut us up. Naturalism likes to proclaim "facts" that eliminate God while relativism states that there are no absolutes. All opinions are equally valid unless, of course, your opinion is exclusive. This truth claim is self-refuting, but so many people in our culture, including those inside of a Christian worldview, are so unschooled in basic logic that truth claims like this often go unchallenged or become outright accepted. Thus, many Christians give away ground and apologize for the exclusivity of the Gospel.

Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary
Everyone may be entitled to their own opinions, but not all opinions are equally valid. An opinion is simply a person's interpretation of a particular matter. Opinions are subjective. But objective truth still exists, and our opinions only hold water insofar as they comport with reality. Imagine that you see a person standing atop a 20 story building who is about to walk off the ledge, and you say, "Get away from the edge! You will fall to your death." The person cheerfully states, "Oh, I won't die. The law of gravity doesn't apply to me. As a matter of opinion, I doubt whether or not gravity is even real." Who do you think would be right? They may be entitled to their opinion, but their opinion would be dead wrong.

Christianity is not based on subjective truth claims. We may have experiential reasons for holding onto our faith. The apostle Paul had such a starting point for his beliefs on the Damascus Road, but his subjective experience never stood alone. However, so many Christians that I have talked with retreat into subjective reasons for their faith in Christ without having objective backing. "You ask me how I know He lives...He lives within my heart," as the old song goes. Or more recently, "God's not dead. He's surely alive. He's living on the inside, roaring like a lion..." "Heaven is for real" because some person had a vision, near death experience, or the like. Don't hear me saying that these reasons are wrong or invalid, they are just not very useful for interacting with skeptics. 

We need to be able to apologize for our belief in the Gospel--not in the English sense of the word but in the Greek sense. The branch of Christian study dedicated to offering reasons for our faith and defending it is called apologetics. Apologetics has nothing to do with being sorry for our beliefs or opinions. It comes from the Greek word apologia, meaning 1.) A speech of defense, defense, reply 2.) The act of making a defense. Peter exhorts all believers to this when he writes, "...always being ready to [apologia] to anyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you..." (1 Peter 3:15 NASB).

As long as we lean on opinions and subjective reasoning we will constantly be lashing out in anger or apologizing for our beliefs in the face of a belligerent world. We need not apologize for the exclusive claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, rather we need to apologia for the hope that we have. We need to be able to go further than "how I know" into "and here is how you can know as well."

If you have not examined the evidence for Christ, then I greatly encourage you to listen to the apostle Peter and do so. Faith is not against reason. Our faith is reasonable.

If you need a good starting point, I recommend  The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel or Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace.

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