Sitting around a table at a local restaurant, my colleague, Stuart McAllister, and I recently dialogued with lay leaders on the importance of apologetics. The quest for some "personal application" was on the menu. No one could blame them for desiring to pull the apologetic enterprise out of the abstract world of the mind and into the concrete everyday of hands and feet. After all, isn't leading people to Jesus the point?
Of course it is the point and one of many important points in our Christian journey. But what was missing in this "practical" approach to apologetics (and is often missed by many who approach apologetics for the first time) is that the discipline is not just to memorize some answers to the typical questions. The discipline is to learn to think and see Christianly, for most questions we are asked will fall within the larger boundaries of a Christian worldview.
My work as an apologist is only accomplished if I have the larger picture in mind. I cannot focus on the small-pictured practical questions until I have a framework in which I intelligently own the answers that I am giving. This requires nothing short of time, discipline, conversations, and prayer. Doing apologetics is not like installing a ceiling fan. The fan has the directions and all the parts together, right out of the box. In a couple of hours the fan is assembled and hangs on the ceiling of your living room. Apologetics, on the other hand, is more organic with multiple manuals (the Bible being chief). And it takes more than a couple of hours to hang a good worldview on the ceiling of your soul.
One of the goals of RZIM is to provide you with tools to engage in the enterprise. But thinking Christianly is not just another program to fit in with our softball club, gym membership, and Bible study campaign at church. It is a way of thinking about life, the good life, the abundant life that Jesus came to deliver.
I hope you can see that apologetics is just as much for the Christian as it is for the non-Christian. It helps build the soul, makes you more confident that the facts of Jesus Christ and his Word are real, and helps you avoid the pitfalls of our spiritual enemy's myriad of confusing ways.
But how do we help the non-believer using apologetics? Ravi Zacharias calls apologetics, "bush clearing." That is, it should not be for the purpose of buffaloing someone to Jesus. Rather, it is to help clear away objections and confusions someone has about Jesus. It would be similar to handing a compass to someone lost in the woods. But it is up to each individual whether they want out of the precarious position of being lost.
During our conversation at the lunch table, Stuart reminded the lay-leaders, "We need to look past the assumption that all people need is more information." While information is timely and vitally important, it must also be combined with an intentional heart to want truth. Apologetics is useless to anyone who refuses to lay down their arms-the weapons of resentful excuses and the smokescreen of presupposed philosophical prejudice.
Apologetics is no new enterprise. It goes back several millennia. When Moses spoke to the people of Israel about entering the land of promises, he noted their position before the Lord Almighty. He said of God's statutes, "Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?" (Deut. 4:6-8 ESV).
You see, for Moses, understanding God and relating to him was of utmost importance. This is the same apologetic enterprise God calls us into day after day. It is not only as a signpost and lighthouse to help our neighbors, but also as a deeply trenched anchor on which we can build our souls in the land in which we dwell. How else do you think Jesus intended us to have life more abundantly? For many in our culture, following Jesus is not compelling if not for all this.
— By Dale Fincher
A publication of Soulation | www.soulation.org
© 2009 Dale & Jonalyn Fincher. All Rights Reserved.