Tuesday, 7 August 2012

'Why' I do what I do.

Apologetics is an answer to the "why" question after you've already answered the "what" question. The what question, of course, is, "What is the gospel?" But when you call people to believe in the gospel and they ask, "Why should I believe that?"---then you need apologetics.
Tim Keller has written a great article on Apologetics over on The Gospel Coalition website.  His article (here) takes a look at what it means to answer that why question.  And how important it is to do so.  When I look at my role as pastor, I see this being one of the core functions I have.  Even people who have grown up in the church for years can suddenly finding themselves asking those why questions.  My favourite part of the job is to delve into that with them and find a solid theological answer.

It's also the focus of every sermon and Bible study I write.  I don't simply want to do something 'feel good' or emotionally persuasive.  I want to address the why! The what always comes first, but why is where so many people find new revelation to what God has done, is doing, and will do in their lives.  Apologetics is specifically aimed at non-believers, showing them why Jesus is the true and only way.  Yet I'm finding more and more that a 'meatier' apologetic is need for Christians, so they can grasp the deeper and more intricate notions of the Gospel as they grow in their faith.  Either way Keller's conclusion is a good one.
However, the trouble with an exclusively rationalistic apologetic ("I'm going to prove to you that God exists, that Jesus is the Son of God, the Bible is true," etc.) is that it does, in a sense, put God on trial before supposedly neutral, perfectly rational people sitting objectively on the throne of Reason. That doesn't fit with what the Bible says about the reality of sin and the always prejudiced, distorted thinking produced by unbelief. On the other hand, an exclusively subjectivist apologetic ("Invite Jesus into your life and he'll solve all your problems, but I can't give you any good reasons, just trust with your heart") also fails to bring conviction of real sin or of need. There will be no joy in the grace of Jesus unless people see they're lost. Thus a gospel-shaped apologetic must not simply present Christianity, it must also challenge the non-believer's worldview and show where it, and they, have a real problem.

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