The Importance of Relationships in Apologetics and Evangelism

This past week, God has shown me through multiple avenues the importance of relationships. I listened to Garrett DeWeese’s lecture on “Solving the Problem of Evil” and in that lecture DeWeese addresses the importance of relationships. Also, I had a wonderful conversation with Chaplain Jason Kline as he discussed relational apologetics, that is involving relationships in one’s apologetic presentation.[1]

Often times, people think of apologetics as being a “heady, intellectual” pursuit, unconcerned about matters of the heart. While apologetics concerns itself with intellectual matters and the training of the mind, one must understand that apologetics is a branch of a larger spectrum of evangelism. A strong argument could be made that apologetics is part of one’s discipleship effort too as one must be “transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2).[2]

Seeing that apologetics is often intellectual, it is easy for one to lose sight of the greater challenge and the greater goal: not winning arguments, but winning souls for Christ. For this to take place, the apologist must understand the great value of relationships. These relationships should include three things.

  1. The presence of love must be included in one’s relational apologetic.

          Christian leaders should understand the great damage that has been done by the anti-intellectual movement that invaded the church beginning in the 19th century. Modern heresies that have entered the church are a direct result of the emphasis placed on the heart rather than the head. But on the other hand, the apologist, in one’s quest to emphasize the intellectual pursuits of the faith, must not neglect the heart entirely especially as it relates to love. A strong head and weak heart leads to a sterile, emotionless shell of what the Christian life should be. It is a firepit with the wood and coals properly placed, yet without a flame providing heat. What’s the point of a firepit with no fire?

Paul warns vehemently that “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). If I have a strong apologetic with no love, then I am just another “talking head.” Apologist, do you love the person you are conversing with? If not, you may want to step out of the conversation until you have the loving flames of the Holy Spirit burning within your heart.

  1. The presence of listening must be included in one’s relational apologetic.

           In my conversation with Kline as well as DeWeese’s lecture, I was reminded of the great value in listening. DeWeese noted that with Job, “Job’s friends were appalled at the conditions Job faced. They sat with Job silently for 7 days, but it all went downhill from there. Their silence, tears, and ministering to Job helped him more than their words.”[3] As apologists we must use our words to proclaim and defend the faith. But we cannot sacrifice a listening ear in order to do so.

I am from the Southeastern United States. While not as prevalent today, it used to be commonplace to find a group of men gathered around a popular restaurant and/or storefront talking about the issues of the day. My grandpa, Roy Chilton, was a child of the Depression Era and served in World War II. In his time, they had no Facebook, Instagram, or instant messenger. Rather, they had the local gathering place. In my younger years, he took me with him to visit some of his friends at one particular person’s welding shop. The thing to remember about these conversations is that many of the stories become “tall tales;” fun stories based on truth, but exaggerated to make the story sound more appealing. “Conversation” is a loose term to be used in this environment as most of the “conversations” turned into a competition for who could tell the greatest tale. I noticed that Grandpa would not so much listen to what was being said by another as much as he was preparing his next story. Others would do the same.

Apologists should use caution against the use of the same practice. If we are simply preparing our next argument without truly listening to the objections being made, then it is highly likely to miss the objection entirely and leave the seeker more antagonistic in the end. As my grandmother, Eva Chilton, used to say (and it may have been partly directed towards Grandpa), “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason; so that we’ll listen twice as much as we speak.”

  1. The presence of longing must be included in one’s relational apologetic.

What is the apologist’s goal? What is one in apologetics anyhow? Is it the goal of the person to appear smart and intelligent? Is it the person’s goal to show how many books he or she has read? Or is a person in apologetics simply to join a particular community? Intelligence and community are important matters. However, the goal of the apologist if based on relationships must be to clear the path for the Holy Spirit to operate. It is an evangelistic affair. The Westminster Confession of Faith proclaims that “the chief end of man is to glorify God.” To borrow Westminster’s verbiage, the chief end of apologetics is to win souls for Christ. Does the apologist long to see the person with whom they are conversing come to know Christ? Or is the person simply using the arguments as a means of intellectual chess? A strong argument is nothing without the wooing presence of the Holy Spirit. This means that the apologist, if effective, must be a person of prayer, consistently seeking after and desiring God.

Conclusion

Apologetics is a branch of evangelism. Evangelism seeks to persuade people to accept Christ as their Savior. Therefore, apologetics must seek to persuade people to accept Christ as their Savior. If Christ has truly died for the sins of humanity and has truly risen from the dead according to the Scriptures, then the apologist’s intention must be to see others come to know the reality that is Christ and the salvation that comes from a covenant relationship with Him. Let’s be brutally honest. Sometimes we as apologists can become so involved in apologetics that we come off as jerks to those in which we are trying to minister. For me, guilty as charged. The church needs apologetics. The church needs apologists!!! The church is never going to accept the apologist if he/she consistently berates the pastor or those who are not onboard. If this is true of the church, the lost person will certainly not desire to listen to any apologist (regardless of their credentials) if the apologist comes off as obstinate or emotionless. Remember, Jesus was the greatest apologist of all and He spent a great amount of time building relationships. Apologetics without meaningful relationships often becomes valueless.

© June 20, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] The conversation with Chaplain Jason Kline can be found at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton/2016/06/20/relational-apologetics-with-pastor-apologist-and-chaplain-jason-kline.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[3] Garrett DeWeese, “Solving the Problem of Evil,” Biola University, lecture notes, 10.

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Why Does the Church Resist Apologetics?

paul-mars-hill

Christian apologetics is defined by William Lane Craig as “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith” (Craig 2008, 15).Because of the nature of apologetics defending and promoting the Christian faith, it is understandable that the practice would come under scrutiny. However, one of the greatest adversaries of Christian apologetics stems from an unlikely foe. For the secularist is not the greatest adversary to the apologetic movement and neither is the skeptic. The greatest adversary to the Christian apologetic movement is often the Christian church itself! The very church that apologists defend is the one that seems to, at least in many locations, provide the greatest resistance. But why? There are four excuses that are often given by the apologetic antagonist. In this article, we will examine these reasons and offer some suggestions as to how the budding apologist could enlighten the antagonist as to the need for apologetics IN the modern church. These responses greatly resemble Tim LaHaye’s spiritual temperaments. It could be that these responses stem from those with the temperaments listed by LaHaye.

sparky sanguine

Fear of Offense: “But, you might hurt someone’s feelings!” (Sanguine Temperamental Answer)

Tim LaHaye writes that the extroverted sanguine temperament is “warm, buoyant, lively, and fun-loving…He is receptive by nature, and external impressions easily find their way to his heart, where they readily cause an outburst of response. Feelings rather than reflective thoughts predominate to form his decisions” (LaHaye 1992, 13). When a church member holds a sanguine temperament and knows little about apologetics, her resistance may stem from fear that others will be hurt by the apologetic endeavor. Sanguines do not want to hurt anyone.

The problem is: truth supersedes feelings. When a person is sick, it matters not whether one wants to be sick or not. It matters that the sickness is diagnosed and treated. The apologist will want to approach such a critic in two ways: show the nature of truth and the importance that people know the truth. First, sanguine church members need to know that truth is not based upon feelings. Norm Geisler writes, “Truth is found in correspondence. Truth is what corresponds to its object (referent), whether this object is abstract or concrete. As applied to the world, truth is the way things really are. Truth is ‘telling it like it is'” (Geisler 2011, 84). This description would fit the definition of the biblical term “aletheia” which means “that which is accordance with reality.” “Aletheia” is translated as “truth.” Secondly, sanguine members need to know that if Jesus really is the Son of God and the pathway to heaven (John 14:6), then the most saddening thing that could happen to anyone is that the person is held from the truth…especially seeing that the truth sets one free (John 8:32). Being set free by the truth will cause greater happiness than anything on earth. Truth is far better than patronage.

Rocky Choleric

Fear of Control: “We’ve never done that before. My grandfather didn’t. Why should we?” (Choleric Temperamental Answer)

Another extroverted temperament is the choleric temperament. LaHaye describes those who hold the choleric temperament as “hot, quick, active, practical, and strong-willed…often self-sufficient and very independent…decisive and opinionated, finding it easy to make decisions for himself as well as for others” (LaHaye 1992, 16). Because of the choleric’s active tendencies, you will “rarely…find a predominant Choleric as a surgeon, dentist, philosopher, inventor, or watchmaker…they usually enjoy construction work…” (LaHaye 1992, 19). When it comes to the church, the choleric temperamental person may not see the practicality of defending the faith. He might say, “This church has been in operation for the past 100 years.” Yep, here it comes…”We’ve never done that before. Why should we now?” (Many of you in church work have probably heard that line many times before with different issues.)

When it comes to the choleric temperament, the apologist may have a more difficult time reaching him since he is so independent. A note of caution must be given concerning one with a choleric temperament. It may be that if a choleric is in leadership (which is likely since the choleric is a natural born leader), the apologist will want to ensure the choleric leader that the apologetics in no way threatens his leadership.

Also, the apologist will want to demonstrate the changes in culture. Approaches that worked in the 1950s no longer apply in the 21st century. As Paul wrote, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). By demonstrating the need, the choleric will most likely hop on board with the program. The really cagey apologist will want to make the choleric think that adding apologetics was his own idea. In such a case, the ministry would be sure to succeed.

Another note needs to be added: some entire congregations hold a choleric temperament. These churches have often become so entrenched with a particular culture that it may be impossible to infiltrate. This is true of those in ultra-fundamentalist and ultra-liberal circles. In such cases, a particular culture is promoted over the Bible. I have heard stories where church members were shown that certain church practices were unbiblical. The members responded, “We don’t care what the Bible says. This is the way we’re going to do things around here.” In such cases, the apologist would be wise to leave such a place to begin an apologetic ministry elsewhere. Unfortunately, such churches will not be able to survive outside their culture.

Martin Melancholy

Fear of Scholarship: “Reason is not necessary. Only faith is required.” (Melancholy Temperamental Answer)

The introverted melancholy temperament is one who is the “richest of all temperaments, for he is analytical, self-sacrificing, gifted, perfectionist type, with a very sensitive emotional nature” (LaHaye 1992, 22). To make matters more difficult with a melancholy apologetic antagonist is that “most of the world’s greatest composers, artists, musicians, inventors, philosophers, theoreticians, theologians, scientists, and dedicated educators have been predominantly Melancholies” (LaHaye 1992, 24). For this reason, I would dare say that most Christian melancholies would be on board with apologetics. In fact, I would not be surprised if most of those engaged in apologetics would fit the melancholic temperament. However, since melancholies tend to be perfectionists with a high-end for research, it may be that the melancholy that is antagonistic to apologetics may hold a distrust for science, philosophy, and reason itself.

The apologist would need to set forth a program showing that reason and faith are partners and not enemies. Millard Erickson provides three models concerning the relationship of faith and reason:

1. Christology from above is basically fideistic…it draws heavily upon the thought of Soren Kirkegaard. According to this position, our knowledge of Jesus’ deity is not grounded in any historically provable facts about his earthly life. It is a faith based upon the faith of the apostles as enunciated in the kerygma.

2. Conversely, Christology from below is primarily Thomistic. It attempts to demonstrate the supernatural character of Christ from historical evidences. Hence, the deity of Christ is not a presupposition but a conclusion of the process…

3. There is another possible model, namely, the Augustinian. In this model, faith precedes but does not remain permanently independent of reason. Faith provides the perspective or starting point from which reason may function, enabling one to understand what otherwise could not be understood (Erickson 1998, 690).

 

While I do not know that I agree that Thomism is a reason alone system (maybe more Aristotelian), Erickson shows that faith and reason in the Augustinian model can be partners in one’s exploration of truth. The apologist will want to share the compatability of reason and faith. In addition, the apologist will need to enlighten the melancholic antagonist to the wealth of evidence that exists for the Christian faith.

Phil Phlegmatic 

Fear of Unknown: “We already know all we need to know. No use upsetting the apple-cart.” (Phlegmatic Temperamental Answer)

Finally, there is the other introverted temperament known as the phlegmatic. The phlegmatic is one that is “calm, cool, slow, easy-going, well-balanced” (LaHaye 1992, 26). The phlegmatic is “annoyed by—and often confront—the aimless, restless enthusiasm of the Sanguine…ridicule—the gloomy moods of the Melancholy…delight in throwing ice water on the bubbling plans and ambitions of the Choleric…” (LaHaye 1992, 27). The phlegmatic antagonist is likely to say, “We already know what God wants us to know.” Or, “If people don’t want to be a Christian, you’re not going to make them one.” In other words, the phlegmatic antagonist doesn’t want to be bothered. At the root of these excuses may be a sincere problem of insecurity. Perhaps the antagonist fears that she does not possess the necessary qualifications to learn apologetics. Let’s be honest. Apologist: not everyone can go as deep in apologetics as you might be able to travel. For a person who only holds a high-school education…or one who may have even quit high-school…reading books by individuals who hold multiple doctorates like William Lane Craig and Oxford professor John Lennox would be intimidating to say the least.

The apologist would need to assure the phlegmatic that the apologist will be with them every step of the way. The apologist will be there to help them understand the difficulties that come. It may not be that everyone will be an elite apologetic Special Forces soldier. However, assure them that they at least need to be in the Christian apologetic army.

Conclusion

This article has offered four excuses that are often given by church members who are antagonistic to Christian apologetics. More excuses may be offered than just the four given. The apologist needs to understand that people in the church come from various backgrounds. Some may have faced some things that have rocked their faith. It could be that their faith is holding only by a thread. Others may have such a distrust of society that it may be difficult for them to open up to any form of scholarship. It is important for the Christian apologist to maintain patience with such individuals. Whether they know it or not…they need you. In fact…the modern church desperately needs you. That is why God called you to be a Christian apologist.

tl_why you act the way you do

Temperament pictures belong to Tim LaHaye from his book Why You Act the Way You Do. All rights reserved.

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd Edition. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

LaHaye, Tim. Spirit-Controlled Temperament. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 1992.

The Importance of Apologetics for Pastors: Reflections on Joel Osteen’s Huffington Post Interview

apologetics There has been a lot of talk concerning Joel Osteen’s interview on the Huffington Post. Many have discussed and posted concerns over some of the comments that Osteen made. However, as I watched the video, I was struck by another reality. It did not seem that Osteen was prepared for the big questions asked by the host. The host (Josh Zepps) stated that he was an agnostic. Zepps presented some heavy questions to Osteen such as “why do bad things happen to good people,” “what about times when God doesn’t answer our prayers,” and other questions of like manner. As I reflected on this interview, it struck me that a pastor MUST have a general understanding of apologetics in order to minister and, especially, to evangelize. There are three reasons why apologetics is important for pastors based upon three of Osteen’s responses.

Osteen 1  1.     “Some people don’t believe in God…” The importance of establishing the veracity of God’s existence.

As the host and Osteen were discussing different issues, Zepps notified Osteen that he was an agnostic, but open to the idea of God. Osteen did not offer any suggestions as to why someone SHOULD believe in God. Rather, he said, “I mean this God, if you believe in God…” (Osteen, Huffington Post Live). But, this begs the question; why should one believe or disbelieve in God? Why do you hold the convictions that you do? One of the great problems in the modern church is that some who sit in the pews and, even, some who stand behind the pulpits do not know why they believe what they do. If belief is not internalized, can true faith exist? Faith is a dependency…a trust. How will one have a trust in something that one does not truly accept? Understand that I am not saying that Osteen does not have a true belief in God. I think he does. However, we must stand ready to give a reason for our belief. Peter said as much, “But in your hearts revere 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” (1 Peter 3:15-16, NIV).

It is not being suggested that one should give a long explanation for the reason that one believes in God. However, the Christian leader should be willing to give an abbreviated reason for one’s acceptance of God’s existence. As mentioned in a previous article, the kalam cosmological argument is a quick and easy way to show the reason why one can rationally believe in God. Unfortunately, Osteen did not seem prepared to give such an argument or a reason for why he believes in the God of whom he writes and sells books.

Osteen 2  2.     “It seems so outlandish with your head…” The importance of establishing a working basis for the Christian message.

When posed with some very difficult questions concerning God and the problem of evil, Osteen gave some decent suggestions.  However, he then said something that seemed to demolish his arguments, “It all seems so outlandish with your head…” (Osteen, Huffington Post Live). There is inherently wrong in admitting that there are things in which we do not know. As a matter of fact, it is commendable. However, Osteen could have moved on to give a working basis on how some come to solve this dilemma. Nothing much was offered. Nothing much was given. Osteen could have spoken about the problem of sin in more detail. However, Osteen speaks on the problem of sin very little. Osteen could have spoken about moral evils, which he alluded to but did not develop. Osteen could have even spoken about how God brings things to good even if in eternity. Nothing much was offered. Nothing much was given. It seemed as if Osteen was caught off guard by many of these questions.

But this brings another concern to me: what is so outlandish about the Christian message? Is it really outlandish or is it that Osteen has not taken the time to learn about the reasons for belief? I think it is the latter. This is yet another reason why pastors need to have a working knowledge of apologetics.

Apologetics3.     “Faith that is in your heart and not your head…” The importance of establishing the essence of truth.

Zepps asked a great question, “How can we know that the majesty and divinity of God has been captured in these ancient books (i.e. the Bible)” (Zepps, Huffington Post Live)? That was a HUGE question in which Osteen had a perfect opportunity to answer with the issues with issues of the reliability of the Bible, archaeological evidences confirming the Bible, and early documentary resources. Osteen could have mentioned the love and grace of God presented in the Bible. Rather, he said, “It’s about a faith that is in your heart and not in your head. A lot of it too, Josh, is how we were raised. I was raised in a preacher’s home. This is what I was taught and what I teach” (Osteen, Huffington Post Live). I could have pounded my head on my desk when I heard him say those words. What does a person’s raising have anything to do with anything??? Some people were reared believing that the things that happened in the concentration camps in Auschwitz were good. Just because a person is reared a certain way does not make that way correct. At this point in the conversation, it seems that Osteen was overwhelmed with the depth of the questions.

Osteen needed to present the veracity of the Christian message. He needed to show that things can be known to be true or false. He needed Ravi Zacharias by his side. A person’s faith must elevate beyond the scope of one’s rearing. A grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, or sister cannot make one’s faith personal. It must come by the working of God in the person’s life. It was at this point that Osteen fumbled the ball and allowed Zepps to run it in the endzone for a pick six.

apologetics 2  Conclusion

I am not claiming that Osteen is not intelligent. I am not saying that Osteen does not truly believe in Christ. I think Osteen is an intelligent believer (even though I have core differences of opinion with him). However, Osteen has admitted that he has never attended seminary. I am not claiming that Osteen should, but I am claiming that Osteen could use a big dose of apologetics in his life. The main point is that this interview shows all pastors why apologetics is necessary in our day and time. This is not a new venture. Jesus, Paul, and Peter used apologetics from time to time. Great Christian apologists like Justin Martyr and Thomas Aquinas have filled libraries with grand books on the reasons for belief. A basic understanding of apologetics would have taken Osteen to new levels in his interview. A basic understanding of apologetics will elevate your ministry, too. The time has come to take Peter’s words seriously in that we are to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV).

Resources Used

Huffington Post Live. (October 2, 2013). http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/joel-osteen-break-out-/5245e21502a760058700022a. Accessed October 10, 2013.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.