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.

The Trinitarian Relationship

Relationships are critical to one’s existence. Individuals need compassion that can only come from companionship. It should not be surprising since the Bible presents God as an eternal relationship, that the Bible also promotes the idea of relationships in general. This post will demonstrate the importance of relationships as it exists in the nature of God, the relationship that the believer possesses with the Triune God, and the importance of an individual to possess strong relational ties to others.

YaHWeH

The Father (Yahweh) is God

While the Scripture does not use the term trinity, such an idea “is a logically warranted inference from what Scripture does say about God.”[1] The Scripture indicates that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), yet consisting of three persons. For example, Yahweh, the Father, is shown to be God. For example, God introduces Himself to Moses and says, “Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:15). Yahweh, also translated “LORD” in some translations, is the personal identification of the Father. Gerald Bray rightly suggests that “God the Father is the person who ordains, establishes, judges and appoints.”[2] Yet, Yahweh is not the only person identified as God in Scripture.

Jesus1

Jesus (Yeshua) is God

Jesus of Nazareth is also identified as God. Identified as the Messiah, Paul writes that “The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever” (Romans 9:5). In the triune relationship of God, Bray identifies Jesus as the one who “appears as the Redeemer, the sacrificial victim and the mediator.”[3] Thus, the Father is God and the Son is God, but there is one more member to the Godhead that is also addressed.

Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit is God

The Holy Spirit is identified as God. Perhaps one of the clearest examples of the Holy Spirit’s divinity is found in Acts 5. When Ananias and Sapphira lied about their gift, Peter said to Ananias, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back the proceeds from the field” (Acts 5:3)? He goes on to say, “You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4)! Bray states that the Holy Spirit “is the Sanctifier, the first-fruits of the inheritance of the glory to come. He dwells in our hearts by faith…and is responsible both for giving us access to the Father and for producing the image of Christ in us.”[4] Therefore, although God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), God is eternally three persons in One entity. It is interesting as God could be said to be an eternal relationship.

Relationship between Members of the Monotheistic Godhead

A special relationship exists between the individuals of the Godhead. In fact, “the doctrine of the Trinity offers an example for interpersonal relationships, not the least is family relations.”[5] In fact, the great blessing is found in that an individual is able to be brought into this eternal relationship. When a believer begins a relationship with God, that one is indwelled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus states that the believer would receive the Holy Spirit and the believer would “know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). Therefore, the believer is drawn into a relationship with the Godhead as one is filled with the Holy Spirit, has the Son as an advocate, and possesses the forgiveness of the Father.

Interpersonal Relationships

Since relationships hold such a high value to the Triune God, the believer should place a high value on one’s relationship with others. Christ put such a high value on relationships that He stated that the second highest commandment in all the law, after loving God with all one’s being, was that one should “love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:39-40). Unfortunately, Christians, far too often, do not place enough emphasis on relationships. Minor distinctions and interpretations cause Christians to part ways. While it is important to maintain a high level of focus upon proper doctrine, most church splits do not occur over such issues. In fact, this writer knows of a church that split over differences of opinion concerning the brand of toilet paper used in the church’s restrooms. Do such mentalities represent highly valued relationships? Certainly not!

Trinity1

Conclusion

Christianity is about relationships. Theologically, God is demonstrated to be an eternal relationship. Spiritually, an individual enters into a relationship with the eternal God when one accepts Christ. Ethically, a Christian is required to place a high value upon one’s personal relationships with others. Jesus indicated that one would display their faith by demonstrating love to others (John 13:35). The Christian needs to ensure that he or she holds a strong relationship with God and holds strong relationships with those around them. Christian leaders need to understand the Triune relational nature of God and express the need for personal relationships with others.

 Note: This work represents the academic work of Pastor Brian Chilton. The contents of this article have been submitted to the author’s university. Any attempt to improperly use the information found within this article for academic papers without proper citation may result in charges of plagiarism.

Bibliography

 

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009.

Bray, Gerald. The Doctrine of God, Contours of Christian Theology. Downers Grove: IVP, 1993.

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, Foundations of Christian Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Copyright. Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

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[1] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, Foundations of Christian Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 438.

[2] Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God, Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993), 146.

[3] Ibid, 147.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Feinberg, 441.