We have a few more days before the beginning of the Apologetics Awareness Week (Sept 10-17). Be sure to check out your local LifeWay stores to find if and when there will be a workshop during the week. The Tuesday event is a workshop that will be held by a staff member of the LifeWay store walking the participants through the free Apologetics workbook. Make sure that if you have thought of learning about apologetics, these events might be a good activity to whet your appetite.
In this post, I want to share with you about four (4) things that apologetics cannot do. Let’s address them and get to the real issue. Tomorrow’s post will be on the things that apologetics can do as we wrap up the week of posts.
1. Apologetics cannot make someone or force someone to believe the truth claims of the Christian faith. The Inquisitions tried this back in the day. Other atheistic regimes try to brainwash people into unbelief and cult leaders try to brainwash their converts to believe the leader or the organization.
However there is a problem. A loving God allows the freedom to believe or not believe, and brings His Holy Spirit in to convince, convict, and draw a person to freely accept the truth. The Holy Spirit has to be involved in your polemic (defense) or encouragement. Anything beyond that is unloving and a violation of the will. If the Holy Spirit is not involved in your apologetic, then it is your apologetic and your prowess and not the wisdom of God that you are working in.
2. Apologetics cannot settle the issues of faith or theology. While there may be some aspects of theology involved in apologetics (theological apologetics), those issues have to be settled within the heart and the mind. The truths of theology are true, but once again it is the Holy Spirit that settles these issues in the heart and the mind of the individual.
3. Apologetics also cannot change someone’s heart. Do you see a common variable here? It is the Holy Spirit that convinces, draws and woos the person to “believing in” the truth claims of the Christian faith. When I was skeptical of the Christian faith, I had to open to looking at the evidence. The Holy Spirit was working even in those moments and like “the Hound of Heaven” nipping at my heels, He worked things in a manner where I would attend a gospel concert in Brockton, MA. It was a there that He “flipped the switch” from my unbelief to belief.
What did apologetics do or how did the Holy Spirit use the evidence. Apologetics softened the hardened and stoney ground of my heart to where the gospel could penetrate and bring me faith in what was accomplished at the cross by Jesus Christ and His resurrection.
4. Apologetics cannot give you 100% certainty that the Christian faith is true. Contrary to popular belief, many Christians believe that they have absolute certainty that Christian faith is true. But if you ask them for evidence why their faith is true, they revert to giving your their personal testimony.
That is not 100% proof. Experiences as a truth claim are subject, and in comparing one experience of the one of another only creates a debate on who’s experience is truer then the other.
If we had 100% surety that the Christian faith were true, there would be no room for faith. The question is whether that faith is a type of “faith that” Christianity is true or if it is a “faith in” kind of faith that Christianity is true.
My faith is a “faith in” kind of faith. In closing let me share with you an illustration:
Not too long ago, a lady in my church was complimenting me about how much I knew about the truth of the resurrection, the Bible, Christ, science and faith and other things. This caused me to figure out where she was going with this because I don’t think I am all that smart. However the reason she brought this up was she was concerned that I might be all “heady” and leaving no room for faith.
After thanking her for her compliment, I told her that sometimes knowing what I know might is just a tool for sharing with folks who have roadblocks in believing in Christ. Then I assured her that her worry was a good reminder but no need to worry. Here’s why. If you take away all the knowledge that I have about underlying facts that validate the Christian faith. If you take all that away, do you know what I am left with? I am left with the childlike faith that Jesus tells us that we need to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:2).
This is what I call, taking a page from my friend J. Warner Wallace, having an evidential faith. What kind of faith will you choose to have after this Apologetics Awareness Week? I pray that it will launch you into the wonderful adventure of investigating the truth claims so that you can go out and give our skeptical culture Heaven.