I seem to get into a catch-22 often where nonbelievers tell me I am not intellectual enough, but then I am told by those in the church I make things too complicated. Does anyone else have this problem too? It is frustrating for sure. In this post I want to deal with the church side of things. I will likely address the nonbelievers in a future post.
On September 28, 2010, I wrote a hopeful post about my experience of trying to get apologetics into the church for Apologetics315’s first “How to Get Apologetics in Your Church” series (Link here: http://tinyurl.com/bvwqkls). I thought things would be a little better by now, but they have not gotten that way. However, I am not throwing in the towel, and I will continue to slog away at this. Important things require this kind of work and struggle, even more so when eternity is at stake.
Unfortunately, I find many, if not most, in the church hold to a superficial faith. Most do not seem to take what they believe and why they believe it that seriously. I think at the very least, Christians should be as motivated for the truth as much as others are motivated by their falsehoods. For instance, look at how the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Muslims take their beliefs seriously. If we in the church were as half as zealous about Jesus as they are about their false beliefs, we could turn the world upside down. And this is not just about apologetics either, when many of us take our beliefs less seriously, we take Christian disciplines less seriously too. If we don’t really believe what we believe is really real, we tend to slip on praying, Bible reading, and service to the church and others. So we should treat our faith seriously and realize that God has spoken and makes a claim on all aspects of our lives.
But instead this is not the impression one gets when they try to teach a class on apologetics or bring in something apologetically related into a church group setting. Most often this material is met with blank stares, lack of engagement, and an oblivious attitude. Or you try to arrange a meeting or event outside of the traditional church meeting times and the turnout is dismal, even with lots of announcements, legwork, and trying other days of the week. And then there are the one or two people in a class that are prone to go off on unrelated rabbit trails and take over the discussion to talk about personal pet peeves or some unrelated item of crazy theology, but that is another topic altogether. Or some people may even call you out in front of the others about what you are trying to teach and your reasons for doing so.
What are some causes of this? I think a good deal of it is Western comfort, frankly. Chasing the American Dream of a big house full of stuff, career and family, and one or two nice lengthy vacations per year is taking away greatly from the needs of the church. Secondly, I still think many professing Christians tend to box in their theology and limit it to Sunday, while busying themselves with other things the rest of the week. They may not see the faith as having a serious bearing on all aspects of their life outside the church walls. Another issue is the general “trust and obey” nature of a lot of teaching and preaching of the last twenty or so years (maybe even since the Second Great Awakening) that leads to a very shallow and emotional faith with no engagement with the mind. In this scenario, the Christian faith gets reduced to sound bytes, stories, and feel-good platitudes that end up not really being about what is important. Still another issue is the sometimes warranted but usually overzealous fear of strange teaching, whether it is talking about science, evolution, philosophy, logic, or even something that may appear theologically off at first glance but turns out pretty orthodox upon further study and reflection. And finally it may have to do with people today generally reading less due to so many distractions (television and social media chief among them), including not spending adequate time in God’s Word, let alone reading theology and apologetics books. A confession on my part, I can especially be susceptible to this last issue.
Moreover, so I don’t let myself off the hook, it may also be my presentation of the material. Maybe I should use more illustrations and analogies to bring things down to a personal level. Maybe I should attach it more to Bible verses. Maybe more life application is in order to show how these things are important for everyday life. Or maybe I just need to put myself out there more.
So I offer this post to commiserate with those who are in the same boat as I am, and to garner some advice and input on my experiences. So what do you all think?