As a Christian apologist I am haunted by the desire to share what I have learned about the Christian worldview. As someone immersed in this field I am also confronted with the observation of Solomon,
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
In other words everything worth saying about the Christian worldview has been said. I will never write like C.S. Lewis or have the intellectual depth of a William Lane Craig, so what fuels this obsession I have had for almost 20 years? The answer is to be a light to those around me. To put it another way, I believe the role of the apologist is to be a conduit to bring the intellectual depth of the Christian worldview back to the Church and society. A modest goal would be to encourage believers and give skeptics something to think about. Apologetics is not just about answers. It is not about refuting skeptics or detecting logical fallacies. Apologetics is a necessary tool for evangelism but it is not sufficient in and of itself.
Now let’s suppose for a moment that I had the opportunity to sit down with a group of Christians and offer some advice about being a light to those around them. This series of posts is my attempt to offer such advice.
What I want to offer is patterned after Stand To Reason’s concept of a Christian Ambassador. Greg Koukl defines three essential skills for an ambassador; knowledge, wisdom and character. If you imagine evangelism as a stool, these three skills are the legs. Evangelism cannot function without all three. In this post I will address the topic of Character. I will address the other two in subsequent posts.
Koukl writes about character, “Because an ambassador brings himself along in everything he does, his personal maturity and individual virtue will either make or break the message.”
In an earlier series, I wrote the following regarding this topic.
Be Worthy of the Role. This phrase jumped out at me last summer. It came to mind in the context of the priorities in my life after completing my first semester and first residency at Biola. It was quite clear to me that Biola was going to develop my mind, my intellect to serve, but what was I doing about my soul, my day-to-day, moment-to-moment contact with God?
This humbling realization brought a new urgency to the time I spend in prayer. Since I am not expert or even a journeyman when it comes to spiritual disciplines, I will not offer anything from my life as a to how one might approach this topic. It is simply my contention that one must put daily effort into their spiritual life. The consequences of focusing only on the intellect can be seen in the following passages.
Chapter 3 of James, which addresses the power for of the tongue for good and evil opens with a warning that not everyone should be a teacher because, “we who teach will be judged more strictly.” The responsibility for someone who wants to teach is not only to be well informed and humble in their role, but to also be aware of the organ you may use the most, your tongue.
The opening verses of First Corinthians 13 are significant in that knowledge and spiritual gifts are meaningless if one does not have love. It is my prayer that whatever knowledge or communication skills I gain would always be used to proclaim truth. Saving someone from the consequences of a lie is, I believe, the highest calling to which anyone can aspire.
One of the evidences that the Gospel has transformed a person is their changed attitude toward those around them. There is a desire to tell others about what has been done for you, to make the wonderful gift known to others. Another, sometimes competing evidence, is a change in attitude towards the ideas in the world that reject, even denigrate God. Perhaps the most difficult tension for any apologist is to demonstrate the love of Christ for a person while contending with the lies that person may believe about Christ.
When confronting the rants, accusations, and contempt of skeptics (especially on the Internet), we must keep in mind Christ’s admonition:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45.
As I have been interacting with skeptics and seekers on the web, I have tried to keep this in mind. I try to imagine what it would be like to say whatever I write as if the person was sitting in front of me. I rarely hit “send” after my first draft of any response.
Finally, our concern about our character cannot be limited to our attitude toward the skeptic. The life of a follower of Christ must reflect a desire to be holy in every aspect of life. This does not mean we are or even pretend to be perfect. Rather, as Paul laments in Romans 7:14-25, there is a perpetual struggle with the remnants of the sin nature. Our desire to please God with our obedience while being honest with our struggles will demonstrate an integrity and virtue that is attractive to others.
In the next post, I will address the second leg of the stool, Wisdom.