May 19, 2017
If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2, ESV)
Perhaps the greatest damage that can be done in our efforts as Christians to “defend the faith” is to do so with a spirit of pride. More arguments are lost by arrogance in our attitudes than by errors in our reasoning! Our apologetics must be humble because the God we serve is humble. He comes to us revealing truth, not in paternalistic condescension, but rather in the form of a peasant carpenter from Nazareth. With God, truth is not a pill we are forced to swallow but rather a journey we are invited to take. Our intellectual defense of the faith must be humble in at least three respects:1
EPISTEMOLOGICALLY HUMBLE. Don’t let the big word scare you. Epistemology is that branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge. Christians should be first in line of those who humbly acknowledge all that they don’t know. It takes great wisdom to know how ignorant we really are! Our understanding of human sinfulness should alert us constantly to the reality of how partial, distorted and biased human thinking is...even at its best. The apostle Paul, writing under divine inspiration(!), frankly acknowledged that “...now we see in a mirror dimly...” (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV). Rather than pretending we know all truth, we should humbly acknowledge that we know the One who does!
RHETORICALLY HUMBLE. In our conversations and debates with others, we must avoid any tone that conveys triumphalism or the assumption that “any idiot ought to submit to the strength of this argument.” Rather, we should constantly show that we too are learners and we respect the intelligence and moral integrity of those with whom we differ. While our arguments will hopefully help to make faith plausible or even possible for someone, we should never assume that they make the outcome inescapable. God has chosen to order our universe in a way that faith is an option...not a foregone conclusion. D.T. Niles said it so well when he stated that “evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”
SPIRITUALLY HUMBLE. Those who take seriously the mandate to take our faith into the public arena and debate the issues there know first-hand that only God can do the work of drawing our neighbors to the truth. Only God can open eyes that are blind and thaw the heart that is cold. We are merely channels. The point is not to prove my point but to exalt the One who called Himself the Truth (John 14:6) and who sends His Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV).
So why engage in apologetics? Because we love the Truth and we love our neighbors. Furthermore, we are convinced that if God can speak through a donkey (Numbers 22:27-34) he might just be able to speak through me. Hee haw!
1The idea for this three-point outline comes from, Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. (Oxford University Press, 2002). See especially his final chapter (pp. 227-232).