Can a person be a committed Christian while ignoring apologetics?

I would like to describe a situation that arises frequently that concerns me. The situation I describe below brings out a flaw I see in the way that rank-and-file Christians respond to criticisms of Christianity in the public square.

Here is the situation

Eve is busy programming away at her desk, rushing to check in her unit tests so she can spend her lunch hour reading the latest Stephenie Meyer novel, or check on the schedule for her local sports team, “the Vicariouses” (she has tickets for Thursday). Suddenly Eve hears Alice talking to Bob on the other side of her cubicle. She stops typing to listen to the following unencrypted conversation.

Alice: I was watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel last night that said that the universe has always existed, so there is no God!

Bob: I was watching a documentary on PBS last night showing simulations of how the first life started on Earth! God didn’t do it!

Alice: I saw “Inherit the Spin” on the weekend! The only reason people oppose evolution is because of the Bible! Not because of science!

Bob: I’m going to see “The Va Dinci Code” this weekend! It says that the Gospels are unreliable and that Jesus didn’t even die on the cross!

Alice: I just bought the latest Dichard Rawkins book “Christians Should Be Fed to Lions and the Bible Should Be Burned”!

Bob: I will read that as soon as I finish Histopher Chritchens’ book “Why God is the Evilest, Stupidest Person in the World”!

Eve double-majored in business and computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology, and has an MBA from the London School of Economics. She has spent a ton of time, effort and money studying very difficult subjects for her job, and she even publishes research papers. She works full-time and runs her own business part-time, and teaches night classes for a well-known university. She earns about 200K per year. She lives in a huge house, drives an expensive car, and goes on vacation abroad to all the best vacation spots.

Eve thinks she is a Christian. She has attended church since childhood, her husband is a church elder and she sings in the church choir. She reads the Bible and prays every night, because it helps her to get sleepy before bed. She gives lots of money to the poor. She teaches Sunday school to very small children.  She has even read all of the Narnia novels five times! She even has a calendar filled with nature scenes and itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny Bible verses posted on her office wall at work! Judging from all of these facts, you might expect Eve to get in on that conversation with Alice and Bob, and set them straight.

But she won’t. Why not?

Why won’t Eve stand?

I am wondering if anyone can explain to me why it is that most church Christians are not able or not willing to make a public defense when God’s reputation is called into question. It seems to me that there are two bad effects that follow from Eve’s unwillingness to stand up and invite Alice and Bob to lunch so that she can address their questions and concerns.

  1. God’s reputation is being trashed by Alice and Bob on the basis of lies they’ve swallowed from pop culture. These lies about God’s existence and character could be easily corrected with a minimal amount of study, which Eve is capable of – she is a genius and has amazing entrepreneurial skills.  If someone said similar lies about her husband or children, she would speak up, but she won’t speak up for God.
  2. Alice and Bob are bound for Hell unless someone cares enough to correct their mistaken beliefs, which, along with their sinfulness, is what is keeping them from a relationship with God that would go on in Heaven. If Eve’s husband or children were mistakenly about to drink poison thinking it was Aspirin, then Eve would speak up. But to save her co-workers from Hell, she won’t speak up.

Eve is capable of studying to defend the faith, because of her great success in other areas where so much time and effort were required to master difficult material. So why has she not applied herself to answering public challenges to her Christian faith from her professors, teachers, actors, the media, politicians, scientists, historians, etc.? She’s heard these questions about God’s existence and character all through high school and into university and then now in her career. Doesn’t she believe the Bible when it says to prepare a defense? Doesn’t she believe the Bible when it says to acknowledge God before men? Doesn’t she believe the Bible when it says that all authentic believers in Jesus will suffer a little for their faith?

It seems to me that if she did spend some time studying, and then made her defense to her co-workers, then two good things would follow:

  1. Eve would be demonstrating her love for God and her friendship with God by protecting his reputation when it is called into question by unbelievers in public settings. That’s what friends do – if Eve wanted to be God’s friend, she would care that no one believed lies about him and told lies about him in public settings.
  2. Eve would be demonstrating her love for her neighbor if she was able to correct some of these false beliefs, such as that the universe is eternal, or that a historical case cannot be made for the resurrection, or that evil is not compatible with theism. It’s important for Alice and Bob to know that Christianity is not stupid.

So why is it that Eve is able to go to church for 20 years, sing in the choir, read the Bible, read the Narnia stories, pray on her knees, and yet still be unwilling to do the best thing for God and the best thing for her neighbor?

Questions for my readers

Can anyone help me to understand why Christians are willing to accept this? Why is this not being addressed by churches?

Do you have an experience where a Christian group stifled apologetics? Tell me about that, and why do you think they would do that, in view of the situation I outlined above? My experience is that atheists (as much as I tease them) are FAR more interested in apologetics than church Christians – they are the ones who borrow books and debates, and try to get their atheist wives to go to church after they becomes interested in going to church. Why is that?

I’m not saying we all have to be geniuses. I am just saying that we should put as much effort into learning apologetics as we put into learning school stuff and work stuff.

Note: I picked these names because there is a running gag in computer network security where these names are used to describe the actors. Eve is the eavesdropping hacker, get it?

 

11 thoughts on “Can a person be a committed Christian while ignoring apologetics?”

  1. The two biggest reasons I’ve seen Christians skimp on apologetics are (1) to get along and (2) to save time. It doesn’t take a ton of time to know the basics, but that is still more than no time at all and it is really easy to get along with people when you never counter anything they say with something substantial.

    The result is that the Gospel, as far as many Christians are concerned, is the safest and most agreeable message in history, and no one – no matter how involved in evil or in any of the incoherent crusades of our age – is in the slightest bit challenged with something they disagree with.

    I’ve even seen self-professed Christians make public statements in total contradiction to basic Christian doctrine (usually sexual in nature) and then have other Christians respond with “I support you! I’m so happy for you!” I think it is simply easier and safer to change the Gospel to be exactly what the world is advocating. People say nice things about you. You feel accepted by a lot of people, and you never have to worry (so you think) that someone will get angry with you.

    I think this sort of thing has gone on since Jesus first called the disciples; people want to follow Jesus in the moment, but once they realize just how big of a deal that is, they lose their enthusiasm.

    1. Yeah, what you describe is the “gospel” of feel-goodism, sometimes called the “gospel” of grace-without-truth. I am being shunned by Christians who should know better merely for pointing out that abortion falls outside of Biblical orthopraxy. (Yes, I am even managing to do it gracefully – by God only, but I am beginning to see that a “Shame on you for not defending the unborn!” has better results.) These are people at the pastor level, for Heaven’s sake!

      So, to your question: “Why won’t Eve stand?” Because, if she does, she will end up like the lonely WGC typing away on his keyboard to people he doesn’t know at 10:30 pm. :-) I serve an audience of One – literally! :-) but, I take comfort when I realize that I have it a million times better than those in the persecuted Church around the world.

  2. In my personal experience, I can point to 2 reasons: lack of need and ignorance.

    1) lack of need. I grew up in a family deeply commited to faith. It was part cultural (my Polish cultural history cannot be seperated from Catholicism), part experience (my parents survived WWII and had personal experiences that deepened their commitment to God), part community (pretty much everyone around us was some form of Christian). There were very few people who were atheist, and of those that were, it simply wasn’t an issue. They didn’t mock believers, and believers didn’t mock them. It’s not that we didn’t talk about religion, but when we did, it was respectful. I still remember a sleepover I had when I was about 13 years old. In my group of friends was myself (raised Catholic), a friend who had fairly recently chosen to be baptised Catholic, a Jehovah’s Witness who was raised JW but nominally so until high school, when she became very active and devout (she still is and has travelled around the world in missions), a friend who was raised atheist, with no real exposure to religion and a friend who was raised… I’d have to say agnostic. They didn’t go to church, but her family didn’t seem to reject religious beliefs entirely. We were up pretty much all night, talking about God and Jesus. The only person who didn’t talk much was the one raised atheist, and when we commented on that, she told us she had never heard any of this before, so she had nothing to say or add, but was enjoying listening us.

    Simply put, the scenerio you described didn’t happen.

    2) ignorance. Maybe it was because of where I grew up, but apologetics was something I’d never heard of until a few years ago. The first time I’d experienced anything of the sort, it was at a time my family had moved back to my home town again, and my mother signed me up for an Alpha Course our church was having (I was no longer Catholic by then, but had already passed through my flirtation with atheism and agnosticism; my Christian faith was stronger than in my past, but I was very disenchanted with church in general, for various reasons). This was over 15 years ago, and the first time I’d encountered any discussion about the hard evidence for Jesus, his crucifiction, resurrection and the archeological evidence for the accuracy of New Testement writings. I don’t recall the word “apologetics” ever being used.

    It wasn’t until some years later, I began to encounter active attacks on Christianity by atheists (interestingly, it was all on a Canadian home school email list that made a big deal about being open to people of all faiths, philosophies, etc.; the one active moderator was quick to enforce the rules about not attacking anyone for their religious beliefs *except* when Christians were being attacked, at which point she was often a participant. Also, Christians couldn’t talk about their faith on the list without being warned not to proselytize on the list, while people of other religions (especially paganism) were able to freely talk about their beliefs. She didn’t handle it well when that double standard was pointed out, and would instead attack Christians even more for not being tolerant of other people’s beliefs).

    It was my own daughter’s questions and journey of faith (she was a staunch atheist at one point, at about 10-13 years of age), and it was her exploration of evolution that actually lead us to the path of evidence for Christianity. During this time, I did stand up to the anti-Christians on the homeschool list, using apologetics without yet knowing there was such a thing. In return, I was attacked and mocked personally for it. It wasn’t the only area on the list that I got attacked for; it was no different than disagreeing with anthropogenic global warming and other “environmental” positions, being conservative, being pro-life, etc.

    I finally left the list. For a group that claimed to be open and tolerant to all, it was very intolerant of anyone who didn’t follow the usual progressive garbage. Atheism itself was just one part of a much larger picture.

    So for the first part, I was a committed Christian without apologetics because there was *no need* for apologetics in my environment until fairly recently, and I didn’t engage in it because I was ignorant of its existance.

    Over the years, I delved into the evidence for Christianity out of personal interest, which lead me to apologetics, and it has deepened my faith in tangible ways, but it didn’t make me “more” or “less” committed to Christianity. It just made me better able to speak knowledgably about it when I did start to encounter more people actively attacking Christianity (they would often make side comments about how all religions were equally wrong, but it was only Christianity that they actively attacked).

    1. Splendid story – thank you for sharing, Kunoichi! Mine is a bit of a reverse experience: I stumbled on apologetics and this convinced me that the Bible was potentially true, in an objective sense. I then began a serious investigation of the Bible and found that it confirmed the apologetics perfectly while also fully explaining my life before and after I became a Christian. Because of this, apologetics has significantly strengthened my faith and made me much more committed to Christianity. (But, I was raised a post-modern agnostic with atheistic leanings, so that surely explains my reverse experience.)

      1. Yes, it strengthened mine, as well. While I was committed before, I knew I didn’t have answers, and it lead to me saying and doing things I now am ashamed about, they were so ignorant.
        One thing apologetics has definitely done is given me a spine. *L*

  3. I grew up in a Christian home with a pastor for a dad. My parents weren’t necessarily opposed to evidence for Christianity, but they hadn’t studied apologetics either. I didn’t have reasons for my faith (other than “this is what the Bible says”) until age 14 when I attended a Ken Ham seminar. It wasn’t so much the seminar itself, but the idea that there was evidence out there that verified the Bible that caught my attention.

    Up until that time, I doubted evolution simply because the Bible didn’t agree with it and because my parents doubted much of “science” (e.g. the existence of dinosaurs) because they thought it contradicted the Bible. But attending the seminar, all the sudden, the Bible became more than just a book we believe in and became a real history that could be verified by science, archaeology, and secular history. And I didn’t have to be afraid of science, as if it were contradictory to the Bible, but could embrace it.

    I had always been interested in science, especially geology and biology. Staring at about age 6, I read every book on animals or rocks I could find. At 14, I was just starting to get to the age where I was questioning how all of this fit together and needing to find my own set of beliefs that didn’t depend on what my parents told me. The idea of external evidence for the Bible at that crucial time started me into apologetics. I even wrote several articles on creation and started my own small website which, thankfully, is now long gone since I shudder to think of my naïve teenage writings being out there for anyone to see. Eventually, my interest in science and apologetics led to a degree in biology.

    I wonder, sometimes, what would have happened to my faith without apologetics. I fear I would have been a statistic who left the church because I couldn’t believe in the Bible without evidence. I understand, more than most, how important it is to have evidence for our faith and to be prepared to defend it with external evidence.

  4. I have pondered this question from a different angle because I experienced the character and financial destruction that accompanies persecution. All done by nice conservative, church attending people who believed the credentials of an “expert” over their own multi-year work relationship with me. Plus, never they never considered the scriptural concept of teaching a child something OBJECTIVELY WRONG – the elimination of the student’s conscience – and therefore NOT in his long-term best interest.

    So, my thought is from the other end of the spectrum of Christ’s command – that we love one another as we love ourselves.

    It’s the fruit inspection end of Jesus’ Command process. A committed Christian who does not exhibit love for his neighbor as he would expect for himself doesn’t know God, which makes the first part of the command a moot point. Committed Christian self-identification or not.

    Our culture is descending into irrational nonsense at a rapid pace since the President announced we were no longer a Christian nation. Persecution is running amok as personal democracy – What I think is true, is true and what I think is “not true” has no reason for existence – is replacing objective truth and morality. Look at the news crawls – Do you for one second think the Pope is really considering rethinking the Church’s stand on divorce or homosexuality?? Uuuhhh, No! So, the news is only saying what they THINK the Pope should be doing….and calling that news (objective truth) This irrational news coverage dominates even the local news which is made up of…just like our local public school —- of those same “committed Christians that fill the mega churches on every corner! For crying out loud, Paula Deen was destroyed for ex post facto crimes of language judged according to today’s standards….THIS IS WHAT A POST-CHRISTIAN NATION LOOKS LIKE.

    I have more in common with a Chinese Christian or any Christian living in an oppressive land than I do with “committed Christians” here in the US.

    Because, from behind the persecution barbed wire it looks like the majority of American “committed Christians” believe that when it is THEIR self-interest that is in the crosshairs of personal democracy…JESUS WILL COME….and they won’t have to deal with the character destruction and POVERTY that occurs! Don’t tell me you love me…and be indifferent to my situation, to think I’m my own enemy, my own destruction…just asking for it…by opening my mouth to question the “expert” “Are you sure we are doing what’s right for the long-term well-being of the student??”

    And there you see the hostility to God response that declared me a threat not only to my student, but to the entire campus!! Because…and every one ‘knows” this…even as they work down at the local public school campus —that public school is the most ungodly exercise of “compassion” that is producing the very irrational culture we are now scared to live in. hello??

    So, I’m in total agreement with your question can a “committed Christian” be apathetic about apologetics? That is like saying, Can I claim to serve God and be silent when people lie about Him? What kind of friend is that?? A back-stabbing peer pressured weasel of lies and deceit….And who are they fooling?? only THEMSELVES…because God, and the persecuted can see straight into their wicked heart.

    Thanks for listening to my little rant. My husband and I read your blog quite regularly and have enjoyed the conversations produced…grin! We also pass on posts to friends.

    Always Liberty!
    Nancy Coppock

    1. Amen, Nancy! And is there any more faithful follower of Christ than the Chinese house church Christian? The more I read books like The Heavenly Man, These are the Generations, God’s Smuggler, Secret Believers, etc, the less I desire to step inside of an American church.

      1. Thanks!, but really I just want to be a free full-fledged member of acceptable society right here in America…because I remember it as it was meant to be a place of Christian freedom. The poverty of being identified – “certified thought criminal” from an actual test that asked: Did Jesus walk on water? Yes or No…with the understanding that if I get the answer “wrong”, I’m headed for the mental hospital…do not pass go…do not receive $200.00. All this to shut up the thinking of the one person on that campus of which NO ONE wanted to know her thoughts. A real mind bender IF one possesses a conscience.

        And where is my dear student now? The emotionally disturbed student who felt intense emotional guilt for having done something really heinous to someone he greatly admired…even loved..told at 15 by a tax-payer funded psychologist not to listen to that conscience and those feelings of guilt…that they would go away…[sociopaths are created this way] My student is now serving a 75 year prison sentence in the Texas Prison Sentence…he finally went “too far”…robbing a Western Union, shooting a guy in the leg, car chase with police and finally a gun fight with police….yep…he FINALLY went too far…and the whip really comes down hard after all that phony compassion has been used up….uuuuhhh What does Proverbs say: spare the rod, spoil the child. ?? Train up a child in the way he should go and when older he will not depart from it? Oh, my dear young people, see the effects of phony compassion…of YOUR personal tax debt being used to inflict unconscionable things on innocent children!! I cry mercy for that poor man now trapped in a prison cell for the rest of his life. I pray for his salvation so that his heart can at last be FREE!

        So my greater point to our question about committed Christians knowing apologetics, please follow through and see that the point of that knowledge of God is to apply it into godly love for our neighbor…via a vote…our mouth of what we will tolerate or not tolerate…the gulag is going to engulf all you young people. The secular world is not neutral and the object of Satan is to eliminate God.

        I’ve already recognized plenty of Eve’s within the local church. Whether they keep their mouths shut out of ignorance, indifference, or they don’t really know God…is of zero consequence to the already trapped thought criminal now living behind the barbed wire of acceptable society. Eve ain’t going to open the barbed wire fence to free anyone. Nor is she going to stop the insanity that compassions kids all the way to destruction – WITH YOUR TAX CONTRIBUTION!

        However, dear young people, if your apologetics doesn’t drive to you VOTE for godly principles…to DEMAND the return of objective truth and morality…then you don’t really love yourselves or love other persecuted brothers and sisters right here in your own neighborhood.

        I think of a scene I saw in all the WWII 75 year celebration of D-Day and the most memorable thing was this French woman touching and blessing this now old man. The story was I think set in St. MaryEglise and all the French villagers were cowering in their basements during the invasion. They hear the basement door open and hear the boots clunking down the stairs…with each step they know if that soldier is a German, they are dead. Period. Piss your pants now..Jesus have mercy on my soul. BUT, the guy coming down the stairs was some KID – 17 years old from some corn growing state in the midwest. That was who the old woman was thanking…she was thanking him for saving her from certain death and for all the years of life she had experienced simply because that kid did what he did..she just kept reaching out her hand to touch his arm speaking French…I cried watching that.

        Guys and gals, I cannot beg you enough to see the necessity of love that puts your apologetics into applied action with your vote, and with your defense of those doing right as God declared what was right. Every righteous man or woman that gets attacked by the media then gets hammered by the Eve’s supposedly on the same side. Does love allow that to happen to the righteous before God man??…or are we just a bunch of Job’s friends trying to convince him his situation is of his own making due to some sin we just don’t know about?

        Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

        I see and dream that all this nonsense would stop in the twinkling of an eye were people to actually love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and THEN to love their neighbor as themselves. No real doctor wants to be enslaved by ObamaCare. No real parent wants their children to be guiniea pigs for an education system more interested in hiring every example of the new 5 genders of sexes as employees! No real entrepreneur wants to practice crony-capitalism that puts man in the relationship between God and the individual for providing their needs!

        Get involved in your local constitutional movement…In my own work in my area to bring God back to the public square discussion the Adam’s and Eve’s of this world/church are capable of praying for my health – which is a very bad situation – but one I’m least concerned with because persecution for righteousness sake is of far more consequence to the future of our community….but these so-called committed Christians are only willing to pray for my health…NOT MY MINISTRY…because they see politics as a separate personal sphere in which God has no consequence. Hello? apologists?

        So as the atheists demand we live in a senseless universe…these so-called Christians are perfectly fine to send me to the thought gulag because I thought being coerced into LIVING IN A COMMUNITY WITHOUT OBJECTIVE TRUTH AND MORALITY was to serve Mammon, not God…not my Savior!…The only way I’m getting outta here – the gulag – is if those not yet here.. character and financial destruction – VOTE to STOP THE NONSENSE!

        Our future IS North Korea where we are ruled by petty little despots able to destroy you when they are done with what you have to offer. Why not? Only Christianity gives value to life!! That’s the reality of living in a post-Christian nation. It ain’t pretty. It ain’t prosperous. And it sure as hell ain’t peaceful….and as I warned thinking when it’s YOUR self-interest that’s at stake…that’s when JESUS will RETURN…well, that’s a bit id-centered and a very ignorant American idea of our “specialness” to God. And God should be proud because….we had total liberty to worship Him and serve Him all our days and we chose to worship idols??? Yeah!…Momma always said: God loves YOU Best! aarrrggghhh!!

        Be full in the knowledge of the LORD, and yet never cease to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

        Always Liberty!
        nancy coppock

  5. Kunoichi makes excellent points, and I tend to agree with the diagnosis there. Raised in a Christian (albeit wackadoo version) family, with Christian friends and so forth, my faith was not really challenged until I entered the workforce and found myself working alongside Catholics, agnostics, Hindus, and others. It was then I realized how woefully unprepared I was to defend my faith and speak the truth, despite my natural interest in science (the aforementioned sort, nature and zoology and so forth). Nowadays I often find myself being challenged by hard-core atheists. Our current church actually teaches apologetics to the kids in Sunday School—how I wish my childhood church had done that instead of constantly repeating Bible stories! The children coming from our church will be very well-prepared thanks to this foundation, whereas in my childhood church we were told to “take it all on faith” and “you know that you know that you know”, things some family members still insist upon today—they take various Bible verses out of context and use them as anti-apologetics.
    Another culprit may simply be good old-fashioned short attention spans combined with the desire to continually hit the pleasure center of the brain. Now, learning is fun, and challenging the mind is fun, but many people would rather watch Dancing With The D-List or read…who is Stephanie Meyer? I’m not at all against downtime and entertainment (for instance, I’m reading a Jacques Barzun book right now and while educational, thanks to his skill it’s pretty much pure pleasure) but for many people it has become the be-all and end-all of life. They’re addicted to the easy pleasures and no longer have the desire to gain that sensation via harder work.
    Finally, speaking for myself, I often don’t stand up because the collapse of my health several years ago affected my cognitive abilities and destroyed my memory and memory-making powers (to the point my doctor regularly teases me for forgetting basic things like our ZIP code, my own phone number, and so forth); my mind used to be like a steel trap, and I devastated more than one person in a philosophical or other sort of argument, but those days are unfortunately gone now due to this illness. It’s very frustrating, and one of the reasons I had to stop writing seriously as I’d done for over a decade.
    That said, I’ve just started to enter little “memory cards” with the basics onto a sticky-note app on my phone and really ought to jot one onto a small piece of cardstock for my purse. They sort of jump-start my failing memory and help me ask people the right questions about their media-fed assumptions and share other things I’ve learned with them. It’s a little humiliating, but better than not having the help at all because it’s no longer on the “tip of my brain” as so many things used to be, and they do facilitate the conversation! To me, having to look something up on my memory helps is better than nothing, and if someone is open because they’re curious or because God is working on them, they’re happy to wait. Frankly, if they cannot wait a minute, they may not be seriously interested in the facts anyhow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s