Can a person be a committed Christian while ignoring apologetics?

Ratio Christi event at Ohio State University featuring Frank Turek
Ratio Christi event at Ohio State University featuring Frank Turek

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? If a Christian is smart enough to know how to get a degree and how to hold down a job, then that intelligence should also be used to defend God’s reputation when it is called into question. I don’t see how it is possible to claim that you love God, but then not apply your mind to defending him when you apply your mind to other things like education and work.

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

  1. Well said – I was reading Jude 1:3 this morning and it reminds us we have to “contend for the faith”… so much lately being put out by so-called Christians that is unbiblical and dangerous, we need to take a stand in truth and love. I will say, I think a huge reason people don’t speak up is because when they do, even in a respectful way, they are hammered with the “who are you to judge me you big hateful bully” spiel and it hits a dead end. People do not want to hear the truth, but for sure that doesn’t mean we should stop speaking it. Thanks for posting!

  2. “She reads the Bible and prays every night, because it helps her to get sleepy before bed.”

    (giggles)

    Look, WK, the Church won’t even talk about abortion much, and that is the easiest topic to develop apologetics skills in. It is a slam dunk debate – all of the science, logic, technology, and philosophy are on the pro-life side and have been for decades. If the Church is not going to work at that, how will she work at tougher questions – Kalam, fine-tuning, anthropology, moral argument, etc?

    American churches are playing at Christianity, not living it out. And, I do not mean to paint with a broad brush – many churches are living it out, but they are a minority. Our churches in no way resemble those on the Book of Acts. We Christians do not care if the atheist next door goes to Hell, and we do not care if the unsaved pro-abort in the pew next to us does either.

    And, I am guilty myself of this – way too guilty.

  3. Hmm, in the given example of the office environment I think the issue is about more than head knowledge, alas. Most of us aren’t very good at thinking on our feet, much less intervening in a private conversation we’ve been eavesdropping on. It is difficult to say the least. Then there is the added problem of worrying that your intervention will actually come out wrong in the heat of the moment; thus confirming every prejudice that Alice and Bob have ever had. Either making factual mistakes or perhaps not being as winsome or calm as one should be (we’ve all been there!). In practice, apologetics is definitely complicated and there are many reasons why folks feel uncomfortable engaging others, even if one has reasonable competence with some counter-arguments.

    Having said that, you’re absolutely correct that even a basic knowledge of skeptical arguments and where they fail is pretty much essential for the average Christian. It will become increasingly so as we become further marginalised in our respective societies.

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