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.

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

  1. I try to avoid apologetics because it doesn’t convince anyone, especially in today’s world of canned talking points.
    If someone asks why I believe something I answer as honestly as I can.
    At best apologetics can remove intellectual obstacles for someone who already wants to believe.

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  2. I typically try to keep religion out of the workplace, if anything because there is not often time to really delve into it properly. That being said, I work many times in the oil fields, so we are constantly moving, while in my office I work with my family and we are all christians anyway. This doesn’t mean, however, that I won’t try to plant seeds while working with others. In the above example I might ask a few probing questions or at least a couple of questions that might prompt someone to come back to me for clarification or discussion. Over the past few years I have been of the mind that planting those kinds of seeds, ones that make people SEEK answers rather than just blasting them with, “Well you’re wrong, let me tell you why”, will often provide better results. The person you are trying to talk to doesn’t get offended and storm off, it maintains relationships that are on good terms and it gives others the feeling that, if they do have further questions, they can reach out to you. Its a slow process. Maybe slower than we would like, since we don’t know if anyone will be here tomorrow, but particularly in the modern age, people don’t like discussion about religion and many people have it in their mind that christians are all that religions nut they see on TV shows or hear about in documentaries about cults.

    One should speak up, but one should use wisdom in doing so. Care and subtlety can be our friends.

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      1. And everyone loves food!

        I’ve just changed my goal from “proselytize” to “draw in”. Most people are generally more receiving of having their questions answered than being told what to think, even when its the truth they are confronted with. It gives them time to mull things over and ask intelligent, real questions, and consider what was said.

        In the given example the lady could chime in with, “That’s wrong. God created the universe.”, which might generate enmity. Instead I would have her ask, “How are those points any different than, ‘God made the universe’? No one observed either one and both concepts require faith in what has been said.”, then go from there. They might have a response which could then be followed up with, “Interesting. Lets talk about it over lunch.” No enmity, and some generated interest in another view, or, the more common view, that the biblical account of creation is THE account of creation. Maybe not so much the common view in the modern age, but still widely considered.

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  3. I found your description of *Eve* particularly harsh. She “thinks she’s a Christian”? And because she doesn’t jump into the conversation .at work with both feet, despite all of her commitment to things of the faith as you describe them, she is suddenly not a Christian?

    I believe you have the gift of apologetics, and that is a wonderful thing that you are very good at and very passionate about. However, and Scripture is crystal clear on this, we are not all called to the same thing. Yes, we are all called to share our faith, but not everyone is equipped to do that in the same way or to the same types of people. Peter, for instance, was called to the Jews; Paul to the Gentiles.

    You are called to intellectually defend the faith with rigor against those who would dismiss it on intellectual grounds. Maybe that’s not where God called Eve to share?

    My late father, on the other hand, wouldn’t even be able to articulate clearly what the word apologetics meant, not really. But he studied his Bible for hours every day, prayed fervently, spent his retirement years feeding the hungry and visiting the shut-in. He shared his faith with people who crossed his path, and he did so without apology. And he wouldn’t have had a clue what to do in a situation such as you described.

    Everyone has their sphere, we are many members within one body.

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    1. Eve invests her intellect in the things that matter to Eve. She thinks of Christianity as something for her benefit. She won’t use her intellect to defend Christianiry, because she thinks that the job of Christianity is to serve her. That’s the problem. People who think that Christianity is for their benefit. Nobody studies apologetics to help themselves, the do it to help God and follow 1 Peter 3:15.

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      1. I think it’s more likely that, given the trajectory of Christian teaching in the American church, Eve has probably never (NE.VER.) been taught that her faith has any connection to her intellectual life. Most people see Christianity through the lens of feelings.

        People know what they are taught.

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        1. She hears people making claims that challenge Christianity. She has intellectual ability. She invests her time and effort in things that help her – her education, her career, her finances, her health. It’s a deliberate choice to make her life about herself and let God’s reputation be tarnished. Christianity is understood not as a relationship with the Lord Jesus, but more like taking a toy out of the to box to play with before putting it back. It’s about me and my feelings. Having tough conversations with people isnt fun, and that’s why she has an understanding of Christianity that remives anything that she does not feel like doing.

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  4. The biggest thing I hear from people who attend my apologetics/evangelism classes is “I feel like I don’t know enough.” That coupled with “I never knew this kind of apologetics material existed.”
    My primary goal in everything I teach is to at least raise awareness that there are good answers to personal doubts and public challenges to Christianity. Once I’ve “lit the fuse” so to speak then I find Christians become more bold in their witness. Just recently I taught “Share Jesus Without Fear” by William Fey and someone in the class took that bold step to share the gospel with their friend and that person committed their life to Christ. I also emphasize to fellow believers to simply start with the gospel and then worry about objections as they arise.
    My suggestion for Eve is she needs a loving committed Christian in her sphere of influence to ask her about whether or not see is aware of the voluminous amount of material that justifies Christian belief and if not then is she willing to learn it to be a better witness for Christ in the work place? In other words Eve needs a person to lovingly prompt her to do this and maybe she will.

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    1. I believe more knowledge is ideal, as we see through the example of Paul, but I don’t think people NEED knowledge like that to adequately defend the faith. I would say that throughout human history the majority of believers did find defending the faith without the benefit of extra knowledge simply through the fact that it was not widely available. Does it help? When speaking with certain people, yes. Again we see Paul at the Aeropagus displaying his knowledge of Greek culture (and science, I have no doubt) because of his target audience. Against certain people deep apologetics may be necessary, but I think it was also Paul who said that some plant seeds that others water, and that those who plant seeds may never see the fruits of their planting. Those without deep apologetic knowledge still have a vital role to play in that they can plant seeds in non-believers, even those who are well educated and full of knowledge, through simple discussion and exposition of scripture. Modern christians, and likely christians all throughout history, seem to feel they either dont have enough faith or knowledge to deliver the message, but that’s where the spirit of God kicks in, and delivers something THROUGH us. Again, we might not see someone go through a conversion right then and there, but twenty years down the road we may find that same person, forgiven and saved, and partly in thanks to those seeds we planted so long ago, that others have watered and tended to.

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  5. It is good to show that atheism has more unanswered questions than the couple of claimed issues to our faith.

    I will nicely point out to a person that if the premise of atheism is wrong and there is a God all their naturalist theories start to fail, because an eternal universe, multiverse, abiogenesis are all propped up by assuming atheism is true.

    I will just ask if you are so closed minded as to not even investigate the possibility there is a God. Because honest study of the past means looking at all options even ones we don’t like

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  6. There is a very simple explanation to your question, WK, and I know this because I stand in front of churches every Sunday calling them to repentance for their apathy and cowardice in the face of the Abortion Holocaust.

    Most Americans who profess Christ are not born again. That number could be as high as 95%, on average, of those who attend church on a regular basis. They have been sold so many false “gospels” you would not believe it – I have heard them all in front of “good Biblical churches!”

    Many of these people know the Bible inside and out, yet fail to be doers of the Word. There is no Holy Spirit, no regeneration, and if there is justification, there is almost no sanctification.

    I could point to studies, but all you have to do is ask yourself if the 200 million in America who profess Christ were truly born again, how could mass abortion, the Alphabet Mafia, transgendering children, Drag Queen Story Hour pedophilia grooming, and the Democratic Party even exist?!?

    All of these abominations exist because there is so little salt and light, very few Christians to stand up to these kinds of evil which God has destroyed nations over. They aren’t going to put the hard work in for apologetics either.

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