Tag Archives: Preparation

Jim Wallace and the case-making Christian

To make a good case, you need to be prepared
To make a good case, you need to be prepared

I found an interesting post by Jim Wallace of Please Convince Me. (H/T The Poached Egg)

Wallace responds to the alarming statistics of Christians abandoning their faith as soon as they get to university, often because of intellectual doubts. He also notes that many young Christians who don’t fall away don’t really have a Biblical worldview at all.

Here’s the problem:

Many students are walking away from Christianity because they no longer believe it is true. In a survey conducted by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton and recorded in their book, “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers” (Oxford University Press, 2005), 32% of former believers said they left because of intellectual skepticism…

The young Christians who were surveyed said that they believed in the existence of a God who created and ordered the world and watches over human life here on earth. They also believe that this God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, (as they claimed the Bible teaches, and as most other world religions also teach). They said that the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. They did not believe that God needed to be involved in one’s life except when He is required to solve a problem, and they said that good people go to heaven when they die. Not much of this version of “Christianity” resonates with the classic, orthodox truth of the Christian Worldview, does it?

And here’s his solution, passionately argued:

When asked what it means to be a Christian, few of us would respond that being a Christian means becoming a ‘defender of the faith’. Most of us shy away from challengers and those who hold opposing beliefs; many of us are uncomfortable with the potential confrontation. But being a Christian demands that we become proficient “case makers”. Think about it for a minute. We would all agree that our salvation does not depend on our ability to defend what we believe. After all, we are saved when we trust Jesus for our salvation and recognize that we are fallen, sinful creatures in need of a Savior. When we recognize that Jesus is God incarnate and paid the penalty that we deserve, we begin to embrace the promise of God to rescue us from ourselves! This trust in Christ as Lord and Savior is what saves us.

But we need to recognize that our Christian life is more than one of trust. It is also a life of knowledge and expression. God has called us to think about what we believe and defend it to those who might challenge us or simply ask questions (more on that HERE). Christian “case makers” who have accepted this challenge are often called “apologists”. The word “apologist” comes from the Greek word “apologia” which simply means “speaking a defense”. The term does have some liability, however, for a couple of reasons. First, the related term, “apology” leaves many with the impression that Christians think they have something to apologize for when they engage in “apologetics”. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Secondly, our present culture has a tendency to view apologists as professional speakers of one kind or another. Even Christians tend to think of apologetics as something to be done by professionals, rather than an important responsibility to be embraced by each and every Christian. It’s time to recognize the fact that all Christians are called to be a Christian “case makers”; the situation couldn’t be more urgent.

[…]There’s a reason why God calls us to worship Him with our minds, understand the value of evidence, examine our beliefs until we are convinced, and then become Christian “case makers” (more on that HERE)! While it is our faith and trust in Christ that saves us, it is our ability to make the case for Christ that protects us and transforms our world. We need to become “case makers” just as Paul was a “tent maker”. “Case making” needs to be a part of our Christian identity, and all of us need to be apologists for the Christian Worldview. We cannot continue to delegate this responsibility to well known apologists and Christian authors. We don’t need one ‘million dollar apologist’; we need a million ‘one dollar apologists’. All of us can be equipped to defend our faith; it doesn’t require a master’s degree in apologetics; it doesn’t require a library full of books, or a radio show, or a podcast. It simply requires the personal commitment to learn the truth and defend it to others.

This article is pretty long, but it has a lot of information based on his experience as a cold case police detective.

Here’s a snippet that should get you to read the whole thing:

Call Witnesses Selectively

Once the Opening Statements have been made, it’s time to begin presenting the evidence to the jury. Much of this evidence will simply be the testimony of important expert witnesses. The attorneys have to select these witnesses carefully and judiciously. Each case is different and will require specific types of experts. Some cases require DNA experts, others require experts in material evidence; some cases require coroners or doctors, others require weapons specialists. The attorneys have the burden of deciding which types of experts will be needed to best make the case.

As a Christian…

I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. While I may be very familiar with the scientific or philosophical work that has been done on a particular topic, I have to be careful not to overload the conversation with the opinions of too many “expert witnesses”. I have to be specific and targeted in the way that I bring experts into the conversation. I also need to be well versed in the work that these experts have done so that I can accurately quote them.

A “Case Making” Tip:

Become a specialist. It’s important to have a broad understanding of a number of apologetic issues, but I know there are some places where I am weak, and some places where I am stronger. I try to focus on those areas that are off special interest to me and it’s in these areas that I am most familiar with the experts in the field. See yourself as the foreman on a jury. You and I don’t have to BE expert witnesses; we simply need to be able to reiterate what the expert witnesses have said once we get back in the jury room with the other jurors.

This is point #3 in his list of 7 points. He’s basically saying that you have to be able to represent the work of the experts intelligently, instead of just reading what they’ve written out loud, which could take forever. You need to read the experts, and then support your case with relevant quotes from the experts, showing how they support arguments that you understand – because you made them. And this preparation and specialization is not based on what is easy for you, or based on what you like, but is instead based on what is effective for your audience. If your audience finds science appealing, then to science you will go. Hint: most men like science, math and computers. Whatever you choose, logic, science, history – it has to be focused on demonstrating the truth of Christianity – NOT Christianity as life-enhancement.

 

Call Witnesses Selectively
Once the Opening Statements have been made, it’s time to begin presenting the evidence to the jury. Much of this evidence will simply be the testimony of important expert witnesses. The attorneys have to select these witnesses carefully and judiciously. Each case is different and will require specific types of experts. Some cases require DNA experts, others require experts in material evidence; some cases require coroners or doctors, others require weapons specialists. The attorneys have the burden of deciding which types of experts will be needed to best make the case.
As a Christian…
I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. While I may be very familiar with the scientific or philosophical work that has been done on a particular topic, I have to be careful not to overload the conversation with the opinions of too many “expert witnesses”. I have to be specific and targeted in the way that I bring experts into the conversation. I also need to be well versed in the work that these experts have done so that I can accurately quote them.
A “Case Making” Tip:
Become a specialist. It’s important to have a broad understanding of a number of apologetic issues, but I know there are some places where I am weak, and some places where I am stronger. I try to focus on those areas that are off special interest to me and it’s in these areas that I am most familiar with the experts in the field. See yourself as the foreman on a jury. You and I don’t have to BE expert witnesses; we simply need to be able to reiterate what the expert witnesses have said once we get back in the jury room with the other jurors.

 

Eight tips for talking to non-Christians about Christianity

From Stand to Reason – some excellent tactical advice from a master apologist.

Here’s the setup:

I overheard a conversation on the airplane coming back from my vacation in Wisconsin.  A Christian gentleman was vigorously sharing his faith with a gentleman in the seat directly behind me.  There are some things we can learn, both good and bad, from what I overheard and take his effort—which was a good one—and channel it in a little bit more constructive direction.

So I am going to give you eight points of application.

And here are my favorites from his list:

3.  Try to stay away from religious language, terminology, and religious affect. This person was very religious in his whole approach.  I think this is hard for us as Christians because we are brought up in a Christian environment and it’s natural for us to talk this way, but it sounds weird to people outside of that environment.  I think there are a lot of people who may be, in principle, interested in a bona fide, genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ but who are not interested in the Christian religion as they perceive it.  This is where I think a lot of the emergent guys have a legitimate bone to pick with Evangelicalism.  Let’s try not to sound like Bible-thumping fundamentalists if we can avoid it, even if that’s what we are, because there’s no need to sound that way if it puts people off.  Find another way to communicate the message.  Just talk in a straightforward manner.  Be conscious of using religious language the other person may not understand or may think is strange.  Avoid all of that so they can hear the message you’re trying to communicate.

4.  Focus on the truth, not personal benefits of Christianity. I appreciated the gentleman’s approach in that he kept talking about truth.  One person he was talking to said he liked reincarnation.  The Christian man said that even if he liked reincarnation that that didn’t make it true if it’s not true.  Liking something is not going to change reality.  That’s a great point.  He was focusing on the truth claims of Jesus.  He wasn’t giving a bunch of promises.  He wasn’t saying, “Jesus is my ice cream.  He’s a great flavor.  Try him to see if you like him, too.”  Or, “Try Jesus because he’ll make your life so wonderful.”  Focus on truth and not personal benefits.

5.  Give evidence. This gentleman was giving all kinds of evidence for his seatmates to consider.  Good for him!  You should too.  You know why?  Because people in the Bible did, too.  Jesus, Paul, Peter, all the Apostles.  If you look at the details of how they communicated their faith they gave evidence for the truth of what they were saying about Jesus.  In fact, if you want to get the content of the Gospel, one of the most famous passages for the articulation of the Gospel is the beginning of 1 Corinthian 15.  Paul gives all kinds of evidence.  It’s all right there as he is explaining the Gospel.  We see that all through the New Testament.  So give evidences.  It’s appropriate.  People do respond to that even in a postmodern age.

I remember that I was once working in Chicago, and after a particular good apologetics discussion with a team of engineers, I apologized to them all for being so exclusive and a fundamentalist. These guys all had MS and PhD degrees in computer science from top schools like Stanford, Purdue, U of I, NIU and Northwestern. They said “you’re not a fundamentalist”. And I said, “but I am ultra-conservative in my theology!”. And they said “That’s ok – as long as you have considered different points of view and you have objective evidence, then somehow it doesn’t sound fundamentalist”.

I think that’s something that we need to work on. When Christianity is about truth, it’s open to investigation using public evidence. At work, I have explained the structure of DNA molecules in the office and had people rolling their chairs out of their cubicles to come and see me draw amino acid chains on a white board, and calculate the probabilities with a calculator. You can be a fundamentalist, without sounding like a fundamentalist. You just have to focus on public, testable evidence.

Look here:

Make religion about truth – not personal preferences. They respect that way of talking – as long as you bring the science and the history.

New study finds that young people value marriage and hope to marry

From the National Post. (H/T Andrew)

Excerpt:

Young adults still tend to view marriage as an important life commitment to which they aspire, results of a new U.S. study suggest.

The findings appear to contradict public and academic anxiety over the state of marriage, and surprised even the researchers.

“What was so striking about what the young people said is that no one really described rejecting marriage,” said lead author Maria Kefalas, a sociology professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “I had a category all written -marriage rejector -and we couldn’t find any. There was no one who said, ‘Marriage is meaningless and I don’t want to get married.’ ”

The researchers uncovered a divide between rural and urban young adults after examining interviews with 424 people aged 21 to 38 who lived in New York, San Diego and Minneapolis/St. Paul or rural Iowa.

Young adults in small towns and rural areas -dubbed “marriage naturalists” -generally have a 1950s view toward marriage, they found, seeing it as the inevitable “next step” in a long-term relationship.

“It was like a time capsule,” Ms. Kefalas said. “Marriage was expected. It wasn’t fretted about, there was very little hand-wringing about it. A lot of the pressure for marriage was external in terms of social expectation that that’s what you do.”

In contrast, urban young adults -dubbed “marriage planners” by the researchers -had high standards for potential marriage partners and a strong sense that marriage was something they had to be “ready for.”

[…]Ms. Kefalas said she believes declining marriage rates in Canada and the United States are due to a shifting economic landscape that makes it more difficult for young adults in the Millennial cohort born in the 1980s and 1990s to get the education, career, housing and general stability they feel they need before saying “I do” -not a lack of interest in the institution itself.

“One of the great myths has been that young people, in particular millennials, are saying, ‘We don’t want to get mar-ried and marriage is irrelevant to us,’ and that’s not true,” Ms. Kefalas said.

The paper is to be published in the Journal of Family Issues.

I think the problem I see, and this is something for Christians to research, and for churches to get serious about – is that we need to help young people to translate these aspirations to marry into a solid plan for how to get married well. That means telling them how to prepare themselves to be married, how to find and evaluate another person for marriage, and how to court another person in a way that will result in a stable, loving marriage. Young people need to understand things that social scientists know – like the fact that chastity is good for marital stability, and that cohabitation is bad for marital stability. We need to study these factors and then inform the young people in winsome ways.