I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.C. S. Lewis
This is part II in a series on apologetics. If you want to read part I on “What is Apologetics?” click here. Enjoy!
Over the years, my relationship with apologetics has taken many turns. There was a time where you would find me arguing with university students until 3 or 4 in the morning about evolution vs creation or ethics at Gloria Jeans. I used to think if I could just come up with a really concise argument that was rational, it’d convince the world, and I’d be the next Billy Graham or whatever. Even though there is a lot of value in logic, facts, and arguments, I began to realise that even the most eloquent of arguments alone would never win over the hearts and minds of those who reject Jesus and His Gospel. Ironically, the more I studied at Bible college, the more Christianity became something more than an intellectual assent to a list of doctrines and beliefs. It wasn’t just “God is true because …”; instead, it became a “life, humanity, and the world makes sense because of God.” By Christianity, I saw and made sense (and am still making sense) of everything I see and experience. I started to move away from wanting to just win someone over to my way of thinking to seeing a real person. I wanted people to experience God and the world around them in the way they were always meant to. My focus shifted from a win-lose mentality to a sort of invitation-love-unity mentality. It is my conviction that when we engage in apologetics with other faiths and worldviews (even among people in our own Faith), we make enemies of them far too quickly because we forget some essential truths about those people.
- All of humanity is made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). This means a lot of different things to a lot of various scholars. I’ve written a bit about it here. However, here is a quick summary to make my point. For humanity to be made in the image of God means that they are to be a unified people that reflect God’s character to the created order by loving God, one another, and the world around them. Here’s the thing, this command was given to humanity in general, not just the Church. So every Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jew, New Ager, Atheist, Satanist, Witch, Wizard, Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker have all been endowed with this “image” and are called to live it out. The only difference is that this is now only achievable in Christ as it is He who enables us by the Spirit to live out this calling. Nevertheless, the Genesis 1-3 story leads me to have a deep spiritual connection to everyone I talk to that stops me from having a win-lose mentality and instead makes me see them as human despite how flawed and sinful they are may be.
- The Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) is about Yahweh (God) pursuing some of the most messed up people to ever exist. Israel’s story was full of the most bloodthirsty, faithless, abusive (sexually, physically, spiritually see Gen 16:1–16; 21:8–21), wicked (Is 13-23), idolatrous (Ex 32; Jer 2), murderous people (2 Sam 11-12). Yet, God still called them out to be His people, to represent Him and to be a kingdom of priests (or image bearers) to bring about His redemptive plan (Ex 19:6; Is 61:6). Don’t get me wrong, God hates sin (Ps 5:4-5), and I don’t think God ever intended sin to be a regular part of the human experience. However, on this side of the Fall (Gen 3), there is something very “human” about sin, brokenness and failure. It’s in that chaotic mess that God pursued Israel, and in turn, all of humanity in the person of Christ. What a picture of you, and what a picture of me. This is a constant reminder that God pursues me even as I fail, sin, and fall, and so to does He pursue every other person. God isn’t just trying to win over the person you’re talking about evolution with; he wants to transform them. Israel already knew God existed, right? God had already freed them from slavery, and even after He gave them the promised land, they continued to rebel. God wanted to transform and renew (Jer 31:31; Ezek 36:26), not just convince them of a set of doctrines and laws.
- Obviously, Israel didn’t always do a good job of being that royal priestly image-bearing kingdom of people God wanted them to be. Transformation was yet to come. This is where Jesus comes in. Read the Gospels. God comes in the likeness of human flesh (Lk 2:1-20; Rom 8:3), He travels around and preaches the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Matt 3:2, 4:17, 5-7), He performs miracles (John 2:1-11, 4:46-54, 5:1-15, 6:5-14, 6:16-24), and teaches people about Himself (Lk 4:21). Jesus gives up His life to be a ransom for many (Mk 10:45), He was raised from the dead (Mk 16), and before He ascends, He tells His disciples there’s more. He wants to transform, renew, and empower His people to be what Adam, Eve, and Israel couldn’t be. So He sends His Spirit to dwell among those who have trusted in Jesus (John 14:16, 15:26, 16:7; Acts 1-2). Jesus wants to bring everyone into an empowered family of people who image God and love one another. He doesn’t just want to convince them that He is real.
For me, this passage wraps up the vision Jesus has in the Gospels quite well:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment (see also 2 Cor 5:17).
Let’s circle back for a moment. A person is sitting across the table from you, and internally you are seething because they won’t accept that the earth is 6000 years old (“exasperated sigh”), or that ethics is static, or that Jesus died for their sin. As you try to stoically sip your triple-shot mocha with a pump of caramel, try to remember that there is more at stake here than trying to win an argument. These are real, fallen, broken, complex sinning, loving, crazy, logically irrational people that God loves. Loving your neighbour or your “enemy” is as important as getting across your point. As I have theologically demonstrated in this article, reflecting on the person’s substance will help remind you that they are a human to love, not just an argument to win.