On Being Ready to Give an Answer

Being ready means being in ready relationship


The article I link here, How an Ex-Christian And Counter Apologist Came Back To Jesus – Q+ A With Theologia Apologia, has a lot in it to chew on. Erik Manning is one of my favorite “apologists” on the Internet because he keeps it real. He comes from the other camp (atheism), and I think that always provides fresh perspective.

I put apologists in parentheses because many people, including Christians, don’t really know the term. An apologist is a person who studies and presents evidence defending faith (simply put). The term comes from the Greek word, apologia, which is used in 1 Peter 3:15 when Peter encourages people to “always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks for the reason for the hope you possess.” (NIV)

I had not really focused on the part about “everyone who asks” before, but I think it’s relevant to the article and the message I hear in it. Maybe we spend too much time trying to convince people who aren’t asking us about our hope, people who don’t care, people who aren’t asking questions or seeking answers.

At the same time (speaking from my own experience), we miss opportunities when people actually ask us those questions! One of the problems with “apologists” is that we prepare for audiences that we choose to “walk into” with all of our memorized and canned responses, but we may not always be sensitive to the Holy Spirit speaking to us in midst of the audiences we encounter throughout our daily lives.

On a related matter, I see Christians posting things along the lines of not being ashamed to say they are Christians. (See also Christians on Social Media) Certainly, if the Holy is convicting a person about the fear of man and the need to “come out”, do it. But, that kind of statement is usually lost on the world, generally, and not very effective (it seems to me) in spreading the Gospel message.

As for the article, the interviewee was a new Christian when he went off to seminary, and he was ill-equipped to face the challenges he encountered. He wasn’t grounded in his own faith. He says, “It was hard for me to have intimacy with God when I was devoting a lot more time to reading and studying about the Bible for a class than I was to reading and studying the Bible devotionally, or when I wrote 10-page papers about a biblical theology of prayer while my personal prayer life was scarce.”

He came from a “seeker-sensitive” church that didn’t deal with the meaty subjects he encountered in seminary, and he “felt lied to”. Bitterness and disillusionment set it. He began to develop suspicion and skepticism about the surface level faith with which he was familiar when plunged into the deep end.

This is where the article speaks to me. This is here the lessons lie.

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Christians On Social Media


Peter said, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense [apologia; apologetics] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

This is the tenor and main point of the article, CHRISTIANS ARGUING WITH CHRISTIANS ON SOCIAL MEDIA: A REAL INTEREST IN THE SALVATION OF THE LOST?….

I encourage you to read it. I put it here that people would read it, and that I would be reminded of it and read it again myself.

It’s far too easy to say things on social media that we wouldn’t think of saying face to face with someone in conversation. If we are not responding to people with gentleness and respect, as Peter urges us, we are not responding in love. We might as well not respond at all.

I think that stopping to consider whether we would say something face to face that we are about to say on social media is a good litmus test. We live in a reactionary world, and social media exasperates the problem by giving us the instant gratification of an immediate response for every thought the crosses our minds.

We need to be more self controlled than that. We need to be more self-sacrificial,  sacrificing that desire for the immediate gratification for the good of the Gospel. We can pick up our crosses and follow Jesus in this social media age by dying to that desire for the instant response.

We need to be salt and light. Salt accentuates the taste of food, but it does that subtly. Too much salt overwhelms and destroys the flavor of the food. Just the right amount accents and brings out the flavor. People are much more apt to take notice of what we say and take it to heart if we say it with gentleness and respect, as Peter admonishes us.

Light illuminates. Too often we demonstrate a great deal of heat without a great deal of light. It isn’t our job to convict people of their sin or even to convince them of the rightness of our positions. The Holy Spirit is well-equipped to do the convicting in peoples’ hearts. We just need to be faithful to speak the truth, but do it in love – always in love.

God’s word does not go out and come back void, but our idea of how people should respond and what it means that God’s word does not come back void may not be accurate.

When Isaiah was given the commission to speak God’s word to the people in the Temple, he was told that he would speak, but people wouldn’t listen. It wasn’t Isaiah’s responsibility to make sure they listened. It was his responsibility simply to speak and to let God do His work. If nobody listened, still Isaiah was being faithful in what God called him to do.

Are we always speaking God’s word? We are finite beings. We might not always have it right. We should have the humility to realize that.

Our love for other people, on the other hand, is always “true”. How we treat people will always shine through and have an impact. Our greatest apologetic is the love of God. Love covers a multitude of sins.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

 

Loving God with Our Minds

The ability to reason is God-given and stems from the rational mind of God that created the universe by speaking it into existence.

Image ID: 39297167 Copyright: SimpleFoto

We should not check our intellect at the church door. Jesus instructs us to love God with our minds as part of the greatest commandment.[1] To some extent, however, many Christians have adopted a view of faith that might be characterized as anti-intellectual, to the point of abdicating the realm of the intellect to secularists and materialists.

We Christians seem to be skeptical about our own minds. I find this interesting because, according to Scripture, we should arguably be more skeptical about our hearts![2] Jeremiah identifies the heart as “deceitful above all things”.  Jeremiah doesn’t say this about the mind.

There is an interesting parallel with Charles Darwin here. Darwin said that he could not trust his inner convictions (intuition, perhaps heart) because his inner convictions evolved from lower life forms. To drive his point home, Darwin posits the question: “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”[3] Darwin, ironically, didn’t seem to share the same doubt about his intellect, though his intellect also “developed from the mind of the lower animals”, as Darwin put it.

A materialist like Charles Darwin should have much less confidence trusting human intellect than a Christian. Darwin should have been as skeptical of his own intellect as he was skeptical of his inner convictions because both his “convictions” and his ability to reason derived from lower life forms. Christians should have much more confidence in their intellect because they believe human intellect is created in the image of God who is, Himself, rational, mindful and intellectual.

The ability to reason is God-given and stems from the rational mind of God that created the universe by speaking it into existence.[4] We should have a healthy distrust of the heart, of emotions, of raw, unguided, reactionary instinct, not because it derives from a monkey’s mind, but because it is tainted by sin. We should have more confidence in intellect, reason, and logic because these are human abilities that are more directly tied into the nature and character of God.

Continue reading “Loving God with Our Minds”

Turning Idols toward God: the Human Intellect

Many Christians have abdicated the realm of the intellect to modern culture and secular institutions

Depositphotos Image ID: 20592505 copyright: olly18

Human beings can make idols out of anything, including making an idol of human intellect/mind. As with all created things, the human intellect is limited, finite and utterly unable to save us from our human condition, but many people, nevertheless, put their faith in the human intellect. This is ultimately idolatry when we trust in our own intellect instead of trusting in God.

Putting our faith in our own intellect is also, ultimately, foolish. What do we know that God doesn’t know? What can see understand that God doesn’t understand? Relying on ourselves in this way, to the exclusion of relying of God, is (to put it mildly) short-sighted. It is sin, to put it bluntly.

It is the same mistake that Eve made in the garden when the serpent tempted her by saying “you will be like God”![1] We want to be our own gods, relying on our own intellect.

This basic prideful condition, which is the essence of sin, is why “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise”.[2] Of course, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness” to God.”[3] As Isaiah says:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

For these reasons, and others perhaps, Christians today tend to distrust science, worldly thinking, philosophy and even the mind, itself. Christians have all but abandoned the world of science, philosophy and the intellect to secular institutions and minds, and this is a terrible mistake!

Christians are reluctant to acknowledge science. Christians are fearful of philosophy. Christians are even distrustful of their own minds. Many Christians have abdicated the realm of the intellect to modern culture and secular institutions. But here’s the thing: this is sinful too!

Continue reading “Turning Idols toward God: the Human Intellect”