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.

Continue reading “On Being Ready to Give an Answer”

Thoughts on A Plea for Round-Table Discussion, not Debates — Follow Jesus

We should attempt to be more led by the Spirit than by our capacity to debate when we engage with non-believers. Like Jesus did.

Larry Hurtado wrote this in his blog:

Debating is a win/lose contest, little subtlety or complexity allowed.  It doesn’t make for the sort of careful consideration of matters that is most often required. It certainly doesn’t allow for people to grow, develop/alter their understanding of matters[…]

via A Plea for Round-Table Discussion, not Debates — Larry Hurtado’s Blog

I’ve often been frustrated with debates as a tool for advancing knowledge and understanding. Many times, maybe even most often, both sides claim a victory, but wins and losses are hard measured in debates. Debates are seen as win/lose propositions, but they rarely deliver that kind of satisfaction.

Listen to any political debate, and both sides will claim victory. Listen to any debate of atheist and theist, and both sides will claim victory. The after debate responses are continuations in kind of the debate – both sides trying to convince the other and the world of their victory. The claims usually fall flat and ring hollow to anyone who makes an effort at remaining objective.

If we want to get at truth and understanding, debates are not the way to do it. Respectful discussion and dialogue are much better platforms for truth and understanding.

Since this is a faith-based blog, a little reference to Jesus is in order. Jesus didn’t debate people, ever. He often asked questions. He spoke in parables. He connected with people where they were – healing them, addressing them at a personal level, touching on their psychological, emotional and physical and spiritual issues.

Jesus treated everyone with respect, even the spiritually high-minded Pharisees. He took everyone seriously.

We can not get “inside” other people’s heads like Jesus could – knowing the thoughts and intents of their hearts – , but we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. We should attempt to be more led by the Spirit than by our capacity to debate when we engage with non-believers. Like Jesus did.

Reach out to our Muslim neighbors

Nabeel Qureshi Interview

Nabeel Qureshi was raised in a devout Muslim family in Virginia Beach, VA. He memorized the Qur’an by the age of 6 and prayed five times a day. When he went to college, his college roommate was a Christian. They spent three years debating the historical claims of both religions, and he came to realize that Christianity could withstand historical scrutiny but Islam could not.

At that point, he came face to face with a a difficult, life-changing decision: whether to abandon the Islam of his family and and heritage by embracing Christianity, or remain a Muslim, knowing that it could not stand up to history and reason. This was a decision that would ostracize him from his family. Continue reading “Reach out to our Muslim neighbors”

Intellectualism and Scholarship for Christ

On the other side of our language is something which sustains it which can’t be contained within it … and that’s what we call God.

Olin Hall

As Christians, we naturally emphasize faith because faith is what God rewards. Faith is what connects us to God. Without faith it’s impossible to please God. But, faith also separates people from God – when they don’t have it.

Faith is a stumbling block for the agnostic and the atheist.

When agnostics and atheists (and sometimes even Christians) talk about faith, they often talk about faith in the “blind” sense, divorced from reason and rationality. Real faith, however, is anything but blind or irrational.

For the Christian, faith informs a God logic that is captured in doctrine. This logic is far from irrational or inconsequential. Faith is part of that God logic, but it isn’t divorced from logic or truths discoverable in  the material world that God created. Atheists and agnostics, however, don’t see the connection. Continue reading “Intellectualism and Scholarship for Christ”

The Field is Ripe

lightstock_147019_xsmall_user_7997290I spoke to a woman yesterday who was raised Muslim. She has had a very difficult life. When she was 8 years old, she had a near death experience in which Jesus appeared to her, filled her with His presence and instructed her on what she needed to do to stay alive.

Many years later, after moving to the US, she had another experience with God in which God spoke to her in a concrete way resulting in the rescue of her son from certain death. These are the things she related to me sitting across from me. The second experience led her to give her life to Jesus and become a Christian.

No one preached to her. She never went to church before these experiences. As an 8 year old, all she knew was Islam. Still, she knew who it was who encountered her in both instances, and as a result she is now a believer.

The thing that struck me as we talked was the matter-of-fact way she shared these things and a throw away comment: that she does not understand why other people are surprised. That led me to wondering why any Christian should be surprised that God does these things. Jesus did these things! Why should we be surprised?

This was her story. She lived it. God is very real to her even though she is currently jobless and lives in difficult circumstances.

I felt compelled to try to explain the reactions she has gotten to her story. I explained that people in the US seem to have been inoculated with Christianity. They have gotten just enough of the church that they seem immune to the “disease”! American Christians largely do not believe in miracles, and if they do they are more apt to believe psychics, supernatural phenomena and paranormal occurrences before they might accept the possibility that Jesus can appear to people in visions, heal the sick or perform miracles.

She also mentioned to me that she immediately began going to Church and reading the Bible after she gave her life to Jesus, but what she saw in church did not square with what she was reading in the Bible. So she stopped going there and found another church. She does not go to the other church any more either. In fact, she is not going to church anymore, but she still reads her Bible.

Throughout the time we spoke, alternating between her immediate issues and needs, her salvation story and God, the Holy Spirit filled our conversation. He was palpably present.

I prayed with her before she left, and told me something that made an even bigger impression on me: she said no one had ever prayed for her before!

No one. Her story is an indictment on the Church and a call at the same time for the Church to be obedient to God.

No one witnessed to her, but God reached her and drew her to Himself in very dire circumstances. She was so open to God that He simply showed Himself to her, and she embraced Him. She struggles in her life under difficult circumstances, but she has no church body to provide her support. The Church needs to be about God’s business to help people such as this woman!

We have been going through the entire Book of Acts at our church, and we are nearing the end. Acts is the sequel to the Gospels. The Gospels end with the Great Commission – the command to go into all of the World and preach the Gospel. Acts is the beginning of the church, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised to aid us in carrying out the Great Commission. The Great Commission extends to the “end of the age”; and as far as I know, we have not reached that point yet.

I had committed myself many months ago to help at a faith-based legal aid clinic. Yesterday was one Saturday that I was committed to being there. It was just another Saturday. I would have like to sleep in, but I was committed. If I had not made the commitment and had not shown up, I would not have met this woman who I have described.

I did not do anything extraordinary. I have felt God convicting me and gently urging me to be more involved and more committed. I have gotten to a place in my life in which I am not satisfied with life as I have known it. I have spent too many years brushing God aside, going my own way and ignoring His gentle urging.

I have experienced the reality that I can either have the World or I can have God, and I have seen that there is nothing in the World that compares to God. I know that because I have tasted of God’s goodness, then walked the other way. I have admitted to myself within the last few years that I am ruined for God. I know that I need more of Him and less of everything else.

The encounter I had yesterday has gotten me thinking: how ripe is the field for harvest that God is coming to people in visions and speaking audibly to draw them directly to Himself?! I suppose another way of asking the question is: how slack has the Church been in fulfilling the Great Commission that God must encounter people directly Himself without the help of the Church?

I know for a fact that this woman needs the body of Christ. She needs support. We are not meant to live separate from the body, and God intends that His Church bring the Gospel to the World.

Let us renew that commitment to the Great Commission today for people like the woman and her family that I met yesterday. Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion. If we are following closely enough to Jesus, we will do as Jesus does. The field is ripe for harvest, and the field is all around us!