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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

01/13/10

I'm headed to the Seeking7 conference in Birmingham Alabama this afternoon. I'll be traveling with my HandsforChrist employer, Richard Duhe.

The conference will cover a variety of topics, ranging from current scientific issues to radical Islam, but the thread running through all of the sessions is the issue of contemporary apologetics. Mr. Duhe flies out on a business trip tomorrow, so we'll only be attending one session unfortunately.

Apologetics seems to be becoming more of a contested field these days. Many wonder whether it is counterproductive, or, worse yet, whether it represents a compromise. Should we not meet our critics on their own terms and turf? Would it be more honest to offer the Gospel and nothing else, Christ alone?

For starters, I think that this is a false dilemma. Developing cogent arguments for the faith, and relying on philosophical conventions to do so hardly constitutes an evasion of any kind. Theology relies on the rigor of logic for its own development. Even the most existentially ecstatic of theological thinkers have had recourse to some kind of philosophical discipline at some point. Moreover, we have scriptural evidence--not simply from that fated Acts passage, but from the very fact that a third of the Old Testament is poetry--that Scripture used cultural conventions to make the Gospel credible to a hostile audience.

Another thing, refusing to engage our critics communicates an attitude of both cowardice and hostility. If we summarily dismiss these men, how is that showing them love? You may reply that we ought not to scatter our pearls before swine, but to say that would be to reinforce my point. These men care enough, whatever their motives are, to hurl critical missiles this way. If we refuse to accept the challenge we send a message of complacency, cowardice and hatred. They won't go away, you know.

I'm fond of quoting I John 4:1 as my favorite apologetic apothegm. These men are the spirits of the age and they must be tested. As Larry Taunton of Fixed-Point Foundation has said in an interview on my blog, these men already have an immense audience and lavish media attention. They have the spotlight.

Is the Gospel sufficient? I say yes with reservations. It is sufficient for those already indoctrinated. For those who don't know, it's lunacy. That is its glory. The Gospel changes and inverts everything. Nietzsche would have said it "transvalues" everything. In order to lead these men to the way of the cross, the empty tomb and the resurrection, we must establish some common ground initially, and then, quite simply, pray for a miracle because any shrewd Christian knows that no elaborate logical construction or syllogism is going to lead anyone to God. The Holy Spirit must sow the seeds in their heart, Christ must compel and the Father must welcome them into His arms in His own good time.

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