Do you remember when you were young and you would get into an argument with your friends? You might begin debating who had the cooler color shoes or who was better soccer player.
Ultimately, the decisive blow was delivered by the one who was willing to throw out this Tomahawk of destruction, “Oh Yeah? Well my dad is bigger than your dad!” As trivial and childish as it seems, I think this is really our best attempt at apologetics. And if I remember, that argument at six years old never really ended in the other kid conceding, “Oh Yeah, your dad is pretty big, you are probably right.” When we engage those arguments, on whatever the topic, we never win. It essentially becomes a contest on who screams the loudest, not a discussion with the mutual concern for reality and truth.
I have a really hard time with apologetics. The simplest way for explaining that term is a defense of the faith. Now it would be appropriate to questions at this point to question if I am fit for my job, considering that I daily speak with high school students who are wrestling with their faith or their lack of faith. If I am not defending, what am I doing? The answer is pointing. Not literally, that would be obnoxious. But in sincerity, I think God has called me as a pastor, and called us all as pastors to point people to him. We should listen, care, show compassion, and ultimately, get them to the one who can really help. God didn’t call us to argue, he called us to transform. Anselm reflected that his theology came from a point of faith seeking understanding. He wasn’t gong to argue himself or anyone else into faith, he knew that faith was something that happened between people and God, not people and people.
I don’t get upset when people criticize my belief in God or my faith in Jesus as trivial or antiquated. Honestly, I have a hard time defending it. Its not that I don’t think its not worthy of defense or that my training and calling have not adequately prepared me for such a defense but instead that I am not sure God needs me to get his back… God didn’t make us to play defense.
I will never forget sermon I heard Pastor Gene Apple, former pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, on the subject of Homosexuality. Apple reflected on the multiple interpretations and sometimes manipulations of scripture on this subject and then in his concluding remarks said this… “What I know for certain is that the truth has no reason to hide.”
I think sometimes we feel lake God has put us into position to argue for him. It’s as if God is in a schoolyard brawl and if we don’t get his back he will lose. Just for the record…God has already won. He doesn’t need us to fight his battles for him. I am not sure we are called to fight at all. I reflect on Jesus’ life, the life all Christians are called to follow, and I don’t see much fighting. “Perhaps the truth needs to be uncovered,” we think. “And I am just the person who can help God out, who can pull back the layers of debris and confusion and get others to see the underlying truth!”
I think our apologetic model should be straight from the life of Jesus. Submitting his life to the cross, Jesus allowed the full weight of sin and death and destruction to bear down on him in all of its fury and violence. And in the end, when it has all stopped, when the fight appears over and the victory bell has won… we are not meet with a weak impostor; we are met with a victorious savior. Victory resulted not from the offensive blows Jesus threw, but by the fact that his opposition gave him all that it had, he took punch after punch after punch, exhausting itself to the point of defeat and still Jesus stood strong.
I truly believe that the faith we are called to have is about the pursuit of truth. When we approach our faith more as a mission to defend our boarders as opposed to a mission to explore the world beyond our boarder, we have missed the mark. It already shows that we don’t believe our boarders are strong enough on their own. Apple’s point is subtle, gentle, and brilliant. The truth has no reason to hide. It will never be uncovered as a fraud, it will never be shown as a hoax, it will never concede to lesser values. It is after all, truth.
I wonder what it would look like if we pointed people toward truth, not argued with them about it; if we allowed opponents to throw every weapon they have at the truth just to be baffled by its ultimate resilience; if we pointed people towards Jesus as they are, battered and bruised, and broken, as opposed to trying to fix them before they get to him. The faith I have reassures me that no matter what question, what argument, what insult, or what opposition I encounter, I follow a God who has victory over all things. It’s a beautiful thing really, knowing that we have won and we don’t need to fight. I want to point people toward that God.