Unapologetically Apologetic: The Postmodern Need For Apologetics

By Joel A. Hess

A couple of weeks ago, I had a fantastic conversation with one my faithful members at Emmanuel. He had something to say to me. As St. Paul makes clear to Timothy, I needed to listen and respect my elder. Quite frankly, my stubborn pastor heart has been #blessed frequently by the words of my mothers and fathers in Christ. I love it.

For some time, he had perceived that I taught that one had to have evidence of God’s claims in Scripture in order to believe. As he said quite eloquently, “God says it, I believe it!” How happy I am to hear God’s children speak like that! 

Our church has begun a “Proclaiming Truth In Love” speakers series. Many others and I at Emmanuel believe that the current intellectual climate in America is militantly destroying the connection between the faith and reason. Specifically, our culture wants to separate the claims of scripture from physical evidence. Therefore, I often make it clear in sermons and Bible studies that there is far more evidence that Scripture speaks about tangible realities than not. In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul himself uses reason and evidence to convince his readers that Jesus resurrection REALLY happened, so theirs will too. John begins his 1st letter telling us that he and others saw, touched, and heard the Word made flesh. And Peter tells us that Christianity is not the result of well-constructed myths in his second letter.

Our past speaker explored the historical claims of Genesis and demonstrated that there is plenty of evidence that what Moses said happened actually happened. This Genesis apologetic stuff upsets my believing friend because it sounds to him like people NEED proof or they won’t believe. I appreciate His concern. It is, after all, the Holy Spirit that creates faith.

Open Bible

He may be confusing the use of the word faith in Scripture. The faith referred to in Scripture is not about whether or not Jesus lived, died, and rose.  Faith refers to believing that Jesus lived, died, and rose FOR ME. Faith is trusting in the promises of the One who really lived, died, and rose, let alone made the heavens and the earth. For sure, this faith is given to us by the Holy Spirit and not by our mental investigations. I am sure there are plenty of people in Scripture who witnessed an extraordinary event right in front of their eyes but did not believe. I would suggest that some of the leaders of Israel believed Jesus was the Son of God but did not believe He was their savior. Sin makes stupid, after all. It takes more than evidence to rise from the deadness of our sins! Also, a Christian can trust in Jesus and yet deny God made the world in 6 days. As our latest speaker, Dr. Jonathan Sarfati praised God saying, “Illogic is not the unforgivable sin.”

Yet, our faith is founded upon a concrete reality. That is the wonder of Christianity against all other religions. It is about a God who does things in time and space—in history. It is about a God who can be touched and heard! As Paul said at the end of his rant in 1 Corinthians, if Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain! Paul desperately wants His readers to look at the evidence and listen to his words.

Often times, we blame those liberal European theologians for separating physical reality from Christianity. Schleiermacher, Bultmann, et al did mental gymnastics, spilled huge amounts of ink in order to close up the womb, shut the tomb, and put God way back up there where he belongs. Yet, conservative Evangelicals may have done just as much damage by focusing on the spiritual while against the concrete. They make the mistake of thinking the word spiritual is tantamount to feelings and not reality! They have done their damage by getting God out of the waters of the font and the bread and wine of the table. He can’t fit in there, they say! He’s bigger than that! So just as Eve ate the fruit by rejecting God’s promise, they take the fruit away from His people today.

nativity stained glass

Yet, that is the gospel! God, who is bigger than that, fit into the womb of a poor peasant girl, fit into the tomb of you and me, and fit upon the cross and spilled real blood and water that even touches our bodies, hearts, and minds today and makes them holy.

Our children are more than ever being indoctrinated to reject the historical claims of Scripture without any evidence or reasoning behind it. They are being convinced by people whom Nietzsche mocked that they can have God and lose His concrete claims. By not counteracting that, we allow the snake to get its head in. And as Luther said, “Once the head appears, the whole body will follow.”

May the Good Shepherd smack him with His rod through the preaching of God’s Word.

Lord, have mercy.


One thought on “Unapologetically Apologetic: The Postmodern Need For Apologetics

  1. I agree with your older friend, for the most part. “I believe so that I may understand” (Anselm of Canterbury)

    Those ferociously challenging historicity are not even pursuing a rational course to the extent that the testimony of witnesses, all that we would have in court should we put God on trial, is not enough. Why? Because they are using reason to serve their own ends to find a faith that serves their own ends. If anything, the historical claims edify those with faith or some degree of faith. But those fighting back, refusing what is offered, are, in my experience determined not to concede self-determination.

    It begins at the beginning, if one does not see oneself as a sinner incapable of not sinning, then nothing in the Bible makes sense unless it is a rule book. In which case, it can be stories, fables with morals, the promise of judgment where one hopes good deeds outweigh the bad. One who can will not to be sinful, who can rely on personal righteousness and considers worldly morality to be the gauge of goodness does not need to be delivered. Such a one is proud to own his deeds (Proverbs 16:18) and needs no Christ. To this person, the Word is illogical and irrational.

    Worse, we live in a moralistic society where we speak of people as being “good” in such a way that you’d think that, for some people, Jesus would only have had to suffer a hangnail and not death, to atone for them. We look at the lives we see and think “there goes a righteous soul”, “a good person”, “always thinking of others”. Such people may, indeed go to heaven and just as many will end up the brightest stars in hell. To some degree, we all do this, even if we save it for eulogies. How often do we really look around and really pray “Lord have mercy, we’re all hopeless sinners”? So, don’t let the false claims of historical challenge mask the real intent – the world despises Christ because it worships self. There are even churches and religions that look inward to find the divine. Christ has no meaning to a world that justifies itself.

    Recall the catechism, not just the explanation to the third article, but the questions:

    1. Do you believe that you are a sinner?
    Yes, I believe it. I am a sinner.

    2. How do you know this?
    From the Ten Commandments, which I have not kept.

    3. Are you sorry for your sins?
    Yes, I am sorry that I have sinned against God.

    Now, I need Christ and, now, scripture seems to make more sense. Sin obscures when it is hidden, not when it is seen in the light of the Law.

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