What does it mean to defend and not apologize for your Christian convictions?
Why “Christian Convictions?”
When I first started this podcast, I used to introduce it like this: “welcome to Unapologetic, a podcast about defending not apologizing for your Christian convictions.” I started instead introducing the title at the beginning and that sort of thing. It’s not because the point of the podcast changed; it is still very much about defending your Christian convictions and not apologizing for them. But I want to flesh that concept out a little. I want to provide some defense for the idea that we should defend the gospel. I want to give you some specific examples of defending and I want to explain just what I mean by Christian convictions.
If you listened for the first two episodes, there will still be new information here so don’t worry about that. I’m not going to be repeating myself too much. So, why “Christian convictions?” Well, I recently did a survey. I was crowd sourcing title ideas for my book (which has been written, it just needs to be edited and published and all of that. That’s coming by the end of the year. Be on the look out for that.)
Some of the title ideas involved the phrase Christian convictions. About half of the people liked this and about half were opposed to it, not just disliked it, but were opposed to it. People wanted to know why I didn’t use the word “faith” Why not Christian beliefs? One person even said, “Christian convictions? I think that might actually be a thing soon. I think legally, Christians might be getting convicted of things.” These were all interesting points. So, why not “beliefs?” Why not “faith?”
“Faith” and “belief” have both been co-opted by culture and redefined. When we use the word, we use it in a certain way but other people don’t understand what we mean. They have a different meaning in mind. When you say faith, people are thinking something in the realm of leap of faith or believing without evidence or (all too often), believing in spite of evidence. That is what secular society hears when you say “I have a great faith in Christ.” They’re hearing: “A great faith? A great belief in spite of evidence?”
That’s not what we mean but that’s what they hear. You could always stop and clarify and all of that, but why not just choose a term that communicates more clearly? The same with belief. In our culture today, there seem the mistaken notion that if you believe something, that means you don’t know it.
From a philosophical perspective, believe is required for knowledge and knowledge is “justified true belief” (something we could talk about another time). You must believe things or you can’t ever claim to know them. To believe just means “to hold to be the case.” I affirm that such and such is the case. That means I believe it. Now that’s not always what culture says. Sometimes, they will put knowing and believing in separate categories.
Once again, we’re going to be using a term that isn’t going to communicate clearly that which we intend to convey. Let’s not use “faith.” Let’s not use “belief.” I think there are quite a few other words that no longer communicate too and I’ll be writing about those in future weeks.
What should we use? Why not convictions? “Our Christian convictions.” These things that we are strongly convinced of and feel strongly about. The non-Christian world has convictions about animal rights, that animals should be in certain size cages or no cages at all. “They should be happy chickens or we don’t want the chickens.” Those types of things, they feel strongly about them, they’re passionate about them, they’re based on evidence and studies and reports. That is what the Christian faith is. It is based on evidence and trustworthy resources and documents that have been verified time and time again. Let’s use language that expresses accurately what we mean in a way that people will accurately understand.
There are many places in communication for communication to break down. The sender of the message could not articulate the message well. This happens a lot of times. I see this in my personal life. The recipient of the message could fail to understand it correctly, maybe due to no fault of their own. We’re in the driver’s seat when we’re making a case for Christianity, so we need to try and make our message as clear as possible and take away the potential for someone to misunderstand it, as much as we are able. That burden rests on us in large part. We need to communicate clearly.
Let’s use terms that communicate clearly like Christian convictions or “these things that I’ve exhibited trust in”, which isn’t quite as good but still gets to the heart of the matter. “Things for which I have good reason to believe are true.” Those are saying the same thing as “Christian convictions.” They’re just not as succinct and short. That’s why I recommend the term “Christian convictions.” Unapologetic is a podcast about defending, not apologizing for your Christian convictions.
Why Defend Your Christian Convictions?
Now that we fleshed out what Christian convictions are, you might be asking why do we need to defend them? I’ve actually been told by a few people recently that “this whole apologetics thing is new. We didn’t have that when I was growing up.” I have to stifle back a chuckle when I hear that because unless these people are older than Jesus and Paul, then yes they very much did have apologetics when they were growing up.
I’m preaching through the book of Galatians at my church currently at Wednesday night. What’s interesting to me is the whole letter of Galatians is some form of apologetic, some form of defense. Paul is defending himself initially and the fact that he’s an apostle chosen by God not from men. Then he goes on to defend the very heart of the gospel, how we’re justified and made right and righteous in God’s eyes.
Then, he’s going to defend the liberty we have in Christ by living by the spirit as opposed to living under the law. Defense, defense, defense. He’s defending, defending, defending. This is in Galatians. This was written most likely before 50 AD. Apologetics is old.
Now you might read Galatians and be like, “That doesn’t feel like apologetics. There wasn’t a cosmological argument. I didn’t hear about the problem of evil or the age of the earth.” That’s true. Those things aren’t there. Those are examples of things that apologetics can and should speak to today. Those aren’t the only apologetic concerns. There have been apologetic concerns and apologetics made all throughout history. You look at pretty much any of the counsels from Trent and Carthage and Chalcedon and Nicaea, all of these involve some form of apologetic, some form of defense. There was the orthodox perspective, the correct perspective, and then there was the heretical perspective, the thing that was wrong.
At every point, whoever stood up on the side of truth would give an apologetic, a defense. They would say, “Here is my point and here are the reasons for my point.” We actually see Paul doing that in Galatians. At the end of chapter two, he makes a point: That justification is by faith. His next two whole chapters are a support of that, a defense.
Now in our context today, this looks different. We’re generally not going to be in debates over justification unless maybe you’re talking with a Roman Catholic or something like that. We might be talking about defending the fact that Jesus existed or was a man who was fully God or the fact that he died and rose from the dead. Those are the type of things we speak to today, but don’t misunderstand, apologetics has been around since the very beginning of Christianity and there have been notable apologists, even if they didn’t have that name, all throughout church history.
What Is the Cost For Not Defending Your Christian Convictions?
What might be the result of not defending the faith? One of them would be reinforcing the disbelief of those who are not Christians. This was actually what happened with me. I did not have good answers for many of the questions that were bogging me down spiritually when I was in college. I didn’t have people close to me that I felt comfortable enough talking about these things with (a personal failing), and I wasn’t able to find good answers in general when I looked for them. The answers I did get were poor and they made it seem all the more likely that Christianity didn’t fit together at all.
When we don’t get a good defense of the gospel of Christianity, we can reinforce someone’s negative ideas about Christianity. What might some of these people groups look like? What about your children? I know of parents who say I didn’t know how to answer my child’s objection, and a lot of times, the child leaves the faith. Now is that the parent’s fault? No. The child made a choice. They’re responsible for it. Could the parent have potentially helped prevent that? Yes.
Parents, your largest mission field is probably your home, the area where you might put your apologetics knowledge to the test the most is probably with your children or it might be with your family, those aunts, those in-laws, those uncles, those people that you get together with at Christmas and Easter or maybe live next door or in the same neighborhood.
Those are the people, the people that are closest to you, the people you care about most that you need to be prepared to defend the gospel with the most because if they know you’re a Christian, they’re probably going to look to you for answers and you can’t just say it’s my pastor’s job to answer those or let me ask my small group leader. Every Christian is called to grow up and be mature and know the truths of the faith.
Now I’ve talked about children, family, co-workers are a good example of this, too. What’s the result of not defending the gospel? Well, it could give a bad example to your office, to the people you work with about what is true and what is not true when it comes to Christianity. Ultimately, not defending the gospel will lead to not fulfilling the great commission.
We have far passed the day when you can go knock on someone’s door and have a confidence that that family will invite you in and want to hear about the gospel because people hear things on the news all the time and they think Christianity has been debunked in large part or they think that it’s helpful if you want to believe that but you could believe another religious type of “truth” too and be okay.
We need to be able to provide a defense for everything from the fact that truth exists to the fact that God is sovereign, exists in three persons, sent his son to die on the cross and rise from the grave and the way we know that is through the inspired word of God, which is accurate and has been trustworthily preserved throughout history. We need to be prepared to talk about those issues because the spiritual state of our children, of our families, coworkers, and maybe even our spouses could be in jeopardy as a result of not defending those things well.
How do you defend the gospel?
How do you defend the gospel? I’m not going to obviously cover every apologetic concern right now. We’ve been covering a lot of those on this podcast. There are some general points that I think we need to take an accounting of from time to time and make sure we’re doing well in these areas. The first would be we need to know the truths of Christianity. It’s hard to defend something if you don’t actually know what or why you believe what you believe. You need to know some theology, you need to know some doctrine, you need to know how we got our Bible and that it wasn’t just a random decision. These are things you must know.
Now that’s the first thing. You need to know the truths of Christianity. The second thing: you need to know the heresies of Christianity. The reason for this is a lot of times, you can know what you believe but let’s say you’ve never learned anything about Islam and you go talk to a Muslim. They’re going to use approaches to try and disprove your beliefs that you will probably not have encountered because Islam speaks to certain areas in a different way than Christianity does and so they’re going to have a unique perspective.
We need to know about the other religions. We also need to know about the heresies inside of Christianity. There are no new heresies. They all have repeated themselves over the years and over the centuries, dating back to within just a few years of Christ’s resurrection. There’s nothing new under the sun in that way; they’re just recycled and maybe have prettier covers or publicists. The heresies aren’t new even though the heretics are.
First, we need to know the truths of Christianity. Second, we need to know the heresies of Christianity. Third, we need to learn how to engage in conversations. Now you can defend Christianity without knowing this. Simply showing up prepared to offer helpful information is going to be very beneficial.
A lot of Christians actually do a disservice to their message by getting angry in conversation, getting overly emotional, or just simply not knowing how to talk to people. That’s a skill. We can learn that skill. One of the best ways to do it is practice. Practice with someone who will be honest with you. Role play with someone who will tell you, “Hey, you’re getting a little hot under the collar here and that’s just with me and I’m on your side.” How are you going to handle it when someone’s telling you that your entire world view is wrong? We need to practice these with people in a safe environment.
I’m going to plug a book I plugged before. It’s Tactics by Greg Koukl. Probably the single best book to compliment apologetic knowledge would be Tactics. It walks you through how to apply your knowledge in any area to specific conversations with some very easy to remember question and answer type of conversational tactics. I would highly recommend it.
The first thing we need to do, we need to know the truths of Christianity. Second thing, know the heresies. Third thing, engage in the conversation and learn how to do it better. We just need to get out there and do it. We need to put the boots on the ground and start getting into conversations. Get your toes wet. Ask a question at work. If someone says something that’s not true about Christianity, maybe ask them how they came to that conclusion and say, “Have you considered …” and offer up some knowledge you’ve learned because of step 1 about knowing the truth of Christianity.
We didn’t go into specific truths today. We’ve covered some of those before, and will continue to in the future. We need to communicate clearly and so we should consider using “Christian convictions” instead of “faith” or “belief”. Two, We do need to defend the gospel and defend Christianity. Three, we need to take account of the cost for not defending it, ultimately resulting in a lack of fulfilling the great commission and possibly with those closest to us that we care about most.
Lastly, we talked about how to defend it in terms of what we need to know both within Christianity, outside of Christianity, and the fact that we need to just get out there and do it. Our comfort level in a conversation is of no comparison to the need of someone to come worship God.
Well, I hope this has been helpful and I look forward to spending this time with you next week on Unapologetic.