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Friday, July 01, 2016

The Moral Problem

I am a fan of Apologetics, the defense of the faith. I think we are commanded to defend the faith. In an appropriate-for-our-day message to the people of Peter's day he says, "Even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:14-15) Jude calls us to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3) So I see it as a Christian duty. On the other hand, I do not believe we can argue anyone into the kingdom. I think that God can use Apologetics as a means of reaching the lost, but that's His job. Our job is to be prepared, to contend for the faith.

You'd think, though, given the piles of reasoned arguments and actual evidence available today, there would be more people who would say, "Well, I see it now! Your arguments make sense! I believe!" We have arguments from practically every arena. There are philosophical and historical and scientific and biblical arguments. There are arguments for the existence of God, arguments for the reliability of Scripture, arguments for the deity of Christ, arguments for the Resurrection, and on and on. Sure, there are bad arguments for some of this stuff, but there are certainly good and even incontrovertible arguments as well. (Note: By "arguments" I don't mean "Mom and Dad are arguing", but "arguments" in the courtroom sense.) Let's face it, there have been and continue to be a lot of excellent thinkers out there with excellent arguments from all sorts of sources and in all sorts of directions to provide us with a solid defense of the faith.

So, what's the problem?

The problem is that people still don't believe. How can that be? We've got the facts. We've got the logic. We've got the evidence. We even have white papers on it. And yet, they aren't convinced! How can that be? Those that aren't convinced will tell you that our arguments aren't convincing. And I discussed that some time ago in The Problem of Proof. If "proof" is defined as "that which convinces", we have no proof. Of course, neither does anyone else ... for just about anything. Still, we have a preponderance of evidence. Why do they not see it?

That last question is the clue. Scripture says "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers." (2 Cor 4:4) How has he done this? In what sense are they "blind"? In the same sense that they are "dead" (Eph 2:1-3). You see, the primary problem is not that they are irrational or stupid or lack evidence. The primary problem is that they are spiritually dead, hostile to God, blind. "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14) There is a block outside of reason and evidence. I would suggest that at least part of this block is a changed life.

Let's see if I can illustrate from my own life. I grew up in an excellent Christian home. When I was a newly minted "adult" (you know ... 18 or over), I realized that my raging hormones and my biblical training were at odds. If I was going to satisfy my desires, I would need to jettison my training. So, I told people "I have issues with Christianity." I could expound on my "issues" and tell people, in the kindest way I could, how I was no longer sure that Christianity was true. This, of course, was pure smokescreen. Oh, I wasn't aware of it at first. I thought they were genuine issues. But the real issue was I wanted to sin without guilt and the truth was getting in the way.

Thanks be to God He didn't leave me there, but that illustrates the problem of morality. You can do your best to drum up excellent arguments about the faith. You can produce empirical data, show irrefutable philosophical arguments, explain historical evidence, and so forth. The problem is you will run up against one primary problem: "I don't want to change." Ask some skeptic sometime. "If I were to answer every question you have with clear and irrefutable logic and evidence, would you be willing to change how you live?" If it is an honest skeptic, I think he or she would honestly tell you, "No." Because the problem isn't proof; the problem is change. The problem is God. Someone once said that the most offensive verse in the Bible is "In the beginning, God ..." because putting primacy on God is the highest offense to sinful humans. Giving Him the right to tell you what to do is not acceptable. Asking you to change to conform to His guidelines is unbearable. "So ... all that proof you have? It doesn't amount to much if you're expecting me to change."

Now, to be fair, that's only one of the problems. Faulty arguments are a problem. Christian hypocrisy is a problem. The spiritual condition of Natural Man is a problem. The rot of the mind that sin produces is a problem. The violation of human wisdom (1 Cor 3:18-19) is a problem. There are lots of problems. But I'm pretty sure that very near the top is the simple requirement to bend the knee -- to give up autonomy and follow Him. So I am in favor of Apologetics because God commands it, but I would recommend you remember what it is you are up against when you go down that path. I would recommend that you count on something other than your careful application of evidence and argument to achieve your goal. We can defend. God alone can convince. Biblically it's termed "an opened heart" (Acts 16:14). We don't get to do that, although it can be rewarding to be part of it.


Anonymous said...

Has the Lord gifted you with discernment on why He has hardened so many hearts in the Middle East? I have seen the gospel being witnessed to Muslims, but as far as I can tell the Muslims nearly always cling stubbornly to their false theology.

David said...

I've always been confused by people trying to use apologetics to convert people. I've always understood apologetics to be defensive. "Why do you believe what you do?", enter apologetics. It is a defense of YOUR hope, a contention for YOUR faith. It's not meant to win someone over, it's too keep you in Christ. If you don't maintain your defense then you will lose it.

Stan said...

"Gifted" me? Not any more than anyone else. He said that the world has been blinded by the god of this world, that natural man is hostile to God. I would think that this would include Muslims. I would think that people of most religions as well as none at all would "nearly always cling stubbornly to their false theology." It takes a work of the Holy Spirit to change that.

Stan said...

David, I think that it is certainly a tool that God can use in us to reach the lost. I know of people who have seemed to have been convinced by the argument (although we know in the final analysis it required an act of God on a dead person), so I'd say that God can use it to reach the lost.

David said...

Certainly can be used. But then anything can be used by Him. I mean when we use it as the goal of evangelizing. Apologetics is about why we have faith, why we have hope. It is a defense. The goal isn't evangelizing with our apologetics. Example, in a court, it is not the defense's job to convince the prosecutor, but the judge/jury. Apologetics is simply to defend the position, not convince the prosecutor. It can, but it isn't the goal.

Stan said...