October 28, 2010

Apologetic or Apologetics

A few months ago I had a run in with a youth pastor peer that made me a little queasy. In no uncertain terms he went on to explain how in 30 seconds he could prove the existence of God. That's right, in a mere 30 seconds he was going to do what most if not all of us have failed to do, provide an air tight case, proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is in fact a God in Heaven. He then went on to explain (in a little under 30 seconds I might add) a watered down version of a First Cause argument for the existence of God.

Now I like apologetics, I really do; and I make use of them when the conversation I am having requires them. There is little that annoys me as much as the notion that there is no good rational reason for faith. In instances like those I have found a healthy dose of apologetics helpful to disarm the accuser. I think my overzealous friend had the same objection. We both wanted to clear off the intellectual rubble that says people who believe in Jesus are on the same level as people who believe in the Tooth Fairy.

However classical apologetics are not enough. There is a movement out there to re-brand apologetics. A number of the hip up and coming Christian leader crowd have written books about a new apologetic. Sean McDowell for example has written Apologetics for a New Generation. The idea behind this book is that this new emerging generation is not really interested in words, arguments, proofs, or even truth. What they are interested in is a compassionate life.

Thus the new apologetic is a life style. It is about living a life of compassion, it is about healing the sick, and helping the poor. It is more about showing God's love than trying to prove God's existence; regardless of how many seconds it takes.

The strongest voices in this movement are saying the old way to do apologetics is ineffective and dead, and it is time to get on with the new. A battle cry which I disagree with.

Here is the thing, Christianity is being attacked if you like on two fronts;

1. We are being called evil. All the bad deeds anyone has ever done anywhere in the name of Jesus is being called out. Likewise anytime a Christian figure gets caught in a scandal it is big news. Here is where we need the new apologetics. We need to show people what a Christ life really looks like, we need to show them what a Christian ought be to like. We need to own up to our mistakes, move on, and start creating a better world.

2. We are being called morons. I guess people never got over the whole CopernicusGalileo, thing and they have been upset with us ever since. There is a popular impression out there that the Church is standing in the way of all kinds of scientific breakthroughs, and that we are all a bunch of nit-wits. This is where classic apologetics is still needed. We need to be able to show that there are clues for God's existence, that Jesus' resurrection is a historic event and all the rest.

I don't think we really have a new verses old battle here. What we have is multiple problems, which require multiple solutions. We need both, we need to answer expertly both challenges. And I know we're up to the challenge, even if it takes a little more than 30 seconds.