In yet another vivid example of the spiritual state of America, a recent survey reveals that our countrymen are quite ambivalent and confused about the truth. Lifeway Research surveyed thousands of Americans about a variety of beliefs, including questions about the Bible, the Trinity, and salvation. To say that contradiction and confusion were revealed in the survey is an understatement. Even among evangelical Christians the level of theological confusion is disheartening.
All this points to the growing need for Christians to be trained to know and share the essentials of the Christian faith. Without such equipping, believers are left to twist in the wind of every cultural influence; and their witness is silenced as their beliefs become indistinguishable from other worldviews.
Apologetics has the power to revive interest in knowing the truth of the Christian faith thoroughly and with conviction. And it provides the foundation for an effective witness to the world. It is only through the knowledge of Christ that the fullness and riches of the gospel spill over into compelling evangelism.
Sometimes in the midst of an encounter with an unbeliever our confidence in the gospel that we felt even one hour before dissipates quickly. We suddenly doubt that our conversation partner really needs the gospel, or that the gospel makes sense, or that unbelief is contradictory and irrational, or a thousand other things.
To avoid the loss of clarity and courage I have found that prayerfully meditating on a few apologetic truths on a regular basis keeps the fear and doubt at bay. Here are twelve affirmations I keep posted on my office bulletin board to review as often as I can. They help me boldly commend and defend the truth, so I am ready for any encounter with someone who needs Christ. This list originated from a reading of Cornelius Van Til’s My Credo, written many years ago as a summary of his apologetic method.
- Every person I encounter has a knowledge of God implanted in his heart that he is suppressing. This knowledge is clear and obvious to him because God has made it plain.
- God pursues sinners every day by every means. Everything in nature and in life is revelatory of God and man’s need to be reconciled to him.
- The key to effective evangelism and apologetics is to ask questions to reveal the unbeliever’s belief system and his ways of suppressing the truth.
- God has called me to be an ambassador of reconciliation between God and sinners. I have been equipped by the Holy Spirit and my training to do this.
- I will find supreme delight in glorifying God through sharing Christ. The joy that I will experience by speaking up for the gospel will eclipse any fear or discomfort I feel in the apologetic encounter.
- The good news of Jesus Christ is the answer for and the greatest need of the unbeliever. If the unbeliever comes to salvation, they will be forever grateful I addressed their greatest need.
- The Holy Spirit is the active agent of regeneration and transformation as I share Christ and defend the Christian faith. In the apologetic encounter, I am joining the conversation already going on as the Holy Spirit is drawing the unbeliever to Christ.
- The Word of God is living and powerful to expose and dismantle false systems of belief and stubborn opposition to the truth. I will incorporate as much biblical truth as is strategic in any conversation.
- Because unbelievers worship false and counterfeit gods, they experience guilt, lack of peace and joy, hopelessness, fear of death, and meaninglessness, among other results of the Fall. I will contrast these experiences with what is found in Christ.
10. Because unbelievers cannot consistently find meaning and truth in their unbelief, they borrow ideas and concepts from Christianity. I need to identify and challenge that borrowed capital.
- I will not wander into vain discussions and speculation about unimportant matters. I will stay focused on proclaiming the wisdom and glory of Jesus Christ. I will seek to get them to consider the person and work of Christ, and to read the Bible.
- As much as the Holy Spirit is moving, and the unbeliever is willing, I will seek to lead the unbeliever to repentance and faith in Christ. No matter how far I get, however, I will consider any progress to be successful planting and watering of gospel seeds.