Thursday, March 8, 2018

Defending the Faith 2: How Do We Defend Christianity?

Here's a word to add to your Christian vocabulary: Apologetics—The branch of theology that defends and proves the truth of Christian doctrines. Yes, there is an entire study devoted to just defending the Christian faith.

Previously, we discussed why we should learn to defend the Christian faith. I showed how 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to be ready to give a reason for our beliefs. The next step is understanding how we are called to defend our faith.

Recently I've been learning more regarding this topic. I've heard about many extreme approaches to defending one's beliefs, from yelling and calling people fools to softly and carefully treading so as not to offend and possibly turn someone away. I, personally, would fall somewhere in the middle, but what does the Bible say about this?

The first step is recognizing that the battle Christians are in is a spiritual war. Second Corinthians 10:3-5 makes this point clear. "For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." [ESV] A lot is packed into these verses. Some key points I'd like to make for this topic are:
  • Spiritual warfare is a very real battle every single Christian is engaged in, whether they realize it or not! The enemy is constantly seeking to devour Christians, and he succeeds far too often. Many people (Christians included) do not understand or choose to believe in the spiritual realm of angels and demons, but they are just as real as the sun shining or you breathing. Christians need to always be on guard against the attacks of the devil.
  • In understanding this, it is also crucial for Christians to realize they aren't fighting earthly battles when defending their faith, but they are coming against the powers of darkness in the name of Jesus. Christians possess spiritual weapons designed to "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God." Christians shouldn't try to make a "scholarly" case for Christianity without allowing God to lead them and give them the words to speak.
The verse we examined in my last post and the following verse also give some insight as to how we should defend Christianity. First Peter 3:15-16 instructs Christians "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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." [ESV]
  • The first bit we can glean from this is that Christians must honor Christ. One of the best ways to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others is to be the example so that the unsaved look at you and ask what makes you different from everyone else. Realize that you are serving a holy God, and give Him all the honor He is due.
  • Additionally, when Christians are responding to people, they should behave gently and respectfully. This rules out the radical, yelling-at-people approach. Consider how receptive you'd be to an idea if the person attempting to convince you is screaming in your face. Behave in a manner you know is worthy of the King you serve. You are His ambassador.
Another verse with important tie-ins to defending Christianity is 1 Peter 2:15 "For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people." [ESV]
  • One of the biggest points non-Christians make that they seem to think undermines any Christian's stand is pointing out that Christians aren't perfect. They often point to the crusades and say that Christians are hypocritical for preaching one thing and living another. And they would be right in some cases. Sometimes, this causes Christians to doubt if they should be teaching and sharing their beliefs. They wonder if they are being hypocritical and if so, then they think they have no place criticizing others. Hypocritical Christians need to examine themselves and make sure that they are living in a God-honoring way that reflects Christ.
  • However, no one is perfect, and all Christians will mess up. The world interprets this as a piece of evidence that Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites. The difference is for Christians who recognize their faults, and praise Jesus for saving them from their sin. Something I've noticed that seems to cool the steam of hostile unbelievers when they accuse Christians of being judgmental hypocrites is having the Christian readily admit they themselves are flawed as well. This often catches unbelievers off guard and destroys their accusations of judgment on the part of the Christian. When a Christian says, "Yes, I mess up. Yes, I'm sometimes a hypocrite. Yes, I'm a sinner. And yes, I've been saved and forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ" suddenly the unbeliever can't call the Christians judgmental. The Christian has knocked down a barrier and worked in the gospel message all in one.
  • Coming back to the verse, Christians should do good, simply because God tells them to, but also because it is a wonderful witness. But when they mess up, even that can be used to bring people to Christ.
Here's yet another passage that shows Christians how to act and defend their faith. Colossians 2:6-8 "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." [ESV] Once again, there are multiple points in this passage.
  •  The three major pieces of instruction offered first all direct the behavior of Christians. They are to walk in Christ, and be established firmly in the faith. You can't defend your faith if you aren't convinced of it yourself. Know what you believe and why.
  • Don't allow anyone of the world to cause you to doubt God. Many intellectuals and scientists have what may seem like good and compelling arguments, but don't allow their empty deceit to fool you. If someone brings up a seeming "contradiction" in your faith, then ask a strong fellow Christian and reestablish your convictions. Don't be afraid to ask questions and seek answers, just don't fall prey to the "logic" of the world. 
Notice that in all these verses, the instructions are for responding. First Peter 3 says to be prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. First Peter 2 doesn't even include speaking. Rather, it merely commands you how to behave. Of course, the Bible also instructs Christians to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . ." (Matthew 28:19-20). However, I do find it interesting that all three of these passages are about responding and answering. The definition of defend is to: resist an attack made on (someone or something). That's what I'm discussing in this particular post, not how to go out and preach the gospel. That's a topic for another time. :)

These verses just barely scratch the surface of the Biblical instruction for how to defend the Christian faith. I've found countless others rich with teachings on this topic. I encourage you to see how many others you can find until I share a few more in part two of "How Do We Defend Christianity?"

Have you ever been placed in a position where you've had to defend your beliefs? How did you handle the situation?
 P.S. I changed my blog layout in anticipation of spring! Let me know what you think. :)