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Are Apologetics Dead?

Don’t get me wrong: apologetics are important.

From the launch of the Church in Acts 2, Christians have proclaimed the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and why He deserves our attention. In Peter’s breathtaking speech to his fellow Jews in Acts 2 following the otherworldly outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he appeals to recent events that everyone was aware of:

“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus of Nazareth by doing wonderful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.” ACTS 2:22 NLT

Peter was appealing to their remembrance of the events of the past few weeks, months and three years. Christianity is rooted in an historical occurrence, mainly, the resurrection of an itinerant preacher, prophet and miracle-worker who behaved as if he were God.

Apologetics became even more critical as the resurrection was relegated to a point in history and less of “you all were witnesses to this.” ACTS 2:32 And so we use a little detective-esque, deductive reasoning on what we understand as the facts. For instance, what caused the apostles to live their lives in painful loss and martyrdom for what they knew was a lie? Or to appeal to a resurrection story which could have otherwise been proven false? It’s true people have given their lives for what is exposed as a lie, but who gives their life for what they know is a lie?

Yet over the years, the classic apologetical approach became the way of talking to people about Jesus. Winning the argument was synonymous with “sharing Christ.” For a culture sliding toward a religion-less spirituality and a “your-truth-is-not-my-truth” post-absolutism, the arguments were moot.

My own tribe developed an approach called “power evangelism”. It was a long-lost idea and desperately needed: how can we read the gospels and Acts without a longing for this supernatural apologetic? Something was clearly missing in postmodern evangelicalism. And yet, that can easily shift from the streets to “circle-the-wagons” conferences with sensationalistic healers and prophets attracting Christians who may have lost their missional hearts and charismatic groupies traveling from one experience to the next.

Along the way, I myself helped trumpet what we called The New Apologetic: Servanthood. Part of that was reactionary. The Church had become known for what it was against rather than what it was for. What’s more, in reaction to cultural shifts, it became theologically dangerous and naïve to slip into the back pocket of any political party because they aligned with “our” values. We Christians are often “wise as doves and innocent as serpents”, to turn a phrase. The question was: what if we became more known for being servants than what we were against?

The fact is: we need all these approaches. Different personalities need different methodologies. What’s more, none of our approaches work in terms of “sealing the deal” until a person is really ready to hear. He who has ears to hear, let them hear. That’s the business of God.

But there is one more apologetic to explore—it’s your story. Specifically, how did your story and God’s story intersect? That’s an apologetic that can’t be argued with…because your story is simply your story. No one can deny that. They can believe you’re deluded. They can believe you’re confused. They can disbelieve your truthfulness. But they can’t discount that it’s the story you know and you tell because, well, it’s your story.

Can you tell that story with deep personal affection, without embellishment and with reflective humility? Can you healthily describe your current need of Jesus without cliché? Is there a recent time of soul-healing you can communicate that exposes a dependency on Jesus to surprise those who assume you’re a fairly together person? Is there a simple delineation between light and darkness in your life that makes you want to gratefully express how accessible Jesus is?

If not, perhaps it’s time for a tune-up.

Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


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