The evidence of societal decay is all around us. The California Supreme Court decision is not an isolated event. Despite eight years with a Republican president, much of that with a Republican-controlled legislature, abortion is still legal and rampant, and Roe v. Wade the “law” of the land. The cure, it would seem, is better legislative efforts and more efficient grass-roots campaigning for wholesome politicians. I don’t think so.
I should hasten to add that I think there is a proper place for attempts to advance decent legislation. I even doubt that we’ve done it enough. Yet, I should note that even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will become a states’ rights issue, and even if all 50 states abolished abortion, there will still be people getting abortions. We can successfully resist the gay agenda and preserve the traditional understanding of marriage, and yet there will still be gays. Moreover, even the straight community is filled with sexual immorality.
Legislation can only go so far. At the rock bottom, we need to have changes in hearts. We need more people who accept the Christian worldview. In a word, we need more Christians. But not just any kind of Christian. We need Christians who know what they believe and why they believe it and can expound on it, applying it as necessary in various complex situations. For this, legislation is useless. Apologetics, however, can help.
Many people think of “apologetics” as being on the offensive, striving with atheists, the cults, etc., over the nature of truth and what, if anything, is true. Many Christians are uncomfortable with apologetics because even if every point was proved to the other, and the other knew it, the other might still not believe. Truly, the relational aspect of faith cannot be bridged by intellect alone.
But apologetics is also defensive in nature. The trend in American society is indisputable: Our Christian youth are marching off to college and getting clobbered. Countless young believers are falling away on the battlefield of the intellect. Thus we can say that apologetics need not be construed as simply the intellectual defense from non-Christian assaults, but that it also has a preserving effect on Christians themselves.
Apologetics is not concerned just with making new Christians out of our secular humanist society, but also about keeping the ones we’ve got.
Putting our attention on our apologetics and evangelism efforts puts it in a place that treats the root issue: the heart condition of each human soul. A person who sees that God’s plan for the human body was not arbitrary and capricious will not need the force of law to check his sexual ambitions. A person who sees that life is in the hands of the Life Giver does not need legislation to tell her to keep her baby. Moreover, is it not the case that far from simply prohibiting certain behaviors, we are concerned about the individual souls engaged in them? Of course.
No sooner do we put our attention on our apologetic and evangelism efforts do we come to some very hard truths about the state of Christian education. Indeed, when we compare the overall thrust of the youth and education programs of many churches with the nature of the challenge arrayed against us, there can be little doubt as to the extent of the problem. If we wanted godly young men and women who could carefully discern how various legislative endeavors threaten to hurt and harm millions of people – even as we speak, or in a generation hence – one cannot see how cutesy skits, movie nights and glorified Sunday School curricula will achieve that goal.
We can imagine our country preparing for war against the Nazis in World War II by sending soldiers to Disney World. Sure, the soldiers had a good time and they’ll remember their soldiering experience fondly, but no one will be surprised if the soldiers are outmatched on the battlefield and consequently the Nazis succeed in their quest for world domination. This resembles the state of affairs regarding the transmission of the faith right now. Giving young people good experiences with “church” is not enough to retain them generally, and certainly not when their experiences are contrasted with the cold logic and ruthless marshaling of evidence against the Church that they are exposed to their first day in college.
What would it mean to employ apologetics in the “culture wars”? To begin with, we would want to integrate it into the ongoing educational programs of the Church. You might be surprised at what constitutes apologetics. It need not be a grandiose argument for the existence of God. Even basic information such as the fact that Jesus was a Jew, as were nearly all the first Christians, can be important. Being familiar enough with one’s Bible so that you could find passages that speak about various issues (such as marriage) counts as apologetics, too. Young Christians certainly know that the Bible teaches some things, but they’d be hard pressed to show where.
Seeing how all the pieces fit together is a critical component to being able to explain the merits of the whole. God’s plan for marriage, for example, is not a legalistic attempt by the Mighty to rob Christians of sexual pleasure. A more thorough study yields the fact that God created us as sexual beings and declared his creation “good.”
Integrating apologetics in the education programs of the church means taking our situation seriously, but it also means taking our duty as Christians seriously. Even if our young Christians weren’t getting thumped, or huge societal stakes weren’t involved, we should want to acquaint believers thoroughly with the substance of the Christian faith. Yes, even if, and yet there are high stakes involved. We see that clearly enough today. It is high time we began to do something about it.
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Anthony Horvath is the executive director of Athanatos Christian Ministries. He is the author of the Birth Pangs series, and his apologetics website, sntjohnny.com, is frequented by both believer and unbelievers.