Apologetics is not simply for the evangelists or the seminary professors, but also for the pastors on the front line of the church, culture and community.
There are a number of worldviews, philosophies and religions that aim to claim the minds of those around us. Yet, the Apostle Paul notes in his letter to the Colossian church:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits (also translated ‘elementary principles’) of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:8-9, ESV).
Pastors who spend the majority of time around Christians who think and believe like they do will have little reason to see the need to know what others believe because they are never around those who challenge them with their differing beliefs, opinions, and queries. They will spend their time preaching to those who believe like they do, saying, “This is what the Bible says,” and all who listen will nod affirmatively.
While we must preach from the authority of Scripture in the power of the Holy Spirit who inspired those Scriptures, we must also be aware that there are those who may visit our church, listen to our sermons online, or read them in our newsletters or blogs who do not have that foundation of authority which comes from Scripture. How should pastors handle that?
First, never compromise on your conviction of the authority of the Word of God (a.k.a, the Scriptures, the Bible). Apologetics is not apologizing for what we believe in light of what people believe today. Apologetics comes from the Greek word ‘apologia,’ which means to make a defense. In our case, it means to make a defense of the faith.
In sports, the defense of a team interacts with those on offense who are trying to move past toward a goal. We are on defense (being careful not to be defensive), knowing the schemes and tactics of those on offense and work to meet them with our offensive weapon, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). We have nothing to fear, for we know from God’s Word that every other philosophy that sets itself up against the things of God and Scripture are elementary, a first-grade reader in comparison to the glory of Christ.
Secondly, ask yourselves what critiques would come against the passage from which you are preaching. Preach the Word in season and out of season, for sure (2 Timothy 4:2), but also take a look at the passage from someone who does not have a foundation of the authority of Scripture and look to see what issue and umbrage they would take with that passage.
For instance, if you will be preaching on John 1:1, where Jesus is both with God and is God, know that there are those in your congregation who have a mindset of “God said it, that settles it,” but there will be others who may ask, “How can someone be distinct, but also the same as that object?” This will not only help you to love and care for the lost more as you try to answer their unspoken questions, but will show those in your congregation and on the receiving end of whatever conversation you have that you are working to interact with those who have a different worldview.
Third, recognize that some will consider you arrogant for holding to such a ‘narrow’ position in your view of the Word. Do not go on the defensive here. Trevin Wax has written an excellent article on how the homosexual movement (especially in light of Christian artist Jennifer Knapp ‘coming out’ saying she is a lesbian) who accuses orthodox Christianity of being arrogant and judgmental are actually committing the same arrogance and judgmentalism. We are accused of being intolerant for our convictions that have not only been held by God’s Word but also all society up until this one—yet, they are intolerant against 3,000 years of accepted norms regarding men and women. Suddenly, after all this time and all those witnesses, they feel they are the ones now who have it right and all of us have been wrong all these years?
The same could be said about Darwinism. “Where is the evidence of the proof of God in creation?” We have a record of forty men over 1500 years who attest to the very notion, as well as the mechanism of the created order which needs millions of things to happen every nanosecond in order to function. Yet, some reject this by saying nothing (no God) times nothing (no matter before the Big Bang) equals everything. Yet from the friendly confines of a laboratory, they project what has happened billions/trillions of years ago with no record—only pieces of things that they have worked to piece together by speculation and hope. As one Harvard professor once said, “I cannot believe in God—where else do I have to go but to evolution!” So then we see that Darwinism is just as much of a religion as anything else, needing a bunch of faith to hold it all together.
Lastly, remember where you were before you came to Christ. All of us were searching for God—until God came along and rescued us (Romans 3:10-31). We can rail against the culture for their evils and problematic worldviews. Yet, without Christ coming to rescue us from ourselves and our sin and our foolish and darkened hearts, where would we be? We’d be speculating and trying to figure out the meaning of our existence without knowing or being known by the One who brought us into existence.
So pastors of churches large and small, know your Lord, know your faith, know your people, know your community—so that the glory of the Gospel may be made known. We cannot change hearts, but we do plant seeds so that God may cause the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7-8).