Monday, February 27, 2012

The Courageous Movie and The Purpose of Apologetics

Have you ever wondered what the point is in Christian apologetics? Does it seem like a favorite past-time of only the "smartest" Christians, but nothing more than that? I hope to offer compelling answers to those questions in this post.

A couple weeks ago my wife and I watched the movie Courageous (the book "The Resolution for Men" is based on the movie). In short, it is a piercing and convicting story about several men who, as the result of the tragedy in one of their lives, committed to actively being godly examples for their families and teaching them the higher ways of God. The commitment was not taken lightly. The men got together with their families and had a formal ceremony in which they pledged the following before each other and God:

  • I DO solemnly resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, my wife, and my children.
  • I WILL love them, protect them, serve them, and teach them the Word of God as the spiritual leader of my home.
  • I WILL be faithful to my wife, to love and honor her, and be willing to lay down my life for her as Jesus Christ did for me.
  • I WILL bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of their minds, and all of their strength.
  • I WILL train them to honor authority and live responsibly.
  • I WILL confront evil, pursue justice, and love mercy.
  • I WILL pray for others and treat them with kindness, respect, and compassion.
  • I WILL work diligently to provide for the needs of my family.
  • I WILL forgive those who have wronged me and reconcile with those I have wronged.
  • I WILL learn from my mistakes, repent of my sins, and walk with integrity as a man answerable to God.
  • I WILL seek to honor God, be faithful to His Church, obey His Word, and do His will.
  • I WILL courageously work with the strength God provides to fulfill this resolution for the rest of my life and for His glory.

What does this have to do with apologetics?

"Apologetics" is the defense of the truth of the Christian worldview. When a person is called an "apologist," people are saying that they provide logical reasons to believe that Christianity is true. Going the other way, any person who provides logical reasons for someone to believe Christianity is true is taking on the role of an "apologist".

One of the bullet points above states, "I WILL bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of their minds, and all of their strength." This comes directly from what Jesus Christ told His disciples was the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27). Notice that Jesus commands us and part of the commitment above is to love God with all our minds. God created us with minds that are designed to think logically and reasonably. God also created us for several purposes.

Purpose Driven Apologetics
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren puts forth a model of the Christian's life based on five different purposes found throughout Scripture. Christians using their minds the way God created them is vital to every purpose identified.

Worship
One of the purposes that God created us is to worship Him. We are created in His Image- that includes our minds. God also created the universe and gave us senses that we can use to detect and learn about God and His creation. We can test our ideas about reality against reality to see if they are correct. When we use our minds to think logically reasonably through things and investigate the works of God, He is glorified. (Isaiah 1:18)

Discipleship
Holly Ordway puts this one very nicely: "Its helpful to know the reasons for our faith...it helps us not be so vulnerable to doubt, and it helps us not be so vulnerable to false doctrine." Purposes #2 on my list is Discipleship- the more reasons that we have for knowing that Christianity is true, the more reasons we have to trust God. Christianity is not a "blind faith". God gives us reasons to trust Him. He does not ask us to trust Him without giving us a reason to do so (John 14:11). When difficult times come our way (such as is portrayed in "Courageous"), we have reasons to know that God will bring us through- we can trust Him with the unknown because He has proved Himself trustworthy with the known (Hebrews 13:5). The more we trust Him, the closer we come to Him.

Knowing what is true and why it is true will help us avoid incorrect teachings. Every serious Christian ("apologist" or not) is aware that there exists numerous false teachings. These are appealing because they come to us dressed in "Christianese". The best way to avoid these traps is to know the difference between what is true and what is not, and be able to explain why one thing is true and the other not. If we don't know why, we are tempted to consider that what is false may actually be true. (1 John 4:1)

Fellowship
Of course, learning what and why we believe is not the easiest thing to do. It will be frustrating, and sometimes it will be confusing. We need to be in contact with and spend quality time with those who are also learning and have learned (fellowship). Others can encourage us and point us in the proper directions when we get off track.(Hebrews 10:25)

Evangelism
Contrary to some popular ideas, religion can be tested for truth. Because we have senses that can detect the creation, we can test ideas against what we find in creation . The claims of Christianity can be put to the test and shown to be in accordance with reality. Another purpose that we are called to is evangelism (Matthew 28:19-20). For those who look at reality and think that Christianity does not agree with it, we can correct them and show how it DOES reflect reality (1 Peter 3:15). BUT, before we can do that, we must be willing to worship God with our minds.

Ministry
If we do not worship God with our minds, how do we expect to grow closer to Him? How do we expect to deal with doubt and false doctrine? More importantly, how do we expect our children and spouses to do so? The pledge above is a commitment to our families to worship God with all our minds. It is a commitment to defend the faith. It is a commitment to give our children the foundation they need that will be able to withstand against the "intellectual" and experiential attacks that will come their way. Most important of all, though, this commitment sets the example for our children to set the same example for our grandchildren.

Our families are not the only ones to whom we minister. In the section on fellowship, I mentioned "others" who will encourage you and be there to help you along. Soon, YOU will become one of those who are encouraging and training others whose desire is to be discipled to pass their grounded faith to their children and family. Our ministry does not end with our physical family, it extends to the entire Body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12)

Conclusion
Apologetics is not just something that the intellectual geeks and nerds do for fun, it is a commandment by Christ to every individual member of His Body. God created for several purposes, and He gave us the tools of a reasonable mind, His Word, and His creation to accomplish those purposes. If you were moved by the movie "Courageous" and wish to pledge (or have already pledged) the resolution above, I ask that you begin the journey to discover the reasons that you believe. If you have not seen the movie yet, I strongly encourage you to do so, then reread this post.

Other blog posts here to get you started:
What is Faith?
Can Religion Be Tested For Truth?
Book Review: "The Risen Jesus and Future Hope"
Can You Argue Someone Into The Kingdom?

Great resources to begin defending the faith:
Apologetics 315
The Poached Egg
Stand to Reason

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