July 27, 2009

Nothing New Under the Sun

For any of you who follow my blog consistently, you might remember a post I made about Saint James a couple weeks ago. In my interaction with this man, God illumined a great truth about the role of apologetics in evangelism. To sum up, here is what I said:

"Apologetics, the rational defense of the faith, is designed to plant seeds. You will never argue someone into the Kingdom of God. That's not what God's love created us to do. His love will win someone to the Kingdom of God. Intellectual assent, while it is an important aspect of faith, is not a pre-requisite for belief. Apologetics will merely break down faulty logic and weak arguments in order to create space for the Holy Spirit to convict the heart. The mind will either serve as a bridge or as a roadblock to the heart."

Simple truth, yes? Well, thankfully, there are much smarter men and women on this earth than me... men and women with more experience than me. I love to read, and this summer I have been soaking up just about as many books as I can. I was forced to laugh the other day while reading Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere. Deere recounts a situation he encountered while witnessing to an intelligent woman on a flight to Dallas:

"An hour and a half of apologetic arguments did not even come close to equaling the force of the simple statement, "You are a sinner and you need a savior." There was a power behind that simple declaration that was absent from all my carefully reasoned arguments. The power came because God had suggested those simple words to my spirit... That experience of power began to teach me, a philosophy major, the relative powerlessness of intellectual arguments. While they may occasionally remove genuine obstacles to faith, they are ultimately fruitless unless the Holy Spirit convicts the heart of sin" (309).

Huh. Sounds familiar...

But it doesn't stop there. I read that a couple days ago. Today I bought a new book by Norman Geisler and David Geisler entitled Conversational Evangelism. As I began to read through the book (written by two of the top apologists in America, mind you), I stumbled across this paragraph:

"This distinction has major implications for how we do evangelism. Apologetics cannot argue someone into the kingdom. Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit must work in a person's life if he or she is to accept Christ. Jesus said in John 6:65, "No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." Therefore, faith and reason must work hand in hand to effectively reach others for Christ. Apologetics can help someone "believe that" Jesus is the Messiah, but it can never force one to "believe in" Him" (163).

I love how they distinguish between the phrases, "believing that" and "believing in." A simple change of words essentially holds eternity in its hands. It is easy to believe that something happened, given strong evidence and clear logic. But to believe in something, to base your life on a cause, requires faith. That faith can only come through the Holy Spirit.

I'm reminded of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 - "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power." Rationality is beneficial to an extent, yet it is fleeting without the Spirit. As John 4:23 tells us, God desires worshipers who worship in Spirit and in truth. There must be a balance between the two.

Please do not misunderstand me. I love apologetics still. I am going to continue to read and study the arguments on both sides of faith. I believe studying apologetics not only strengthens my own faith, but it also puts my fears toward evangelism at ease.

What I am attempting to communicate is that the Holy Spirit is at work today in miraculous ways, and the biggest miracle in life is when someone passes from the old life into the new. The Holy Spirit is not absent from the mind and apologetics; on the contrary, He relishes the opportunity to transform a life while utilizing a tool for breaking down intellectual barriers. He works on both the heart and the mind. Don't forget, God is the one who gave us a mind and intellect in the first place.

If God gave us a mind, should we choose not to use it? And if God gave us his Holy Spirit, should we choose to neglect Him?
I thank God for people like Jack Deere, David Geisler, and Norman Geisler, who fluidly articulate my thoughts for me in such brilliant manners that inspire me to wrestle with the topic even further.
Until next time...


b.hausknecht said...

Terrific post, David. I especially like the insight that the Holy Spirit works through apologetics to transform the mind. We tend to think of the H.S. only as touchy feely and working on the emotions and heart.

budeness said...

After reading your latest i am reminded of a thot attributed to a seminary prof: too many Christians act as though they are pneumaphobic. I like the phrase Dr. Bill relates that he is a charismatic with his seatbelt on. Yeah baby!

Looking forward to continuing our conversations. dk

bri mcroberts said...

Daviddd! I know you wrote this a few weeks ago but good post :) so true... It made me smile when I read that. can't wait for talking over panera sandwich (and bagel)