the weblog of Alan Knox

Making our case…

Posted by on Apr 3, 2007 in discipleship | 9 comments

In his letter to several churches, Peter encouraged his readers to live in a way that honors God. In fact, he asked them to consider how unbelievers would view their lifestyle:

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12 ESV)

Jesus said something very similar (Perhaps this is where Peter got the idea?):

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

It is important for us to know what we believe. It is important for us to have “sound doctrine”. But why did Jesus not tell us to make sure our arguments are strong so that we could convince people of our truth claims? Why did Peter not warn us about logical fallacies when we were giving a defense of the gospel?

Interestingly, Peter does talk about apologetics. Now, the modern definition of apologetics is something like this: “Apologetics is the task of defending a particular idea or belief system and answering its critics”. What does Peter say about apologetics?

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (απολογίαapologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17 ESV)

I included the verses around 1 Peter 3:15 so that you could see the context. What is the context for this “defense”? Suffering for doing good. In other words, those who are persecuting the believer are so astounded by their faith in spite of the persecution and they are so overwhelmed by the believer’s gentleness and even respect in spite of the persecution, that the persecutors themselves ask what makes this person different.

This believer is not debating an atheist in order to prove the atheist wrong. The believer is being persecuted by the atheist and has hope in spite of the persecution. The believer is not presenting an argument in favor of Christianity to an unbeliever, he is living a life that demonstrates that “Christ is Lord” in spite of the suffering that he is enduring. The one causing the believer to suffer notices the difference. The believer has become light in the darkness.

So, why has apologetics become writing and debating in order to prove that we are right? Why has apologetics been reduced to arguments, positions, logic, and presuppositions? What happened to letting our conduct reveal the God who has changed us and is working to redeem the world?

Perhaps, the next time an unbeliever denies the existence of God or the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, we should attempt to prove our doctrines by loving that unbeliever and living a life that shows that we have died to ourselves and God is living through us by his Spirit. Then again, it does seem easier to just argue with that person.


9 Comments

  1. 4-3-2007

    Perhaps this also explains why the Apostles were told not to worry about what they would say when they were persecuted; rather, Jesus told them the Spirit would give them the words. I see few approaching apologetics in that way.

  2. 4-3-2007

    Bryan -

    I agree!

    Alan -

    I think you answered your own question — I can’t say it better than this:
    Perhaps, the next time an unbeliever denies the existence of God or the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, we should attempt to prove our doctrines by loving that unbeliever and living a life that shows that we have died to ourselves and God is living through us by his Spirit. Then again, it does seem easier to just argue with that person.

    Our friends that live in Africa in a Muslim world do just this. There is no arguing, only love. They might discuss it, but love is what has opened the door to the men there even being willing to talk about their faith and about Jesus in the same conversation with a non-Muslim. God is moving and working there as they walk Jesus among the people. We would do well to follow their example.

  3. 4-3-2007

    Alan,

    Its been a while since I commented here, I’ve been very busy.

    Great post! We recently went through this in my home fellowship. Being the OT guy that I am, I found it interesting that the thing we are to do before we give an answer is “sanctify Christ in our hearts.” Which, by the way, is qouting Isaiah which says, “Make the Lord holy.”

    You are right on, it is connected to conduct (I believe you said loving the unbeliever and I think that is part of it). I used to be heavy in apologetics and what I discovered personally, was that arguing with someone got nowhere in relation to sharing the gospel.

    Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement.

    Through Christ,
    Dougald

  4. 4-3-2007

    Great post, Alan. I had come to similar conclusions before, but you articulated it quite well.

    It was very interesting to see the response on my blog when I explored the possibility that one could be saved while part of an organization which is considered “unorthodox”.

    Even those commenters who were the most rough with me in condemning my thoughts were, at the same time, acknowledging that this particular group is definitely “walking the walk”.

    How can we put doctrine and apologetics above living the life? If I had to choose between someone who walked the walk without having all their theological ducks in a row vs. someone who talked the talk but didn’t have love, I would take the one whose ducks didn’t quack right any day.

    In other words, having your theological ducks in a row is not all it’s quacked up to be….. (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

  5. 4-3-2007

    Bryan,

    Good thoughts. Why do we practice our arguments? Perhaps we would be better at apologetics if we practiced our conduct and left the words to the Spirit.

    Heather,

    We heard recent testimony about believers in Ethiopia who lived their apologetics in spite of terrible suffering and persecution.

    Dougald,

    Welcome back! You said: “…arguing with someone got nowhere in relation to sharing the gospel.” Yes, this is exactly where I was going with this post.

    Steve,

    I enjoyed the puns. I wonder if perhaps our argumentative style sometimes causes the unbeliever to miss the point of the gospel, sort of like water off a … nevermind.

    -Alan

  6. 4-3-2007

    Alan

    Again, I have to say how I’m encouraged by your’s and your respondents’ comments.

    I have long taught those I had the privilege to teach that Christians, who hope to be good witnesses to Christ, must EARN the right to share their knowledge of God’s saving grace in Christ.

    To earn the right, we have to be seen to be what we say we are, or, as Steve said,”walking the walk”.

    If we look on our “Jerusalem”, the people we contact regularly with our daily lives, through the eyes of Christ, and as one who has been amazingly, undeservedly blessed by Him. It is then we will have compassion on them, and be reminded that they are a reflection of what we were, and that every one of us are of the same pedigree.

    How privileged we are to be called the children of God! What a joy it is when the lost see in us the light of Christ, and not a pedantic,fountain of information.

    How painful it has been, as I’ve seen unbelievers cross the road to avoid a Christian, and say to me, “If that’s what you teach people to do in your church, count me out!”

    The offense of the cross doesn’t make offensive Christians!

    Aussie John

  7. 4-3-2007

    Aussie John,

    Thank you for the encouraging words. I agree that the cross should be offensive, but not believers.

    -Alan

  8. 5-15-2012

    stumbled across this!! perfect conclusion to what I was thinking about this week!

    I actually was thinking about I Peter 3:15 because as I read it today I thought that it would be a perfect “scripture as we live it”… and then I thought of how it would read and realized I think you already did it! lol so I came on here to look and didn’t find the as we live it….

    but did find this post.
    very good post!! :) see u all sunday!!

  9. 5-15-2012

    Randi,

    I forgot about this post… But, then, it is a few years old. :)

    -Alan

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