Category Archives: Apologetics

Does Christian character have apologetic value?

In a recent post, C. Michael Patton argued that “Christianity is not validated upon the character of its adherents.” In other words, he contends that whether or not Christians actually live significantly differently than non-Christians  should have no bearing on whether or not we believe Christianity to be true. He concludes, “Christianity is based solely on the historic person and work of Christ.”

I’d be curious to hear what you have to say about this. On the one hand, you have Patton’s argument that the truth of Christianity is not predicated on the extent to which Christians live out this truth. And, you also have all the sociological evidence supporting the notion that Christians do not in fact live lives that are significantly different from non-Christians. Those two pieces would seem to suggest that Christian character does not have apologetic value. It doesn’t work (i.e. there’s no evidence suggesting that Christian character is noticeably different) and it isn’t necessary (i.e. the truth of Christianity stands or falls without it).

Of course, on the other hand you have the life-changing power of the Gospel and the indwelling of the Spirit. These truths would seem to indicate that if Christianity is in fact true, it should be noticeable. Consequently, Christian character is legitimate evidence for (or against) the validity of Christianity.

What do you think? If you were engaged in an apologetic dispute with someone and they raised the apparent lack of noticeable transformation in the lives of Christians, how would you respond?

Brian McClaren and How Pluralism Can Lead to a New Christianity

I’m generally leery of things Brian McClaren writes and says because I don’t agree with him.  He uses evangelicalism as his whipping boy and at times attacks the cross and Christianity as too exclusive, voting rather for a watered down social gospel.   That being said, in a recent video clip I watched about his newest book, A New Kind of Christianity, he discussed a chapter in the book concerning the Christians engagement with religious others.  (Please note that I want to interact with the video clip and not the book.)   I was surprised that I actually agreed with what appeared to be the main premise of his argument: Christians, while maintaining their Christian identity, need to find ways to lovingly engage religious others.  I have absolutely no problem with that.  Admittedly, the stance of Christianity has at times been very cruel and unloving towards those who will not agree with us.

However, we must be clear about what is meant by “Christian identity” and the term, “loving.”  Definitions of love are varied and many times incompatible with Scripture.  To most people in religious circles today, love = tolerance.  We only truly love people when we accept what they believe as “true” (especially that of ultimate reality), and affirm it with as much validity as we do our own “truth.”  This simply is not what love is.   Furthermore, the engagement of Christianity with religious pluralism is not the collision of nice vs. mean people (although this is the way it is usually portrayed and which side of the debate you’re on will dictate whether or not you’re the nice or mean person), but of two completely different worldviews that CANNOT co-exist together no matter how hard one tries to make them.  The Christian gospel is that Jesus alone is King (as proven by his death and resurrection), and that salvation is found in no other name but Jesus.  It is an exclusivistic message.  In certain places, no matter how much love you preach this message with, it will be received with anger and persecution (i.e. Jesus – who was more loving than him).  Jesus says this in Matthew 10:5-42.  As Jesus sends the disciples out he warns them that persecution awaits them.  He tells them they will be handed over to courts and flogged.  In light of all of this, he tells them to be as “wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”  He then says in 34-39, that he hasn’t come to bring peace to the earth, “but a sword.”  This gospel concerning him is like a sword that will disrupt all human relationships, including the most intimate, those within the family.

Should Christians have a loving disposition towards unbelievers and those of other religious faiths?  Yes!  Absolutely!  Just because we are right does not give us license to be Jerks (and yes, I am aware of how arrogant that first part sounded…..but I say it in love.)  However, at times this will mean that Christian must say and do things that will be perceived by an unbelieving world as unloving.   As we preach the gospel message of Christ, we too will be wielding a sword.  A scalpel to those who recognize the sickness of sin and rebellion, and a weapon to those who hate the true King of this world.

Austin Farrer on the proper role of apologetic arguments

Peter Leithart posted a good quote from Austin Farrer that I thought was worth reposting here. Commenting on C.S. Lewis’ apologetics Farrer said:

“though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroyed belief.  What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned.  Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”

Intelligent design vs. imperfect design

In a recent Huffington Post article, Michael Zimmerman contends that Intelligent Design arguments are fatally flawed. He begins by pointing to recent research suggesting that “the human genome is incredibly imperfect, or, in other words, very far from being intelligently structured.” From here he goes off on a bit of a diatribe against the intellectual bankruptcy of intelligent design, contending that it’s basic arguments are flawed (e.g., irreducible complex systems) and betray an ignorant retreat from scientific progress.

I have a couple of questions here, and I’d like your thoughts on both of them:

  • What do you think of the new evidence suggesting that there is more imperfection in creation than might be suggested by intelligent design proponents? How would you assess such evidence and what will you do with it in your own system?
  • What do you think of intelligent design in general? Do you find arguments from design convincing? Do you appeal to them in your own conversations with people?