I am perfectly aware that apologetics as an intellectual enterprise does not produce faith. I am neither Pelagian nor Semi-Pelagian. I recognize the limitations of the human mind and, more importantly, the human will to understand and accept God outside of the sovereign movements of the Holy Spirit.
Having said this, I am a firm believer in the necessity of apologetics as an intellectual defense of the faith. I agree with Os Guinness who says that we don’t have any right to the culture if we cannot intellectually defend our faith. I believe that God often uses apologetics as a means to bring someone to the faith just as he uses the words of men to proclaim the Gospel. God does not really need either, but He uses both. I think it was Aquinas who said, “God has not only chosen the ends, but also the means of salvation.”
Therefore, I strongly believe that you and I are to be clear when we present the Gospel and intellectually compelling when we defend it. Apologetic sloppiness and intellectual laziness is not an option for the Christian.
Pseudo=false. When we are talking about pseudo-apologetics, we are talking about false apologetics. This type of apologetics could be called pop-apologetics, tabloid apologetics, or pseudo-apologetics. Pseudo-apologetics is a false way to defend the faith based upon naive or misleading “evidences” that only serve to take focus away from true apologetics.
Let me give some examples:
1. “I believe Christianity is true because I read this book where someone died, went to heaven, and came back.”
2. “I believe Christianity is true because there are secret codes found in the Scriptures.”
I used to work for a ministry that used this as a primary means of presenting the Gospel. It was very popular in the nineties and, thankfully, has run its course. The basic argument was that in the Masoretic Hebrew text of the Bible, there was a secret code that only God could have put in there. The problem is that I was a ble to produce the same results with a copy of Moby Dick! Any work could do it. This is not a good foundation for anyone’s faith.
3. “I believe Christianity is true because the lost day of Joshua has been found by NASA.”
While I don’t believe in the “God of the gaps” approach (and I don’t think such a criticism is legit in most cases), this truly is one of those in my opinion. Be very careful with this.
4. “I believe Christianity is true because we had a special speaker come to our class and show how the Gospel was written in the stars.”
As well, be very careful with this as it is possible that one can construct such a paradigm to fit any religion. It just takes some creativity.
5. “I believe Christianity is true because I have seen pictures of Noah’s Ark.”
Very interesting, but Noah’s are is not the ultimate grounding for our faith.
6. “I believe Christianity is true because I heard that this guy’s pancake was miraculously in the shape of Jesus.”
Just plain silly.
7. “I believe Christianity is true because God spoke to me and told me ______”
Was his voice base or tone? Such a subjective grounding is nearly impossible to denfend. Forgive me but I have dealt with too many who hear voices in their head. Yours may be God, but you had better have a stronger basis for your belief first.
8. “I believe Christianity is true because there are no better options and I have nothing to lose.”
This is called “Pascal’s Wager.” It is not really an apologetic, but a tatic taken for those who don’t have a defense. This could just as well be used for any other religous belief lacking verification.
9. “I believe Christianity is true because I saw a photograph of a cloud which was shaped like Jesus.”
See the pancake.
10. “I believe Christianity is true because there was a statue of Mary crying.”
This boarders on a cultish apologetic. Proves nothing either way.
11. “I believe Christianity is true because my friend was healed of cancer after praying.”
I believe that God does heal at his discression. When someone is healed, it is of God. But the medical world will account for many anamolies which include “healings” that cannot be explained. These are not limited to Christians.
12. “I believe Christianity is true because I spoke in tongues.”
How do you define tongues?
13. “I believe Christianity is true because my church says it is.”
Outsourcing your beliefs is not expedient to a responsible life. Lots of religious organizations say lots of different and contradictory things. They can’t all be right. What is your method of verifying your religious institution? Just hope they are right? A deep emotional conviction? A dime a dozen.
14. “I believe Christianity is true because my right leg grew two inches.”
Why are there so many stories of legs growing? If God was going to verify his truth through miraculous intervention, it would seem that he could choose something a little more evident (not to mention practical!).
My point here is not necessarily to discredit any of these occurrences or beliefs. You might have seen Jesus in your pancake, your friend very well might have been miraculously healed, the Gospel may be written in the stars, your church could be right, and someone might have died and gone to heaven for a short time. My point is that these are not sufficient enough for you to base your faith on. I have seen to many “miracles” in my life that turn out to be coincidences, misunderstandings, or misinterpretations. As well, I have seen many people’s faith that was founded upon this type of pseudo-apologetic fall apart when they found out that there were better and more plausible explanations for the experiences upon which their faith was based.
God is a God of experience, no doubt. I don’t want to discourage anyone from seeing God’s activity in the world today. But I think we need to be cautious about basing their beliefs upon such things. When we do and when we encourage people to believe based upon such experiences, we set ourselves and others out on sensation seeking voyages where their beliefs and theology rest solely upon personal experience or feeling. This is not safe ground. What happens when science shows that there really was brain activity in the supposedly dead body, they just did not know how to detect it before? What happens when Islam finds Allah in the stars? What happens when your leg does not grow? What happens when you don’t speak in tongues? What happens when the heavens are brass and God’s presence cannot be felt much less his voice be heard? What happens when you discover your church’s teachings are wrong? If your faith is founded upon these type of trusts and experiences, then your loss of faith will be as well. After your sense of devastation and betrayal, you will then move on to something else.
On the other hand, if your faith is based upon apologetics that can stand the scrutiny, then it is a different matter all-together. These other “miracles,” valid or not, become window dressings to an unshakable trust.
I believe the starting point for all apologetics, personal or evangelistic, should be the resurrection of Christ. “I believe Christianity is true because Christ rose from the grave.” If Christ rose from the grave, Christianity is true—period. If Christ did not rise from the grave Christianity is false—period. All the legs growing and pancake visions in the world, while nice, will add little to your faith. As well, lack of such events will be unable to shake your faith. The resurrection of Christ is the historic foundation of the Christian faith. Paul said as much:
1 Corinthians 15:17
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”
We often give ourselves and others flimsy apologetics that are easily struck down either by more information or conflicting experience. When this happens, the Christian faith is made to look comical at best and, more often, deceptive.
Not only do these type of events lack apologetic substance, they also lack definite meaning. What does it mean that Mary cried? What does Jesus’ face in a cloud mean? What does it mean that the lost day of Joshua has been found? The resurrection means something. If the resurrection truly happened it means that everything Christ said is true. God is real, holy and righteous, we are sinners in need of a substitute, God really does love you more than you can imagine, there is a future for those who have trusted in Christ, and heaven is real.
If the resurrection really happened, then all these other false apologetics become “ho-hum apologetics.” I encourage you to grab a good book on the apologetics of the resurrection and spend some time establishing this event as your primary apologetic front, personal and evangelistic. I have listed some books below.