Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Evangelical Obsession with Apologetics

Evangelicals are obsessed with apologetics. To clarify, I'm using the term apologetics to simply describe the work of defending Christian beliefs. Often times apologists utilize philosophical arguments, logic, and modern science to build their cases in favor of Christianity. The scriptural warrant to practice Christian apologetics is normally taken out of 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” I applaud any Christian that wants to share with others the hope he or she finds in Christ, however, I have seen the attitude by which Christian apologetics is conducted rather arrogantly and argumentatively. It seems that Christian practitioners of apologetics have often times neglected to read the latter part of 1 Peter 3:15 which reads, “But do this with gentleness and respect.”

In addition to poor attitude, I find apologetics to be an unwarranted focus of many Evangelicals. Seriously, Evangelicals live for this stuff. They go to Bible colleges and seminaries in order to hone their apologetic skills. So why do I think the great focus on apologetics is unwarranted?

In athletics there is an old saying, “The best offense is a good defense.” In the world of sports I think this principle works well. However, in the realm of Christian faith I argue for just the opposite: “The best defense is a good offence.” What if we stopped trying to defend our faith by way of well reasoned arguments for the existence of God and the superiority of Christianity over every other religion and just started loving God and our neighbors? What if we completely abandoned defending our faith to non-believers and gave ourselves totally over to putting into practice the example Christ has put before us?

I have no way of being sure of this, but I like to imagine that if we Christians simply practiced all that Christ instructed us to do that we would have little to defend our faith against. After all, the majority of “arguments” that I have heard about or personally encounter against the Christian faith go something like this: “I don’t want to be a Christian or have anything to do with Christianity because every Christian I have met is a hypocrite. Every one of them has been just as judgmental, unforgiving, selfish and arrogant as every other person I have ever met.” To put it another way, I don’t think most people turn their back on God or Christians because they absolutely deny the existence of God (although some do), or because they are convinced that another religion has more attractive claims. Rather, I think the reason why they do not want to be associated with Christianity (or at least argue against its claims) is because they have not seen anything worth while in the way Christians live.

I think it is time that Christians went on the offense. I think it is time that we started showing the world what being a Christian is all about, started showing the world that God is worthy of our devotion and that our neighbor ought to be cherished. After all, Jesus said that everyone would know that we are Christians by the way we love one another (John 13:35). Let love be the best defense of the Christian faith.

Musings about the life of a pastor (originally posted 10/2/07)

1)Telling people you're a pastor can be like telling someone you're a mortician or an exotic dancer. Some people are noticeably uncomfortable and/or become immediately disinterested in hearing more about your line of work.

2)The life of a pastor is paradoxical. What I mean by this is that in one hand I feel rather segregated from the "normal" man or woman who works Monday through Friday. In a world of carpenters, factory workers, plumbers, school teachers, cooks, truck drivers and nurses, the pastor finds him or herself in a rather unconventional line of work. It's hard to put into words, but my work just seems so abnormal. What exactly do I do? Well, I seem to spend a lot of time theologizing, reading the Bible, consulting commentaries and trying to develop youth group and Sunday school lessons. I also play a lot. I spend a lot of time hanging out with youth: hiking, paint balling, going to the beach, table tennis and Frisbee golf. (We in the ministry call this Contact "Work"). Seriously, what kind of work is this? I feel kind of distant from the "real stuff" of life. What would the aging carpenter say to this? How about the loyal factory worker and the tired nurse? I feel like I should go run and hide. Now for the paradoxical part. Although I feel rather distant at times from the normalcy of life and what I ambiguously refer to as the "real stuff" of life, there are aspects of a pastor's work that couldn't be more in tune with the normalcy and the so-called real stuff of life. The pastor is usually one of the first to hear of a new birth, called upon to conduct a marriage, asked to visit the sick and dying and inevitably the one to presideover a funeral. Birth, marriage, sickness and death. Does it getanymore normal than this? Does it get anymore real than this? Thisis the stuff that life is made of, is it not?

3)When it comes to drinking alcohol it's a lose-lose for the pastor.Whether or not you choose to drink you're going to piss off someone. Say you do determine that having a beer every now and then is acceptable. In this case you are like 99% of the world's population. However, somewhere along the line it became unreasonable in some people's minds for a pastor to partake of fermented beverages. This leaves the pastor with the following scenario: either drink and risk being thought of as morally promiscuous and flirting with a tool of the devil, or decide not to drink (to appease the Pharisees) and find your self at a BBQ in the middle August with a cooler full of unopened Coronas because you're the ordained elephant in the room that has suddenly made everyone self-conscious because of the glass of Crystal Light in your hand.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

First things first

I do not come from a Roman Catholic background, but sometimes I wish I did. Catholics seem to view the world more sacramentally than we Protestants. One of the sacraments recognized by Catholics is Penance (confession). According to Frederick Buechner, a sacrament is when something holy happens. I want to believe that when I reveal something about my life, either verbally or written, that something holy is happening—that what I speak into this world actually matters and has the ability to be something beautiful, something holy. But then again, this is probably a worribly difficult thing to live up to. I might regret writing this later. Thanks for reading.