christian belief rests on a very solid foundation of historical fact and documentation — unlike many other religions. It is therefore not difficult to defend.
It is therefore unfortunate that the English word apologetic is misleading. Its similarity to apology suggests that we have to make excuses for what we believe. This is not the case. The name stems from the first and second century Apologists (or Defenders ) represented by Justin Martyr. These writers defended Christianity by both answering criticism directly and by setting out the truth of the Gospel in the framework of Greek philosophy.
The method Martyr employed was to seek common ground between the Gospel and current philosophy, and to build on that common ground a case for the superiority of Christian faith. Apologetics addresses itself to the task of making a rational presentation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It appeals to the mind rather than the emotions. It challenges the presuppositions and foundations of prevailing belief and value systems by addressing their inadequacies and inconsistencies.
This does not mean that we develop a lot of highbrow programs for intellectuals. It does mean that we need to understand the world-view of our intended audience, so that we can consciously address aspects of their world-view that are inconsistent with the Gospel.
For example, for many years now the whole educational system of many countries have been brought into line with the teachings of an atheistic world-view. This system teaches that man is in control of his own destiny and that everything can be explained by science and rational thought. In communist and former communist countries we are appalled to discover societies characterised by a distinct absence of any set of underlying values — even in the area of ecology and the environment.
Individuals raised under communism learned to suppress their feelings and submit to the system. Their lives were controlled by fear and they learned to conform and not be seen as wanting to stand out from the rest. They only looked out for themselves and their own good, while denying any appearance of behaviour associated with free society. Happily, many societies have moved on as communism has collapsed and been replaced by more liberating elements of democracy.
It is not hard to see that the Gospel and Christian principles stand in direct opposition to many of these instilled values. Moreover, we know that God has made us in His image so that our spirits might respond to the higher order of life accorded to us by the Holy Spirit.
A Buddhist monk once wrote a lengthy letter to FEBC describing how the speaker's words captured his attention:
Slowly, I became convinced that there must be a Living God. As I continued to listen to the message, I became eager to know how he would interpret Anatta (all is vanity). He said, Nothing is under our control; man's desire is to rule and be the controller with this decaying physical body; but this futility is evident by the buried bodies of young and old at the cemetery....This physical realm we are in, is only temporal; we are not in control of anything, said Saya.
But there is an eternal realm, he said, where we can be immortal. We can live there forever. By believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by His Grace, we can be saved. Saya quoted Bible verses and preached. I did not fully understand what it really meant at that time. But I was greatly touched. For us (Buddhists) it takes years of striving just to experience a fleeting peace of mind.
The approach reminds us of Paul's address on Mars Hill. Many, including this monk, have come to faith as a direct result.
Through careful programming we can help our listener to recognise and respond to these inner promptings, helping him to see that there is another way of looking at life. We need to point out the inconsistencies of atheistic belief and its total inadequacy to explain those God-given instincts of love and beauty that take us beyond a bottom-line human existence. We need to take the Living Word of God to them so that the written word comes alive in their lives.
Is it not important, therefore, to raise these issues with the listener so that he might see these things for himself? Should he not discover the inadequacy of teaching that leaves no place for our Creator God who has equipped us with a sense of beauty and a desire for love?
How does one introduce Jesus Christ to a cadre who has sought the communist dream for his whole life? This is a most urgent question we have to answer since many cadres have now reached the end of their lives.
But we should not limit our apologetics to addressing communism along with Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu belief systems. Today materialism provides a more sinister challenge since it appeals to man's desire for possessions and his innate greed. Addressing secular humanism requires that we understand it.
Advertisements for The Alpha Course ask Is this life all there is? suggesting that people may have everything they need materially, but still are empty. It is popular in the west especially among the middle-aged. This age group includes many who have done well in business or in pursuing their vocation, but finally come to realise that they have still not found what they hoped life would deliver.
Post-modernism which now embraces much of the western world has a pervasive influence on society and the way people look at life. But more than that, we need to find creative ways of bringing secular men and women back to a recognition of the more important issues of life from which they are running away. Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn said it best when he stated "Men have forgotten God" in describing his own people and the failings of atheism.
Last updated 1 Oct 2010
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