Unbelief is a moral issue

Here’s something rather interesting I came across while reading Total Church.

How do we employ rational apologetics in our evangelism today? By rational apologetics, I mean intellectually reasoning out defences for the Christian faith, against questions such as:

  • Why is there suffering in the world?
  • Can a loving God send people to Hell?
  • Surely the Bible is a fictional book, especially when it comes to supernatural things like miracles.
  • How reliable is the Bible?

I think many of us fall into two extremes in regard to the use of apologetics in evangelism. One extreme is that we treat apologetics as a sufficient tool to bring people to the point of belief in Jesus. This is based on the premise that most people are ignorant, and that intellectual reasoning can convince a person to place their faith in Jesus. The other extreme is that we dismiss apologetics as a tool in evangelism, either because we think it should be left to the experts or ‘smarter’ Christians, or because we believe that there is no room for intellect in the Christian faith.

The authors offer good insight as to how we ought to employ rational apologetics. Succintly put, the problem of unbelief is not an intellectual issue, but rather a moral issue. As Paul puts it, “men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). There is a place for rational apologetics. Peter exhorts Christians everywhere to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks them to give the reason for the hope that they have” (1 Peter 3:15). There is a manner in which we ought to use rational apologetics. “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.” This is because the Christian faith is a reasonable faith.

Nevertheless it is faith – it requires us to believe in the invisible God, who reveals Himself as He pleases. And He has fully revealed Himself in the person of Jesus, who fully revealed Himself on the cross. But the cross is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”; however “to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24). Rational apologetics can help us establish reason, but faith is a gift of God. It is a gift that comes when God opens our blind eyes and deaf ears, and removes our hostility towards Him, so that we can see and hear and savour the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, don’t expect to convince an unbeliever to come to Christ by mere reasoning alone. It needs more than that. It needs the miracle of new birth. But skillfully wielded, rational apologetics can reveal that unbelief is not a matter of reason. It can expose the rebellious hearts of unbelievers. If unbelievers come face to face with their naked hostility towards God, perhaps God might give them eyes to see it for what it truly is. 

Additional note: The authors go on to suggest that we ought to employ relational apologetics as unbelief is a relational issue. There is merit in their argument, and I wholly agree with Francis Schaeffer’s view that the church is the ultimate apologetic, in that our relationship with one another is the criterion which the world uses to judge the truth of our message. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Nevertheless, we needs words to give proper context to the actions. So let us not make the opposite error of living without thinking  even as we strive to avoid thinking without living.

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2 responses to “Unbelief is a moral issue

  1. I particularly like what Schaeffer said. That really the way Christians behave is the ultimate apologetic.

    I’ve been reading a blog or two about apologetics (because I started a wiki for it- not because I’m good at it but because I’m not and need other people). One of the things I’m noticing is that seeing other put forward reasons, and good reasons too, why they believe what they do, is that I am benefiting. I feel more assured in my belief, and that is very comforting to me.

  2. Chucky,

    Hearing good reasons for believing in Jesus is no doubt assuring, and I too am much encouraged that we have intelligent Christian philosophers who have done a great job of defending Christianity from a philosophical perspective.

    But can I add that if you are looking for greater assurance, philosophical validity is a poor substitute (and a potentially dangerous one too) for some of the tests put forward in the Bible. After all, the natural world can only reveal so much about the spiritual realm. We are reliant on God to reveal Himself to us on His own terms in the cross, not on our terms with our intellect. I would direct you to a piece John MacArthur wrote concerning the issue of assurance, entitled “Is It Real?” You can find it here:

    http://www.gty.org/Resources/Positions/P06

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