IS TESTIMONY A REAL APOLOGETIC?
Well, it seems the apologist should take a tip from Joshua, for the walls to come down we must circle the city. I’ve been on a circular journey of leaving testimony to prove apologetically the things of God by taking the path of logic, evidence, philosophy, argument and theories; after lengthy study, I am striving to master these, or at least attempt to gain a solid grasp of these methods of delivering truth and reason, I’m trying to get in the zone so to speak. Yet the biblical apologist now sits down and begins to read the scriptures and listen to Christ speak in the gospels; the astute apologist recommends that we look carefully at the apologetics of Christ that offered no syllogism and no advanced philosophical jargon; instead, narrative and ontological challenges to their preconceived ideas. Christ speaks from the authority of scripture paired with the existence and watchful eye of his Heavenly Father.
What then? Why the very idea of testimony becomes more relevant than ever and suddenly the apologist has recovered its value because it’s relational to the hearer. So after a long dutiful journey into discovering apologetics, all of the above logic, evidence, philosophy and argument really only prepare the apologist to speak confidently in relational terms to the unbeliever. In short all of the acquired knowledge is needed to shore up the in-confident speaker; the unbelieving listener need not know or understand the depth of knowledge the apologist has. It’s credibility not credential where grace is given. Fortunately the grace of God brings wisdom, having been instilled by the Holy Spirit to equip the apologist to engage relationally a person who is as far away from you logically, philosophically and biblically as one can get. The sinner is dead spiritually, the Apologist is alive in Christ.
This I believe is a good insight; equipped to engage relationally instead of engaging academically alone. It’s the constant pitfall of the apologist to be argument-centered in his thinking. Now in all fairness remember many times the apologist is engaging someone who is antagonistic to him and has no interest in befriending the apologist. I think we apologists understand this because the undercurrent of dis-similar worldviews denote opposition and mentally causes the drawing of the proverbial line in the sand and dares each other to step over.
So, where do relational apologetics begin to come into play? It comes into play when the apologist determines how he is going to engage the skeptic. Either from the outset of the discussion or at some point later, the apologist makes the move to care for the person, not just for the ‘truth’ that he is attempting to express; now there is much written on this subject so I won’t digress into it. But my input along these lines considers the human interaction.
I believe Christ considered the human interaction because His Father considers all things, the depth of God’s understanding is beyond our comprehension, yet within that consideration is care for the human condition. Jesus knows humanly and divinely the depth of sins destruction within the psyche of people. Jesus engaged argument and excuses because behind it is a person using those things to hide from God. He was after them, the victory of divine truth over human confusion is so vast it’s not worthy of debate. But to the Christian apologist coming out of a world of lies and deceptions it’s not bare fact it’s an increase of faith. The Christian apologist is escaping the lies of the world and learning to tell the truth in a myriad of new ways. The central focus of the Christian worldview can get lost in philosophy, truth, evidence and more; but I am seeking to remember Christ is the central focus. My apologetics must not be compartmentalized into a specialized format where it morphs into high-resolution explanation of all things apologetic. My Christianity is my apologetic to everyone listening and watching.
So I end up coming full circle, I am back to a starting point where I was as a young Christian with no apologetic knowledge at all. All I had was a testimony and short list of scripture I knew. But now after all this time I have arrived at testimony again; I am back with a full arsenal of academics, wisdom, knowledge and I’ve picked up along the way patience, long-suffering, love, kindness, gentleness, perseverance and compassion. But what is the real improvement? Is it academic knowledge? Yes I have that. Is it maturity in the faith? Yes I have a small piece of that. But more than all of that I have the ability to forget myself, to concentrate upon the person I’m engaged in discussion. I need not concern myself with winning; I’ve already won in faith and prayer and stand an overcomer in Christ. Now I come to do battle, for the souls of men I resist deceptions, because of compassion I patiently endure abuse, for loves sake I attempt to represent Christ to those who cannot see him in anything.
My prayer is that God opens their eyes to see Him. It’s not about me and my apologetics, it’s not about the war of words, it’s not about the terrible things the Atheist would do to Christians or the bible; it’s about being Spirit-led as a man of God who for the sake of Jesus Christ employs apologetics to win to him more worshippers. Are these grandiose words? Yes they are and more than I can do alone, I count upon Christ to work in me these things I’ve stated. By faith I am a usable apologist to Jesus Christ.
The final fine-tuning must be done by the Spirit of God, whereby the fruits of the Spirit manifest along with academic knowledge. The pairing of this apologetic knowledge and spiritual fruit delivers truth and love together the way Jesus did it. May the Spirit of God lead us into Christ-likeness being conformed into his image and bearing his fruit for the glory and praise of God.