Apologetics saved my life: what kinds of “reasons” did I need to hear when I was younger?

Paul practicing apophatic (v. 24-25, 29) and cataphatic (v. 23, 30-31) evangelism.

Acts 17: Paul practicing apophatic (v. 24-25, 29) and cataphatic (v. 23, 30-31) evangelism.  More on that here.

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In the near future I plan on posting some stuff that takes a hard – and somewhat critical – look at contemporary Lutheran apologetics.

Before I do that however, I want to make something very clear: as I have hinted at before but will state more clearly now, I think that simply knowing that Christian apologetics existed saved my life. No exaggeration. I believe that God used the presence and words of Christian apologists to convict me of my sin and draw me near to him in my first year of college when I was in danger of falling away. Especially after the 1992 LC-MS youth gathering (yes, you read that right), I had started to have grave doubts about whether or not my Christian faith was true – and I felt like no one else had or cared about the kinds of difficult questions that I had.  It was only my freshman year in college that I really learned about Christian apologetics (OK – my youth director had tried to get me to read the Screwtape Letters), and I believe this came at a critical time in my life.

I think one of the things that caused me to seriously doubt my faith was that other than the Reformation, I heard very little talk about the historical nature of Christianity and the Church. Christianity often seemed to be about us today, living in the present, in a way that felt disconnected, untethered from the past. I, probably a bit more than most, was very curious about Christianity as a very concrete and historical matter – about it being something true that was rooted in the past, which in turn, had much to say about the present and future. I think that the fact – or perception – that many persons in the church did not really draw attention to this caused me to doubt whether or not others thought that it was critical that Jesus Christ was an actual historical figure… and this in turn caused larger doubts….

There is a good reason why the Christian has a desire to hear the world and its false ideas confronted. Not necessarily because you want to be better than them – though we have that problem as well – but because we live by the truth, and are people of the truth.

ddd

Acts 26: Festus: “Paul you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.”  Paul: “I am speaking true and rational words.”

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Not only this, but when it comes to loving one’s neighbor, knowing about the world and its beliefs is not an option. That is how you love them. You engage them on their ground, learn about their ideas, and respect them enough to take their ideas seriously and engage them in as much depth as you are capable, realizing how much you might not know….  Not all are called to be scholars, but all are called to engage one’s neighbor and to be ready to give a reasons – a defense, or apologia – for the hope that is within them.

Here is a really good example of the kind of bold message I think I could have used when I was younger – and that I need to hear today. Michael Horton is a good preacher. Some in the Reformed world might suspect Horton of being a “Crypto-Lutheran” from time to time, but I have never heard anything but good Calvinist theology coming from the man (as well as I know that theology). In any case, in this address he gave at a Christian conference – which is really like a sermon – it seems to me that the content he shares is quite uncommon among both conservative Reformed and Lutherans (maybe I am wrong about that – maybe your experience has been different).

If I am right in suggesting that these kinds of words are rare, I do not think that they should be. In my estimation, we need more excellent proclamation that is just like this. As a matter of fact, I think that given that we more or less live in a world of Greeks today, these kinds of words should be heard more and more often among us not only as we talk with one another, but as we talk with the world….

We don’t all need to have just the kind of highly erudite “heart for the lost” that Horton clearly has. But it seems to me that Christian pastors at least ought to be able to speak in a fashion similar to him here.

That takes some work.  Some love.

FIN

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About infanttheology

Christian/Lutheran. Happily married father of five.
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4 Responses to Apologetics saved my life: what kinds of “reasons” did I need to hear when I was younger?

  1. truthunites says:

    Nice post, Nathan. As a related aside, I’d like to inquire about the following:

    How old were you when you were baptized, Nathan? I have participated in several thread conversations where you stated that you hold to baptismal regeneration as taught by historic Lutheran dogma. If so, weren’t you saved by your baptism? Or were you saved by apologetics when you got older? Help me understand. Thanks.

    • John Bugay says:

      Truth, one of the reasons I invited Nathan to write here is precisely so that he could help people to “understand” Lutheran views on things.

      You have to keep in mind that “Lutheranism” developed as a whole complex historical phenomenon, and one of the primary motivations of Luther during that time was to demonstrate continuity with what came before.

      Now, you may not like where that ended up after some 70 years of doctrinal exploration, and I would not agree either. But Nathan is not going to be able to make that entire case in a combox here in response to (what seems to me to be) a question designed to entrap him into saying something that would give you an “aha!” moment.

  2. truthunites says:

    Nathan Rinne: I want to make something very clear: as I have hinted at before but will state more clearly now, I think that simply knowing that Christian apologetics existed saved my life. No exaggeration.

    A Lutheran Pastor after performing a (an infant) baptism will oftentimes say, “Your baptism now saves you.”

    A request for greater understanding should not be uncharitably construed as “a question designed to entrap.”

    • John Bugay says:

      I agree, but I have seen you be far more persistent than I think is helpful at times.

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