John Stackhouse: Humble Apologetics

This is a show where belief meets real life, where we believe that Christians need to understand and communicate their beliefs in the context of today’s ideas and to today’s seeker, who is a different person than a seeker was a decade ago. We believe that this is a process that involves a lot of listening, of earning the right to be heard, of living out our faith so that people see what a Christian, is rather than just hear it articulated. There is a lot of dialogue involved in knowing how to communicate and understand your own beliefs in-in today’s culture.
Q. Well, our next guest has written the book that I’ve been waiting for on this subject because it has an intellectual credibility, a weightiness to it that is also warmly evangelical and extraordinarily practical, as we get to the application of how to do what he calls “humble apologetics.” It’s published by Oxford Press, it’s written by Dr. John Stackhouse. He’s professor of theology and culture at Regent College. Is that right? Did I get the title right?
A. That’s right.
Q. Yeah, it’s rare that I get it right first time around. But you-you and I have talked about this subject briefly in the past, and in this book you give a little insight into your own journey in that you get us, ease us into the subject of apologetics through two people, Mr. Eikenberg, and secondly, Bob and Dr. Ward, a world-class apologist. Tell us those stories and how they kind of serve as a good entrée to the subject of humble apologetics.
A. Well, I grew up in a pretty conservative and pretty faithful Christian home, Dick. And I was pretty comfortable with that. And I, when I was a young teen, I spent my leisure time — when there wasn’t music or sports or something — reading science fiction. But I went into high school and met a high school English teacher named Mr. Eikenberg. And he was a very cool English teacher. This was the early ¢â‚¬Ëœ70s now, so he had a full Fu Manchu mustache and the long hair, and I think beads on his good days ¢€œ
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ and he was really where it was at, as we said back then. And what I loved about Mr. Eikenberg was that he was passionate about literature, but even more so about ideas. And I think he saw here this shiny little Christian fellow ¢€œ and Mr. Eikenberg was an ex-Roman Catholic ¢€œ and I think part of his mission was to help other people become ex-Christians as well. So he thought he’d maybe scuff up my faith a little bit, but not to put me down, but instead to try and help me grow up. And I was sufficiently challenged by him. As we would study literature, of course, ideas come up all the time, as you know in western literature, about Christianity and about matters of faith, and I found that I just didn’t have anything to say to him. My-my long years in the church did not prepare me to speak his language and to answer his questions. So I went to my parents and said, you know, Mom and Dad, what should I do? Now, if they had been Fundamentalist parents, they would have gone down to the school and complained. But being Anglo-Canadian parents they said, Now, this is what your teacher tells you to do so we better prepare you for that. And Dad brought me to his library and I began to read. And I began to engage in this adult conversation about matters of faith. And that really turned me on to the whole idea of defending your faith with your mind and your mouth ¢€œ
Q. Interesting.
A. ¢€œ and apologetics. So a few years roll by. And by the time I’m in university, I’m thinking this apologetics thing is pretty cool, and-and I enjoyed in engaging in the bull sessions that go on in the dormitories with-with friends of various backgrounds at a public university. But a friend of mine who was a young professor there talked about a formative experience in his life, and this is the second story. And my friend Bob, when he was an embattled graduate student at a prestigious American university, he was really afraid that the faith couldn’t stand up in that kind of hostile environment. And one day he found out that his campus Christian group was going to bring a professional apologist to campus and-and take on all-comers. And my friend was nervous about this because his faith, he felt, couldn’t stand up, and he wondered if even a professional apologist could handle it. But the night came for this public meeting and hundreds of students showed up to hear this guy. And he was very smooth, very polished, very together. And my friend was very pleased at this knight of the Christian faith doing such successful battle. As the questions came from the floor Dr. Ward was able to handle them with ease until the very last questioner, a grad student with long hair and-and the sandals and the beard, and so on. And this grad student asked what my friend Bob thought was just an impossible question, but Dr. Ward’s hair was unruffled. He said, well, do you mean this or that? And the grad student answered. And then Dr. Ward said, but then do you mean this or that? Making him choose again. And the grad student answered. Well then, do you mean this or that? And finally the grad student realized, and the whole room realized, that he’d been boxed in. And Dr. Ward had-had really backed him into a corner, and then Dr. Ward collapsed the box around this grad student, who then slumped into his chair and the audience applauded and the session was over. So my friend Bob talks about walking out thinking, This is just great, you know, as we’re humming “Onward Christian Soldiers” ¢€œ
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ to himself. The Lord has given us great victory. This, for him, was just a wonderful example of Christian apologetics. And in front of him were two other students from the university whom he didn’t know, and he just happened to be walking behind them. And one said to the other, I don’t care if that son of a gun is right, I still hate his guts. And I tell that story to you Dick, today, and it’s 25 years now since I heard that story, and every time I tell it I get a chill.
Q. Me, too.
A. Because there, but for the grace of God, go I and most Christian apologetics.
Q. Where did we get the idea that apologetics is about winning? Because whathappened in that case — and I just picture the situation — he didn’t really engage the question, he didn’t really take it seriously, he had a series of tactical maneuvers that would win a war but-but, in fact, well, win a skirmish but, in fact, lose the war.
A. Yeah.
Q. If the war is about actually responding to a person, giving them a chance to actually make a reasonable decision based on truth, that’s not what happened in that story.
A. Well, there’s a couple of deep ironies here, you’re right. If apologetics, as we
usually see it, is a kind of interaction of ideas in order to commend the faith to other people ¢€œ
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ so it’s about ideas and people, most Christian apologetics, I’m afraid, is really actually uninterested in both ideas and people. It really doesn’t engage the ideas of the other, it just sees them as threats to fend off or as opportunities to exploit.
Q. Yeah.
A. And it really doesn’t care how the other person feels or what they do unless they simply capitulate and then become like us. So it’s actually both unintellectual and uncharitable.
Q. Well, and the problem is in a lot of apologetics, shows on radio, television, books, essentially model for Christians how you do apologetics, so you create a whole another generation of people that are not interested in ideas and don’t care about people who then continue to perpetuate the problem, is that we may be having neat little answers and trite little comebacks, but they’re not really engaging people at the heart or-or really at the mind either.
A. Well, so much of this apologetics, Dick, I think is about us. It’s not about our neighbors. It’s actually quite self-centered. I think, in my experience, a lot of people who are interested in apologetics get interested in it the way I did, as a nervous person trying to protect myself.
Q. Yes.
A. And what’s okay maybe for a 13 year old, doesn’t look pretty good at 33 or
53.
Q. Well, there’s also a lot of preening which is, you know, this is what I heard in that story about Dr. Ward was, he was strutting his stuff the whole while people who were actually interested in answers and saw to the core of this guy, that he didn’t care. He said, I don’t care, you know, I still don’t like the guy.
A. And there’s not a lot in Christianity that commends us to strutting our stuff.
Q. Yeah, go look for the “strutting the stuff” in your concordance, folks.
(Break.)
You talk in this book about some of the challenges in the [sitz im laden], the situation in life that we face today in-in the world. And you talk about pluralism, post-modernity, and you distinguish that from post-modernism. The issue of plausibility and the issue of consumerism. I want to just touch on these to give people a sense of why they’re important issues. We don’t have time to get into them in depth, but people can at least begin to think them through. How is pluralism such an important issue as we think about apologetics in culture? And maybe we should start by just a basic definition of what apologetics is.
A. Yeah, I think we can start there. An apologetics, I think, when one clever person says apologetics, which sounds like, you know, being apologetic and apologizing, apologetics is telling somebody why you’re sorry you’re a Christian. There’s a better one, of course. Apologetics is the art of making someone sorry he asked why you’re a Christian. And there’s too much of that. Apologetics is just, I think, is fundamentally anything we do to help someone feel a little more attracted to, a little better informed about Christianity than they did before.
Q. Yeah.
A. It helps add plausibility. Maybe it’s true, or maybe it’s good. Maybe it just helps nudge them along. I think that one of the most important questions that North Americans face when it comes to commending the gospel is that no matter how shiny our arguments are, and how well spoken we may be, and how high-powered our media might be, we have the problem that only 0.2 percent of people actually care to listen to us. No matter how well prepared we are ¢€œ
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ most people don’t want to listen. So what I try to do in the first part of this book, Dick, as you indicate, is to try to indicate now, why is that? Why do so few people care? And part of it is, I think, that in a culture that is as diverse as ours, as pluralistic as ours is becoming, where most people call themselves Christians ¢€œ and that’s a very important clue right there — most people think they’re Christians already.
Q. Yeah. 86 percent of Americans declare Christianity as their official religion.
A. Yeah. So why do they need to hear a Christian talk about Christianity? I know that. So there-there’s that, I think, problem looking at us directly in the face. And then secondly, there is a cultural moment we’re in now where diversity is good and tolerance, in fact, even affirmation of diversity is good. And-and I think that this is the-this is the in between spot that I think Christians need to be between a kind of arrogant apologetics as martial arts, but on the other hand a kind of backing away from any kind of proclamation so that we’re as polite as possible. I think that what we need more of in the marketplace are people who look at the pluralism of our day and say, There’s a lot of confusion out there like there was in the first century, and we need more passionate moderates. We need people who are passionate about their faith and who are appropriate about its expression, and not in fact leave the public expression of Christianity only to the passionate extremists.
Q. Yeah, absolutely. And-and we could spend so much time on each of these. You-you make a distinction between post-modernity and post-modernisms.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. And everybody is hearing post-modern language these days, and very few people really know what in the heck we’re talking about. What-what is the distinction between the two? And why is it an important element in understanding trying to articulate and communicate our beliefs today?
A. I think one of the first things to say is that it’s not as if everybody woke up at
some point in the recent past and said, Well, we’re kind of sick of being modern. Let’s all be post-modern, and so you’ve got to kind of get with it. I think that there’s-there’s some gurus who talk about post-modernity as if it’s a tide that swept everything away.
Q. Yeah.
A. That’s not true. Lots and lots of our society is still very much modern and some parts of it pre-modern. So I don’t think you have to necessarily get with the post-modern bandwagon. But what I think we do find, particularly in the university world and in popular culture in a surprisingly large number of places, is an attitude of doubt. A deep cultural doubt about anyone or anything that presumes to have the big story, the answer to all of our problems. And that failure of confidence that modernity had, modernity had the confidence that we really could figure things out, we really could even shake the world technologically ¢€œ
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ to bring in better and better ways of living, well, many people doubt that now. After a couple of World Wars, after Vietnam, after the Holocaust, after a variety of 20th century horror stories.
Q. Yeah.
A. This cultural confidence has ebbed in many places.
Q. What’s interesting is that the-the-the confidence has been¢â‚¬¦ You mentioned popular culture. And my following of that is that it started in the ivory tower at the university level, with-with a kind of an erosion of belief and a movement away from modernity, trickled down into popular culture. And what I don’t understand is how Christian apologetics got missed in that process because popular culture very much argues from a tentativeness, and yet so much of Christian apologetics still today is still arguing as if what you can do is just go in and proclaim truth and the debate is over and our-and our certainty will obviously convince you, which actually gets into your next point, plausibility. We’re in an age where you start with plausibility, where you’re asking, Might it be true? Not is it true. It’s a subtle shift, but it’s reflective of this-this shift in American ¢€œ and I use American, it’s-it’s worldwide ¢€œ but this shift towards a tentativeness.
A. No, I think that’s exactly right. I think that the way a lot of Christian apologists are responding to post-modernity nowadays is to just talk louder.
Q. Yeah.
A. And to just be more insistent as you say, as if by showing that we’re even more certain than we used to be, that’s not going to compensate for the doubt in the other person’s mind. It’s psychologically just completely backwards. I think instead what we want to have is not certainty, as if we couldn’t possibly be wrong, only God couldn’t possibly be wrong.
Q. Yeah.
A. We’re just human beings. But what we are is confident. We have been given and of course notice the word faith is in the middle of that word confident ¢€œ we have faith in God, we have good reason to believe, we have good reason to be enthusiastic.
Q. Right.
A. And we offer those reasons to our friends hoping that they’ll find them attractive, too.
Q. But to be effective we have to take seriously the-the arguments and events and experiences of humans that has led to the erosion. I mean, the ideas of Freud and-and Darwin and you go through the list, have had an impact on our culture. And what so much of Christian apologetics is, is making a caricature of those ideas and then knocking them down in a way that would only satisfy an unlearned person, and then sell a lot of books about it. And Christians, some feel comforted that, well, we’ve dealt with these issues where, in fact, they’re extremely important advances in each of those areas, whether Darwinism or Freud, from within academic circles themselves. In other words, you can mount an intellectually credible argument that deals seriously with the erosion of certainty and-and at the same time does it in a manner that is humble and-and inviting.
A. Well, I think we have to look at one particular indicator of popular culture, and that is, what’s on the shelves of Borders, Barnes and Nobles.
Q. Totally.
A. I mean, they’re quite willing to sell the Left Behind novels. They’ll sell anything they can sell.
Q. Yeah.
A. So why is it that Christian apologetics of the typical sort only sell in Christian bookstores? They’re only preaching to the choir. I think it’s because nobody who shops regularly at Barnes and Noble or Borders want to listen to that kind of argument.
(Break.)
Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. Our guest is Dr. John Stackhouse. The book is Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith. Today we’ve done a whirlwind tour through some of the challenges. We’re going to talk about the actual nature of conversion, which is, you know, what is the aim of the apologetic process.
Q. Real quickly, though, you have consumerism in there as one of the challenges
which-which a lot of people don’t take seriously as a phenomena that, in fact, is based on certain convictions and beliefs. They think we’re just shoppers, you know. What’s the big deal? People have been shopping since the beginning of time. There’s something very serious going on, particularly in the western world, around consumerism. How do you¢â‚¬¦ Give us in a nutshell on why that’s an important factor in thinking through apologetics.
A. Well, I think you said it very well, Dick. I think that the problem of consumerism is that we’ve become just shoppers.
Q. Yeah.
A. It’s one thing to shop from time to time, it’s another thing to see your whole life as a shopper ¢€œ
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ consuming goods. So I think you’ve hit it on the-hit it very nicely in that epitome. To a man that has a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And to a shopper everything looks like a meal, everything looks like something that’s out there for me to pick from the smorgasbord of life what will suit me, my appetites, my interests, and then I’ll go buy it. And that is a deeply reduced understanding of the nature of the world, of course. And it’s very hard for the Christian to say there is a great God with whom you have to do, to whom you owe loyalty, and who is saving you from your dire and, in fact, mortally wounded existence. This is a completely bizarre way to approach somebody who thinks they’re all right, Jack, and they’re just shopping for the best thing in life.
Q. Yeah. And how does consumerism begin to-to relate to religion?
A. Well, I think for one thing, on the side of the consumer itself, people feel quite free to just pick and choose, to walk in and out of religious smorgasbords.
Q. Yeah.
A. And what we’re finding, of course, in later modernity is that people feel free to pick a bit of Christianity and a bit of Bahai and a bit of Transcendental Meditation kind of to get¢â‚¬¦
Q. An eclectic.
A. Yeah, their sort of do-it-yourself religion. And what we find on the other side, the supply side as it were, is that many, many religious organizations, including Christian ones, are catering to that now. And so we will now break up our product, so to speak, because we’re so desperate to get you into our churches, we will try to figure out what you want and the terms in which you want it, we’ll give you that, and then the trap is that’s all we do is give you that bit that you want. And I think that that’s not the way Jesus approached the people in his own days.
Q. Yeah, absolutely.
A. He met them where they were, but he called them to something more.
Q. What is conversion? When we talk about someone being converted, this is a very, very important subject. And you deal with it nicely by going through Billy Graham and a number of different individuals and how they’ve approached it in the 20th century. I think many Evangelicals operate with a certain understanding that we know what conversion is without really examining it very closely.
A. Well, in the 20th century, two forms of traditional Christian faith became split off from each other, two motifs from the Bible. On the one side, there was the motif of death to life, zero to one binary kind of thing. And that’s where most Evangelicals have ended up. I used to be dead in trespasses and sins, now I’m alive in Christ. And that’s Biblical. But the other side, which is identified more with mainline and to some extent Roman Catholic Christianity, is also Biblical motif. And that is of the seed growing into the full plant, or the baby growing into an adult. And so I think conversion has to be seen as both of these together, that all of us are mortally wounded, we all are in effect dead in trespasses and sins, we need to be born-again. But then having been born-again, we need to grow up. And all mainstream Christian traditions have those two together, it’s just unfortunately in our day they’ve tended to be split apart. So conversion has to be about helping people to become mature in Christ, to be fully grown up. And I think apologetics can then help people at any stage along the way instead of, in other words, focusing apologetics only on the question of, Is somebody in or out? Are they alive or dead?
Q. Yeah.
A. Apologetics also is appropriate for helping people to grow up and become more mature in their faith.
Q. Yeah. And so apologetics has-has been reduced to a sales pitch ¢€œ
A. Yeah.
Q. ¢€œ with a-with a, you know, a contractual agreement, you sign on the dotted line and we got you in. We got you done. Now, let’s move on to the next one.
A. Yeah, that’s right. Apologetics there is simply as it were, part of the program of a kind of one-stop evangelism.
Q. Yeah. So then you have a series of questions that we should and shouldn’t ask, one of which is, Is he saved? Should we ask that question?
A. No, we shouldn’t. And because there’s no point asking questions that you can’t answer. I can know if I’m saved. God can give me the gift of assurance. God can know whether I’m saved, but I can’t tell whether you’re saved or not. And I think that the reason we don’t want to ask that is that if we start trying to figure out who’s in and who’s out, it completely confuses us as to how to love our neighbor.
Q. What can I do to convert him?
A. Well, nothing. Only the Holy Spirit can convert.
Q. Oh, shoot. You mean I can’t take a course and get a better technique?
A. Well, I think what’s really crucial is not only that kind of thing, Dick, which you nicely nailed, but also I think for sincere people who are desperate about their spouses or their children ¢€œ
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ and they ¢€œ
Q. Yeah. Take the pressure off yourself.
A. ¢€œ and I’m trying to think, how can I possibly get them in the Kingdom? Well, you can’t.
Q. Does this person need to hear the gospel?
A. Well yes, they do. We all need to hear the gospel and that’s why we take communion and we hear the gospel every week in church. So every chance you get to share the gospel, we should.
Q. This is one of the things that people sometimes get confused with, because I interview, you know, authors and people from all different perspectives. And sometimes people say, Why were you interviewing this person? I operate with the assumption that everybody is on some sort of spiritual journey. Everybody has a God-shaped vacuum that they’re trying to fill. And so I have a great deal of optimism that-that in the natural course of conversation it is possible that something will arise that will allow me to share something. I don’t feel pressured to do it. Just this week we had T.C. Boyle on as being described as one of the most imaginative living fiction writers in America. And he’s an atheist. And he starts out with this great bold atheism. By the end of the interview he’s commiserating with Robert Stone, a national book award winner, about the loss, the vanishing of God, and man everywhere in pursuit and yearning for that God. These things happen with people because they have within them a need for God. We should have that level of optimism in our conversations. The how should I treat him? How shall I treat her? What does that have to do with apologetics?
A. Apologetics is a Christian activity, and every Christian activity falls under a higher commandment, the commandment to love God with everything we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Apologetics is never about me. Apologetics, unless it’s about strengthening my faith and about growing in my love for God, is equipping me to serve in the world. But once we’re secure in Christ it should be about honoring God and loving the neighbor.
Q. Yeah.
A. And so what do I do to him or her? Well, I don’t want to win the argument, I want to win the friend.
Q. Yeah.
A. And I want to try to love them as best I can.
Q. And so the old¢â‚¬¦ Was it St. Francis that said, “Preach, and if you must, use words.”
A. Yeah.
Q. Yeah. You talk about defining, directing, and defending apologetics. Different approaches to apologetics. Real quickly, what are these approaches?
A. Well, I think that some of our apologetic literature in some of the Christian bookstores has been preoccupied with this or that approach to apologetics. Some of them have technical names, and so on. I think that that’s pretty much a waste of time because some kinds of approaches to some arguments work for some people and some work for others. That’s why some people like them.
Q. Yeah.
A. So I think the Christian can simply equip herself with whatever particular tools suit her and the people that she’s called to minister to. Very few of us have to be all-purpose apologists. We’re all called to love the particular neighbors that we have before us, and that’s how we should be equipping ourselves to speak to them.
Q. Very important, because when we talk about, when I talk about cultural literacy I point out to people, you just need to be literate at the points of intersection with your life. If your kid’s interested in a certain author, then you ought to read that author. If your neighbor is really into a certain film, you ought to know something about that film. We’re not supposed to be encyclopedic, we’re supposed to be kind of curious and interested and available for what God’s bringing into our life.
A. Yes. And otherwise, if we don’t do that, then we can start getting into one of I think the most difficult questions of our day. Why is Christianity better than every other religion? Well, nobody can say that except God, because nobody actually is an expert on every other religion. What we’re called upon to do is not to say, Oh yes, I have examined Buddhism and Confucionism. I know better. What we’re called upon instead is to testify to Jesus Christ.

(Break.)
I remember when you told me that you were writing this book. And when you told me the title — knowing what I know about you and about the nature of your work and that title alone — I just felt this is going to be an important piece of work, this is going to be something we need to-to take seriously. And the first part of the book does a lot of the kind of dealing with ideas and issues that are-are important for us. The last part of the book on communication is very, very practical. It’s the rubber meets the road. What are some basic things that we learn? You talk in communication that we need to think about some of the principles involved here. And you talk about word/flesh, grace/truth, apologetics as an act of love. What’s going on with that kind of¢â‚¬¦ Well, some people could call it a tension, other people would say it’s a complimentary nature of what we do.
A. Well, the very thing we’re trying to communicate, Dick, is of course a whole way of life in Jesus Christ. And so the medium and the message have to line up here. And if our-our message is restricted only to the medium of words, and only to the medium of argumentative words ¢€œ
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ then we’re literally trying to talk about something that’s much bigger than the medium allows. Apologetics, I think, needs to be recast as I think it has been understood from the Bible forward, as everything we do in word and deed that brings honor to God and adds more plausibility to the gospel. And I think it’s crucial in this day, as in every day, that people see good deeds, that people hear good words, and beyond that, I think as far as our good deeds, that people see Christians as promoting what is beautiful, what is thoughtful, what is moral, what is noble. And that package together is about the life well lived in Jesus Christ. That’s what we’re trying to commend.
Q. Wow. Yeah, the wholeness, the completeness. You talk about being audience specific and-and three different kinds of appeal we can make. A subjective appeal, evidentiary and reason, and Christian worldview. Talk a little bit about each of those and the blend of them in most people’s apologetic.
A. I think we can talk firstly about how our own experience as Christians, our experience of God and Christ from the very basic testimony, the pattern of evangelicals, I think that is powerful for some people. Say, This is what’s happened to me and if you’d like that, too, let’s talk about it. Some people need more than that or they have particular questions that keep them from-from entering into that experience, so we can move to evidences and reasons and say, Yeah, here are some good questions and here are some at least plausible answers. Let’s remember that millions and millions of Christians across cultural lines find this faith to make sense to them. So there are good answers out there somewhere.
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. It’s not as if there’s a new question that’s stumped all those millions of Christians, we just have to find it.
Q. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
A. But finally, I think the appeal has to be to the Christian worldview, the Christian way of being in the world. And we offer that and say, here, as a kind of package, here’s what it means to be a Christian and let’s see how it means to be a Buddhist. Or let’s see how it means to be a secular humanist, or whoever it is we’re speaking to. And let’s say, well, let’s compare. Let’s imaginatively enter your world and see what it’s like to be in your mode, and then let’s imaginatively enter into the Christian worldview. And then let’s see which one makes the most sense, not just intellectually, but in the sense of living out life. Now, here’s where I think we need to understand, something that not all apologetics books make clear. And that is, that even when you get to that level, it’s not as if you’re going to win the day because Christianity offers people certain kinds of good things, but some people don’t want those good things. They-they don’t want to be reconciled to God and Jesus. They don’t want to live the Christian moral life. And I think at that point there’s nothing Christian apologetics can do. You can’t argue somebody into wanting something else.
Q. What about, there are certain people that believe that the Bible is the revealed word of God and it has a power in itself, and so it’s very important to consistently quote Bible verses and document what you’re saying biblically. In general, what do you think about that? And more specifically, in light of the fact that we have a biblically-illiterate culture that doesn’t take the Bible that seriously anyway, how does that color the-the way we view the Bible itself?
A. Well, I’ve actually gone on a bit of a trajectory about that, Dick. I moved away from that for quite awhile that yeah, that there’s nothing magic about the Bible. The Bible, strictly speaking now as a theologian, the Bible doesn’t have any power in itself. The power that the Bible has is the same power that anything has, and that’s from God.
Q. Yes.
A. And so it’s God who uses the written word of God to speak to people. So there’s nothing magic about quoting the Bible. On the other hand, God is pleased to use the Bible in special ways as he doesn’t use any other book. And so I think that I’ve come around to saying there are times in which the Bible, it does have a power that God gives us, and so I think strategic and faithful and appropriate quoting of the Bible often is the word of life for people.
Q. Yeah. I was just thinking about an interview I just did with a guy that was an atheist and-and he got dragged into a church and he heard the phrase ¢€œ and he was an intellectual philosopher ¢€œ he heard the phrase, No one will come to the Kingdom except as a little child. And he thought, well, what if the nature of this transaction is actually like a parent who has to demonstrate love and a child has to open themselves to receive it? And not just intellectual inquiry, went home that night, engaged in that openness, and had the appearance of a vision/visage in his room that night. It was an intellectual brought to the faith through a simple little phrase that opened up a world of intellectual inquiry. Who would have thought that phrase would do that? There’s a certain element of mystery about all of our communication transactions that God inhabits and we simply try to be faithful in a given situation to what we know and understand we should do. And then, as you say, there’s nothing more we can do. You-you have a wonderful section on guidelines for apologetic conversations and listening, offering, don’t demand, teaching then preaching, clarifying questions, reading the Bible, praying, and so forth. A very, very practical chapter. You also talk about other modes and you talk about architecture and literature and different ways that-that people can engage in apologetics. Just briefly touch on that.
A. I think that everything we do says something about who we are and what we value. And I think people pick those signs up. They notice the way we dress. They notice what we drive. They notice how we live. And they notice how we furnish our churches, if they ever come inside. They notice what’s there and what’s not there. And what makes up our life, in fact, communicates the kind of life we have. And so Christianity and Christian proclamation isn’t just about words pointing to something else in heaven, it is also a welcoming in to the kind of life we’re now living. So we need to attend to that. We need to attend to the messages we’re giving. If, in fact, we’re trying to call people to serve Jesus but our whole material lifestyle points to Mammon, well no wonder they don’t take the message seriously.
Q. Oh man, there’s a world of off-ramps on every one of the words that John says that I’d love to pursue but time is of the essence. You end with a concluding comment about humble.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. Humble apologetics. Why does the humble such a nice compliment to the word apologetics?
A. Well, I think we’re-we need to be humble in several respects, Dick. I think we need to be epistemologically humble. That is, when it comes to the philosophy of knowledge, how much we claim for our own human knowledge, I think we have to be humble about that and say, I’m just a person, I’m just a guy. I’m just me. And this is¢â‚¬¦ All I can give you is what I have.
Q. Yeah.

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