Pastoral Apologetics

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Pastoral Apologetics

My approach to apologetics is founded in the assumption that most people are not asking the types of questions that philosophers are asking. They are not trying to work out if there are proofs that there is a God. We have been conditioned into thinking that this is a reasonable question to ask by modern philosophy.

However, the Bible makes it clear that this isn’t a reasonable starting point. The Old Testament does this by declaring:

“Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”[1]

Note that the context here points us toward folly as being more of a moral quality than an intellectual one. Meanwhile, in the New Testament, Paul says of sinful humanity:

 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [2]

The reality is that most people bumble along in life with the general notion in their minds and hearts that there is someone or something out there, something greater, that there is more to it than just this life now.  Most of the time, this isn’t obvious, overt or conscious. It’s just there. However, it comes out in little superstitions, at special occasions like Christmas and Easter and it is brought more overtly into the open when we are confronted with tragedy and death. What happens when a place is hit with a tragedy? The hashtag #PrayFor starts trending.

The real issue for people is usually about what exactly this “deity” or “power” is. Is it benign or malign, near or distant, strong or weak? Is it interested in them? Is that interest good or bad?  I would also generally suggest that for many people, the answers to those questions tend to be that the God who is out there is benign but they are not sure that he can be close or interested.  Hence, we get along okay without him day to day but when there is a particular need, it is then that we need to find ways to hopefully catch his attention.

So, how do you do evangelism and apologetics with people who live life like that. I want to suggest that it will be very different to how you do them with people who have burning intellectual questions or even with people who have their own systematised religious faith.

[1] Psalm 14:1.

[2] Romans 1:19-20.

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