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Apologetics Versus Worldview




by Seth Pierce



Several years ago I was at an international fair hosted by the local community college where diverse groups manned booths in order to inform, convert, sell, or feed people. My task was to hand out flyers for our church’s upcoming evangelistic series.

As I made my way around the circle of booths on the college lawn, reactions were mixed. The most interesting person I encountered was a stout gentleman with a long, white beard, who could have resembled Santa Claus had he not worn a scowl that would have frightened Medusa. Snatching the flyer, he listened momentarily before speaking.

“I only believe in the Bible,” he said. Thinking he had warded me off, he made his way back around his booth.

“So do we,” I replied. He turned and looked at me sharply.

“That’s what they all say. You know I went to Catholic school for years—I’m a bit of a theologian.”

“I’m a seminary student.”

This intrigued him, and what followed were theological arguments as easy to understand as upside-down algorithms in Cajun French.

“Have you ever read the story of Jeryy . . . uh . . . Jerca . . . um . . . ?”

“Jericho?”

“Yeah, that one. You know Hitler wanted only Jews dead, but God wanted everyone destroyed—makes Hitler look good, doesn’t it?” Before I could respond, he continued. “I’m an agnostic” (someone not sure if there is a God or not).

“And you believe in the Bible?” I asked, puzzled.

“Ever heard of the Thomas Jefferson Bible? Well, he read the Old Testament and didn’t like the God he found there—and neither do I. I read only the New Testament.” Once again he saw I was going to comment and kept talking. “You know those words in red? The words of Jesus?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well those are the only words I live by.” He smiled, proud of himself, and allowed me time to respond. I thought carefully.

First he claimed belief in the Bible—a book demonstrating God is active and knowable through Jesus Christ. Then he claimed agnosticism—a belief stating that it’s impossible to know God. Finally He claimed the words of Jesus and denied more than half the Bible. And it is in the words of Jesus that I confronted his inconsistencies.

“What happens when the words in red quote the Old Testament?”

His face contorted with anger.

“Forget the Old Testament!” And he stormed off—a man whose claims were destroyed by his inconsistency. He was someone who had not taken the time to carefully create a worldview—and now he felt like an idiot. Sadly, this isn’t the only time I have been able to tear apart someone’s rickety belief system.

I remember sitting at a café with a gentlemen who was recovering from a very rigid Adventist upbringing. His journey had taken him to several philosophical places, and while I was glad he had abandoned the judgmental faith of his parents, his current ideas weren’t solid either.

Looking at me, smiling, he said, “You know, I don’t think we can even know what the truth is.” While this may sound deep, and very popular among a lot of people today, it’s extremely flawed.

I returned his smile and said, “Interesting—so how do you know that?” He blinked a couple times, puzzled, and then asked me to repeat my question.

“Well,” I began, “it’s just that you claim we can’t know truth—but that is a statement of truth and knowledge. In other words, how do you know that we can’t know truth?” Before I could move on, he held his hand up with a good-natured laugh, and admitted that his mind had just been blown.

Again this goes back to having a well-crafted worldview that has considered difficult questions. However, within these conversations there is another element in play. The questions I asked in order to take apart these guys’ worldviews is known as “apologetics.”

Simply put, apologetics is defending your worldview. It’s an art, it’s a science, and it’s biblical. “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:14, 15, ESV).* Peter is speaking to people whose faith is under attack, and he is warning them to know what they believe and why they believe it, so when people question them, they can answer.

The other important key to apologetics is remembering to be gentle and respectful. In both of the conversations I had I simply asked good questions—I didn’t yell, condemn anybody to hell, or question their character. Christians struggle with being gentle when someone questions or attacks their faith. We return others’ nastiness with our own and usually create an equally nasty mess.
The point of apologetics is to share reasons for your belief, to cause others to question their own set of beliefs, and to help others see the way of Jesus as the most beautiful path to truth and salvation. We don’t practice apologetics to shame others, make ourselves feel superior, or judge non-Christians. We are simply called to give reasons for our hope. When this is done correctly, we form bridges between other people’s beliefs and our own. We call to them to join our understanding of truth—which is known as evangelism.

If you’re interested in learning about this further, check out these books:
Apologetics for a New Generation, by Sean McDowell
Jesus Among Other Gods, by Ravi Zacharias
Who Made God?: And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith, by Norman L. Geisler and Ravi Zacharias

Next week we will explore how to defend our worldview with apologetics that lead people to make a decision for Jesus.

* Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Seth Pierce is a pastor and author residing with his family in the Pacific Northwest. He enjoys Warrior Dashes, Spartan Races, reading, and collecting crazy stories, which he keeps in a secret file. You can connect with him at www. sethjpierce.com.





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