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Faith vs. Apologetics in Responding to the Lost

Addressing the question of how should we approach evangelism.

A Brief Backstory

Christ drew me to Him late in life (in my 30’s) initially using apologetics, which Webster defines as a “systematic argumentative discourse in defense of a doctrine”. Similar to Saul (who became Paul) my wife and I lived near what is now Liberty University (Jerry Falwell) and we engaged with proselytizing Christian college students. My view, of course, was that they were brainwashed robots and I delighted in challenging their “irrational beliefs”. Many years later I was in business for myself and my outside accountant displayed Bibles and tracts all over his office. By that time I had developed more control over my tongue and was motivated to befriend the guy who was counting my money. For nearly two years, God used this accountant to move me, and ultimately my wife, from devout atheists to devout Christians. During that time in our lives, the Lord put me under a great deal of pressure, through the realization that I was not in full control of my future, as He sent our family through both personal and business bankruptcy. I read books, listened to apologetic sermons on tape, debated with my accountant, again for about two years, and finally accepted that God was real. However, for more than a month, I accepted Christ as my Savior, but not my Lord (Luke 10:27). I had head knowledge, but lacked heart knowledge and, in my view, would have gone to Hell if my life had been taken. My theology on that belief comes from the fact that…

Satan and his minions have much more personal experience with who God is and their ultimate fate than I did.

They certainly had head knowledge and, at the same time, rejected God, knowing their ultimate destination (James 2:19).

Why Not Use Apologetics?

To date, on Medium (a blogging site), I have had nearly 5,500 separate “conversations” with the saved and the lost. There have been times when, perhaps, offering evidence similar to what eventually helped me wake up to the supernatural, may have been helpful. However, in my view, “facts” can fly back and forth on topics like “Why does God allow sin”, etc. with little impact. I believe God did a unique work in my life by combining three elements at the same time that finally dragged me kicking and screaming to the cross of Christ…

  • A Christian accountant with infinite patience
  • Devastating financial ruin
  • An obsessive, unrelenting analytic personality

This combination, or its derivatives, is likely out in the world of evangelism, but I personally believe, perhaps naively, that it is rare.

Writing on Medium.com and BCWorldview.org

By writing nearly 900 articles on various aspects of Christian life, the Lord has allowed me to engage with many folks on the subject of Christianity and its intersection with a changing cultural climate in America. From this ongoing work, I offer four insights on blogging-based evangelism.

(1) Apologetics Is Not the Answer

Perhaps in error, I don’t try to use apologetics in back-and-forth dialogs on Medium, even though the Lord used apologetics to draw me to Him. I believe that God puts an unquenchable curiosity into the hearts of those He will ultimately drag to the cross (Eph. 1:4–5). If asked a specific question by a seeker (not an antagonist), one should offer our best response. For me, that has as much to do with an attempt to explain faith as it does to defend Biblical Christian facts. We are to be kind, respectful, grace-filled communicators of our faith (heart-based), not purveyors of counter-evidential facts (head-based). So, I respond with understanding (I remember what it was like to be lost, Eph 5:8) and, after a few “discussions” and I have exhausted my views with that individual, I quickly move to an honest willingness to consider any concluding statement they might offer, while indicating that I have nothing else to contribute. I respectfully shake the dust off my feet and focus my time elsewhere (Matt. 10:14).

The focus of my responses revolves around faith, not facts. Facts may, in some cases, be the way God draws some to Himself, however, most seekers are drawn more to a wonderment over our continuing faith in the face of obstacles. Evolution, the supernatural, an omnipotent God, the impossible complexity of life, and even the divine nature of Scripture, all have as their foundation, faith and trust. Where science or human logic is seen to oppose God, one has to choose who to believe. Faith in the historicity, the miraculous, the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, and the realities of eternity is the lens from which I respond to critics of Biblical Christianity.

(2) Writing to the Crowd Rather than the Commenter

The back-and-forth “conversations” I have enjoyed, particularly with the lost, are directed more toward the silent listeners in the background, rather than the individual I am engaged with.

We all know that claps far outweigh comments on Medium. And often the more difficult conversations we have online are with those who have more extreme opinions on the subject we discuss. In the background, I believe, there are many more “listening”. These are the people who are being drawn toward God, rather than the hard-hearted (Matt. 19:8). Just as deconstructionists, for example, are looking for excuses to ignore clear teachings in Scripture by rejecting “meeting together” (Heb. 10:25), others, listening, are being reminded of what face-to-face fellowship can look like, inside a Biblical Christian church setting. These are the folks who benefit most from the dialogue.

(3) Writing to Carnal Christians

There is a large group of carnal Christians on the platform (and in life) that I believe the Lord is calling us to respectfully challenge by reminding them of where they may be straying from God’s word. The deconstructionists are rampant under the term “Christianity” and similar. Those still drinking spiritual milk may not ever hear some of the spiritual solid food we have to offer if we don’t simply add keywords like “Christianity” to our posts (1 Cor. 3:2) 

(4) Writing to Encourage the Saints

As the world becomes darker and darker the light of our Christian faith should increasingly stand out, by contrast (Matt. 5:16).

Mature Biblical Christians need to venture (ex. write and/or comment) in some perhaps more challenging venues as a reminder to peers that God has called each of us to engage with those who “sit in darkness” (Matt. 4:16). Efforts should not be limited to silos of warm, fuzzy, and safe domains.

On Medium this includes incorporating the contaminated keyword “Christianity” into both topics of interest and the keyword on our own blogs. “Christianity” is an example (see detail here) which has been taken over by those wishing to undermine Biblical Christianity.

Matthew 24:24 – For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

James 3:1 – Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Conclusion

The impact mature Christians can have on a blog platform (or elsewhere) is impossible to quantify on this side of the grave. How many books have been written documenting the sacrifice of evangelists who spent their lives trying to establish a beachhead of Christian faith in dark places, only to have their impact identified after the fact? One of the regular writers on Medium, David Knott has just published a book entitled “FOR HIM” which includes just one of these many stories. In this case, it was a single conversion a small child had through a young, discouraged missionary, which sparked a major revival this missionary knew nothing about until the end of his life.

God calls us to use our gifts to serve Him in the calling He has put on our hearts. In the end, we need not forget…

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:7


AuthorJeff Hilles | BCWorldview.org

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