Hypocrisy, greed, immorality and corruption all serve to keep the eye of Christ’s Bride perpetually blackened in the public opinion of America.
It’s trite and it’s cliché. It’s so very mainstream in Christian circles. But the Church in America is losing ground. She is under attack. Statistics show us a very clear, very disheartening picture. Kids that grow up in church are leaving Church the minute they have the choice.
There are a number of reasons for this, and the intention here isn’t to list all of them, but to highlight one and offer one *partial* response. It’s obvious that the climate of our culture has become hostile, aggressive, angry and caustic toward Christians. Some of the anger is warranted: pedophilia in the Church is outrageous and good reason for an emotional response. Hypocrisy, greed, immorality and corruption all serve to keep the eye of Christ’s Bride perpetually blackened in the public opinion of America. But the critical thinkers among us (Christian or not) must admit that the behavior of someone’s children doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of the parents. Some parents have rotten children. Including God. This shouldn’t be a barrier for people to get to know Him. Our message (and lifestyle!) needs to be able to cut through the noise and present Biblical truth beyond the context of 21st Century Evangelicalism.
This is why Worldviews, Worship and Wineskins will feature an apologetics series called “Objections”. Each post will focus on a major mainstream objection to the Christian worldview and offer a Biblically based response. Some people that might find this helpful are those who have never really questioned their faith and are encountering difficult questions at work or school, those who have grown up in a Church environment and are experiencing real doubt, or those with loved ones who are facing doubt.
Difficult questions can be a good thing. Though they are usually painful, a season of doubt can end up strengthening someone’s faith. God is not threatened by difficult questions. In Isaiah 1.18, He offers this appeal to Israel: “Come, let us reason together.” The book named after Job features that man’s extended questioning of God’s methodology and motives. In the end, Job was vindicated as having done no wrong. The minor prophet Habakkuk was also confused about God’s methods, and makes his discomfort openly known to the Lord! Questions are good. There are no new questions. People have been asking the same questions for thousands of years, and there are many good answers. Does the Bible have all of the answers? No. God restored Job’s wealth and cured Job’s disease. But He didn’t answer Job’s questions. Sometimes God leaves questions unanswered for unknown reasons, probably so we will exercise trust in that area. The Bible doesn’t have all the answers. But it has the right answers to the most important questions. “Objections” might be able to point you or someone you know toward the right answers that believers have found for thousands of years.
“but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
One word of caution: we mustn’t kid ourselves into thinking that the right answers alone will effectively convert the unbeliever. 1 Peter 3.15 gives us God’s foundation for apologetics: “but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Those are instructions: what to do. Verse 16 tells us how and why: “However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.” Peter understood that good reasons won’t always convince hard hearts. Jesus expressed it another way in Luke 16.31: “If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.”
In fact, many people don’t even really care if the central claims of the Bible are true. For most of us in the “first world” today, Jesus represents the cure to a disease that we don’t have. Jesus offers forgiveness of sin before death and eternal life afterward, along with fellowship with God on both sides of the grave. Sin is an archaic, draconian concept, to be dealt with by using guilt management techniques. Eternal life and fellowship with God are irrelevant because our material comforts have blinded us to our glaringly obvious spiritual needs. So the conversations swirling around faith can have little meaningful impact if the Holy Spirit has not done the work of preparing hearts for the gospel message.
Why, then, should we bother? If the anti-Christian world will not be persuaded to follow Jesus with good reasons, what is the point of providing good reasons to follow Jesus? Let’s circle back around to 1 Peter 3.15–“so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.” Not only are we commanded to have good reasons, we are commanded to conduct ourselves in such a manner that our aggressors will seem shameful to themselves and others. For those who come armed with examples of corruption and hypocrisy in the church, our respectful response needs to include sound Biblical reasons to be faithful in spite of the behavior of others, and a Godly example that counteracts the shameful lifestyles of others. This may serve to bolster the faith of others whose faith might otherwise be withering under the hostility of a world that hates God.
When that happens; when followers of Jesus can face, with grace and poise (sometimes by saying “I don’t know), the objections of seekers and scornful alike, we become one small voice in a growing chorus. We say, together, “I don’t have all the answers. But I have enough. And I know the One who can fill in the rest. Would you like to meet him?”