Friday 22 February 2013

An apologetic person

Post by Edwina Hine

Ahh.. the joys of facebook.... most of the time,  the links friends and accquaintances send me are encouraging or  amusing. Occasionally I do read posts that stop me in my tracks. A recent post on Facebook (a repost of an image from an atheist website) did particularly rankle. The image and caption can be viewed here. The post grated on me for several reasons, but it was my own lack of ability to come up with a suitable comment / response to the post that rankled or more precisely really angered  me the most!! Surely I should be able to construct a thoughtful response to a post that evoked such strong disagreement within me.

It seemed clear that I should be able to lovingly yet firmly respond to the post but I will admit finding the right words is still posing a challenge. In my mulling over the issue I have re-read Case #20 "To Give a Reason".

Reading this past edition of Case reminded me of the value in being an apologetic person, rather than just a Christian who can muster up a good and appropriate response in the face of criticism or ridicule. Lang Craig's article entitled "Christian Apologetics – Who Needs It?" especially highlighted how apologetic people not only alone, but in community, can help to create a receptiveness towards Christianity, and a preparedness to listen not just to ridicule. Craig sees an agenda that moves beyond individual encounters, responses and half-baked apologetic responses:

"It is the broader task of Christian apologetics to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the Gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women."

The articles  within Case #20 authored by David Höhne, Andrew Bain, Richard Gibson, Mike Thompson, Michael Jensen, and William Lane Craig all in their own way point us towards Peter's commission 'to give the reason for the hope that you have'. (1 Peter 3:15)

As Trevor Cairney wrote in a previous post that commented on David Höhne's contribution to Case #20 (here):

"...we are to demonstrate ‘a beautiful way of life’ that commends God to others. Our defence should not be just rational argument; we must use our ‘head, heart and hands’ and live as apologetic people in apologetic communities—with ‘our whole lives as both a defence and commendation of the grace of God in Christ’. The church is not separate from culture, and yet it should stand out against it."

The post I read on Facebook challenged me to think seriously about my faith and how we need to be prepared to give an answer to detractors and live different apologetic lives always remembering that "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" 1 Corinthians 1:18

Case Subscribers may enjoy retrieving their copies of "To give a reason" (Case #20) published 2009 and view the articles to which I refer to in this post. The William Lang Article can be viewed here. For blog followers who are yet to become CASE Associates you can subscribe HERE or order a single copy of edition #20 HERE


Nils said...

I wasn't offended by the image. My first reaction was that it shows very accurately (even prophetically) how many Christians pray and thank God for such trivial things while not praying for the things that really matter.

I would probably put that as a response. Most reasonable people appreciate others being vulnerable and honest about the failings of themselves or the groups they represent.

EdwinaH said...

Thanks for the comment, I agree that the image wasn't offensive.
And I do lament that often Christians do appear to pray about 'petty' things in lieu of more important issues.
My loss for words, was the frustration I hoped to convey in my post - rather than the image itself.
Thanks for the suggestions

Tim said...

I think the photo is more about the single biggest challenge to the truth of Christianity - the Problem of Evil.

And, given that it is the biggest challenge, and Christianity is yet to put forward a convincing counter-argument, I don't think it can be answered by simply hiding as "apologetic people in apologetic communities".

It's the one argument against Christianity that absolutely must be answered with reason, but hasn't been.

Perhaps that's why you were struggling to come up with a response.

Anonymous said...

“Cutting to the chase”, the image seems to be ridiculing the notion that a loving God would answer prayers on trivial matters, while letting children starve. Of course it’s silly to think that there are “pat” answers to such huge questions, but it’s useful to have some kind of ready response, based on what the bible says. I think if I were confronted by someone with such a view, my (initial, brief) response would be along the lines of the following three points: 1) God’s “fulfilled” Kingdom will contain no such suffering – the earth is not our ultimate home, and human suffering is finite: there will come a “time” when God will “wipe away every tear”; 2) God’s will, while in one sense ultimately unknowable, in another sense makes perfectly clear that it is the responsibility of humans (i.e. us) to alleviate suffering where possible: and world hunger is, actually, a solvable problem, as (atheist!) ethicist Peter Singer pointed out in research a few years ago; and 3) God’s Son: the God of the Bible is not a remote, “hands-off” deity, but rather does – and has – involve himself in human suffering, specifically by entering the world in the shape of his Son Jesus, and suffering, dying and rising from the dead in order give us the hope of life beyond death. It is Jesus, in the final analysis, who makes sense of an otherwise often apparently senseless world.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,

Before giving a Christian response to the problem of evil, I would need to know how you define "evil", since there is no one definition that satisfies everyone.


Deirdre said...

I think these images are just making the point that Dives did precisely nothing to help Lazarus, for all that he and his brothers had "the Law and the prophets". (Luke 16:1931)

A politically minded person might be moved to suggest a causal connection between the affluence of some and the destitution of others.

All I feel is deep, deep shame...

Timaahy said...

Hi Greg,

I guess for the purposes of the photo in question, and the Problem of Evil in general, I would define 'evil' as unnecessary or preventable suffering.


Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,
Firstly I would like to suggest, re your initial comment, that it is not true that there is no Christian “counter argument” to the problem of evil. Many articles and books have been written on the subject by Christians (some, naturally, better argued than others). The fact that not everyone finds any of the arguments clinching is not the same as saying that there are no arguments.
Of course, the problem of evil is a huge and many-faceted topic, and there is no space here to touch even briefly on many of its aspects. Just a couple of thoughts. If we are talking of human evil (there are other notions of evil that would need to be tackled in a full discussion), the simplest definition, as I understand the bible, seems to be: “anything which is not in accordance with God’s revealed will” i.e. as revealed in Scripture. You mention the photo which triggered the original blog post. What is depicted clearly corresponds to your definition of “unnecessary or preventable suffering”, since world hunger, as I suggested in an earlier comment, is actually preventable (humanly speaking) - and I therefore regard its existence (original and continuing) as a manifestation of human evil, in the sense mentioned above.

Timaahy said...

Hi Greg,

Right you are - I did not mean that there were no counter arguments, just none that I, or any atheist for that matter, find particularly compelling.

And yes, world hunger could be prevented by mankind. But that's not the point. The point is that it could also be prevented by god (with a lot less effort, I might add :-).

Epicurus, of course, said it best:

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?"


Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,
Thanks for the clarification.
As to Epicurus’ famous dictum, and his question “Why call him God?”: I think it rather depends on the character of God’s sovereign will i.e. the outworkings of his ultimate purposes, which for his own reasons, he does not make completely clear to us. The analogy has been used of a parent taking a young child to the doctor, where they undergo some form of unpleasant treatment. The suffering involved is utterly incomprehensible to the child, but is ultimately for her/his own good. Of course, such a counter argument is not indisputably flawless – but neither is Epicurus’ dictum.
For me it comes down to assessing whether the way God is depicted in the bible, and way he has acted in history (esp. in Jesus) is believably consistent with the notion of his being omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent (see also my initial post). Especially given that the bible affirms that our knowledge of God and his purposes - this side of eternity, at least - is incomplete (see 2 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 13:12, for instance), then yes, I think the proposition is believable. Hence I “call him God”.


Timaahy said...


The doctor analogy is an interesting one, although I think it slightly misses the point - although it highlights that suffering can sometimes be 'good', it doesn't explain why the child was sick in the first place. :-)