God’s love, forgiveness and acceptance is a powerful apologetic that can get past any barrier.
Apologetics is very interesting for Christians on many levels as we seek to gain confidence and assurance for our own faith. Of course, apologetics also has great value as we help seekers and doubters to get over the intellectual barriers that keep them from embracing faith in Christ.
But often the one great apologetic that gets neglected concerns God’s love, forgiveness and willingness to be Lord of our lives.
Traditions in Apologetics
The tradition of Christian apologetics stretches from the earliest days of the church, and is a practice recorded in Scripture. It continues on from the writings of Justin Martyr through the works of G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias and William Lane Craig.
One tradition of apologetics continues to show how the Resurrection, Old Testament prophecies, archeological data, the evidence for miracles, the dramatic nature of changed lives and many other proofs support the message of Christianity.
Another tradition appeals to a more philosophical and propositional approach to defending the faith. For example, given the fact that a world exists, we must ask, “Why is anything there, rather than nothing there?” If the world that exists is full of contingencies, then something must be necessary, essential and noncontingent. What is it?
A host of other questions are part of this tradition, such as why in the midst of mutabilities and change is there still an observable continuity? Why is there such precision in the movement of the heavens that people have been able to predict solar eclipses accurately for hundreds of years? Why do things seem to work toward predictable, developmental ends? Why can we even talk about things such as maturity and purpose? And why are we disappointed when life does not seem to go according to plan? If all was chaos, disappointment would not bother us because it would be normative not exceptional.
These questions are what presuppositional apologetics wrestle with. The idea that works best for explaining these various phenomena is faith in God. The presuppositionalists point us in this direction.
The Gospel Is the Answer
All forms of apologetics are, in their way, interesting and often affirming for those who have faith. And sometimes they help skeptics climb over the roadblocks to faith and embrace Christ.
Nevertheless, the greatest apologetic for faith is embedded in the gospel message itself. God loves us. Christ died for our sins. And he is willing to enter into our lives and bring order out of the chaos we make of things.
Every honest, unpretentious person I’ve ever met longs to be loved unconditionally. Human love is great as far as it goes, but if we are aware we have probably never loved another person perfectly and unconditionally, then it is likely we have never been loved perfectly.
Yet the longing for this kind of love persists. The gospel message is, in itself, a perfect apologetic, for it comes as a solution to the very nature of the heart’s deepest desire: God loves us unconditionally.
Furthermore, I’ve never met an honest, unpretentious person who fails to recognize that they are messed up. We say we believe in love, but we sometimes have sharp words with those we love most in the world. We have our high ideals and often catch ourselves living beneath them. We have standards of behavior we expect of others, but we are often blind to our own transgressions.
The apologetic inherent in the gospel is once again made clear—this God who loves us unconditionally is also willing, in Christ, to totally forgive us all our misdeeds.
Furthermore, since we’ve acknowledged our shortcomings and failures, then we’ve also acknowledged our need for assistance to bring order out of the chaos we have created. Again, the apologetic in the gospel is loud and clear: When we ask him, God is willing to enter our lives as Lord and begin the process of restoration.
As we engage in the work of explaining to others the truth of the gospel, we must not let the work of apologetics distract us from the power of the apologetic embedded in the message itself—“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”
His love, forgiveness and willingness to be Lord of our lives is the greatest apologetic of all. And it speaks to the deep felt needs of every human heart.
Jerry Root is professor of evangelism at Wheaton College and director of the Evangelism Initiative at the Billy Graham Center.