Attitudes in apologetics

In The Allure of Gentleness, Dallas Willard leads the reader in a path I wish I had offered to me when I was a teenager. I grew up with the concept that apologetics was winning the argument. My “rightness” would overwhelm their “wrongness” and then they would somehow just bow to Jesus.

Over the years I have adopted more of what Dallas writes about here, but more by fits and starts than a purposeful plan.

He lays out three basic attitudes to take in the subject of apologetics:

1. Have confidence in God and his truth. We need to understand God is on the throne and Satan can’t do a thing about it. No one can. Have confidence.

2. We are to be humble, generous, and open toward other people. Nothing is more damaging than telling a Muslim, for instance, what he believes, before HE has a chance to tell you what he believes. We need an openness to listen and walk with that respect toward others. Then, in kindness, we ask that same respect in return. I have watched Tim Keller do this time and again. It is marvelous to watch.

3. We need a true desire to lovingly serve.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 is a great example:

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Stop defending the Christian faith

“I’m not hear to defend the Christian faith; the Christian faith defends me.” — Dallas Willard

My task, as to apologetics, is to simply bring truth. It doesn’t need “defending.” Faith doesn’t need to chalk up a “victory” after the debate. Where I am in faith is where I help people. Where I see people struggling and see how God has given me some sort of victory in that area, that is where I work to help. It doesn’t mean I’m going to back off in strong statements. There is a time to be strong, but it doesn’t have to be delivered in defensiveness.

Dallas has made me quite comfortable in saying to people, “We’re going to talk about Jesus and how amazing he is. If you think he’s the real deal and worth following, let’s go. If you think you can get a better deal somewhere else, go for it.”

I have absolute confidence in saying that these days. I don’t have to be defensive. I can be strong.

Apologetics isn’t about being “right”

I am back to Dallas Willard’s book, The Allure of Gentleness, and find myself challenged yet again by his careful words.

Apologetics for Christians isn’t about proving we’re right. We’re not saved because we’re “right.” We’re “right” because we’re SAVED. It’s about grace stepping in to show what is right.

That’s why so many churches have “Grace” in their name. Not many people want to go to “Right Church,” but we’ll gladly go to “Grace Church.” I’ve been to Right Church — you may have been there too — it’s a tough place. There are a lot of dead people at Right Church, because life comes by grace.

The value of being “right” is found in helping us deal with reality. When we see what is truly right, we integrate life much easier. But it’s not about proving our “rightness” to someone else.

Can these bones live?

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” (Ez. 37:1-4)

There are those times we face impossible situations. Those times we are looking over a valley of dry bones. Those times when we think the dream is dead. We see hope gone. We see the “faith” we had just simply… gone… evaporated. It’s not a matter of “perhaps” anymore.

But God has Ezekiel over that valley looking at the impossible and asking a very crazy question, “What do you think? Can these bones live?”

Give credit to Ezekiel. I would have said, “You have GOT to be crazy!”

Ezekiel said, “Lord, you alone know.”

He was ready for anything, which is great, because the Lord then had him PROPHESY over the dead bones.

What a sight. Ezekiel standing over a valley of parched bones prophesying LIFE into an impossible situation.

We need those levels of obedience in our lives. We need those levels of boldness in our lives. It is time to speak boldly what the Lord has declared in your heart for your life, your church, your city, your family…

It is time to hear the word of the Lord, and speak it. 

I am in a place now where things are moving forward with our church, but every day I am waking up with words the Lord has me declare with freedom and boldness. He is asking me to pray this victory all the way home. It is time for a boldness that looks past the physical situation to what the Lord can truly DO in our lives, in our church, in our city.

There is an abundance that is there for my church. There is a harvest. There is an abundant blessing. The enemy won’t rise up and take this away.

Those are the kinds of things the Lord has me declaring every morning this week. It is time to speak LIFE and see what God alone can do.

The new scarlet letter

Immediate qualifier: I don’t know the first thing about Duggars or TLC or any facts of the old case against one of the Duggars. But with the charge of molestation and the vehement blog post titles I see on my Facebook feed, I think once again to the issue of child molesters and how we handle it as a country. The label of sexual predator has become our new national scarlet letter. We do not think people can be truly redeemed or changed. This will have a deep impact on our culture and we are not doing well in this discussion.

The gentle apologetic

There is no way to contain my joy in getting to read more words from Dallas Willard. I am so thankful his daughter is putting together his notes and lectures. This latest book is called The Allure of Gentleness, and takes up the cause of living out the apologetic of Christianity rather than simply trying to engage in and win an argument.

Some early gems:

It is because in suffering for righteousness’s sake you know the reality of the kingdom of the heavens in your life. that reality comes into you, and you find that you are leading a supernatural, deathless life.

And this:

If you do not exhibit the presence of a life that is above this world, something that is coming into you and giving you joy, peace, and strength in a situation that looks very bad from outside, there isn’t going to be anything for people to ask about. 

The Allure of Gentleness

I received Dallas Willard’s latest book today. It is so refreshing to know his work can continue. This one is on apologetics and approaching it with gentleness instead of a combative attitude. It is classic Dallas.

Big quote so far:

We need to be able to deal with doubt lovingly, helpfully, and especially without ever scolding or shaming anyone for doubting. We must allow people to be who they are and then be able to meet them where they are.