Apologetics’ aim is to remove obstacles that hinder people from seeing God for who he truly is, in his worth or glory—his goodness, truth, and beauty. Traditional historical and scientific apologetics are aimed at removing obstacles to people’s seeing the truth of God and the Christian worldview. Moral apologetics, by contrast, is concerned to help them see that God is good. Both tasks are important, but they involve crucial differences. For someone to grasp something as good involves more than mere cognition; it engages their affections. Seeing X as good requires an experience of goodness associated with X. Arguments and reasons are insufficient.
So for someone to come to see God as good, they need an experience of goodness associated with God. Often the primary (in some cases the only) tangible experience people have with Christianity is contact with Christians. If their experience with Christians is bad, it becomes very difficult for them to see the Christian story—and God himself—as good. This is why moral objections to Christianity, warranted or not, can be so devastating. On the other hand, when Christians exhibit goodness, it points to God’s worth—as Jesus affirmed in the Sermon on the Mount: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Indeed, the evidence shows that it was primarily the radical goodness of Jesus’s followers in the early centuries that so powerfully attested to the gospel.
The idea that the biblical God is morally bad has been gaining ground in the culture. Yes, the intellectual questions about the morality of the Bible need to be addressed, but we also need to be more intentional about sharing our lives with our neighbors so they can see who God is through us—not only through our good behavior, but also through our moral failures; for it’s through our humble openness about our own sin that they will see our dependence on and love of God’s grace, the most beautiful thing of all about our God.