I’ve been ruminating on this very idea for the last month, making notes, waiting for it to become fully formed in a future post. And now, here it is in an article by Mark Galli:
Truth is so personal that it dwells within us in the Holy Spirit. Thus the truth of God is first and foremost about knowing God personally in Christ. It is more than knowing something about God; it is “having God in oneself,” as Gregory of Nyssa put it.
A friend of mine tells the story of his attempt to argue his college classmates into the Christian faith. In a class on world religions, he gave what he believed was an unassailable apologetic for Christianity during an assigned presentation. As the class reacted, it became clear that the non-Christians were either bored or hostile, despite what my friend felt was the superior logic of the Christian view. Only years later did he finally grasp that while he may have presented the abstract truths of Christianity cogently, he had failed to also present the person of Jesus Christ in a way that winsomely conveyed that our faith is first and foremost an intimate encounter with the God of truth.
When we don’t frame our apologetics, teaching, and preaching in this way, our presentation of Christ will not be fully true, let alone attractive.
Yes. We need to widen our approach to apologetics. Our goal isn’t merely to argue that Christianity is true, but also to introduce people to a Person—a Person who is with us in the very room we’re standing in as we’re making our arguments, a person whom we love and desire to follow. Do you convey a sense of this when you talk to people about Christianity?
As apologists, we need to grapple with the truth that, at root, unbelief is more a matter of the heart than of the head. That is, I can argue with a person that the God of the Bible exists, and perhaps even convince him, but arguments about God’s existence won’t convince an atheist to love Him. For that, we need something else. Ultimately, that “something else” is the Holy Spirit, of course, but He moves people to love Jesus when we glorify Him.
So the question is, how can we demonstrate the reality, centrality, and desirability of Jesus as part of our approach?
First, act in ways that demonstrate His love, His grace, His humility, and His self-sacrifice. Find the lowliest person in the room, and make him feel loved. Find everyday ways to serve people and put others before yourself. Be kind to those who hate you. Show them the beauty of who Jesus is by acting in ways that echo His beauty. Let them see bits of Him in you.
Second, as you make your arguments, openly speak of Jesus in a way that communicates your love for, trust in, and dependence on Him. Point to His glory in everything; let people see that He is the center of your daily life; live in a way that makes it obvious to everyone He is most important to you. That’s how I became a Christian. I became convinced Christianity was true through investigation and arguments, but it wasn’t until I got to know someone who desired Him that I saw Him as desirable. When you speak to others, do they see that you see Jesus as desirable?
Third, none of us loves Jesus as we should, so we need to intentionally cultivate our love for Him, and the way to do that is to look at Him. The book Look and Live can get you started on how to do this. (I also recommend Rejoicing in Christ.) The Bible is obviously the key to this pursuit. Read and memorize. Pray that God will enable you to see Jesus more and more clearly. To truly see Him is to love Him, and it will also change you. Our goal ought to be to immerse ourselves in Jesus so well and so often that His love and grace can’t help but come out of us as part of our apologetic arguments.
Christianity isn’t just true; it’s also beautiful and good. And it’s beautiful and good because we see in Jesus “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature.” Make this truth central to all of your apologetics.