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Love storyOlder folks like me will remember the 1970 movie, Love Story, and Andy Williams singing: “Where do I begin – to tell the story – of how great a love can be…?”

Remember the idealistic and dying Jennifer telling Oliver, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Well, some people get the term apologetics confused with apologizing. What is apologetics then? Where do I begin…?

“Apologetics attempts to render the Christian faith persuasive to the contemporary individual. For unbelievers: it is belief forming. It helps to establish Christianity as credible by giving intellectual support to the explanatory value of a biblical world view. For believers: it is belief sustaining. It nurtures Christian faith by calling believers to love the Lord with all their minds (Matt 22:37).”[1]

You might be familiar with PASCAL as a computer programming language, but did you know about the Christian man from which this language was named? Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, and theological philosopher from the 17th century. Under the direct tutelage of his father, Pascal thrived intellectually and showed a penchant for theoretical and practical science. He is attributed with the invention of one of the first mechanical calculators and with the laws of hydraulics.

Following a near-death experience in late 1654, where Pascal and several friends escaped plunging over a bridge in a coach, he had a vision from God. Pascal called it “the night of fire.” He left mathematics and physics and devoted the rest of his life to studying scripture and developing Christian apologetics. Talk about a Man on Fire!

His two most famous works date from this period: the Lettres Provinciales (The Provincial Letters) and the Pensées.[2] The Provincial Letters were critiques of religious and political leadership of his time. The Pensées is actually a collection of notes Pascal made for a book he planned to title The Defense of the Christian Religion, but the book was not completed due to his untimely death in 1662.

Pascal’s primary concern was focused on the church and combating the ignorance of those who professed to be a Christian without displaying Christian virtues. J.G. Stackhouse said:

“Blaise Pascal and Soren Kierkegaard are only the most famous of a long line of apologists who tried to wake up a sleepwalking culture that comfortably thought itself Christian.”[3]

Pascal’s greatness in apologetics was not to deify his personal interests of mathematics and science, like so many of his contemporaries. Rather, he chose to honestly dismiss limited human reason and accepted both the obvious ambiguity of knowledge of God and the Scriptural view of man’s fallen state. He states:

“But for those in whom this light is extinguished … find only obscurity and darkness; to tell them that they have only to look at the smallest things which surround them, and they will see God openly, to give them, as a complete proof of this great and important matter, the course of the moon and planets, and to claim to have concluded the proof with such an argument, is to give them ground for believing that the proofs of our religion are very weak. And I see by reason and experience that nothing is more calculated to arouse their contempt. It is not after this manner that Scripture speaks, which has a better knowledge of the things that are of God.”[4]

Posthumously, Pascal’s ideas fit in with modern teleological arguments. It appears that his war against ignorance and apathy of Christians has continued into the 21st Century, where there often seems to be little if no difference in the lifestyles between those who profess “Jesus is Lord!” and those who profess their allegiance to secular humanism, homosexuality, or abortion. Am I beginning to get your attention?

Many of our modern “Calvinistic” churches won’t work with “other” churches. The cessationists disassociate with the charismatics.  Does Christ agree with this kind of stand? Didn’t Christ make both the zealot (Simon) and the tax collector (Matthew) his disciple?  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”(Jn 13:35). Love, therefore, is our primary apologetic. If this is so, then can the inverse be also true?

Can you demonstrate that you are not Jesus’ disciple by hate and indifference? John was called the apostle of love, but his words are quite direct and stern on the matter. He says, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness” (1 Jn 2:9).

Christ is not someone who can be avoided. He is the chief cornerstone of all things, “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Pet 2:8, NKJV). If he is in your life, His presence will be evident and your light will automatically challenge the darkness of this world. You are called to “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). Peter’s exhortation goes further. He says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet 3:15). The Greek word that Peter uses for defense is apologia, from which we derive the the term “Apologetics.”

Apologetically, does the way you think and act line up with the commands of Christ? Christians: Is there enough evidence in the way you talk and walk to convict you of actually being a follower of Christ? Churches: Are you communicating and collaborating with other Christian congregations in such a way that the unbelievers in your community take notice? Denominations: Are you celebrating your similarities in Christ or are you accentuating your differences?

Is the Christian faith you profess persuasive to the world? If so, you will never have to say you’re sorry.

Footnotes

1 Walter Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 82.
2 “Blaise Pascal.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2005. Answers.com 21 Oct. 2006. http://www.answers.com/topic/blaise-pascal (accessed October 21, 2006).
3 J.G. Stackhouse, Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 44.
4 Wikisource contributors, “Pensées/IV-242,” Wikisource, The Free Library, http://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=Pens%C3%A9es/IV&oldid=212972 (accessed October 21, 2006).

Originally published on TOTL-B 10/29/2009 by Al Goff.