A Better Apologetics

Mosaic in the northern tympanon depicting Sain...
St. John Chrysostom (349-407 AD). Image via Wikipedia

I was reading a web article about Campus Crusades for Christ. I generally like CCC, although, like any group, there is plenty of room for criticism. The same could be said about Bill Bright, its founder. The article was pretty negative, but it had this quote made by Bill Bright:

“If they’re Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, whatever, we don’t even try to put down other religions. We simply proclaim the truth as we know it” (3/18/96, Christian News, p. 15)

The thing I found very interesting was that this quote was meant as an attack on Bright. In other words it was good (presumably) to proclaim the truth, but unacceptable to not attack other religions at the same time.

I find it (again) interesting the assumption that attacking other religions is a necessary part of sharing the good news of Christ. Clearly, the good news implies that there is something wrong with the other religions, but some feel that this is not enough… the attack must be explicit, not just implicit.

I have been reading Roland Allen and David Bosch recently, both of whom argue for a positive presentation of the Gospel without attacking other faiths.

One of them (I can’t remember if it was Allen or Bosch) referred to St. John Chrysostom (AD 349-407) who was shocked that St. Paul did not attack other religions. Since some of the local religions in 1st Century Roman Empire were heavily debauched in practice, it seemed shocking to Chrysostom that Paul would not attack. In Athens, he even seemed to be rather accommodating, utilizing positive aspects of the Athenian intelligentsia for purpose of sharing the news of Christ.  He was disturbed by pagans who sought to treat him as a god, but even then, he corrected rather than attacked. Paul’s anger was saved for those inside (or on the periphery of) the church who sought to lead the faithful astray.

The same can be said of Christ. He commended the pagan who showed faith in Himself, but did not attack pagans for being pagans. His attacks, again, were saved for those in the temple and synagogue who were leading the faithful (or immature) astray.

That is not to say that Paul or Christ did not have a message for the pagan, but the message was positive, and did not assume that people should be attacked for ignorance in the truth.

Things began to change after the New Testament era. The Apology of Aristides, circa 125AD shows a bit of a shift. Aristides looked at Christians, Greeks, Barbarians, Egyptians, and Jews. He focuses on the truth of Christ, but does point out the errors of the other groups. That many not be wrong (pointing out the truth points out falsehood by implication), but at times Aristides goes beyond this. His comments about the Egyptians were especially negative and offensive. (Of course, these comments may have been more of a form of pandering to the recipient of the document.) By the time of John Chrysostom (golden tongue), an apology to the faith appeared to require attacking those who believe otherwise.

Here are some questions:

1.  Can we have interfaith dialogue showing mutual respect without relativizing our convictions?

2. Can we express the superiority of God’s Word (the Holy Bible) without publicly burning or insulting the works of other religions?

3.  Are we able to follow the guidelines of I Peter 3:15-16 both in our communities, AND on the Web.

So what is I Peter 3:15-16?  “Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope. Give a kind and respectful answer and keep your conscience clear. This way you will make people ashamed for saying bad things about your good conduct as a follower of Christ.” (CEV)

The question is: How do we create a better, a more positive, AND a more effective Christian apologetic?

2 thoughts on “A Better Apologetics

  1. Pingback: A Better Apologetics « MMM — Munson Mission Musings « Articles « Theology of Ministry

  2. Pingback: Aristides for Today « MMM — Munson Mission Musings

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