One Emergent Church guru claimed, “Christians are believers not proposition defenders.” However, we are also required to defend the faith (Jude 3; 1 Peter 3:15)! This is the role of apologetics – to answer the “why” question with reasons why we believe what we do. Is this important? Moses certainly thought it was!
For the past 40 years, he toiled as a lowly shepherd, having lost his distinction as Pharaoh’s son, with all the glory that it entailed. However, while shepherding his humble flock, he was encountered by God in the midst of a burning bush. A lengthy conversation followed in which God instructed Moses to return to Egypt to free His people Israel – the last thing that Moses wanted to do. He finally asked God:
- "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The Lord did not appear to you'?" (Exod. 4:1)
Moses correctly understood that he needed to return armed with proofs. Rather than instructing Moses to tell the people, “Just tell them to believe,” God provided Moses with the evidences or proofs that he would need to convince Israel. He asked Moses:
- "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied. The LORD said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. "This," said the LORD, "is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob--has appeared to you." Then the LORD said, "Put your hand inside your cloak." So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow. "Now put it back into your cloak," he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. Then the LORD said, "If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground."
God liberally provided Moses with reasons why Israel should believe in the Word of God – that God had spoken and had sent Moses. In effect, He made Moses into a “proposition defender.”
Too many are claiming that we should just believe without ever attempting to answer the question, “Why we should believe.” There is nothing wrong with asking this question! It requires sound answers, and our Lord purposely gave us a mind to evaluate the answers or evidences.
When these questions do not find adequate answers, faith deteriorates. This is what had happened to the Apostles following the crucifixion of their Master. Without a supporting understanding of the events, their faith fled and so did they. However, God provided for them with supporting reasons to believe
- After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)
Even the Apostolic sermons echo these compelling reasons to believe. Peter preached:
- "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22)
Our Lord is ready to feed, not only our heart, but also our minds with proofs. Therefore, these cognitive blessings He bestows upon us, we should pass on to others as “proposition defenders.”
This is exactly what John did in his Gospel:
- Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
If John wrote to provide the why – the reasons to believe – we shouldn’t disdain this critical aspect of the Christian walk!