Putting Propositions in Their Place

Apologetics and the Postmodern Turn, Part 4

As I see it, there are basically two ways to introduce somebody to Jesus Christ. One starts with propositions: trying to prove to somebody that Christianity is true and that they should believe certain “truth statements” in order to be saved and come into a relationship with God.

The other way starts with introducing a person to a relationship with God through the community of believers who live a certain way (they radically love God and love others) and who seek to transform their world for the good of all creation.

The first defines “apologetics” as primarily reasoned arguments to convince somebody that Christianity is true. The second defines “apologetics” as primarily incarnational, living in a conspicuous hope that brings about inquiries. “Always be prepared to give an account to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

Let me illustrate:

Let’s say that there's two ways to get married...
(1) The first way is to go to a dating service and receive a data sheet about the person you will meet. 5'2" tall, 110 lbs., brown hair, has a short temper when she's hungry, enjoys long walks and candlelight dinners.

You meet her, and marry her based on the data, which seems to match the person. After 3 months, you begin to learn who the real person is. You either like her or not.

(2) the other way is this: You meet a person who you find attractive. You think she's witty and pretty and you want to get to know her more. Over several dates, you ask her questions about where she grew up, what she enjoys doing, what she feels her calling in life is. After a while, you think, "I want to marry her." You marry and continue to get to know each other.

Way (1) starts with propositions and gets to know the person through those first. But sooner or later you've got to meet the real person and really come to know her.

Way (2) starts with actually getting to know the person, and along the way learning propositional data about her.

Scenario (1) seems to be the way many people present Jesus: Here's the stuff you need to know about him.

Scenario (2) seems to be the way Jesus wants to be known.

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1 comment:

Chris Barker said...

I love your analogy here. It seems very fitting. I always struggle between taking an initiate to share and living my life in a way that others would ask for an account.

It seems like option two is the better way to introduce people to Christ for their own sake.

I have seen proposition one lead to a rough start for new believers, in that they will often strive to be like Christ by following the laws outlined in scripture. It starts as belief in propositions and actions are a response to the propositions made. The response can (not necessarily always) often be attempted through one’s own strength.

As opposed to option two where there is a genuine understanding of Christ at the time of belief. Therefore the response often comes out of awe for the glory of who God is (very empowering), and thus a dependence upon His role in changing us for the better.

The real-life challenges of proposition two surfaces after a little thought. One, it takes time, that I often am too selfish to give. Two, there is no hiding behind the fruit of your life. It is either present or it is not and that will be on display for those who spend the time referred to above with you. A Christian living any lifestyle can make propositions, but not every Christian’s lifestyle will cause someone to say, “There is something different about you, why? How can I value the things around me like you do…?”

Sorry for the long post, in the end both ways have a place and God has to be involved in each of them. Thanks for the insight and analogy.