Pastoral Apologetics

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You never know when today’s evangelical can become tomorrow’s skeptic. Bart D. Ehrman is a scholar who left the evangelical faith and today is very upfront about his position. His story and arguments have led many others who were raised in the church to follow his folly. Though I appreciate Ehrman’s recent work affirming the Historical Jesus, Ehrman often writes on why the Bible cannot be trusted. However, it was not the supposed unreliability of the Bible that led to the demise of Ehrman’s faith, it was the problem of evil. He wrote in  God’s Problem: How The Bible Fails To Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer:

I realized that I could no longer reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of life. In particular, I could no longer explain how there can be a good and all-powerful God actively involved with this world, given the state of things. For many people who inhabit this planet, life is a cesspool of misery and suffering. I came to a point where I simply could not believe that there is a good and kindly disposed Ruler who is in charge of it.

When I read this, I had to pause and reflect on just how important good apologetics is. Or, you could say, in the case of Ehrman and many like him, there is a high cost for bad apologetics. Everyone is an apologist. Some people are just poor at it. At some point we all must ask the question, “Why does God allow evil?” And, then, at some point we all must answer it (the answer will be outside of the scope of this post but there are certainly good responses to it). If we answer poorly, it comes at a great cost to us and others. This is what poor apologetics cost Bart Ehrman.

He concludes his depart from the Christianity he grew up on, “I have now lost my faith altogether. I no longer go to church, no longer believe, no longer consider myself a Christian.”

That’s a tragedy. It is a tragedy every time it happens. When I read this story, I was reminded of all those unnamed, unpublished ones in our families or other loved ones who longer consider themselves Christians. To stop this, we apologists must take the call of C.S. Lewis very seriously:

To be ignorant and simple now — not to be able to meet the enemies on their ground — would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered (The Weight of Glory, p51).

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