TONY ELDER: We have a responsibility to stand up for our faith

Tony Elder

Tony Elder

Last weekend, I attended a Christian Apologetics Conference. That doesn’t mean that I came back having learned a hundred different ways to say “I’m sorry” or “forgive me” with a more sincere, Christlike spirit. As many of you know, apologetics has to do with defending the faith.

But don’t picture that idea in the wrong way either. There were no classes training people in martial arts. Don Rickles wasn’t one of the featured speakers teaching Christians how to hurl biting insults back at the people who oppose them.

Christian apologetics is a branch of theology dealing with the defense and proofs of Christianity. Many of the sessions at this conference were intended to equip believers to be able to share their faith better and to be able to knowledgeably and effectively answer the honest questions people might have about the Christian faith.

Therefore, it dealt with such issues as the biblical account of creation, evidences for Jesus’ resurrection, other religions, the belief that Jesus is the only way, the reliability of the Bible, and even such hot topics as same-sex marriage.

But does the average follower of Christ really need to know all that intellectual stuff? Can’t we just preach Jesus and share our testimony about what the Lord has done for us?

Undoubtedly, the account of our spiritual journey and personal experience with Christ can be one of our most potent tools in witnessing to others. However, that doesn’t excuse us from being able to intelligently answer the questions people raise concerning these other topics.

But can’t we leave the defending of the faith up to the likes of Josh McDowell and Ravi Zacharias and our pastor — those who are better trained for it? While there may be times when we might need to refer people to those who can give them more information than we’re able to supply, we should still be able to provide basic answers to those questions.

Peter was speaking to average believers when he instructed them to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15).

We find a similar exhortation in the little book of Jude. The writer explained that he had planned to write to these believers about the subject of salvation, but found it necessary to change direction. Because of false teaching and teachers who had arisen among them, he was now exhorting them “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

We live in similar circumstances today. Christianity and its teachings are being challenged in many different ways. We have a responsibility to stand up for the truth. As believers we need to contend for the faith.

However, how we do it is also important. At times, well-meaning Christians have done more harm than good by the manner in which they attempted to defend their faith. We don’t have to attack with guns blazing, with a harsh spirit, and with words aimed at destroying our opposition.

That verse in I Peter goes on to say that we are to give a defense “with meekness and fear.” We can faithfully share the truth, but we can do it lovingly and respectfully.

The times we live in demand that we become what could be called “thinking Christians.” Know what you believe and why you believe it. Explore the biblical answers to those tough questions people raise. Let’s seek to be more effective witnesses for Christ.

Don’t find yourself having to apologize for not being a Christian apologist.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at revtelder@aol.com.