Friday, June 29, 2007


Christian apologetics is the reasoned formulation and winsome presentation of a rational defense of the Christian world- and life-view. Classical apologetics includes defending the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus and the reliability of Scripture, presenting arguments for the existence of God (cosmological, ontological, teleological, moral), and answering objections associated with the existence of evil. But another common objection to Christianity--and one I haven't yet blogged about--is hypocrisy among those who call themselves Christians.

If you haven't come across a Christian or two whose life evidences inconsistency, foibles, or downright hypocrisy, then you haven't met many Christians. Most people know of someone who wears a saintly mask on Sundays and Wednesday nights but who, in unguarded moments or other venues, is anything but saintly. For many, it may be the Christian parents, whose demeanor in the community was admired by all but whose home life--known only to the immediate family--was marked by impatience, insensitivity, bitterness, anger, or worse. Not infrequently, the moral failure of a famous Christian is covered by national news media. For some (myself included), it's the personal recollection of a specific betrayal or hurt caused by a pastor or other church leader that most rankles. Or it might just be the recognition that church members have again and again proven to be the worst gossips around.

First of all, let's be clear about the fact that many who profess Christianity are not true followers of Christ. Jesus Himself drew an analogy between the church and a field in which both wheat and weeds grew up together. On another occasion, He explicitly said that many would call Him "Lord" whom He never knew--they were not redeemed children of God. Such undoubtedly account for some of the hypocrites in the church.

But not all. At the end of the day, we must acknowledge that even among true followers of Jesus there is all manner of sin, imperfection, and hypocrisy. Doesn't this fact inevitably argue against the validity of the claims of Christianity?

Well, no. Actually, it's quite the opposite. The Bible clearly declares that all men and women are sinful, even after being redeemed and given a new heart, even after receiving the Holy Spirit and experiencing God's grace and forgiveness. Certainly, those possessing this new life are expected to increasingly exhibit the "fruits of the Spirit"--love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, and such (see Galatians 5:22-23)--and to become more Christ-like (the theological term for this process is "sanctification") throughout their earthly lives. But--again according to Scripture--each of us will experience failure from time to time. (For the Apostle Paul's personal testimony on this count, read Romans chapter 7.)

As a Christian apologist, I deplore the high-visibility moral failures of church leaders, and could wish they didn't occur. As a leader of a local church, I take seriously the charge to be faithful and consistent, to avoid the temptations that become pitfalls, and I pray that I might not stumble myself nor cause others to stumble.

But in the final analysis, the truth of Christianity (or any other system) does not depend upon the success or failure of its adherents (much less its mere professors) in living out its principles perfectly. Indeed, to reject Christianity by appealing to the presence of hypocrisy among its adherents is intellectually dishonest, nothing more than a cop-out. If that's been your gig up until now, I'd like to challenge you to interact in a meaningful way with the evidence and reasons offered on behalf of the existence of God and of the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.

Which brings us right back to classical apologetics...

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