PARDON MY APOLOGETICS
Written by Kevin L. Howard   
Tom talks and I drive.  That's our relationship.  He's with me everyday as I drive home from work in Southern California.  I never say much to Tom, not because I dislike him, but mainly because he's a radio talk show host and not in my passenger's seat.

Most of the time, I like what he says about politics.  He's not ashamed to be an American, as it seems so many people are these days.  He's also a Christian and believes there are things still worth fighting for, like Iraq's freedom.  He makes me proud to be an American.

            When Tom's not talking, he lets callers voice their opinions over the air.  Sometimes a liberal calls, but typically the callers are conservative, like Tom.  Occasionally some hurting soul—usually a woman—calls Tom for a biblical answer to her pain.  In fact, not long ago, a mother called crying about her infant who had recently died.  She wondered if God might have taken her baby in order to punish her for some sin.  Tom assured her that God didn't work that way.

            Over the last several weeks, I've heard Tom respond to a few of his hurting callers.  His answers are solid biblically, but have a classroom feel about them.  Tom also boasts that he can answer any skeptic, inviting them to call with their tough questions.  My guess is, he would do a good job responding.  He's a smart guy.

            But I wonder whether or not Tom confuses the emotional problem of evil with the intellectual problem of evil.  This is a distinction I first came across in John Feinberg's book, Deceived by God?  When death snatches a mother's child, or an uncle molests his nephew, or a father dies of cancer, are there really good answers?  It's these emotional encounters with evil that threaten to make atheists of us all. 

Heaven will give us all the answers we need, but are these answers readily available now?  Apparently, some apologists think so.  While there are good reasons to follow Christ, the things that we as evangelical Christians hold most dear—like Christ's divinity and his resurrection—are things that we can't prove. 

While I believe Christ was divine, that he physically came back to life, and that he will visibly return, I also argue that these truths can never be proven.  I could list some reasons why I think Christianity's true, and even refer to those believers in the first century who died for what they saw, but I can't prove this to someone who's bent on denying it.

When you boil Christianity down, despite the facts, faith is what's left.  Not just mental ascent, but life-changing faith: confessing our sin, asking Christ for forgiveness, and living like we believe it.

Right now, some apologists is saying, "What are you talking about?  Of course we can prove Christianity is true." 

Soren Kierkegaard may have been more of a friend to orthodox faith than some theologians give him credit for.  He taught that no amount of proofs will lead unbelievers to genuine saving faith in Christ.  As another philosopher put it, "Even if you lived next door to Christ, you could not 'see' or 'prove' that He was God or that His acts produce our ability to be forgiven ….  He looked like a normal man and he died like a typical criminal.  It is only when the Lord provides the subjective 'moment' of faith in us that Christ is seen for what he truly is."  In other words, if Christ is to forgive our sins, we must leap into the arms of a God that we trust, rather than see.  It may not be a blind leap, but it is a leap of faith nonetheless.

 What I can argue people into today, someone else can argue them out of tomorrow.  This doesn't mean that I should never respond to skeptics, but it does mean I should put my classroom answers in their proper perspective.  Some skeptics really want the truth while many others grunt and snort in such a piggish manner that proves they don't deserve the pearls I would otherwise toss their way.  When the arguing is done, what's really going to touch unbelievers is a life that radiates love.  Nothing will do more for the gospel than when we become the good news to someone else.  In fact, we are the best gospel tract—and best argument—we could ever give a non-believer.

Many apologists mean well, but their elaborate answers to difficult questions are probably not what the apostle Peter had in mind when he told believers to "always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within."  For the hurting heart, sometimes weeping is all we can do, and it makes better medicine for their soul than a textbook answer.