Incarnational vs. Informational Apologetics

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PART I
As evidenced by reality, actions speak much louder than words and in a society so engrossed with self-actualization where everything is about them, no one is going to care how much we know until we show them through acts of kindness layered with love, acceptance and forgiveness how much we truly care. If we are not willing to build relationships with the people in our lives, it leaves little room for any influence. In addition, no one is going to listen to what we say if we do not practice what we preach. It is not just our duty or obligation to share with others what Christ has done in our lives; it is our moral imperative, which must be rooted out of our love for God and for all of His children.

Incarnational Apologetics and Informational Apologetics, as David Wheeler stated are essentially two sides to the same coin much like how evangelism and worship must be combined to be truly effective. Humanity is flawed, but despite our fallen state, God has still chosen to use us to advance His kingdom by spreading the Gospel. The sad reality is most Christians profess their faith with their mouths, but deny the Lord by their lifestyle. Mahatma Gandhi said it best: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Wheeler adds to this quote by stating, “The sad fact is that many people will never understand the reality of biblical ideals such as forgiveness, unconditional love, or even salvation, because they cannot move beyond the inconsistent ways in which Christians communicate their faith through daily living.”

So the question remains: Is evangelism only the communication of proper information, or does it also include the total person in reference to one’s outward behavior that validates the information to the world, or is it both informational and incarnational? This writer believes it is both based on the combination of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Jesus told His disciples to spread the Gospel, but He also told them the world would know they were His disciples by the love they showed. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you do not have a love for the people you are trying to reach, you will never reach them on a deep and personal level. Will McRaney states, “The greatest resistance to the spread of the gospel is within our minds and spirits.” Barriers to spreading the Gospel can be internal, which prevents the believer from sharing their faith, or they can be external, which relate to defenses the unsaved build to keep people out. If we are going to be successful in sharing Christ with others, we must find a way to tear down all barriers and sometimes this must be done brick by brick. McRaney attributes fear, apathy and insecurity as the top reasons for internal barriers essentially saying if people do not want to do something, they are always going to find an excuse. As Adrian Rogers says, “Your zeal is never any greater than your conviction.”

Fear has been defined as false evidence appearing real, but in relation to barriers in sharing one’s faith, it ranks among the highest reasons for not spreading the Gospel. Whether one’s fear is real or imaginary does not matter because they both cause a distorted perspective to the power, which dwells inside every believer. Fear is one of Satan’s favorite tactics to use because no one likes to fail, but the key to success in reaching others is transparency and dependence upon God. McRaney argues, “Lost people do not expect us to be perfect; they expect us to be honest with our successes and failures. They want us to be authentic.” This is an area I constantly have to remind myself about especially relating to events in my past. As embarrassing as some of my failures were, they are part of my testimony and they open the door to speak life and truth into the lives of lost and hurting people. God causes all things to work together for good when we love the Lord and are called according to His purpose, so we must trust Him to use everything we have walked through to advance His kingdom. Another important aspect we must remember when spreading the Gospel is to be Christ-like. Jesus sought out the lost and undesirable people in places any civilized person would not venture, He never forced people to follow Him, and He regularly met the immediate physical needs of a person before beginning to address their spiritual needs. Evangelism is spiritual warfare, so we must be sure all areas of our life line up with God’s word before attempting to lead others to Christ. I am by no means saying we need to be perfect because if that were the case, no one would be able to evangelize, but what I am saying is what McRaney concludes, “Most people will be loved to Jesus, not convinced to Jesus” and our part in this process should be communicated both in our knowledge and by our actions.

PART II

Upon watching the video about Lindsay, her approach to life is becoming more common in the younger culture where the premise is all roads lead to God. It became immediately evident that her ex-boyfriend’s Universalistic theology took root in her belief system combined with all her previous negative experiences with other doctrines and religions. I too moved all around the world, which exposed me to many different cultures in military postings where your Chaplain often was responsible for speaking to many denominations of faith, so I can relate to the melting pot theology she has made in her mind. If she were a neighbor of mine, I would know immediately that her conversion would be one of much prayer and continued acts of kindness and not condemnation to build a relationship with her. As is common with her generation, she had a bad experience with organized religion, which has left distaste for most communities of faith, so I would not press her into just believing in everything I believe. Instead, I would listen to everything she has to say and use her answers and beliefs to further her understanding of who God is and why Jesus had to die for her sins. She believed in the Bible, but struggled to understand its relevance today, so this is an area I would attempt to help her comprehend. She recognized God has many different names, which He reveals throughout scripture, however, she also believed false gods were included, so this would be an area I would try to build a bridge to help her understanding. She believed God is in everything and is everywhere, so I would try to help her recognize the omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience of God. She also believed that we should treat others with love, so I would share with her the Great Commandment not only in word, but also in my actions.

One of the major points I would emphasize early on would be who Jesus was and what He did for all of humanity. She believed he was a great leader, but did not know for sure if He was fictional or not. Although her belief structure was very polytheistic, she believed in miracles and even life after death. With that response I would walk her through the consequences of sin and show her the reason Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins and emphasize to her without a personal relationship with Christ she would go to hell regardless how good of a person she was. Despite her beliefs, she seemed fairly intelligent in why she believed what she did. Because of her past negative experiences with churches, I would apologize even though I had nothing to do with them because when bitterness takes root there is little hope of anything positive growing in the same soil. Hearing her story and knowing three out of five children will leave the church, as they become adults reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son. I prayed for her this morning and I hope her parents continue to as well. There is nothing greater than what was lost being found again. Satan is scared of what we can become when we submit our lives to Christ and engage in the biggest battle the world has ever known: the battle for our souls and even though Satan has the gates of hell, Jesus has the keys!

Bibliography

McRaney, Will McRaney. The Art of Personal Evangelism. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003.

Caner, Ergun, and Ed Hindson (eds.) The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Incarnational Apologetics by David Wheeler. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

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One thought on “Incarnational vs. Informational Apologetics

  1. Diane Fenning says:

    you are right on the money Jeff. It is so encouraging to know there are pastors out there that really want us to do what God wants us to do. I’m so pleased that your words are biblical. Keep up the good work and keep these messages coming. Thanks for your heart. be blessed amen

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