What questions are we answering?
I remember responding to a student on one occasion after listening to him expound upon a question I had asked. I was attempting to be entertaining and gentle when I responded, “That was an excellent rejoinder to a question I did not ask.” The student’s response was convivial, and I reworded the question in an attempt to ask with more clarity.
I am thinking about that situation as I am working with a group of brothers and sisters on a worldview conference that will be hosted in Indianapolis, October of 2015. We spoke of the need to provide evidence for God as Creator, the authority and inspiration of Scripture, the truthfulness of the resurrection, and Christ as the only Lord and Savior. We all clearly understand the damage that a Darwinian and materialistic worldview has had on Western culture and these questions. There is no area of academia or Christian worldview these two worldviews have not touched with their acid-like destruction.
What questions are they asking?
I realize that at some point the classical questions of apologetics must be answered. I also believe that people will start asking those traditional questions, e.g., “How can I be sure that God exists?” “Is the Bible inspired and inerrant?” And, “Did Jesus Christ truly rise from the dead?” If they do not ask these questions, we should raise them in the process of assisting them in becoming critical thinkers about the faith.
However, if these are not their questions from the beginning, we should meet them where they are. It seems to me that people are very existential these days. Their questions are primarily about their lives and experiences, if they have questions at all. “Where is God in all my pain” (which is a classical question)? “Why is my family so broken?” “Why are the parents of nearly every family I know either divorced or getting one?” “Why can’t I see God working in the city?” “Why is the city so violent?” These are some of the apologetic questions I have encountered in an urban context.
Is it important to distinguish the difference?
Few people are interested in an answer to a question they are not asking.
We might be perceived as indifferent to their plight when we do not respond to their questions. Others might reason that we are not informed as it relates to “their” predicaments. They might believe a non-answer is our way of hiding our witlessness or our indifference.
As Christians, we cannot enter a community and project such negative attitudes. This is where Christopher Brooks’ book, Urban Apologetics, comes into play. He wants to start where the people are relating to their questions. Brooks believes that urban apologetics is unlike classical apologetics, which begins in academia and lands among the sophisticated in the suburbs. It’s not that their questions are unique to the city. However, I do believe they often start in a different place.
Effective evangelism brings the reality of Christ to the questions they are asking.
Apologetics is about making the objective truths of the Christian worldview known to those who are not in a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. It also seeks to inform those who are devotees, “… of the reasons of the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:16).
As it relates to non-believers in an urban setting, apologetics opens the doors of communication when we are able to help them make sense of God in their environmental setting. As it relates to nonbelievers, our ability to defend God’s truths in their setting will make us effective witnesses for Christ’s kingdom.
In addition to a relevant apologetic, living out our answers in their midst is one of the most constructive ways the church can move inner-city dwellers from the kingdom of evil to the kingdom of light. If we truly want to help the city, then we must bring them a relevant, intelligent, loving, living evangelistic apologetic. Bringing people the good news of Christ presents them with hope in this world, and joy in the next, that no political system or governmental program will ever provide.
Let’s get this conversation started.
How do we begin to make this happen? We begin where Dr. John Perkins asserts we should:
Start where they are, with their questions.
Even so, before this can happen, we must be among them. We cannot know their questions if we are not in a personal relationship with them. This is the only way we can know and deconstruct the things that are destroying their faith.
Where am I starting, exactly where Dr. John Perkins believes I should? I will be engaging in conversations with urban pastors to bring you a series of blogs entitled Urban Apologetics. By answering their questions, through a personal dialogue, I will strive to bring you insights from those on the battle field. I trust Christ will allow us to show those reading these blogs the evidence that God is relevant to what they are going through.
Ideally, you will see that He is in their midst, and is active on their behalf. I trust these blogs will be a series of exciting conversations. They are liable to be messy dialogues absent of some of the clear-cut theological lines we all enjoy. But this is the very nature of urban ministry. I trust you will enjoy what I believe Christ has awaiting for us.
Join the Conversation
What urban apologetics questions—real-life questions—would you like this series to address?