Incarnational Apologetics

I don’t think I have ever heard the term used before, but I like it. It basically means that as Christians the way we live is as much a part of the defense of the faith as the knowledge we can pour forth. I was working on my assignments for a class this week and had to submit a discussion board post on this topic. I offer it here for my loyal readers as food for thought (the blue text below).

Incarnational apologetics is a good way to describe the heart of the Christian life. We are told to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15) and we are also commanded to live in such a way that others will see it and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16). Both of these concepts are addressed in the article on incarnational apologetics.

Speaking from a personal perspective, the power of informational apologetics is extremely limited. I have long held a passion and a love for informational apologetics and I can give a lot of the answers that people are seeking. But right answers don’t result in a lot of changed lives in my experience. What I have noticed is exactly what Wheeler pointed out; people take note of lives lived in such a way that you know they are genuine in their beliefs. It reminds me of the quote I have heard, which is attributed to Brennan Manning, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

It is little wonder that evangelism finds so few people who believe us anymore. If we are people who draw near to God with our lips, but not with our lives; we will never convince the world that there is a God who loves them and sent His Son to die for them or for us.

What do you think?

Categories: Apologetics, Atheists, Christianity, Discipleship, Gospel, ministry | 21 Comments

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21 thoughts on “Incarnational Apologetics

  1. ruip

    I don’t see this as apologetics. We shouldn’t be swayed by a posteriori observations. From what we can observe, an ethical Christian is not supernaturally different from an ethical non-Christian; their behavior is the same except for things like prayer, obviously.

    We want to know the rationale behind believing in a Christian God, not how well behaved some people are.

  2. ruip,
    You have a point, but you are missing the main one. Why would anyone believe a Christian with all of the answers if they don’t live like it is true at all in the first place? Besides, what is an “ethical” non-Christian anyway? Whose ethics are they following?
    I am not suggesting that apologetics is solely a matter of right living; I am saying that right answers without right living is pointless.

  3. When I speak of Christ to people, I always let them know of my failings. I let them know that I am not up to being, or living the way that God wants us to live, either.

    But that Christ in His grace and mercy, is loving and forgiving. That He came for the sick…not the healthy.
    He came for sinners, of whom I am first.

    That’s the gospel, and in it’s hearing is contained the power of God (Romans 1:16)

  4. ruip

    Sorry if there’s any confusion, but I am not saying apologetics is all about good behavior either. I’m just critiquing good “Christian” behavior specifically–it is epistemologically sufficient, not necessary.

  5. Ruip,
    I would agree with you that good “Christian” behavior doesn’t prove anything, but surely you can see that a person claiming to be a Christian who doesn’t exhibit any corresponding behavior is effectively undermining his entire message. Isn’t that the whole concept of hypocrisy after all? In that respect, the actions had better back up the words that are spoken.

  6. Steve,
    You are exactly right, no one is perfect. But it is a far cry from being imperfect and acknowledging those wrong behaviors as wrong (which is what all believers need to understand) to the point where one can justify living counter to the gospel with a claim of no one can do it anyway and still try to preach the gospel of Christ as their foundation for living. Incarnational apologetics as I would define it is simply living what I say I believe.

  7. The brand of Christianity that I know put an emphasis on the fact that we all do not measure up. That we all are sinners.

    Then, after that fact is made abundantly clear, and shown to be true by our everyday lives, then the gospel is handed over freely.

    Nothing to do. In the gospel of Christ, all has already been done.

    Now, when someone hears it…I mean really hears it…the Holy Spirit will go to work in their lives.

    But the Old Adam still remains.
    ‘Simul ustes et peccator’ …simultaneously saint and sinner at the same time.

    When the Reformers laid that one on Rome, it drove ’em crazy. But it is true.

  8. I think people can spot a phoney a mile away.

    People that preach that we must do this and not do that …cannot live that way themselves.

    That is why, we are upfront and admit that we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed…every Sunday at the beggining of our worship service.

    This leads to people realizing who and what they are, but also knowing that they are forgiven.

    You get a lot less Phariseeism that way.

    When I go to ‘holiness’ churches…I can easily see that they are full of Pharisees and phonies.

  9. Anybody that actually thinks thay are doing a pretty good job of living the Christian life…has a pride problem and is delusional.

  10. That is why, we are upfront and admit that we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed…every Sunday at the beggining of our worship service. . .
    Anybody that actually thinks thay are doing a pretty good job of living the Christian life…has a pride problem and is delusional.

    I think you are missing my point as I agree with you on both of these points wholeheartedly. My problem is with Christians who justify their sin by saying that it is OK in some manner. Sin is never “OK,” it is forgiven and dealt with by the cross of Christ forever and ever, but the cross doesn’t make it “OK” to sin with impunity and call it good.
    I am thinking here of Romans 6:1-4:

    1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

  11. Of course sinning is not ok.

    Christians that advocate sinning are way off base.

    But just as bad are the “holiness Christians”.

    Christians that are quick to point out the “big” sins of other Christians, but seem to forget about their own sins (the ones that nobody sees).

    It is so easy to tell someone else where they need to improve.

  12. I actually like the fact that on Sunday I can hang out with real sinners. (people that know who and what they are)

    There is nothing worse than being in a church of half sinful / half righteous Christians.

    And believe you me, there are plenty of churches like that. We are surrounded by those types of churches where I live.

  13. Steve,
    I have a question for you that has been bugging me a bit and if it offends I apologize. When the news came out about Tiller being shot in Kansas, I was shocked to note that he was apparently a member in good standing in a Lutheran church. I have a hard time processing how a church that should hold life sacred can condone an unrepentant murderer as a member. I see this as a similar situation to Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 5 regarding the person living in an openly incestuous relationship, where Paul told them to expel the guy, hopefully for his own good in the long run.
    Where is church discipline in handling a man who openly commits murder and approves of it (it is what he was most known for in public)? How can a church stand around and allow this flaunting of God’s Law?

  14. Jeff,

    Lutheran principles (Law/Gospel) are not being held up in many parts of the Lutheran church.

    My own denomination (the ELCA) has been taken over by left-wing clergy who are in the process of destroying the once faithful Christian tradition.

    This is happening all over the place in the mainline denominations.

    One the other side of the coin, there are many churches on the right side of the spectrum who haven’t thrown out the law, but rather focus on it so much that the gospel just goes away.

    The Center (which is Christ) is where we ought be focused….but that has never been too popular.

    We humans have a natural propensity to fall off the horse to one side or the other.

    Our church virtually (congregation) has virtually nothing to do with the ELCA, anymore. We are operating on our own and trying to see what shakes out. It is not looking good for us.

    Your question did not offend me. What offends me is the humanistic approach the ELCA takes to their (poor) stewardship of the Word.

  15. Steve,
    My heart grieves with yours over this matter. I remembered you having some issues with earlier ELCA matters and wondered about your thoughts on this.

    I agree with you totally that humans have a propensity to fall off the horse far too often. The Christian life is a life of balancing grace and truth. My prayer for you and your church(and for all of us really), that we may be able to stand firm in these evil days for the Gospel of Christ and on the Solid Rock himself.

  16. Thanks, Jeff.

    My pastor says that the one good thing about our current leadership (in the mother church) is that they will not live forever, and that when they die off, the Lord may replace them with leaders more faithful to the scriptures.

    Have a Happy 4th, Jeff!

    – steve

  17. By incarnational do you mean living out apologetics?

  18. Hope,
    Yeah. Essentially, I am talking about Christians living in a way that reflects what they proclaim. Apologetics is about more than giving facts to people, although that is all most people think of when they hear that word. It is a comprehensive living out of the Christian faith in every area.

  19. Okay, I am clearly late to the party, but I came across your post and wanted to bring to your attention a series of videos I use in my coursework on “Incarnational Apologetics & Christian Worldview” via YouTube

    Would love your feedback and maybe you can make use of them in your own ministry.


  20. Joe,
    Thanks for commenting. I will check those out later this week when I have some time to do so and get back to you.

  21. Great. Keep in touch!

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