In my reflection paper, I will argue that the use of philosophy is helpful when presenting a case for the gospel and that there is a growing need to be armed with biblical answers to difficult questions.
I currently serve as a Pastor to Students so I intend to write this paper with the student in mind (ages 13-18) and with their faith on my heart. It is important to understand that as Christians we are tasked with carrying out the gospel. In doing so we are meeting a sinful, fallen world where they are and we need to be prepared to defend and present the hope we have in Jesus. Peter implores his readers to honor Christ and to always be prepared to defend their hope found in Jesus. In order to defend Christ we must first love Him, if we do not love Jesus we will not care about defending Him or carrying out His Great Commission; this is challenge number one.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge and how we can know something to be true. For the follower of Christ we believe God’s Word to be truth. Jesus said He is “the truth” and that, “No one comes to the Father but through Him. ” So because we believe God’s word to be true we shape our minds, our worldviews, and our philosophies around what the bible has to say. Especially, in regards to the temptations, struggles and choices we make every day. For the follower of Christ, we are not the center of our own universe – God is. In the book of proverbs we find that the Lord gives us wisdom and from Him comes all knowledge and understanding. This helps answers a key question to the epistemological branch of the philosophical tree. God is the source of knowledge and everything comes from Him. Paul, in his writings, often used philosophy or logic to carry biblical principles. In his letter to the Romans he referred to Jesus as a “free gift”. This was to convey the idea that one cannot earn or work for his salvation but rather it was offered to Him by God. Paul’s illustration helped to prove a logical point for the reader. Furthermore, in Athens, Paul uses an altar to an unknown God to present the one true God. Again, Paul used philosophy and ideas around him to point others to Christ and the one true God. As ministers of God’s Word, we must do the same today and meet people where they are. What I mean by that is we must first go to people, work to understand their way of thinking, their culture and their philosophy in order to effectively share The Way, The Truth, and The Life.
So there is evidence in Paul’s writings to suggest that Paul was familiar with the secular culture and thinking of the day in order to relate and communicate effectively with his audience; I believe this is still appropriate and necessary today. Jesus often used illustrations of the world around Him (birds, camels and needles) that were relevant to His audience in order to convey a message. In His meeting with the woman at the well He reasoned with the woman and used imagery from the world around Him to convey truth. In many cases, Christians seem apprehensive or uncomfortable when trying to reason with an unbelieving audience. In class we have learned that reason, truth, and logic are on the side of the Christian. It is time we learn how to employ these powerful tools when sharing or defending our faith. I believe it is worth noting that we should tread carefully and not allow ourselves to be pulled in by the temptations and ideals the world has to offer. I have seen cases where someone employs unwise tactics to try and relate to the world around them. For example, one may drink alcohol, smoke, or worship other gods to try and relate to an unbelieving audience. We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to the teachings, culture, and temptations of the world around us. We see this struggle take place with the Israelites and their participation in idol worship and their intermingling with the nations around them. Though we are ministers in a lost world we must always offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice” to the one true God Paul commands the Romans to not be conformed to their present age but to be, “…transformed by the renewing of your mind…”. We are fallen, broken, and sinful and we must not overlook the need to “change our minds”. I believe the Holy Spirit helps us do this when we wholeheartedly decide to follow Christ but this is also something we actively do each day. In order to “change our minds” we must renew it by studying God’s Word. When we do this our philosophy, our ethics, our morality and our worldview changes; it takes on a different, Christ-like form. As followers of Christ we must always be ready to defend God’s Word – especially when the questions get difficult. Working with students I see many of them come to church their entire lives. They attend bible study and events and seem to grow in their walk with God each year. Then they graduate high school and head for college with their faith in hand. Many of them arrive on campus and are confronted with difficult questions about their faith. As it turns out higher learning has something to say about their hope in Christ and when challenged with a tough question or a more appealing option they jettison their faith for something else. Often, I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the Sower. The seed falls on the rock and sprouts up for a moment but withers because it had no roots or maybe the plant is choked out by thorns.
Obviously, this is a problem because as “little Christ’s” fall by the wayside so does the defense of the hope that is Jesus. It is important that we arm students with the biblical answers to what the bible says about the presence of evil in the world. Students need to have an answer to the difficult questions, “How can we know that God exists?” and “Why should I try to be good at all?” Honestly, many students may not care to try and answer these difficult questions but if they are unwilling to answer them someone will answer for them. At some point the Holy Spirit must intervene to help the student develop a love for Jesus and a desire to know God’s Word. In regards to our need for the Holy Spirit to intervene I would like to mention. Here, Jesus seems to indicate that the flesh (our fallen intellect, reason, and emotions) cannot produce a genuine spiritual life on its own. What I think Jesus is saying is that our minds can “connect the dots” in a sense. We can look at evidence (historical and scriptural) and arrive at a sound understanding or conclusion. However, without intervention of the spirit we are missing a vital piece of the spiritual puzzle; from Jesus alone comes true “spirit and life”. So unless we enter into communion with the Spirit we are missing what it means to truly have life. Sometimes we may not need to go out and seek with whom we may share the gospel with. Sometimes, God brings the audience to us. The question is do we see the audience and are we prepared to present a case for Christ to that audience. I am thinking of the Ethiopian Eunuch who was reading from Isaiah on the road home. First, Philip obeyed the call of the spirit, second, he opened his mouth and spoke to the eunuch, third, he reasoned with the eunuch and presented the gospel to Him and the Eunuch was later baptized. Now, these were two, probably very different, men from different cultures, backgrounds, and nations. Obviously, the spirit was at work in both lives and played a role in these two men meeting. We do not have access to what specifically was said between the two men but reason, logic, illustration, and sound philosophy were sure to be at play. We are wrong to think that logic, reason, and a defense of our faith is unnecessary when we present the good news of Jesus.
The Truth is the greatest weapon we have. In a world swirling with possibilities and options we present the Word and the Truth. When Josiah found truth in it changed his mind, his perspective, his direction as king all changed upon realization of true truth. We must realize that the same is necessary of us if we are going to effectively defend and present our faith to a world searching for truth. Jesus spoke of a wide and narrow gate and how difficult the path is that leads to life. May we accept the challenge and step onto new ground with God’s Word, the Truth, in hand and show others that He alone is The Way.
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