Thursday, September 25, 2008

Have you got the whole story - Mike Cain

Whenever I am asked to give a series of apologetic talks I try and make it clear to those who have invited me that I am not coming just to win an argument about the reliability of the Bible or merely to leave people with the impression that the reality of suffering need not rule out the philosophical possibility of there being a God. I don't want people to walk away with the idea that theism is a plausible hypothesis; I want to confront people with the Christ who is Lord of the Universe. If people are going to feel the full force of His claim on their lives then they will need to see how he fits within the unfolding story of salvation from creation to new creation. It is as simple as that. They won't know how to make sense of the details of claims of Christ until we set those claims within the context of the unfolding story of the Bible. Because of this my habit has been to start any series of apologetic type talks with this overview of the Bible.

I do it with the following aims:

1) I want the Lord's revelation of Himself to set the agenda for the discussion. We may well have move on to issues such as the reliability of the Bible, suffering and pluralism, but if you start with God's agenda I have found people ask their questions in the light of what the Bible actually says rather than in the light of some documentary that they once saw on channel 4.

2) I want the first talk to set the context for the subsequent talks. So when we move on to, say, the problem of suffering or the uniqueness of Christ I want to be able to show people how to make sense of those things within the Bible's unfolding story. So, for example, when we talk about suffering, go from creation to new creation via the cross in a way that sets the problem of suffering firmly within the plan of salvation and underlines the coherence of the Christian world-view; when we talk about the uniqueness of Christ, show how it is the unfolding story of the Bible that painted the early church into a corner when it came to their convictions about who Jesus is.

3) I want to show people that the worldview of the Bible is coherent and that it does in fact make sense of the world. It is easy to get sucked into the sort of apologetics that assumes we just have to win the intellectual battle and so spend all our time "clearing away the intellectual barriers that prevent people from approaching the Gospel" without ever getting round to proclaiming the Gospel itself. I t is the Gospel that is compelling and which melts hearts and transforms minds, so this talk is an attempt to usher people through the "intellectual barriers" and show them the view from the other side - to show them what the world looks like when you look at it through the lens of the Gospel. It does, of course, give rise to questions and objections, but it means that when we revisit the "intellectual barriers" people know what is at stake and, we pray, the power of the Gospel is at work in them because they have, at least seen the view.

4) I want to show people that we are not talking about a bit of private spirituality that can be slotted into your existing worldview, but that when we are talking about the claims of Christ we are talking about the one by whom and for whom all things were made. Calling people to turn to Christ means calling people to turn from their old worldview and to embrace a whole new one that has Christ at its centre. Doing apologetics in a "biblical theological" sort of a way, means we are constantly talking to people on the level of total world view and not giving them a handful of spiritual fragments to make of which what they will.

5) Doing apologetics in a "biblical theological" sort of way means we are underlying the fact that our God is the God of history who has stepped into history and is taking history to its climax. He is not the result of philosophical speculation - which is the impression that some apologetics can leave you with.

Read the rest of this paper by Mike Cain at

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