Oil-Change Apologetics: My Way or the High-Way?

The other day I was getting an oil change, and the attendant noticed my school parking pass. “What are you studying at Trinity?” he asked. (This conversation did take place, but the quotations are paraphrased and idealized, here, for the sake of clarity.)

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“Well,” I responded, “I’m taking a Master’s of Theological Studies focusing in Contemporary Apologetics. One of the things I learn is how to respond to people like Richard Dawkins, who say that Christianity (and all religion) is false, unreasonable, and a bad thing to believe in. It’s a lot of reading, and it’s very personally challenging, because it requires a radical honesty: to do this well, I think, you have to be willing to follow the truth wherever it takes you, and sometimes that means saying to myself, ‘If Christianity isn’t true, then I don’t want to believe it. If it’s false, then I’m willing to go to church barbecues, perhaps, but I’m not willing to look stupid–I’m certainly not willing to suffer for this.’ If I’m not really willing to be honest, then I think this is a big waste of time. That being said, I think there are a lot of good reasons to think that Christianity is true.”

In response, this fellow told me that he is currently studying at a Kingdom Hall to become a Jehovah’s Witness, and I said I’d love to learn more about that sometime, and provided him with my email address. His coworker asked me this: “Having studied all these different religious points of view, do you like your way the best?

This was an interesting question, I thought. In a marketplace of worldviews, it does seem arrogant for the Christian–or anyone, really–to say, “I am right; I have the truth.” The Christian, however, would prefer to say, “I was lost; now I am found. I was wrong, and now the Truth has me.

“Well,” I responded to them, “I think it would be helpful to point out that it’s not really my way. In fact, it’s often offensive to me, too!”

“What do you mean, it offends you?” they asked me.

“Well, just the idea that I am sinful—that I am, by nature, in the wrong, and need to submit myself in obedience to God. That idea is offensive to me. It offends my ego; my pride. It offends what we Christians call our ‘sinful nature’ or ‘flesh.’ The Gospel doesn’t only exclude those in other religions, or only secular humanists, etc.; it actually excludes every possible way of doing life that does not enthrone Jesus Christ as Lord. So, in a way, it offends me daily, because I have to deny myself and submit myself to Christ daily. So the truth about God and humanity is something that I don’t really see as ‘my way’—it’s more like gravity; it’s something that is imposed on all of us, whether we want to believe it or not. We can act in a way that respects gravity, or we can ignore it, but there are consequences either way.”

It was an interesting conversation, I hope this fellow emails me sometime. In retrospect, I should have asked for his email, too.

This reminds me of an old favourite song of mine: “Who” by the Newsboys.

“How we gonna work this out?
To fabricate a God like this no doubt,
We’d end up worshipping a Christ of our own design.
But Jesus doesn’t fit that profile;
His ways aren’t mine.

I’m not following a God that’s imagined,
Can’t invent this deity.
That’s why Jesus is the final answer,
To who I want my God to be;
He’s who I want my God to be.”

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