We just finished our third and final training week! This year our apologetics training was split up into two parts, and this past week we studied Defending the Faith. Pastor Zozzaro kicked off the week by teaching us about different categories of worldviews—such as atheism, monism, and dualism—and as the week progressed, he taught us about God’s sovereignty, the problem of evil, and the hope that we have in Christ. Each week of apologetics training has a slightly different emphasis: Defining the Faith has a slant towards understanding what exactly the Christian faith is (and why it makes sense!) while Defending the Faith is oriented towards other worldviews and where they fall short.
“But it’s not a clear break,” says Pastor Zozzaro, “because in the first week we do some apologetics things, so we get a little bit of the philosophy, and like today, we dealt with some things that are theological. But on the whole, the first week is really understanding the Christian worldviews and using the Apostles’ Creed; the second week is clarifying, critiquing, and confronting non-Biblical worldviews.”
Apologetics training is a wonderful skill to have when sharing the Gospel, because the doubts of the unbelievers often are genuine and need to be addressed. But perhaps even more beneficial to the average guest at our conference weeks is the encouragement of spending time in an atmosphere of Christian fellowship and the encouragement of hearing solid defenses of the faith from logic, reason, and (most importantly!) Scripture. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities to use philosophical arguments in favor of Christianity. Ben Phelps, an evangelism intern serving this summer on staff, spoke about his Gospel conversations and how apologetics methods could be useful in them.
“Talking with [Pastor Zozzaro] afterwards about some of the conversations I’ve had—like I talked with a guy who said he was a pagan, but he was bringing up everything. And he wasn’t really interested in a conversation, it was more so: ‘Here’s all the books I’ve read, and all the knowledge I’ve accumulated… just rambling. Whenever I’d answer something, he’d bring up something else. So he wasn’t interested in a conversation, and talking with JZ about that afterwards was very helpful. Well, that’s why you might want to do more of ‘in-your-face’ apologetics, and like, well, ‘No, you know this. You don’t actually live this out.’”
Pastor Jim spent plenty of time covering what is often presented as the greatest complication with Christianity—the “problem of evil”. He demonstrated the fact that non-Christians actually have a greater problem with evil than believers—because they can’t account for evil at all. A consistent deist or atheist must deny the existence of evil; a consistent pantheist must perceive evil as an illusion; a consistent dualist cannot define evil; a consistent agnostic says it is impossible to know if evil really exists. “Non-Christian worldviews cannot answer the problem of evil because they ultimately have no standards by which to define good and evil,” Pastor Zozzaro said on Thursday.
Alongside logical, philosophical, Scriptural explanations for the existence of evil, Pastor Zozzaro pointed out something important. Oftentimes when people struggle to reconcile God’s goodness with the presence of evil, it is because those people have suffered terribly. So when we evangelize, when we share the Gospel with the lost, we need to reach out to them with the love of Christ. Not beating them over the head with brilliant apologetic arguments, not trying to demonstrate how smart we are. Rather, as we share the good news we should do it out of love, loving the hurting as Christ loves. Yes, we are speaking to sinners, but also to those sinned against. Those who are wounded by the world. We must weep with those who weep. Pointing them to the Cross. When we do apologetics, it must be done out of love and compassion.