There is an old social sound bite that says successful social gatherings should never include discussions of religion or politics. I was involved in a family get-together a couple of years ago that ignored that advice, and the results were not pretty.
David and I were visiting our son and daughter-in-law, and one evening, as often happens in their home, dinner turned into an impromptu party. After dinner, we retired to the patio to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest weather, and since there were several ministers and a couple of Christian writers in the group, the forbidden subject of religion came up.
David and I were the only conservatives present, so we sat quietly and listened for a while. Then, our son Christian asked me a direct question. What happened during the next few minutes is a little hazy in my mind. All I know is that I suddenly realized I had raised my voice and was speaking in evangelical sound bites and hearing liberal sound bites in response. As I said earlier, it wasn’t pretty.
Sound bites are short, easy-to-remember messages that describe the main idea of what a person wants to say. Sound bites are popular on TV news and on the Internet as a way of enticing readers and viewers. Unfortunately, these limited messages can be at least misleading if not totally inaccurate in relation to the whole subject. Zack Hunt commented on this shorthand method of communication in a blog he wrote several years ago:
As much as it pains our on demand mentality, we owe it to everyone involved to take the time and do the hard work of understanding the entire nature of our various issues, rather than skipping ahead to a nice sound bite. The only hope we will ever [have] to find a real honest “answer” to the various problems and controversies of our time is to think and talk them out peacefully and completely.
Hunt was writing, not just about journalism or blogging, but also about Christians who are “constantly looking for new and better ways to share the faith.”
Around the time of our contentious family dinner, David developed an intense interest in Christian apologetics. I didn’t really know what the term meant, but after taking an introductory class at our church and listening to and reading such men as William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Ravi Zacharias, Joel Rosenberg, and Josh McDowell, I’ve learned that apologetics is simply knowing what you believe and why you believe it.
When we distill our understanding of what we believe down to an easy three-question dialogue or a simple five-point evangelistic presentation, we short-change not only ourselves but also those who are honestly seeking answers. The Apostle Peter advised us in his first epistle to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” However, when we are unprepared, and someone asks a hard question, we too often forget the gentleness and respond, as John Hagee describes it, by turning red in the face and shouting. I don’t think that’s what Peter had in mind.
In my next two blogs, I will share two resources that have helped me in my quest to be better prepared to answer the hard questions.
The first is a book titled postChristian: What’s Left? Can We Fix It? Do We Care? by Christian Piatt. The book and author are described this way by the publisher: “Fearless and provocative, spiritual trailblazer Christian Piatt offers a roadmap to the future of faith with an unflinching examination of the church today.”
The second resource is The Coffee House Chronicles, a set of three novellas by apologists and evangelists Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett. These stories are aimed at answering prevalent spiritual questions about the Bible, Jesus, and the Resurrection.
Check back and see what these very different authors have to say about what they believe and why they believe it. One or both of them might just entice you to move beyond your sound-bite theology.
Available in paperback .
Available in ebook.