Shaping Apologetics in a Skeptical Age


Zarathustra Shrugged – What Apologetics should Look Like in a Skeptical Age

Andy Crouch’s essay entitled “Zarathustra Shrugged: What Apologetics should look like in a skeptical age” is a section of his book, “Engaging Unbelief” was originally published in Christianity Today, September 3, 2001 (vol. 45, no.11), p. 101. This is my summarization and critique on his essay.

In the present day of secularism and humanism, Andy Crouch says in his essay, Zarathustra Shrugged that today’s skeptic young generation poses the challenging question to the postmodern era’s apologists. The author Crouch tells us how his friend ended his one-on-one conversation with the young skeptic without any fruition. Despite a hard-fought and well-presented intellectual argument, Crouch’s friend could not win the soul of young man. His skepticism remains firm as it was. His reaction toward the logical argument is the explicit example for shaping the apologetics in a skeptic age.

The main point of the essay is the reflection question of the present skeptical age that if Christianity is worth believing and how apologetics should look like. In his own words, Crouch says that “many people do not ask ‘Is Christianity true?’ but ‘Is it worth believing?’” In the past centuries, evangelicals made every effort to give the reason for the hope they have in Christ Jesus. Every reason of the evangelicals counter-attacked the modern atheist, Bertrand Russell who authored celebrated book ‘Why I am not Christian?’ The counterarguments from Christian apologetics of his time weakened the position of postmodernism and atheism.

Crouch opines that atheist opponents were logically and morally weaker in presenting case against Christianity. Friederich Nietzsche, the most influential atheist of all, and his intellectual heir Michel Foucault also died due to mental illness and AIDS respectively. The author confers that the main reason of their death was the desperate hedonism.

Hence, Crouch paraphrases the words of the contemporary apologist, Ravi Zacharias that the façade of the modern atheism is shattered and distorted. Since the world has believed in anything, G.K. Chesterton’s words also have come to be true. As Chesterton argues that “carefully reasoned arguments are as effective as using a knife to cut the ocean”. Keeping this statement of Chesterton in mind, Crouch believes that Christian apologetics has come across very clearly about the evidence for the credibility of Christianity to answer if Christianity is true or not. In addition, he claims that the demonstration of an attractive vision makes Christianity worth believing.

Additionally, Crouch introduces one of the influential modern era’s apologist, Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith Schaeffer to exhibit how apologetics should look like. He shows the combination of intellectual and highly philosophical reason for hope along with Christian love for shaping the modern apologetics. However, Crouch emphasizes more to depend on God rather than our philosophical arguments. He affirms the importance of declaration – wisdom of God from the Spirit. Hence, the author concludes that the demonstration and practice of love is the true apologetics which can conquer hedonism and dualism.

I do agree with the main point and conclusion of the author. Crouch has raised fundamental issue of the age. And he also challenges the church to find the answer why this generation is so skeptical toward Christianity. Basically, his main focus is to defend Christianity not just with infallible arguments and accurate historical evidences but also defend through action. For this reason, the author opened up his essay with a piece of information about his friend presenting logical arguments about the authenticity of Christianity. Yet, the young skeptic was not convinced why he should believe in Christ Jesus.

We have seen many smart people who are eloquent speakers.  They may present the historical Jesus in well organized way. But action speaks louder than voice in practicality. No matter how strong and organized his arguments are, they cannot stand by themselves before love. Therefore, the work of Francis Shaeffer and Edith Shaeffer saved many lives. The main reason behind their success was word and deed came together. We tend to resist ourselves from loving others who are hostile to us. Instead, we are nurturing Zarathustra around us unknowingly than uprooting it from shrugging.

In my own experience in the mission fields, I have come across people from different religious backgrounds. Some were highly intellectual and knew more about ‘ism’ than I do. To defend our faith, of course, we need knowledge and ability to organize the arguments. At the same time, my words should reflect my life in Christ Jesus. Since I knew that my logical arguments could hardly bring people into the kingdom of God. So, my personal concern was to be close with them and show them love of God from my life. Thus, I understood that mere logical arguments would fail to bring people to Christ.

Next, our rational arguments sometimes can turn into a poison for the skeptics. Our arguments for Christianity could become nastier if we forget the unforeseen ramification of nip and tuck affair.  Eventually, our apologetic presentation becomes a stumbling block for them to come to the Lord. Owing this view, I do not mean that we should not engage in argument. Of course, we should engage them. And it is only possible when we model our life and live by the Word of God.

Our action speaks louder than words. For instance, how many Islamist have we won in Christ through logical arguments? How many pantheists have been convicted of their sins through our radical arguments? Thus, the apostle Paul uses Greek noun ‘rhema’ for Word instead of ‘logos’ in Ephesians 6: 17. Just as Crouch suggests that logos carries its connotations of logic and reasoning while rhema has to do with “declaration, utterance, and pronouncement.”

These rhema has to do with vocalization of our action – active obedience and passionate service. In this manner, our loving kindness and grace of God from our life surge forward against “tired dragon of secularism, the sirens of consumerism and the wraiths of sentimentalism.” This is how we should demonstrate and practice our love, care, and concern for others being led by the Holy Spirit, and this testimony becomes more powerful apologetics than any other form of apologetics.

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