POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

An Apologist must be Curious

In my previous post I encouraged apologist today to be Compassionate - to care enough to engage. In this installment I want to encourage us to be Curious. Curiosity is a strange quality of an active mind. Curiosity asks questions, thinks continually, explores possibilities, solves problems, and invades new territories. In our multicultural and pluralistic world there are gods and goddesses behind every tree. "Strange Things" come to the ear almost regularly if we perk up and listen. To engage others with the life saving, soul redeeming, freedom purchasing gospel of Jesus we must be curious enough to listen to the people and cultures around us...so that we might connect and communicate the truth to diverse peoples today. There are two quintessential example of this in our Bibles - one from the Old Testament the other from the New. Daniel - A Curious Captive in Babylon
Daniel was a young man ripped from his homeland, taken from his family, taken from his religion and placed into a foreign society. He was educated by the best thinkers and religious leaders of Babylon, he ascended the ranks of their society, he led their people, new their culture and was in many ways an insider in a foreign world. However, Daniel ever remained a disciple of YHWH, a follower of the true and living God, and did not compromise his life and witness even while living in Babylon. He clung to his God, maintain steadfast devotion and committed himself to God and not the opinions of men. When the time of testing came, he was faithful, he was strong in conviction, and he trusted God in the midst of trial. Such an man is an example today - to learn the best of another worldview, to be conversant with the world around him - but never becoming captive to godless living and godless beliefs. He influenced his world, because he worked from the inside out as an ambassador of his God.
Paul - A Curious Observer on Ancient Hills
The greatest preacher following Jesus in the history of our faith is the apostle Paul. He was also the greatest of curious apologists that we observe in the New Testament. In Acts 17 Paul was in Athens awaiting Silas and Timothy, his friends and brothers in ministry. While in Athens Paul did not simply wait, he was an "active waiter" or a "curious waiter". We see in verse 16 that while he was waiting for his friends his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. Paul was observing, thinking, praying, and he was burdened. I can only image how his desire to preach Jesus to those worshipping idols. His mind was engaged, his heart bursting, a sermon was to come... Paul's move to action was to go the centers of cultural exchange - the places where ideas, and religion flourished - he engaged at the synagogue and in the marketplace. His first engaged and reasoned with the Jews and the God-fearers (devout persons, Gentiles, who would go to the Synagogue) about Jesus. Finally, he engaged the philosophers...the Stoics and Epicureans (The Catholic Encyclopedia has some good articles on these two groups of ancient philosophers) Paul was preaching Jesus and the Resurrection, and the philosophers show some resistance. In fact they call him a babbler, literally a "“seed picker" (Greek -- σπερμολόγος sper•molog•os). Paul's engagement affords the opportunity to speak before the thinkers and cultural leaders of Athens at Mars Hill (the Areopogus). In this center of intellectual power and influence, Paul weaves a sermon forged out of a life of a curious apologist. He weaves his message from the observations he made as an active waiter and a cultural anthropologist - one who was studying and thinking about the worlds around him. What were the resources Paul had gleaned in observing the Greeks:
  • The people were very religious - the city was full of idols.
  • The nature of their religion - idols and temples made by human hands.
  • This moves the path of his message - they were religious and philosophical.
  • He was very positive about their religious pursuit - he didn't speak from ignorance.
  • He recognized their openness to novelty - they loved new ideas.
  • The topic has emotional intensity for them
  • He also notes a point of weakness from which he can depart to the gospel.– It provides the point of contact and contrast.
  • Verse 28 He quotes their own poets, he is familiar with their cultural art forms
He didn't take on directly the Stoics and Epicureans and all their arguments...He didn'’t get sidetracked. There was already disagreement with these two groups. Paul did not want to debate for the sake of debate. In Verse 24,25 - his starting point was creation, not the OT Scripture as was his practice with Jewish audiences. He begins with what they are familiar affirms and critiques with the Biblical gospel. He blew up their categories with a UNIVERSAL deity. He captures their small deities with a large God.
We must be curious and not lazy believers (as Luther once said "some preachers are lazy and no good") - thinking, reading, exploring other ideas, willing to study, desiring to know our own faith from all angles, so to connect it with people from various backgrounds. We must stay informed - knowing the tensions that people today have with the gospel so we can hold firm, yet present the word of God clearly and winsomely. Always listening, always thinking, looking for connection points to others, bridges to their lives to connect and communicate the gospel. The apologist today must be curious and she must pray...praying asking the Holy Spirit to show you the way with this person, this people rather than borrowing stereotypical assumptions or cliche how to approaches to the gospel.
Compassionate and Curious - we are on a road to sharing Jesus with people in any and every context - yet, something remains which will keep us on the right paths. We must be compelled by conviction...to this we turn next - The Apologist must be compelled. ...