What role do good works play? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
My thanks yesterday to commenter David C. for this comment on my blog why every church should have apologetics.
“Thank you for bursting the overly large bubble of the sincerity myth.
“We need to be really loving to them and do as many good works as possible.” “If we do these, they will see the sincerity of our beliefs and repent.”
As stupid as that sounds, it is pretty much the common response of most pastors and other church leaders I have heard in my decade as a Christian. This is unnerving to me as a Christian, and I can only imagine how much it irritates professional apologists, like yourself. If this myth is not delt with, I fear how it may affect the children and adolescence. Especially the one in public education institutions, like public high schools and universities, where secularism runs rampant”
David is right about this. We have bought wholesale into the sincerity belief. Many of us can admire someone to holds sincerely to their beliefs, but not always. The reason the twin towers were hit in 2001 on 9/11 was because the terrorists flying the planes sincerely believed in Islam. Many of us could say Christians should have that level of devotion to their faith where they’d be willing to die for it, but we would not say that we greatly admire the sincerity of those people.
As has often been said with sincerity, someone can sincerely believe in their beliefs, but that sincerity is not enough. David’s comment speaks of the attitude that Christians just need to go out and do good works and that will be enough to get people to repent. Now note in saying this that no one is condemning good works. There is no outcry that says Christians should cease to be out there doing good. Everyone should agree that Christians should be doing good.
The problem is that good works are not going to lead someone to repentance alone. These people need the gospel, and our wanting to go straight to the gospel conclusion without meeting the person where they are in their doubt, is far more likely because of our hesitance to think that we are capable of defending the gospel, or that it is even defensible at all. It would be interesting to have a study done to see how many students in church youth groups would respond just at the possibility that there could be historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.
“But Nick!” someone is saying. “What about Saint Francis of Assisi? He was the one who said to preach the gospel and use words if necessary!”
I contend that he did not.
The reality is just doing a good deed for someone might get them to second guess their perception of Christians, but not necessarily of Christianity. You are not going to get past a historical objection by one good deed. You are going to have to work and that will mean your study. You will need to learn something about the gospel in order to share it with someone. You can’t just go and do a good deed like you’re supposed to and think that by doing that, someone automatically entails that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. You are leaving the work to them that belongs to you. You are the one who is a slave of Christ. You are the one who is to study to show yourself approved.
The church has the resources it needs to counter the onslaught from all sides that is facing us today. The only reason it’s not winning the battles is because it’s not properly equipping itself. That is sloth on our part, it is sin, and we need to repent and seek the favor of God so we can go out and win the battles like we’re supposed to be doing.