The Reason Apologetics Are Important
As a theologian in preparation for the Office of the Holy Ministry, the question that arises for me is, "should I (or the Church collectively) be concerned about this?"
Since conversion is fully an act of God, people cannot be "prepared" to be converted or argued into faith. So what difference does it make if all of these things are "out there" in the global consciousness?
Underlying these questions is a question about the role of Apologetics in the Ministry of the Church. Lutheranism has struggled with the role of Apologetics in the church. I would submit this because we too often define it in the same way as the fudamentalists and Arminians do. They believe that the task of the apologist is to either prepare one for conversion or actually argue someone into believing in Christ.
I fully admit, apologetics is not (and can never be) a tool to argue someone into the faith. However, I would argue that it is one of the weapons we have in removing reasons to abandon the faith in favor of more "reasonable" views of reality.
We all know that reason is the whore of Satan when it is not properly in a subjugated relationship to faith in the One True God who has forgiven the World through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Reason without Faith in the Gospel leads to pride and conceit. It destroys humility in a believer. Its ultimate end is to supplant God with the false truths generated by human intellect. It thereby destroys faith in God and the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
However, when properly subjugated to Faith and the Word of God, reason can be an effective tool on behalf of the Gospel.
Scripture clearly teaches that Faith and conversion are fully an act of God. Unbelief and rejection are fully an act of man. Mankind is damned by his own rejection of God's free salvation for the sake of Jesus Christ who died to redeem men from sin.
Simply put, mankind is saved because Jesus died to pay the price for the disobedience of the sin of every man, woman, and child who has lived, lives now, or ever will live. Faith is not a choice to be made. A person can only choose disbelief and reject this free gift of salvation that God has accomplished in Christ.
News articles like those that I have been discussing make it easier to reject and chose to disbelieve. Ultimately, there is little concern about the effect these stories have on "conversion" (properly speaking). However, articles like these can (and do) harm or destroy faith in those without the means to discern truth from error. This is a real danger.
These articles make it easier for the evil one to "snatch away" the seed that has been sown. The Word and the means of grace are the tools that God uses to cultivate the seed. Apologetics, however, can be conceived of as a fence to protect that seed from the crows and ravens which seek to snatch it while it grows and is nurtured by the Means of Grace. Lutherans do not believe, "Once Saved, Always Saved."
The utility of apologetics is not as an evangelistic tool. The only true evangelistic tool is the Gospel (narrowly defined -- which includes Baptism as Water and the Word). But those who have heard the Word and may be struggling with these "competing voices" must be protected lest they be deceived and turned away from the voice of the One True Shepherd.
Part of our duty as the Church is to protect the sheep of the Good Shepherd by pointing out the falsehood and dangers that these "other voices" pose so that they do not harden their hearts and reject the Word that was planted within them.
Therefore, apologetics are extremely important within the church, possibly now more than ever in America. Not in the way they have been employed by fundamentalists and Arminians who believe that we can argue a person into faith or at the very least "prepare" someone for faith, but rather as a tool to repel the assaults of false prophets who would destroy the faith that Christ's sheep have in the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for His sheep.