The church’s big Bible conference was over, and it was time to evaluate its success or failure. “Looks like no one was converted,” said one leader. “So, this event was a nice try, but we have nothing to show for it as far as eternity is concerned.”1
Was that a fair assessment of the event? Is the number of converts all that counts for eternity? Some ask similar questions about the Institute for Creation Research’s apologetics-oriented events, implying that the number of public professions of conversion (e.g., secular-minded evolutionists converting to biblical young-earth creation thinking) are the most relevant metric for appraising the value of ICR’s truth-sharing events. But what does Scripture say about the role of apologetics?
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:15)
When talking about apologetics, many Christians focus on the second portion of the verse but omit the first phrase about sanctification. Why?
Many have downplayed apologetics, saying, “The goal is to win souls, not arguments.” There is a lot of truth to that saying.2 However, the apostle Peter reminds us that the primary purpose for apologetics is not the “horizontal” service of educating humans with truth. Rather, it’s the “vertical” action of glorifying God with how we value and present His truth.3
In other words, as we practice apologetics in formal or informal contexts, we should be sanctifying God in our hearts so that our ongoing motive for communicating truth is ultimately an act of worship, glorifying God.
This is not to suggest that apologetics requires a choice of either sharing truth to honor God or sharing truth to help humans. That is a false dichotomy. If we really sanctify God in our hearts as we share and clarify His truth with others, we are simultaneously fulfilling the two greatest commandments: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.3
What about the church event where the Bible messages were presented yet no public conversions were announced—did the event properly glorify God? The event’s presiding organizer replied with this biblical insight: “Our job is to proclaim God’s truth, in season and out of season; our job is to be faithful and honor God as we caringly give His truth to others. If we are faithful, trusting the results to God, it does count for eternity, because God Himself rewards our faithfulness.”4
And today, ICR’s new Discovery Center for Science & Earth History provides a careful blending of these same biblical priorities.5 Accordingly, the Lord God is repeatedly sanctified in the science exhibits, artwork, movies, lectures, etc., as the reasonableness of our faith is presented to share and clarify truth for those with “eyes to see” so that both the “vertical” and “horizontal” priorities of the Bible’s two greatest commandments are addressed and fulfilled.3
ICR continually strives to serve God, in season and out of season, trusting our ministry results to Him. Help us to be faithful in our calling to sanctify God as we provide creation apologetics to those with “ears to hear.” To see this commitment in action on a grand scale, plan a visit to our new Discovery Center in Dallas!5
- The above church-sponsored event occurred in Maryland during the mid-1970s, yet similar events and conversations have surely occurred in other places at other times.
- Proverbs 11:30; Daniel 12:3. The value of one redeemed soul is everlastingly precious (Luke 15:7).
- Matthew 22:36-40.
- Isaiah 55:8-11. The above conversation is accurately paraphrased, memory permitting. It was Chaplain Bob Webel who clarified that the proper metric is faithfulness to God (1 Corinthians 3:8-15 and 4:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
- For information on the opportunities to benefit from what the Discovery Center has to offer, see ICRdiscoverycenter.org. Expect to experience Genesis-based science and history informed by biblical apologetics perspectives that accomplish four goals simultaneously: (1) corroborating Scripture, (2) debunking evolutionary theories, (3) clarifying confusion about scientific evidences, and (4) glorifying God as the wonderful Creator He is. Regarding these four categories, see Johnson, J. J. S. 2017. Polar Bears, Fitted to Fill and Flourish. Acts & Facts. 46 (8): 21.
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.