Apologetics in the Church

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : October 27, 2004

Hans Urs von Balthasar argues that the best apology for Christianity is the life of the Christian: “…the ?perfect? Christian is also the perfect proof of Christianity: in the Christian?s existential transparency, Christianity becomes comprehensible both in itself and to the world and itself exhibits a spiritual transparency. The saint is the apology for the Christian religion.” And to flesh this idea out a bit more, Balthasar writes: “Instead of possessing a ?proof,? they ?are? a reflection of it in their lives. As they respond to the glory of God and reflect it, it shines forth not only for them but for others. For, according to the Spirit of revelation, the really holy person-in the sense of Leviticus 11:44f.: ?For I am the Lord you God; consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am holy?-is the best ?proof? of the truth of revelation.” So, Balthasar argues that the unbeliever aesthetically perceives the “glory of God” in the life of a holy person. This serves as the best “proof” for the unbeliever.

Much of the talk among younger evangelicals centers around the need for the church to more attractive or relevant or artful. I’ve noticed that talk of holiness has fallen out of the vernacular of many evangelicals. We reject the stodgy “holiness” offered by our predecessors to such an extent that we neglect holiness all together. Balthasar reminds us that no matter how cool our church is, and how engaging and relevant it is, unless the people at the core of your church are expressing the glory of God through holy living (this isn’t the same thing as “clean” living), then you are missing the point.

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