I was raised Pentecostal Holiness. Experience in paramount. Not emotionalism. This distinction is essential. Emotionalism is a sickness, a disease to the true Christian experience, worldview, and lifestyle. Experience, encountering the living God, that is not emotionalism. It is transcendent, yet intimate. Mysterious, yet knowable.
So, what does this have to do with Apologetics? Everything!
Apologetics is not a person experiencing God, though a person can experience God in the apologia. Apologetics is the discussion about God, regardless of experience.
For example, most non-believers know the type of god a god should be like, even if they don’t believe in a god. How is this possible? I would argue that by knowing the type of god they would not believe in presupposes a knowledge of the type of god a non-belieber would believe in. This does not mean that they will believe in the god who matched their presuppositions, just that it is curious that most non-believers agree with the types of gods they don’t believe in while simultaneously affirming that should a god exist, espousing what type of god this god should be like.
As a Christian, we believe that every human being is made in God’s image. Now, this has a much deeper meaning, but on a base level it means that we were made in such a way as to know God and be known by him. However, and obviously, there are many people who do not know God and he had planned and who believe themselves to be unknown by God as well.
But why does this matter?
It matters a great deal. The discussion about God, especially of his character and nature, can only be based on two things: 1) knowledge gained from hear-say or 2) knowledge gained from experience. In this instance, hear-say knowledge is any information that is gained through second hand accounts. Experience, on the other hand, is a first hand knowledge. Now, this doesn’t prove that the interpretation of the experience is correct, nor does it in anyway deter from the claim. It is important to acknowledge that the Christian believe is that even non-believers posses innate knowledge about God not because they believe in him but because they are still made in his image.
So what is the Claim? People do not experience God in apologetics.
Now, what does this mean? Is God unable to use apologetics to soften the hearts and minds of those who disbelieve in him? Of course not! A good argument that makes you rethink your position is a good encounter. In Christian apologetics, especially in the most basic of arguments for God’s existence, the Christian worldview is being defended intellectually, not experientially. This is the distinction: the beginning of apologetics from a non-believer’s perspective is that of an assault of ideas of God, not an introduction to the personhood of God. Yes, it is true that we cannot separate God’s character and nature from his actual being, but that is not difficult for a non-believer: they do not believe in God as an actual person.
Therefore, the idea of God must first be considered an option if the non-believer is to ever consider the person of God.
For me, this is why Apologetics, at least from the non-believer’s view, is not the experience of God, but merely the presentation of the rationality and consistency of such a belief. The Christian is therefore tasked with showing the reasonableness of the idea a god existing if they wish for the non-believer to ever consider altering their position intellectually.
In the end, I do wish that after the apologia has ended, or even before it starts, that the non-believer would experience God personally, that they would encounter him and know him through their own first hand account. And that when confronted with the reality of the existence of God, not as an idea, but as the person, the being, the reality of God, they would embrace him as a friend and not merely an intellectual exercise.
But for now, I’ll settle with non-believer’s being open to the idea of God, and let him handle the rest.