The Psychology of Apologetics, part 2

Understanding Ourselves

Confidence is everything. It’s how you “know” that your favorite chair at your local coffee shop will continue to hold under your weight once you sit. Or, how you “know” that your dog will be excited to see you when you get home. Confidence drives every decision we make which, more often than not, we do not even realize we are making. I would be willing to assume that you most likely do not intentionally think about whether or not the bed will fall apart when you go to sleep at night. Your brain, due to your experiences and situational circumstances, automatically processes that the bed you slept in last night, and the nights before, will continue in its nature, and hold up to your sleeping tonight. You have confidence in that bed, a firm trust that it will do what it was made to do.

This post is titled “Understanding Ourselves,” but for lack of a breathy title and clarification now, this post is actually about understanding ourselves in the light of our identity in Christ. We often find that we have absolute confidence in a chair to hold us, yet will question God in His plan for us. Granted, the former is unintentional, and the latter we are usually aware of. However, that is exactly what this post will dig into: Why is our confidence and our trust often greater in something like a chair than our God? What effects does this have on our call to spread the gospel message? We will seek to explore what forms trust in things like a chair, and what makes it become so routinely comfortable that it slides into our subconscious, directing our actions accordingly. Then, we will attempt to apply that to our understanding of our identity as co-heirs with Christ, and ultimately, investigate for a bit of self-reflection and prayer.

Trust in a Table

Psychology Today, a world-renowned magazine and article publisher, denotes that confidence requires having a realistic sense of something’s capabilities and feeling secure in that knowledge. Let’s use a table as an example, the table that you place your coffee mug down onto as you sit down. This particular table has stood time and time again, being sat at and having a coffee mug placed onto it over and over. You also acknowledge that this is in fact a table, one that was made to hold items such as coffee mugs, etc. Very similar to thin slicing (as was discussed in Part 1 of this pair), your brain, without intentionality, pulls from your subconscious those very two ideas: This is in fact a table made for setting things on, and it has done so repeatedly. Therefore, setting your coffee mug on it today should not be any different than the previous times before. You typically will not consciously consider every morning as you sit down, “Will this table hold today?”

Now, if we were to dissect the above situation, two facets of confidence stand out: Knowledge and Experience. You know it is a table, you’ve experienced it holding up various items, and thus, your subconscious makes the choice to place the mug down. If we were to change a variable, something that happens in every-day life, such as a leg on the table breaks, our knowledge would change and naturally, thus, so would our experience with the table, which could possibly lead to questioning the table tomorrow. However, an instance of this magnitude would most likely not lead to a complete mistrust in tables in general, nor might it lead to a complete mistrust of the current table if the leg were to be fixed. Why? Again, because of the knowledge you have about tables, and the experience you’ve had with this particular one.

Confidence In God, Not In Ourselves

As I stated previously, this post does not settle on understanding ourselves, but instead, seeks to understand ourselves in regards to our identity in Christ, adopted heirs into the family of God. Comprehending our positional status as sons and daughters of The Most High should carry with it a sense of absolute confidence in who our Heavenly Father is, and this confidence should drive our decisions. This idea should be so ingrained into our minds that we act subconsciously in a manner that is glorifying to God. However, “should”can be a very painful word. Of course, most of us know how we should act, the decisions we should make, so that through our words and deeds people see the love of God, and yet, often enough we act contradictorily. We may be in a conversation with someone where an opportunity to find out about what they believe presents itself, and we shy away for fear of upsetting them, or making things “awkward.” We shy away from opportunities to pray, or pray for others, because we don’t want to be seen as odd or different. We’re afraid to say no to things that we know will lead us into sin because of peer-pressure, or a fear of being alone if we were to stand our ground.

But if we shed light on the above difficulties, open the curtain to peer behind and find what’s really driving the above decisions (or those similar to), we will more than likely find that it is because we are putting our confidence, our trust, in ourselves. For example, we may feel that we don’t have the right thing to say, so we say nothing. We’re afraid that we do not know the best decision to make, so we do nothing. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, we think we always have the right thing to say, so we speak without regard. We think we always have the best decision, so we jump in or lead others without considering what’s best for them. Ultimately, this confidence in ourselves to be the writer of the story, is fear versus arrogance. With that said, then where do we, as Christians, need align ourselves? If your answer is “somewhere in the middle,” let me offer a different point of view:

We are to live above.

To avoid lofty words without understanding, my suggestion that Christians need to live above means this: When we truly trust, have confidence that our God is the Author, that we are not in charge of what happens in various circumstances, and that He, according to His good purposes, will work all things for our ultimate good and His glory, arrogance has no room, no hold, in our lives. When we truly trust, have confidence that our God is working everything for our ultimate good, that whatever situation you find yourself in, God has a plan purposed for expanding the Kingdom which you get to be a part of, and that in difficult circumstances or situations, He will not leave us without the ability to endure struggle and strife, then fear can take no root. When we truly trust and have confidence in our God who loves us, then our actions and our words become subconscious results of our knowledge and experience of God. When there comes a time to defend your faith to whomever, even against yourself at times, we do no need to worry about having the perfect thing to say. Instead, we act and we speak without fear because we have a firm confidence that even in the mess of our befuddled words, God is at work through us, sowing seeds where He deems that they are needed. Simply put, no amount of words or actions can put a halt to God’s plan.

Application

To wrap up Part 2, you may be asking, how exactly does this relate to the purpose of this blog? What apologetic lesson can the above example serve? It should serve as a reflection upon our own faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Challenging myself by writing this more than any potential reader, what does my confidence, my trust, in God look like? Is it representative of the table, where I act subconsciously because my knowledge and experience of God are firm, foundational, and strong? Am I able to apply the synonymous definitions of both confidence and trust as a lens through which I live my life as a Christian? When “the table leg breaks,” or more clearly, difficulties and uncomfortableness arise in my life to which I have to reorder my knowledge and experience, does my confidence in God fall apart, or does it stand firm, unwavering? These are the questions that we should be searching our minds and affections for. In the final Part, I plan to review the why behind trusting God and having confidence in Him, and subsequently finish with how that should affect our apologetic.

-“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” Psalms 20:7

Written by Justin Wendorf

Photo by 五玄土 ORIENTO on Unsplash

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