The Psychology of Apologetics, Part 3

Understanding God

“The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to the Enemy’s own ground…By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences.” -C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters[1]

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, (HarperCollins Publishers, New York: NY), 2.

God and the Table

In the previous post, The Psychology of Apologetics, Part 2: Understanding Ourselves, I covered the introspective relationship between complete confidence in a table, for example, and complete confidence in God. We trust the table that we set our morning coffee on because life experience and knowledge of tables gives us immediate confidence that tomorrow morning, when I set my coffee down, the table most likely will not fall to pieces. Could it happen? Of course it is plausible. Will it happen? It is highly unlikely, due the fact that the table was sturdy and held yesterday, and the day before, and the months before, and the years before, back since I’ve owned the table. Once again, my knowledge and experience lead to my confidence.

So then, if knowledge and experience can lead to trust, or confidence, in admittedly long-lasting, but ultimately finite items, such as a table, what mindset can they construct when they are applied to God? How would the choices we make, the action steps we take, and the plans we create differ from our present situation? Below, I want to explore some significant and well-known verses about God’s nature and character. (Please note: THIS IS NOT A ‘DRIVE-BY GUILTING.’ The purpose of this is to introspectively consider what could be, a dreamer’s landscape if you will, if our knowledge and experience of God were similar to the level of our knowledge and experience of, say, a table.)

  • Joseph speaking to his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
    • Joseph had no idea of what his eventual future would be when his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites. For years, Joseph simply remained faithful to God, living as having complete confidence in Him. It wasn’t until years later, during Joseph’s reunion with his family, that the profound statement found in verse 20 is made. Joseph did not know that he would eventually be Pharaoh’s right-hand man, but verse 20 sheds light on what Joseph’s mentality was throughout the years. Verse 20 is not a new thought to Joseph, he was simply sharing his knowledge with his brothers. 
    • Consider: God is a good God, according to His nature and character as revealed in the scriptures, and therefore only has good purposes. If you had ‘Table-level Knowledge and Experience’ of this, in what ways would your mindset, or outlook on various circumstances change? Having this mindset, when faced with difficulties or undesirables, would there even be any room for negativity? Or would the light of the hope of God’s good purposes fill your mind, and direct your choices differently?
  • Jesus speaking to his disciples in John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Also, Paul writing to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10:13b: “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
    • God, being omnipotent, or all-powerful, and sovereign, or having all authority, as the scriptures reveal to us, means that there is nothing more powerful than God. There is nothing that subjugates God, nor is there anything that supersedes His authority over all things. This knowledge is an absolute of the God of the Bible, as anything contrary is a logical impossibility for a God who is perfect in all things. Therefore, when Jesus, being fully man and fully God, states that “in me you may have peace” because “I have overcome the world,” our ‘Table-level Knowledge and Experience’ of this, our confidence in God, turns us into the house that was built on the rock, withstanding the breaking stream (Luke 6:48). When temptation comes, as 1 Corinthians 10:13 speaks of, our confidence in God allows us to endure unwaveringly, because we know He is faithful to provide an escape (Note: this may not always be a comfortable escape, nor one you would prefer, but there will be an escape). 
    • Consider: How do you react to tribulation, or great trouble and suffering? What is your reaction towards temptation? With complete confidence in God, does suffering become finite in your mind, lighter, and contain hope in God’s good purposes through it? With complete confidence in God, does temptation lose its strength, become obvious in your sight, thus being put to death through the escape that God provides, absolutely knowing you will endure because of God’s faithfulness?
  • Jesus speaking to the disciples after His resurrection in Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
    • Jesus has been resurrected from the dead. He has defeated sin and death, showing His power and authority over it through the acts of living a sinless life, giving himself as a sacrifice, and then rising from death. In doing so, the Son of Man has come before the Ancient of Days and received the promised dominion (Dan. 7:13-14)[1]. The word ‘therefore’ in verse 19 reaches back to Jesus’ dominion, and so the following command to make disciples carries with it Jesus’ full authority, thus confirmed by Jesus’ final statement in the Book of Matthew, that “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus is commanding his disciples to make more disciples, all of whom will carry with them Jesus’ power and authority. Accordingly, as disciples ourselves, we carry this same power and authority. If we believe this fully, with ‘Table-level Knowledge and Experience,’ then verses such as Matthew 17:20b[2] and Luke 17:6[3] take on a much more powerful significance. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus even makes the statement, “Nothing will be impossible for you.” 
    • Consider: If our God has told us that we carry with us His power and authority, and we have complete confidence in this, what enemy, challenge, or wall could even hope to stand in front of us? What would that do to your mentality every day as you faced various circumstances and people? Would fear ever again even be an inkling in your mind? What conversations would you have if you had no fear of what others may think?

Gaining Knowledge and Experience

Numerous other verses could be exposited and considered, and maybe another post in the future will do so. For now, however, I’d like to pause and clarify to wrap up. As I stated prior to the verses I chose, the “Consider” was not meant as a guilting, but instead, some questions about what could be possible. Understanding God’s nature and character is an inexhaustible study, but if we never even begin, or begin and quit, then questioning ‘What could be?’ becomes moot. Hope, itself, becomes moot, as hope is trusting in something that could be, or will be. If we never seek to understand, then we will never comprehend the hope available to us.

Therefore, just as our confidence was built about a table through knowledge and experience, we must build our confidence in God through knowledge and experience. Chances are, you did not read a manual of a table before you first ever used one. You most likely were shown by parents, or whomever raised you, that tables could be utilized. You were made to sit at one for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner (unless a good show was on). You experienced tables from a very early age, have continued to have experiences with them, and now have possibly grown in your knowledge of how a table is made, or the physics behind how one works. So then, how do we experience God from a very early age? How do we continue to have experiences with Him? How do we grow in understanding his nature and character, what makes Him the One True God, and what His good purposes are? Very simply, the revealed word of God, the Bible, is how we grow in the knowledge of God, and how we experience God. 

I suggest, that when finished reading this post, you immediately return to my colleague’s posts on the Theology of the Bible, wherein he expertly explains further the need for growing in knowledge and experience of God. In my next post, I will begin a series that coincides with my colleague, Mr. Stallings, and his Theology of the Bible posts, that will pose an apologetic of the Bible, beginning with an apologetic of Inerrancy. If our hope is to have complete confidence in God, and live as such, then we must have confidence in what we study, and how we experience God. For, if we cannot trust our source, then what hope do we have? But, if what the Bible says is true, if it is reliable, if it is the inspired word of God, then we have access to the greatest source material in history. Thank you for reading this series, and I pray that you would grow in confidence in our God who is steadfast and faithful to His good purposes.

Written by Justin Wendorf

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

[1] “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14; ESV)

[2] “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

[3] “And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

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