What role does my testimony play in apologetics? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
We’ve been talking about the basics of apologetics. I think that for many people, the main form of apologetics they have is their personal testimony. This is not without use today, but at the same time, there can be a danger to it. I’d like today then to advise you of how and when to use your personal testimony.
One problem today is that everyone has a testimony. There are Muslims and Mormons and Buddhists and Hindus and even atheists that can tell how their worldview changing changed their life. Why should your testimony be given credence over theirs? You could say “Well mine is based on facts.” Okay. What facts? If you say the resurrection of Jesus, then it comes to “How do you know that’s a fact?” If you say “My testimony” then you’re begging the question. You know your testimony is true because Jesus rose. You know Jesus rose because that’s what makes your testimony true. This is where apologetics comes in.
Another danger is something a pastor once pointed out that I heard on a radio broadcast. Sometimes you can make it that your life before Christ sounds better than the one after. “Yeah. Before Christ, I was out drinking regularly. I was partying with my friends. I was sleeping with a different woman every night. I had all the cash and fast cars that I wanted. I just felt empty. Today, I attend a Bible study most every night and I don’t watch a number of TV shows and I don’t sleep around.”
I could go on with that. Now keep in mind I’m not encouraging the prior kind of lifestyle, but if you’re wanting to evangelize to someone, do you really think they’d want the lifestyle you describe now instead of the other? Of course, few of us will come out and say it just like that, but we have to watch ourselves because this does happen.
If these aren’t the times to use a personal testimony, then when do you do so?
I recommend that you do it after you’ve made your apologetic presentation. C.S. Lewis said once that if you go out evangelizing with a church group, send your arguers forward first. They’re the ones who will break down the intellectual barriers. After that, then have your people come forward with the testimonies. In other words, you make your presentation first for why Christianity is true and then you have someone come forward with what a difference it makes.
Still, I hesitate to use the method at all because you do not believe in Christianity because it brings about a good in your life or because it works or something like that. You believe in it because it’s true. Now it could be that it could make you feel good or it could “work” as it were, but that is not the reason to believe it. That’s just a nice benefit from it. (And for what it’s meant to do, it most definitely works.) When we emphasize our testimony, we’re pointing away too often from the truth question and to the pragmatic question.
One exception to this could be a bona fide miracle. If you have eyewitness testimony of a miracle that you have seen, that is something valid. It doesn’t mean it’s true of course, but I am open to people sharing that. That’s in fact an apologetic in itself of something quite objective.
I look forward to the day when people have more reason to believe than just what they feel and experience. They believe because there is good evidence Jesus rose from the dead. If we know this evidence more and can share it, we give people something real they have to deal with. They could try to use psychology to explain away our experience, but dealing with actual history is something different.