Theology, Apologetics and Evangelism
|By: Dr. John G. Weldon; ©2011|
|I have long believed that theology and apologetics are critical to the spiritual health of the Church and yet they are, unfortunately, often neglected. Because of it, evangelism also suffers. Ironically, an eternal Heaven or Hell hang in the balance.|
Theology, Apologetics & Evangelism – and Heaven & Hell
I Cor 10:31 So … whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
I have long believed that theology and apologetics are critical to the spiritual health of the Church and yet they are, unfortunately, often neglected. Because of it, evangelism also suffers. Ironically, an eternal Heaven or Hell hang in the balance. These are, apart from God Himself, the weightiest Realities in the universe. My prayer is that someone reading this will feel led to prayerfully devise a sound and godly manner to help encourage churches in these disciplines, to the glory of God.
God is the supreme reality and wonder of the universe, infinitely so. Infinitely so. Without God, what good would even Heaven itself be? Although Heaven as it exists is infinitely opposite that which is boring, without God even it would become boring in eternity. God is everything and He should be everything to us, which is why things like Jonathan Edward’s theology and John Piper’s “Christian hedonism” (despite its risk of surface misunderstanding) are so critical. (See DesiringGod.org). Both are holy and wholly God-centered, to God’s glory alone.
That, of course, is what theology is all about, the study of God, the study of the infinitely glorious God, whom the redeemed have the incredible privilege of enjoying forever and partaking of His infinite happiness — and more than we could possibly imagine, partaking of it forever. As Jonathan Edwards put it, “The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast.” And Dr. Piper observes, “That is why we exist — to display the glory of God. Human life is all about God. That is the meaning of being human. It is our created nature to make much of God. It is our glory to worship the glory of God…. Not to fulfill his purpose for human existence is to be a mere shadow of the substance we were created to have. Not to display God’s worth by enjoying him above all things is to be a mere echo of the music we were created to make.”
Part of the unending glory of the saints’ everlasting joy is to eternally increase in the knowledge of God, in joy, in love and in much else; just so, perhaps part of the unending misery of the damned is to everlastingly decrease in everything divine and perfectly human.
Although I’m convinced that theology, apologetics, and evangelism are the three most important topics for the Church, only one of them will remain forever because the others will no longer be needed. This life and this life alone is the only time we have the privilege of enjoying apologetics and evangelism – in eternity they won’t even be necessary. Just so, we have only one life throughout all eternity in which to glorify God in the midst of adversity. May we take advantage of each, for God’s glory.
Try and imagine what Heaven must be like in the midst of God. After trillions of years exploring the wonders and glories of an infinitely loving, wise, joyous, fun, holy and perfect Being, it’s not that we have only scratched the surface of God — it that we haven’t even scratched the surface of God. In one sense, we never will. Although we will “know fully even as we are known,” that which remains to be known will always be infinite.
Think for a few minutes on the immeasurable distance between the finite and the infinite. Take the time – you and I have forever. If I could try to convey what Heaven is like by saying that it is one hundred thousand times better than the best experience this life could offer — or to say that one second in Heaven is more sublime than the most wonderful experiences in a thousand lifetimes, it would still fall colossally short. To be in Heaven is to be with God which is to be forever happy beyond conceiving. “A great part of God’s glory is his happiness…. To be infinitely glorious is to be infinitely happy…. God’s glory consists much in the fact that he is happy beyond our wildest imaginings.“ “Imagine being able to enjoy what is most enjoyable with unbounded energy and passion forever.”
“The main reward of the kingdom, the reward above all others and in all others, is that in the kingdom we will behold the glory of God and enjoy that glory with the very pleasure of God…. If possible with the very infinite delight of God himself…. This is the souls end – the blessing beyond which no better can be imagined or conceived, an infinite, eternal, mutual, holy energy of love and pleasure between God the Father and God the Son flowing out in the Person of God the Spirit, and filling the souls of the redeemed with immeasurable and everlasting joy.”
Of course, the opposite would be true for Hell. Hell, of course, constitutes nothing more or less than perfect justice as required by infinite holiness. It can’t be more or less than this. Although there are eternal punishments conceptually worse than the biblical Hell, these can never be applied because of God’s infinite justice, His need to be perfectly fair and righteous. Hell is simply the perfect punishment demanded by the horror of sin before an infinitely holy God. In eternity, everyone will understand this, even those in Hell, but especially by those in Heaven who will see things perfectly from God’s perspective. Hell will be understood for the perfectly equitable justice that it truly is.
But even Heaven, without God, sooner or later would be Hell or something like Hell. Without God, stripped bare, the best this life has to offer is hell covered with distractions. Because God is everything, can we imagine spending an eternity without God, even in Heaven? It would be horrible. Take the most sublime and nearly infinite environment you can imagine and then remove God from it forever. Sooner or later, it would be Hell, or least a kind of hell.
Now imagine what an actual, eternal Hell would be like, described biblically — understanding that the actual reality is far worse than the biblical descriptions, given the inherent limits to finite, imperfect words. Thoughts fly, but words travel on foot. The most extreme physical torment or torture one has ever experienced in this life (whether migraine syndrome, passing kidney stones, shingles, bone cancer, full-blown Dercum’s disease, anal stenosis or whatever) — multiply that one hundred thousand times. Or imagine one second in Hell being worse than the totality of the greatest pain experienced in a thousand lifetimes. However, as bad as it is, the physical torment of Hell probably can’t approach the psychological/emotional and spiritual torment of Hell
Hell is not only the punishment that infinite wrath engulfs upon the unrepentant sinner who has freely chosen his or her fate, it is simultaneously the total absence of God forever. Even without the perfectly fair and just physical, emotional and spiritual punishment, merely contemplating, let alone experiencing, the absence of God alone is fearful and terrible beyond words.
People literally have no idea what it will be like to be eternally cast from the presence of the God of infinite love and joy, especially having experienced that reality momentarily — but without repentance and faith in Christ, one day they will be so cast out, and from that point on, forever, there will be no hope – not throughout all eternity.
If the eternal glory to be gained or lost and the eternal misery to be gained or lost doesn’t convey the reality of the importance of theology (the study of God), apologetics (defending the truth) and evangelism (saving the lost) — what ever will?
(Remember, as Heaven is to the earth, so the Bible is to other books.)
Theology – John Piper, The Pleasures of God; Jonathan Edwards, The End For Which God Created The World; Religious Affections; Arthur Custance, The Sovereignty of Grace.
Apologetics – Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Unbelief in an Age of Skepticism; Douglas Groothius, Christian Apologetics: a Comprehensive Case for Bbiblical Faith.
Evangelism – Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort, The School of Biblical Evangelism: 101 Lessons: How To Share Your Faith Simply, Effectively, Biblically.… The Way, Jesus Did; Jonathan Edwards, Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God
- Cited in John Piper, Pierced by the Word 2003,
- Ibid., 26, emphasis original
- John Piper, The Pleasures of God, 2000, 26
- John Piper, The Pleasures of God, 2000, 311-12