The Colbert School of Apologetics

by Teddy James

By now you have probably seen Ricky Gervais and Stephen Colbert debate on the existence of God. People across the Internet are asking how Colbert could have responded to different challenges, especially the science textbooks versus Bible question.

But I think there is a different discussion to be had, and it has little to do with answering challenges and much more to do the attitude with which we approaching them.

First, we have to understand the point of this conversation was not two men discussing the reality of God. The purpose was to entertain the audience inside the studio and at home. This is a late night talk show, not a debate stage.

But in many ways, this is closer to real life than a debate stage. I have had many conversations with agnostic, atheist, and questioning friends that were more akin to this than any serious debate I have ever watched. That is why I think Christians can learn quite a bit from Colbert about presenting a case for our faith.

Recognize your role

Colbert was not trying to evangelize Gervais. I’m not even entirely sure he was trying to offer a defense of the existence of God since he let so many arguments go unchallenged. But he did present a case.

But it was encouraging to me when he stated, “I know I can’t convince you there is a God, nor do I want to convince you there is a God.” Colbert didn’t approach the conversation with an attitude of trying to win an argument, rather to challenge Gervais to defend his beliefs.

I have loved apologetics for years, but I have never seen someone come to faith simply because their mental objections to faith were overcome. That is what apologetics does in a nutshell, answer questions concerning the Christian faith. For someone to see their sin and come to Christ in repentance is a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit. While apologetics can and does plant seeds for the gospel, no one can be debated into the Kingdom of God apart from the inner work of the Holy Spirit.

When we recognize our role it enables us to enter a conversation with freedom instead of fearing we will say the wrong thing. This does not give us an excuse to be lazy, however. We are called to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). In apologetics, we still have the responsibility of plowing up the hearts of unbelievers so the seed of the gospel can take root…

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Engage Magazine: The Colbert School of Apologetics