Absolute, Dogmatic Statement: The only meaningful apologetic is a Christ-filled life. Everything else is just wind.
We might lose our extreme touchiness about what we are not or do not countenance or do not do.
If one points to the decline in numbers among baptist Christians over the last thirty years (pretty much since the beginning of the "Resurgence," way to go Surgers!) our tendency to cliche asserts itself. That is, someone will inevitably say, "We are going down because people only know what we are against!"
I could point to the fact we have reached the middle level of social strata where conservativism becomes a liability rather than an asset. Or, I could point out that religion changes when it no longer works. Or, I could just say many of our larger churches no longer include the word "baptist" in their name (or church) since those words to do not "test" well. I look on these statements ironically since some of these large churches are the very ones that led us into this current controversy. I could also tell you that one-fourth of our churches and three-fourths of our missions do not bother to report their numbers any longer because they moved into a generational metaphor wherein community building is more important than conformity.
You would probably not listen.
Or, I could just note baptist Christians, as a body, are now listed with Methodists in America, as in decline. See the 2007 Pew Institute Study.
Or, in Texas, I could point at the BGCT and state it has all four characteristics of a declining democratic body. That is, it has low-grade policies with no natural constituency, pressure from outside, lethargic and dependent adherents and a complete mystification of the decision making process.
Still, it is easier to roll out the old cliches, "Everyone knows us by what we are against…" and let it go at that. Gray heads nod. The system rolls on downhill.
Did you know Abraham Lincoln did not use foul language, drink, hunt, give sway to racial prejudices, womanize, fight until forced, join the popular political party or the baptist church, even though everyone else in his family (and peer group) did do those things or join those groups? In his early life, Lincoln stood out among his fellows on the basis of how what he wanted to be effected what he did not do.
Read William Lee Miller, Lincoln’s Virtues. You can find it on the net just from this note or go to my must reads and click on it to order.
I am going to flatly state we are not known for what we do not do. We are known for what we do not want others to do, while pretty much practicing the things we abhor in others.
In so doing, baptist Christians are now known as those who draw the old lines for others, demanding conformity and control, as we fail to make an incarnational case for sexual purity, fiscal accountability, community building and human service in a meaningful Christian model.
Please note I did not say we fail to make a rational case for our belief system/ethical practices. I wrote that we largely fail to make an incarnational case.
As a result, persons in our culture do not come to despise us for what we don’t do, they consider us irrelevant because of what we do.
Save Darfur? Okay, but clean up your own backyard while you are at it, Elvis.
In fact, there is a good case to be made for all the things we wish to incarnate, but each of these things might be more comprehensible to others if practiced with visible love and transparent humility.
I am currently in deep conflict with Isaiah, chapter six, his "call." Isaiah knows enough religion to come to the Temple (worship site). He encounters God, first in the Temple architecture, then in the seraphim, then in epiphany. My conflict is probably one you reconciled long ago.
If Isaiah is so unclean, why is he in church, able to sense God and worth (I did not say worthy of) God’s appearance? In fact, is the response of Isaiah, "Woe is me, I am a man of filthy lips from a people of filthy lips and there is no real hope.." the response God wants from a guy he can use or is Isaiah’s response attractive to God because it is respectful, repentant and shot through with humility?
Bible reader, you know Isaiah is about to get one of the more negative images of his time. His message is "doom, despair and agony" on Israel/Judah/Syria and, eventually, Assyria as well. Some cheerleader is sure to tell Isaiah to "move on," to tell us "what is right with Judah," or to "go positive." Isaiah is going to stay on "message" so consistently some people think he is actually three men who serve consecutive prophetic sentences.
Isaiah is known for what he does not do/think/say.
The big deal is, Isaiah seems to not do what he does not do out of deep respect for God, personal repentance and an awesome humility. People can relate.