The Power of Subjectivity

Apr 24, 2021 | Apologetics, Podcast

In our pursuits to be careful and skilled apologists, I think we often get concerns relative to objectivity and subjectivity out of balance.

Don’t get me wrong—the distinction is vitally important, but we must remember that our own subjective stories about how the gospel impacted us are, for some people, going to be more persuasive than arguments and evidence.

Full Transcript:

All right. My friends, it’s been a little while since we have been able to connect, but I had something on my mind that I just wanted to go ahead and share with you this week. And that is about the power of subjectivity. Now there’s a reason why I want to talk about this. And I think it’s pretty important over in against a, a thought stream that appears in apologetics conversations quite a bit, and it’s an important thought stream. But there is the other side of it that sometimes as people who are really interested in apologetics, we can drift off into.

And I think it’s dangerous if we do not give proper due and proper respect to the other side of the coin. So what I’m speaking to here primarily is the distinction between objectivity and subjectivity. Let me explain what I mean by that. If for some reason you are not familiar with these terms, if you, if you’ve never really given any thought to what these terms mean and how these terms should be put into practice. So if if something is objective, that means that it is outside of you. It’s, it’s not something that you are coming to determine rather it’s it’s something that you are coming to a believe about the real objective world, whatever it is, you know, maybe you’re coming to believe it, or maybe it’s just a fact that exists, whatever. It’s something about the real objective world.

In other words, the, the earth is, is round. The earth is not flat. The earth is round. Now that’s not something that is, is, is the way it is because of something we decided inside of ourselves. But it is something that is true about the world out there. It’s something that is an objective fact about the way the world really, really is. And we are coming to recognize that that fact, or that bit of information about the world. Now on the on the flip side of the coin is the subjectivity. And this is where the, the source of the belief or whatever is coming from within the subject instead of outside of the subject case. So this is the inside outside distinction that I, I first heard this from Greg Koukl. So I want to give him the credit.

I don’t know if maybe he heard it from somewhere else. Probably not. He’s a pretty brilliant guy. So he probably came up with it. But, but subjective is, is all about what’s inside and then objective is all about what’s outside. And so that’s a careful distinction now what has happened in popular culture is that those items have become very confused. And so that is in fact why the team at Stand to Reason (Greg Koukl’s organization) have a theme for their reality apologetics conference. The one for, I believe it was 2020, I believe the 2020 theme was truth is not ice cream. Now, the reason they titled it that way is multifaceted. I mean, first of all, it’s just a catchy title. That’s pretty cool.

But the reason is because of this confusion that has happened in culture and it’s been happening for awhile. Truth is not like ice cream. Truth is something objective. There is no your truth. Truth is not a subjective thing. It’s just not. It’s a, it’s an objective thing about the way the world is out there. No, somebody you know, me and my wife for example, have a differing opinion on the best flavor of ice cream. We have a different opinion about the tastiness of pickles. Ah, okay. For me I think pickles are absolutely horrible and my wife thinks they are one of the best things on the planet. So understand that there is a key distinction between deciding that you like pickles and deciding that the earth is round and not flat.

Pickles have a taste, but how you feel about that taste, how that taste appeals to you is a very, very different thing from being able to objectively identify the existence of the pickle or the shape, for example, of the pickle. These are objective features of reality. So truth is not ice cream. These are two kinds of separate things, and it’s very important that we do maintain this distinction. However, what we don’t want to do is drift into the unfortunate place where we disregard the power of storytelling. So I actually wrote a book about this (shameless plug) called God, the Great Commission, and You, and the subtitle, which attempts to kind of really get at the thrust of the book is How to Tell the Greatest Story Ever Told. And incidentally, I think Justin Brierley and the team at Unbelievable must’ve stolen that from me because that’s also what they decided to title their most recent, Unbelievable conference that they had.

Obviously I’m just kidding. But I did not steal that from them. I I came up with that first. So anyway that is how I frame the conversation aspect of that in the book, how to tell the greatest story ever told and it is about sharing the gospel. It’s about being able to bring people to Jesus. The idea there is though there, I think in many of our churches, we have a skewed understanding of how this must be done. I mean, I come from a background where basically, if you didn’t spell it out in exactly this way, and you didn’t attend certain events and this, that, and the other thing then you weren’t doing it right. There were a certain sort of elite in the church who were doing this the correct way, and everybody else was essentially living in sin.

And I’ve, I’ve come to a different view of that these days. I think that you can share the gospel in ways that are that some would consider to be an unconventional. And I’ve spoken of Mike Bechtle’s work in the past. He’s written a great book. Actually the name of it is slipping my mind right now for some reason, but Oh, I know it’s called Evangelism for the Rest of Us by Mike Bechtle. And it’s a really great book that speaks about how you can be introverted and still actually be very confident sharing the gospel. And so that’s a great book, but there is a, a subjective element to what happens to each and every one of us, whenever we get saved, whenever we come to the Lord came. And I think that that story is unique to me, that story is unique to my son who just asked the Lord to save him the other night.

It’s unique to the apostle Paul as well. The apostle Paul had he conversion experience on the Damascus road that you and I did not have. He had a story to tell others. And you have a story to tell others, and I have a story to tell, tell others. So it’s very important that we don’t get this confused. And now, now we kind of dig even deeper into this for, for just a moment. Oftentimes this question comes up of how early in a conversation do we get into the apologetic stuff. How, when do we go for the stuff about you just resurrection arguments for the existence of God, et cetera. And I’ve actually heard William Lane Craig response to this and given his status, I guess you would say that other people have given him as, as, as you know, basically being the greatest living apologists there is today, you might find his answer to this fascinating.

And I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna paraphrase it. But essentially what he believes on this is that actually we should not be starting with apologetics, what we should be doing is plain old evangelism. Telling people what happened to us, how the Lord saved us, how the Lord works in our lives. And then when questions arise, then we dive into apologetics. And we can have authentic apologetics and also defensive apologetics. But, but, but that enterprise comes into play only after the sharing of the gospel, the telling of the gospel story. And if you look throughout the Bible, okay, we, we see this kind of thing as well. So many of us, I think once you romanticize and instead of generalizing, I’ll just speak for myself. Right. there’s a romantic romanticism almost of apologetics because it’s such a good thing.

And it’s, and it’s a needed thing, but we mustn’t forget that though. We can speak objective truth through apologetics. We can also tell the story about what happened to us now. Of course, it’s an objective thing that happened to us, but still we have a subjective experience of that. We could tell our story that does have value that does have merit. And often it’s the best thing to do in a given conversation to just lead with that and then see where it goes. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard Craig give an answer and I’m just using him as an example, because I remember specifically a couple of different responses that he’s given to to this question, different versions of this question. And another thing that I have heard him make mention of is that before you even start diving in to arguments and evidence for the existence of God and the the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus and things of that nature, the very next thing you should do after just kind of doing regular old evangelism is just to simply, if they start asking questions, give them a list.

Well, maybe somebody says, well, there’s, there’s, you know, science has disproven God, right. Or nobody really believes that stuff. Right. Well, actually you could just say something like that. Well, actually right off the top of my head, I can think of five very good arguments for the existence of God and then just list them out, you know? And Craig would say something like, you know, the Kalam cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the ontological, and just actually list them out. And he says that that might be enough for some people just to hear that there are arguments and they’ve been thought through, they may not even want to go the next step of actually hearing any sort of justification for the truth of those arguments. So there are definitely ways that we can take them these kinds of conversations to the next level, but in heating his advice, I think it would be very important and very useful to only get to those more complicated parts of the conversation when they are necessary, when you’re being pressed on a particular point, you know, maybe somebody starts to bring up the problem of evil and, you know no matter how many times we hear it, that’s a legitimate concern.

Oftentimes people are bringing up the problem of evil because they have a experience of evil that causes them to question the goodness of God. So that’s a legitimate concern. We must dive in and find out more about why they’re answering that or asking that question so that we can answer it in a way that is powerful for them and not just merely the objective truth of the matter. So storytelling is a very, very powerful medium. It is. I think the what should be the primary means of sharing the gospel? And I, you know, I mean, I had things to repent for here. I mean, when I first started getting into apologetics, I was really adamant about this. And I don’t want to say, I looked down on people who who didn’t use apologetics and their sharing of the gospel. But definitely I looked at people who only had storytelling in their arsenal and thought of them as being a weaker in some sense in the ability to witness.

And now I guess there is some truth to that. If you do start to get pressed for questions then you’re going to need to be able to, to give a reasoned defense and sure enough, the Bible sure does command. I mean, this is apologetics one-on-one–1 Peter 3:15. We need to be ready to give an answer to those who ask, but, you know remembering that a lot of times it’s just going to be sharing about what has happened to us and that’s going to be enough to convince other people and of course living our lives as it apologetic for the gospel is another powerful way to go about that as well. In fact, I think you could argue that the primary thrust of first Peter three 15 is, is that in the midst of suffering in the midst of trial, in the midst of persecution, how well does your life exemplify the gospel?

That’s the question. Well, thank you for allowing me to share with you just a few minutes today. I know this, this episode comes on the heels of not really having recorded anything in the past few months. I just for a little update for any of you who might who might care beyond just the content of the episode. I I went full time in my web design business, which I’m really excited about. And I went full-time on January 15th and I, I had a goal, right. I had a goal set that by June, I would take on five new clients and that would help me feel better about the financial situation and everything. Certainly we had everything as secure. We, it wasn’t like a total leap in the dark here. But at the same time it was definitely, you know it was, it was a move of faith.

It was a matter of faith to to step out and do this. And I I have to be honest I wasn’t expecting what happened. I immediately got seven new clients pretty much the first week or two that I was on my own. And so here I am thinking that, Oh, okay, well, I’ll just go ahead and go on my own, the workload won’t really increase that much. And actually this will give me more time. I can, I can get back into being more consistent in the podcast and in blogging, etc. But the exact opposite happened. So I get email updates every week. I get lots of people who are still downloading the podcast every week. And so that is a wonderful blessing, even though I haven’t been able to give it the attention that it deserves.

So I appreciate you hanging in there and allowing me to speak to you here this week, you know, I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this every week or not. I’d love to. But regardless I thank you for your thoughts. I thank you for, you know, I received emails from you guys occasionally, and that’s really, really sweet. You can always email [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you and hear that that what we’re doing here even as sporadically as it’s being done these days makes some sort of an impact. All right, God bless you. And we will see you in the next episode.

Meet Steve

Meet Steve

Hi, I’m Steve, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher with a heart for exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

I’m interested in the surprising connection between creation, theology, business, and storytelling. We explore those themes and more on this blog.

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