Reading the Exodus story recently, it occurred to me that Yahweh repeatedly desires both Pharaoh and Israel to “know” Him. Throughout the plagues and the revelations, it becomes clear that knowing takes on a two-fold nature. There’s, first, the cognitive/intellectual aspect of knowing that involves both parties simply being aware that Yahweh is there and he’s a force to be reckoned with in the world. But there’s also the kind of knowing that goes beyond mere intellectual recognition, a kind of knowing that goes deeper than cognition.
Pharaoh loosely comes to this deeper knowing in chapter 10 when he repents and asks for forgiveness. Though, of course, this knowing is temporal and fleeting. And Israel will constantly struggle throughout the Exodus story – indeed, her entire history – to plunge the depths of this deeper knowing.
The deeper knowing is a knowing that trust the sovereign and good hand of Yahweh despite what it will cost (Pharaoh) and despite the circumstances (Israel).
I think apologetics has a huge role in the future of the church. And, indeed, its role in the past has been quite significant as well. But the apologist must not content herself with merely convincing the unbeliever of the first kind of knowing. It is not an adequate enough Christian apologetic that leaves the hearer merely cognitively convinced of the existence of God, or even the existence of a specific God, Yahweh.
The church’s apologia, or defense of belief, must include, but move beyond, logical arguments and call people to a deeper sense of knowing. We must make a case that Yahweh is there and is a force to be reckoned with, but we must also make the case that He is sovereign and good and therefore can be trusted.
Too much of the church’s apologetics have focused on the first kind of knowing without carrying through to the second understanding of knowing. And what’s interesting here is that of the two kinds of knowing, Yahweh can force the first (he can cause people to be intellectually convinced of his reality), but he will never force the second – he will never force people to bow before him, trust him, and love him. The church ought to offer an answer for what we believe. But I see only a few instance in scripture of believers trying to convinced people of the first kind of knowing, while there are many instances of calling people to the second kind of knowing. Again, this is not to set aside the cognitive/intellectual conversation. That conversation is as important now as it has ever been – maybe more important. But the fact is, the first kind of knowing is the easier part of the evangelistic mission. The second is where things really matter. After all, the second kind of knowing, not the first, is the difference between Pharaoh and Moses. It’s the difference between a relationship with God and a relationship with the idea of God.