Not Only

A few years ago I traveled to Cambridge to take an apologetics course. One thing the professor said that I have not forgotten is how important in the pursuit of truth is the phrase: Not Only.

He had learned it from one of his professors.  Once you learn it, you will see that it applies to much in your thinking ~ from theology to grocery shopping.  You will find the phrase handily popping into your mind when someone says something that you know is mostly true, but not quite right. When you hear a claim that is just a little too strong, a little too comprehensive to match reality, you can pull these handy two words out of your pocket.

Recently when I was teaching an apologetics class, a man walked into the room and said, “The only apologetic you need is a changed life.”  It was one of those times.  I pulled out my two words.  And they fit.

Eta Linnemann studied under historical-critical theologians Rudolf Bultmann and Ernst Fuchs.  She excelled in her scholarship of the Bible – but she did not believe it was the inspired Word of God.  In her book Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology?  (Reflections of a Bultmannian turned evangelical) Eta tells of her conversion to a real, vibrant relationship with God.

First, Eta realized that her scientific work on the text of the Bible did not produce any truth.  Eta saw that her academic discipline was based on a philosophy “which made bold to define truth so that God’s Word was excluded as the source of truth.”  Initially, this insight led to personal addictions to dull her great disillusionment with her life’s work.  Eta would come to say that she owed “those initial insights to the beginning effects of God’s grace.” Through the Word spoken to her by a Christian friend, Eta encountered Jesus Christ, and entrusted her life to Him.

The confirmation that God’s promises are a reality came about a month later when Eta heard of a missionary helper in Nepal who was thrown into prison for his faith.  Eta read the accounts of his trial.  From what she knew of this helper, she knew that he could not have given his answer to the court based on his own ability.  Mark 13:9-11 surged before her eyes.

Mark 13:9-11  (ESV)

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

Eta had only had academic interest in this passage before.  Now she saw Scripture connected with reality. “Suddenly I was convinced that God’s promises are a reality, that God is a living God, and that he reigns.  ‘For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm’ (Ps. 33:9).”

So what should we think if someone claims that the only apologetic you need is a changed life?

Not only.

In Eta’s case, it took both the truth plainly spoken to her, and her observation of the truth lived out in someone’s experience.  I know in my own life, God used both the clear teaching of the Word and my observation of girls in my dorm who walked with God in a real way.  I believe this is because we are whole people.  We have an experiential, subjective side. And we have an intellectual, objective side.  We cannot come to Jesus with just part of who we are.  

Robust apologetics includes both clearly stated truth and testimonies of that truth lived out in real ways.  I am sure that missionary-helper in Nepal had no idea that his faithfulness would be instrumental in the faith-journey of someone like Eta Linnemann.  We surely should live out the truth in a faithful, transparent way.  But we also have to speak the truth with gentleness and respect.  Paul saw both the proclamation and the experience of truth as essential.

1 Thessalonians 1:5  (NASB)

for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

Speak truth, but Not Only.  Live truth, but Not Only.

Speak and live truth.


~Betsy McPeak

2 comments to Not Only

  • Joyce Schaffer

    Thank you so much, Betsy. This came at just the right moment for me as I needed some encouragement in this very direction.
    Keep up the good work!

  • We can know for ourselves that these things are true. When we know that something is true, we will want to live accordingly for the rest of our lives. The commandments won’t feel like arbitrary rules from a detached God. They’ll feel like divine guidance that helps us navigate the confusion of life on earth. We will see the benefits of following this guidance in our day-to-day lives and we will feel a stronger sense of peace and spirituality.

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