Tagged: apologia

What good is Christian apologetics?

Traffic signsApologetics simply is a reasonable defense of the Christian faith. The word is derived from the Greek noun apologia and means “a defense.” Apologia and its verb form apologeomai are used nearly 20 times in the New Testament, often in the classic legal sense, but more importantly to describe the call of God to all believers to defend the Christian faith with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16).

But how is sound doctrine applied practically? Put another way, what good is Christian apologetics?

Apologetics has at least four practical applications. We may use apologetics to:

Build. There is a positive case to be made for Christianity, and apologetics helps us get there.

The Bible, history, archaeology, and other sources help establish that a real person named Jesus burst onto the scene 2,000 years ago. He claimed deity, performed miracles, spoke the truth, modeled compassion, died on a Roman cross, was buried and rose physically on the third day. His coming to earth was the most important event in human history.

Further, apologetics helps us know who God is; who we are; why there is purpose in life; how we can be restored to a right relationship with our Creator; why we can face death without fear; and what God is doing about evil in the world.

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What is Christian Apologetics?

BirthChristApologetics 101: Part 1

This is the first in a 10-part series designed to help Christians defend their faith.

What is Apologetics? (audio)

What is Apologetics? (pdf)

Christian apologetics is the field of study concerned with the systematic defense of the Christian faith. More simply put, it is a reasonable defense of Christianity. The term “apologetics” is derived from the classical Greek word apologia and was used in a legal sense: The prosecution delivered the kategoria and the defendant replied with an apologia, or a formal speech to counter the charges. The verb form, apologeomai, means “to make a defense.” The Christian apologist is engaged in defending Christianity’s claims to the truth.

In Scripture, the apostle Paul uses the term apologia in his speech to Agrippa when he says, “I consider myself fortunate … that today I am going to make a defense before you” (Acts 26:2). Paul uses a similar term in his letter to the Philippians (Phil. 1:7, 16). And Peter tells believers they should be ready to give a defense or answer for their faith in 1 Peter 3:15. The term is used in a negative sense in Romans 1:20, where Paul says those who reject the revelation of God in creation are “without excuse.”

Why Christianity is a reasonable faith

Christian apologists throughout the centuries have appealed to eyewitness accounts (specifically having to do with the person and work of Christ), as well as to Scripture, history, philosophy, archaeology and other scientific disciplines. Many have suffered martyrs’ deaths, not because they clung foolishly to a blind faith, but because they were fully convinced of the truth of Christianity based on careful examination of the evidence.

Consider how these passages of scripture exhort Christians to use reason in defending their faith:

  • 2 Cor. 10:4-5: …since the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
  • 1 Thess. 5:21: …but test all things. Hold on to what is good.
  • Titus 1:9: holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.
  • 1 Peter 3:15: …but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
  • Jude 3: Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.

Why apologetics matters

There are at least three reasons apologetics is essential to Christians:

Our faith depends on it. William A. Dembski, research professor in philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of The Design Revolution, comments: “It’s worth remembering that until two centuries ago, most people in the West saw the Resurrection of Jesus in historically the same light as other events of antiquity, such as the murder of Julius Caesar. The Resurrection and Caesar’s murder were both regarded as equally factual and historical. Unfortunately, in the two hundred years since the Enlightenment, Christians have steadily retreated from seeing their faith as rationally compelling. Instead of being apologists for the faith, we have become apologetic about it” (Foreword to 5 Minute Apologist, p. 11). The Bible tells us to love God with all our “minds” (Matt. 22:37). Emotions and experiences are important gifts of God, but they are not compelling reasons for trusting in Christ, Muhammad, the Buddha, Krishna, Joseph Smith, or anyone else. We should be as the Bereans, who, upon hearing of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, “welcomed the message (of Paul and Silas) with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so…. Consequently, many of them believed” (Acts 17:10-12).

Our witness depends on it. Every major world religion and every major cult of Christianity has a high view of Jesus, yet fails to properly answer the question Jesus asked in Matthew 16:15: “Who do you say that I am?” Muslims, for example, teach that Jesus was a prophet, but they deny His deity and substitutionary death on the cross. Many Hindus readily accept Jesus into their pantheon of 330 million gods yet refuse to accept His uniqueness as the eternal Son of God. Mormons insist that Jesus was a man who became a god. If we truly believe, as Peter did, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16), we need to know what that means and why it’s true.

Our future depends on it. Christianity is under attack on many fronts – from atheists who mock it (The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins; God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens) to charlatans who fleece the flock rather than feed it (see 1 Peter 5:2-3; 2 Peter 2). The apostle Paul warns that in the days before Christ’s return people will “depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). He further warns that a time is coming when people will “not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). In fact, Paul says there will be widespread apostasy (a standing apart from the truth) before the return of the Lord (2 Thess. 2:3).

“Never do we see a call to obedience and worship grounded merely on an appeal to blind, isolated faith,” writes Scott Pruett. “It is always set in the context of historical actions and objective knowledge; and God has given us an ample and defensible testimony of these things in which we are to invest our faith” (What is apologetics? www.lifeway.com/apologetics). Demski summarizes it well: “Yes, our salvation is ultimately due to the grace of God. But every act of divine grace presupposes the means of grace by which God makes His grace real to us. Christian apologetics is one such means of grace” (ibid., p. 12).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Does God Exist?

 

According to Romans 1:18-20, every person will stand before God one day without excuse – that is, without an apologia or defense – because God has revealed Himself to all people in at least two ways:

 

  1. He has revealed Himself in our conscience.
  2. He has revealed Himself in creation.

 

 

 

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Does God Exist?

Is God Real?

 Every person will stand before God one day without excuse – that is, without defense – because God has revealed Himself in at least two ways to all people.

It’s inevitable. Sooner or later you’ll find yourself in the awkward presence of a little boy or girl who asks that dreaded question:

  • Where do babies come from?
  • What do you and mom do when the bedroom door is closed?
  • Do fish sleep?
  • If Jesus is God’s Son, who is God’s wife?
  • If we don’t have a chimney, how will Santa get in?
  • Is God real?

It’s good for children to be inquisitive. It opens doors of communication with adults, and with other children, and enables them to learn. As that great prophet Kermit the Frog once said, “Asking questions is a very good way to find out about something.” It’s just that we don’t always know how to answer the questions – or perhaps, when it comes to spiritual matters, we have the same unresolved questions in our own minds.

The existence of God is one such question. And like children, we should not be afraid to ask: Is God real? What proof is there? Does God know me? Can I know Him? What kind of God is He? And what difference does it make if He’s real or not?

Many arguments for God’s existence

The evidence for God’s existence may be divided into three categories, according to Dr. Rick Cornish in 5 Minute Apologist:

  • Scripture. “God’s existence is revealed from the Bible’s first verse, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1). His existence and active presence saturate the remaining sixty-six books. Since the Christian accepts the Bible as true, sufficient evidence is found in its pages.”
  • Nature. “Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s invisible qualities are seen in God’s creation. Psalm 19:1 states, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.’ The intricate, complex, purposeful design of human beings, more than any other created thing, reveals an intelligent designer. Created in God’s image, all humans sense God’s reality. Romans 2:14-15 indicates that the inner sense of God is known even among people without God’s written revelation in Scripture.”
  • The logical arguments of philosophy. “God’s existence is the only reasonable answer to several big questions. Question 1: How did the universe originate? Everything that begins has a cause. The laws of physics reveal that the universe had a beginning, thus it must have had an initial, uncaused cause. That first cause is God” (p. 115). Other questions include: How can the universe be complex and yet ordered? And why do all cultures hold to objective moral values?

Paul’s defense

According to Romans 1:18-20, every person will stand before God one day without excuse – that is, without an apologia or defense – because God has revealed Himself to all people in at least two ways:

  1. He has revealed Himself in our conscience.
  2. He has revealed Himself in creation.

1. God has revealed Himself in our conscience.

Verse 19 reads: “… since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them.” The “them” refers to unbelievers – Gentile unbelievers in this case – who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  The word “suppress” means to hold down, or to repress. They do not allow the truth to work in their lives. Rather, they suppress the truth so they might live their lives the way they want to live them. Later, Paul says they turn the truth into a lie, and become like brute beasts in their thinking, so that God gives them up to their way of living. This results in “godlessness” and “unrighteousness,” and it draws the “wrath” of God. Richard Chenevix Trench, a 19th century biblical scholar, defines it as “a wrath of God who would not love good unless He hated evil, the two being inseparable, that He must do both or neither.” Marvin R. Vincent, author of Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, describes it as God’s personal emotion with regard to sin. “God does not reap wrath where he has not sown knowledge,” says Willmington’s Bible Handbook.

“What can be known about God is evident among them,” writes Paul. Why? “Because God has shown it to them.” A guilty conscience knows the truth – knows what is right – and a decision is forced upon it. Either the person will acknowledge the truth and repent (change his or her attitude or actions, and make right what was wrong) or the person will suppress the truth until the conscience, as Paul wrote in 1 Tim. 4:2, is “seared with a hot iron.” God has placed within every human heart a conscience – a knowledge of right and wrong. Some people – even some cultures – choose to suppress that knowledge, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The fact that people around the world – regardless of technological advancement or religious practice – know that stealing, murder, rape and other such actions are wrong is a testimony to the truth that there is a sovereign God who created us and to whom we must give an account.

2. God has revealed Himself in creation.

Verse 20 reads: “From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.” Not only did God give us a conscience, He gave us the testimony of Himself in the things He made. Warren Wiersbe writes: “Human history began with man knowing God. Human history is not the story of a beast that worshiped idols, and then evolved into a man worshiping one God. Human history is just the opposite: man began knowing God, but turned from the truth and rejected God. God revealed Himself to man through creation, the things that He made. From the world around him, man knew that there was a God who had the wisdom to plan and the power to create.”

 

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” The things that are invisible of God, namely, His eternal power and Godhead, are clearly seen. “What a paradox,” writes Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest, “invisible things which are visible…. Man, reasoning upon the basis of the law of cause and effect, which law requires an adequate cause for every effect, is forced to the conclusion that such a tremendous effect as the universe, demands a Being of eternal power and divine attributes. That Being must be the Deity who should be worshipped.” Wuest continues, “Thus, through the light of the created universe, unsaved man recognizes the fact that there is a supreme Being who created it, who has eternal power and divine attributes, a Being to whom worship and obedience are due.”

It’s important to note that Paul is not saying the full gospel message of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is clear to all people from the testimony of creation, for that requires God’s further revelation of His Son through the preaching of the Word and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. But Paul is saying that all people are rendered without defense for rejecting God because God has shown all people He exists and is to be the sole object of their worship.

Conclusion

So how do we answer the little boy or girl – or the inquisitive adult for that matter – who asks, “Is God real?” Perhaps the simplest and best way to respond is to say, “I believe God is real. When I look at the universe – so big, beautiful and complex – I am driven to the conclusion that someone started it all. And when I think that people everywhere somehow know in their hearts what’s right and what’s wrong, I feel certain someone put that conscience there. Because of these things – creation and conscience – I believe God is real.”

While this simple answer may satisfy a child, and perhaps even some adults, it likely will do little to persuade skeptics. For them, more questions – tougher questions – are in order, as are our best efforts to answer them. Still, if God’s Word is true, the sovereign Creator of the universe gets to chance to question us in the end. And as the apostle Paul wrote, no one will have an excuse – an apologia, or defense – for saying, “I didn’t know there was a God.”

Rob Phillips 2008