Monday, August 24, 2009

Why Apologetics?

Back in February I did a short post on the core of apologetics, this expands on it some. I was sorting out my documents since I've disposed of my baby (first day at school!) and I'm waiting for the washer to finish so I can hang some clothes up on the line.

God said it, I believe it, that settles it.

Anyone familiar with this one? For a believer, it is at the bottom line, the simple truth. However, for those in the world, it is a bit simplistic and they don’t know how you got from where they are to where you are.

1 Peter 3:15 - "...and always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

2 Timothy 2:15 - “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”

This is the verse translated in the King James as “rightly dividing the word of truth”.

1. The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.
2. Formal argumentation in defense of something, such as a position or system.

What Apologetics is Not

Apologetics is not designed to prove the word of God, but to provide an intellectual basis for faith.

The objective of apologetics is not to convince a person to become a Christian contrary to his will. The objective, "strives at laying the evidence for the Christian gospel before men in an intelligent fashion, so that they can make a meaningful commitment under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit." "The heart cannot delight in what the mind rejects as false." (Charles Pinnock, member Evangelical Theological Society)
Apologetics does not diminish the importance of faith. Apologetics defends the reasonableness of faith in God and his Word. When non-Christians ask tough questions about the Christian faith, will you be able to give a solid and logical response? If not, there is an opportunity lost to spread God's Word. Worse, the Christian who has a weak foundation for his faith can be easily shaken by the doubts of non-believers.

Is Faith Reasonable? What is Faith?

"Faith is believing what you know ain't so." - Mark Twain

John 10:38 - “But if I am doing them and you don’t believe Me, believe the works. This way you will know and understand that the Father is in Me and I in the Father.”

Mark Twain states the current popular definition of religious (especially Christian) faith, however, with apologetics, the true meaning of faith becomes clear: ”Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.” The trust comes from evidence, a closer way of thinking of a Christian’s faith in God is the faith we all have that the sun will come up tomorrow morning. There is no evidence we can use to prove today that it will, but we have seen it come up every day of our lives and so have faith that it will again tomorrow. This is the kind of faith a Christian should gain as they mature.

What kind of questions get asked?

You may not hear any of these, but our kids going to college will. This is not a huge memory work project to memorize defenses to these, but you have to know that there are defenses, usually that end up showing that the question is a bit silly. I don’t know the specific detailed answers to all of these myself, but they can be looked up. You will hear them from people who have advanced college degrees, even if they are stupid statements. It’s not that they are stupid, but they are ignorant and amusingly enough, they are often taking the garbage they have heard about Christianity and the Bible on blind faith of the sort Mark Twain wrote about.

The prophecy about the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14) really translates as a “young woman” not a virgin.
Don’t you know that all agricultural societies have a dying and rising god?
Don’t you know that Jesus is really modeled on mythological deity X?
If Jesus was supposed to be the model for Christians and He was “meek”, why did he dispute with the Pharisees so much?
If Jesus is God, how did He hear prayer when He was a baby?
Well if you don’t believe in abortion and want them to stop, why aren’t you out there adopting babies?
Are you saved by faith or by works? You know the Bible contradicts itself, don’t you?
Since we only have copies of copies of copies of the Bible, how can we trust it?
Don’t you know the Bible is full of contradictions?
Jesus lived a long, long time ago and how can we really know if He was real or that we know what He really said and did?
Jesus couldn’t have really been raised from the dead, He either swooned and woke up, the disciples stole His body, the disciples went to the wrong tomb or it was all some kind of mass hallucination/vision.
Jesus was just a good moral teacher or prophet.
Jesus never claimed to be God.
The Bible states that X horrible thing happened and I just couldn’t ever believe in a God who would do such a horrible thing. (Argument by Outrage)
You know about group X that calls themselves Christians that do some horrible or strange thing Y, don’t you? Aren’t they Christians? They aren’t? What gives you the right to judge? Maybe you are wrong, aren’t you?
Do you believe the Bible is the literal Word of God? Do you hold to a literal interpretation? So, you believe that mountains can skip, don’t you?
Do you eat bacon? Doesn’t the Bible literally say that pork cannot be eaten? Well, real Bible believing Christians wouldn’t eat pork, would they? So you must not be one.

What can apologetics give you? Increased Conviction

I can only speak from personal experience, but studying apologetics, I can state a few things if I’m confronted by these, at least in general. For example, I’ve studied supposed Biblical “contradictions” and I’ve always found that they all fall into the category of being out of context, in the literary, cultural or historical sense, so I can easily answer a critic.

Take for a simple example Matthew 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:. Now, I can claim this is in the Bible, so it is Scripture (true) and that these are the words of Jesus (true) which all Christians should agree with (true). Oh no! Have you been wrong all this time Christians? Did Christ advocate that kind of action? Well, no.

What has been done is taking the verse out of context, let's put it back: Matthew 5:38-39 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: (39) But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (It goes on down to the end of the chapter at verse 48.) As you can see, the verse has been lifted out to attempt to twist it into something the Scripture doesn't say.

Greater understanding also comes, which increases faith. Take “meekness” which the world defines as overly submissive, docile, of little courage, wimpy, low spirited or compliant. How many Christians of today do you think agree with this definition of meekness?

Consider one definition from Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary: “a calm temper of mind, not easily provoked”. From the Handbook of Biblical Social Values: “gentleness, coupled with non-violence that is followed not because of any revulsion to violence, but because the meek person CAN use violence but has enough confidence and ability not to threaten or challenge others, and whose opponent is unworthy or too weak -- in other words, he's not strong enough or right enough for you to bother with.”

Something every Christian should realize, that for 2000 years now, people have been trying to find that magic bullet to kill Christianity. Don’t you think that if there was one someone would have found it by now? There really is “nothing new under the sun”, so pretty much, anything that a skeptic throws up as an objection has been dealt with long ago.

Verses that support contending for the faith with knowledge

Jude 1:3
Psalm 25:9
Proverbs 10:17
Proverbs 12:1
Proverbs 13:18
Proverbs 15:12
Proverbs 15:31
Proverbs 15:32
Proverbs 22:19
Proverbs 27:5
Proverbs 28:23
Proverbs 29:1
Ecclesiastes 7:5
Matthew 5:10-19
Matthew 22:29
Mark 12:24, 26-8 22:29
Luke 17:3
John 14:23-24
Acts 19:8-10
1 Corinthians 15:58
1 Timothy 4:1-16
1 Timothy 5:20
1 Timothy 6:2-4
2 Timothy 2:22-26
2 Timothy 3:16
2 Timothy 4:2
Titus 1:13-16
Titus 2:15
1 Peter 2:19
1 Peter 3:13-17
1 Peter 4:12-19
1 Peter 5:8-10
2 Peter 2:1-3
2 John 1:9
James 5:19-20

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