Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ready to Talk - #1 Apologetics

In my 20 some years of being a Christian, one thing that I’ve learned about myself is that the way I think about the world around me seems to be entirely different from the rest of society. Outside of the Church it’s very hard for me to find someone who looks at things with the same perspective that I do. In my younger years I was confronted on every side with people who wanted to change my worldview. They wanted to erase from my mind the rather naive notion that a God exists, and they especially wanted to erase from my life the high standard of moral values that I held. I had high school teachers debate me in class, trying to make a fool out of my ‘simple-minded belief’ in the words of the Bible. My English teacher told my parents outright that she thought it was her job to educate me out of Christianity. My science teacher used to prey on my yet developing mind with ‘foolproof’ arguments against the legitimacy of the Bible as the Word of God, and with a presentation of the blatant contradictions within the text which proved its errancy. I attribute the escape from the attacks of my youth to the grace of God and the prayers of faithful men and women. But there are some who are not so lucky.
I had a mentor growing up who was an active leader of the youth group. He seemed to know so much about the Bible and theology. He was able to counsel me, and he readily shared his faith with people around him. I looked up to him in my youth, and looked to his example to spur myself on to studying the Word of God. I admired his strength of faith. When I was 17, this young man only a few years older than myself renounced Christianity and said that the Bible was utter foolishness. That rocked my world. It turned out that he couldn’t get past an argument presented to him about the problem of evil.
When I went to college, I had the privilege of taking a course in what is known as ‘Apologetics.’ Apologetics, simply put, is the study of the defence of the faith. The word is taken from 1 Peter 3:15 which says: but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.(1) The word translated defence in this passage is the Greek word απολογια (ah-poh-loh-gee-ah) which literally means a speech of defence.(2)
Therefore when we speak of apologetics, we’re referring to the fact that something is being defended. The term itself is not strictly for use of defence of the Christian faith. There can be apologists of Atheism, Judaism, Islam, or any other system of thought that can be defended. For the purposes of this article (and this periodical), we will use the term Apologetics to refer strictly to the defence of the Christian faith. One final thought in defining the term - when we speak of the defence of the Christian faith, we’re talking about giving rational justification or warrant for Christian faith. Therefore while a great defence for the Christian faith is a life lived well for the glory of God, it is not what we’re talking about when we speak of Apologetics. Apologetics deals with rational arguments for the truth of Christian doctrine.
As we should all be well aware of, the primary goal of the Christian is not to be able to defend the Bible, and to be able to give solid arguments for the truth of the Christian faith. The primary goal of the Christian is to know Christ (Phil. 1:21) and as we see from this verse in 1 Peter, to sanctify Him as Lord in our hearts. So the study of Apologetics should take second place in the life of the Christian. First and foremost the Christian should know what the Bible teaches, and he should be diligent in fostering a rich spiritual communion with our most Holy God. That being said, it is the belief of this author that the study of Apologetics is an important practice for the Christian to undertake, and that doing so not only strengthens his faith, but allows him to talk more intelligently with those who don’t believe. As G.K. Chesterton said, ‘ It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced.’(3)
I’ve noticed that in my conversations with people, I have a difficult time articulating why certain things are so, because my Christianity is the funnel through which I see everything. To the Christian it’s just obvious that God exists. The Psalmist writes that ‘the heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.’(4)
It’s easy for us to see that God exists because we don’t have the stumbling blocks in front of us that atheists have. Most Unbeliever’s have honest questions which need to be addressed honestly before they will be receptive to the Gospel.
That is the overall aim of this periodical. It is the purpose of this periodical to discuss Apologetics, to provide arguments for Christian doctrine, to consider common and popular arguments against Christian doctrine, and to address the difficulty of presenting the Gospel to postmodern man, as well as the culture we find ourselves in, with the goal of enabling us to share our faith effectively. Through our study of Apologetics, we will hopefully be encouraged by the philosophy of our faith, and by the evidences given through philosophy, science, and other sources.

(1) quoted from the New American Standard Bible, 1995
(2) BDAG, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. 3rd Edition, Chicago:The University of Chicago Press, 2000. 117
(3) Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy, Nashville:Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2000. 239
(4) Psalm 19:1, quoted from the New American Standard Bible, 1995
Psalm 19 is a key text in developing the Cosmological argument for the existence of God, which will be covered later


JMJ said...

which english teacher was that?

mrutterson said...


jenn said...

this is a nice entry...i found your blog from billy's blog. and i have to say, i struggle with defending my faith as well, not because i am not secure in it, but because ive not studied the bible in a scholarly way. and coming from being a non-christian not that long ago, i can also see where the other person is coming from. and i just pray to God that he will give me the right words when i am confronted with having to explain/defend my christian beliefs.

anyway, i congrats on your wedding...my boyfriend and i are in a similar dilemma and have to wait due to finances. but hey, when can it ever be the perfect time? :)


beautiful feet said...

enjoyed this a lot. good thoughts, jeff!