apologetics

Without God, Nothin': Why Atheists Steal from their Creator

By Warren Leigh

Back in 2001, the popular Christian hard rock/rap band P.O.D. released a song on their album Satellite titled "Without Jah, Nothin'" featuring guest vocalist Eek-A-Mouse. Although from a musical standpoint the song was even worse than it sounds, it made a massive theological and philosophical point, a point that I don't believe was even fully realized by the band members themselves. The name "Jah," of course, is an abbreviated form of God's own personal name, Yahweh, usually translated "LORD" in the vast majority of English Bible translations. The song's lyrics proclaim the fact that without God, Christians are no different from the unbeliever—everything good about us is entirely the work of God. This is absolutely true, but I want to argue here that, if we are to be both biblically faithful and truly effective in our apologetic method, then we must take the statement "Without God, NOTHING" and apply it to the whole of reality.

Stealing from God, by Frank Turek
Stealing from God, by Frank Turek

At the recent Be Ready 2016 conference, Frank Turek delivered a message titled "Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case," based on his book of the same title. In both the talk and the book, Turek demonstrates that even the most articulate and well-educated atheists (e.g. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the like) cannot argue their case without constantly stealing ideas and terminology from theism, particularly Christian theism. Other Christian apologists and thinkers, such as Greg Koukl, have observed the same thing.

While arguing that there is no such thing as evil, Richard Dawkins writes his famous laundry list of adjectives in The God Delusion describing how evil and horrible the God of the Old Testament is.[1] However, the question that almost never seems to get asked is, "Why must atheists do this?" "Must" they do it? In order to answer these questions, we need to ask another one: without God's prior existence and revelation, what is the very basis for reality, especially for that of those immaterial gods of knowledge, reason, logic and so forth that atheists love to worship so wholeheartedly?

To put it another way, what makes argument even possible in the first place? Is the atheist going to argue that argument, logic and reason are material entities made up of elements that can be found on, or at least added to, the Periodic Table? But the atheist's problems are not limited to immaterial realities. Either matter is eternal, which has been shown to be impossible, or it suddenly popped into existence out of nothing. And by nothing, I mean nothing, be it time, space, laws, forces or even raw elements themselves. There was not even enough space for the matter to be condensed into a dot the size of a period, from which it could then expand, nor were there any forces or laws in existence to cause such an expansion, even if it were possible for matter to suddenly appear. As Cornelius Van Til, that great 20th-century Reformed apologist, once said, "Unless God is back of everything you cannot find meaning in anything."[2] And yet, Richard Dawkins, as a human being made in God's image, must live in God's world and must therefore also take His existence for granted while simultaneously suppressing this truth by his unrighteous thinking (Romans 1:18), thus stealing that which only rightfully belongs to God and those He has redeemed.

Both God's existence and His revelation are necessary if we are to have any basis for reality. Paul writes in Colossians 2:3 that it is Christ "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."[3] This is not just referring to spiritual knowledge and wisdom since "[a]ll things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). At creation, the Father spoke through the Son (John 1:1-3, Genesis 1:1,3), whose word was then carried out by the Spirit (Gen. 1:2). Creation was, therefore, a Trinitarian act. In fact, all of God's revelation, whether creative (general) or redemptive (special) is explicitly and thoroughly Trinitarian. This is because in order for God to reveal himself, He has to be able to relate Himself to his creation. He must therefore have relational qualities in and of Himself. This in turn means that there must be a plurality of distinct persons within God Himself, all of whom are nevertheless united in essence and in will. General theism, therefore, is not what believers are called to defend, for it destroys the very notion of God's self-revelation and therefore causes the rest of reality to collapse.[4] Thus, our apologetic defense, like the God whom we are defending, must be Trinitarian from the outset. Otherwise, we are defending a god who doesn't exist.

Warren Leigh is a volunteer with Faith Beyond Belief, who was a member of the original organizing committee of FBB's first event back in 2009, featuring Greg Koukl. He is a graduate of Liberty University (with a BSc in Religion), and is working on a book titled The Reality of Our God. Warren is passionate about doing apologetics in a biblically faithful manner.

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 269-283.

[2] > Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed: 1998), 122.

[3] Emphasis added. Scripture citations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[4] K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 48.

 

 

Atheism Requires a Little Humility

By Nick Bertsch

When conversing with various atheists, I have encountered sort of a self-righteousness that confuses me. There is a certain sense in which many have a very condescending view of anyone they deem stupid enough to believe in a creator of the universe. The funny thing is, there are more problems in explaining reality for those who deny God's existence, than there are for those who affirm it. Here are a few off the top of my head, just to start.

First, most atheists are also naturalists or materialists. They believe all that exists is matter. In other words, "In the beginning were the particles." If this is the case, then it follows that wherever each person is at this moment is the result of physical processes. We are basically molecules in motion, or "moist robots." This should mean that our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, etc. are not rational but chemical, and we have no control over them. Whatever sense of morality we have, whatever view of God we have, and whatever else we think, are not something freely chosen or deduced rationally, but rather caused by chemical reactions in the brain. In other words, we don't reason, we just react. There is no free will in this view; we are biologically determined. This means that the atheist has no grounds to think his view is rational, because his beliefs are caused by his biology. Chances are though, most atheists will switch categories, claim they have free will, and yet cling to a worldview that undermines it completely.

Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel argues as much in his book Mind and Cosmos. He writes: "Evolutionary naturalism provides an account of our capacities that undermines their reliability, and in doing so undermines itself."[1]

Second, although I am sure some will disagree, it seems that it is atheists who, more often than not, will take the wildly counter-intuitive position of denying such blindingly obvious things as objective morality and consciousness to argue against a creator. Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist, has famously said, "DNA neither knows nor cares, DNA just is, and we dance to its music."[2] There are many atheists who will even argue that our consciousness is an illusion. Despite such bold statements, they will then proceed to argue about the immorality of religion (which is really just people dancing to their DNA, supposedly) using what they feel are rational arguments produced by their consciousness which is supposedly illusory . . . for everyone but them. Makes sense, right?

not-atheist-symbol1Third, when the best answer your worldview can provide in many cases is "we don't know," then it would be polite not to look down on those who draw an inference to the best explanation by positing God. The origin of life, the origin of the universe, and the origin of consciousness are a few things that have no plausible explanation within the worldview of naturalism, and it would be nice to see an atheist or two be a little more charitable with Christians, since "we don't know" is the best they can ultimately come up with when pressed.

Fourth, even though it's a standard atheist tactic to blame religion for causing more wars and violence than anything else, it is actually atheism that has the higher body count. Regimes like those of Stalin, Lenin, and Mao Zedong made atheism the institutionalized position, resulting in the slaughter of over 100 million people combined, many of whom were religious people. Is it because all atheists are evil? Of course not. It is because atheism reduces us from human beings created in the image of God, with intrinsic value, to glorified animals with extrinsic value, who can be killed if they are not useful or oppose what you want. If a person has the power these men had, and views people this way, there is nothing logically incoherent about killing anyone who disagrees. Those claiming to be Christians who committed violence did so against the teachings of Jesus. Read for yourself. However, those who believe we are all animals and are accountable to no one have the logical backing for some pretty ugly things. Most atheists don't think like this, which I am glad for, but there is nothing in the logical outworking of their worldview which would prevent them from doing so. In other words, they are inconsistent yet again, and should be a bit more charitable to those with a worldview that doesn't lead logically to these kinds of things.

Fifth, since most atheists think evolution is really to blame for the way we all think and behave, why is it so impossible for them to keep their evolution to themselves and let Christians and everyone else believe what they want? Why are they so threatened by us? Why do some feel the need to remove any mention of God from anything in society, and silence or ostracize anyone who dares to dissent? I find it a little telling of the weakness of their worldview. If religion is a product of evolution that has helped people survive, then there is no explanation for the irrational hatred so many atheists have for it.

Finally, it is seemingly impossible for many atheists to accurately represent the Christian worldview before they proceed to argue against it. They consistently build a straw man of what we don't believe (with a few verses ripped out of context from the Old Testament thrown in), and then proceed to tear it apart. If you can't argue confidently and logically against a view someone actually holds, then don't look down on them with such disdain for holding it.

I could probably rant forever on this, but I think I have made my point. I love when good conversations happen, but find more and more that the tone, and the tactics, are often unhelpful. There are many like me who have not blindly accepted belief in God, but have logically thought it through and find His existence undeniable. The reality is, there are massive problems with the atheistic worldview, and it would serve some atheists well to have a little humility in view of this. Christians are not the only ones with questions to answer.


[1] Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 27.

[2] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 133.

The Apologetics of Handel's Messiah

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By Scott McClare

Every Christmas, I make a point of listening to George Frideric Handel's great oratorio, Messiah. So do many people. If you live in a large enough city, you could potentially attend a performance several times each December. And because of Messiah's lengthy performance history (and Handel's habit of modifying the score to suit his performers), the variations are endless: modern or period instruments, professional or amateur soloists, mass choirs or small ensembles—to say nothing of the extensive catalogue of recordings! A more recent tradition is the "sing-along Messiah," in which the choir invites the audience to bring their own scores and sing with them. Paradoxically, this makes the oratorio one of Western art's highest achievements, as well as one of its most accessible.

Messiah is a Christmas institution. So it may come as a surprise to many that its first performance—a benefit in Dublin, Ireland, for the relief of prisoners' debt—took place in April, 1742. (The performance was a success, raising enough money to release 142 debtors from prison.) Its official debut in London took place the following March. Handel himself never had Messiah performed at Christmas; it was for the Easter season. Only the first of Messiah's three parts deals with the birth and ministry of Jesus, telling of the promise of judgment, redemption, and salvation through selected Old Testament passages as well as the birth narrative from the Gospel of Luke. Most of the best-known selections come from Part 1, likely because of its association with Christmas.

However, Part 2 tells of Christ's passion, his death and resurrection, his ascension into heaven, and his glorification. It continues by speaking of the beginning of the spread of the Gospel, and its rejection by the world. It culminates in the "Hallelujah" chorus, which declares the absolute sovereignty of God:

Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 16:9)

The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)[1]

The words are so closely associated with the "Hallelujah" chorus that you probably think of the music while you're reading them. We hear this chorus every Christmas, but it rightly belongs to Easter! The meaning of Messiah is not "for unto us a child is born"; it's that He is "King of kings and Lord of lords." Hallelujah!

Finally, Part 3 promises eternal life, the Day of Judgment, and the final destruction of sin and death. The oratorio concludes with the exaltation of the Messiah:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive power, andriches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.

Amen. (cf. Revelation 5:9,12-14)

Even less commonly known, perhaps, is that Messiah is as much an apologetic work as it is an artistic one. The libretto (text) was composed by Charles Jennens, Handel's friend and frequent collaborator. Jennens was a devout Christian who was concerned about the rise in popularity of Deism amongst England's intelligentsia. Deism is a philosophical theism that rejects divine revelation as a source of knowledge, concluding that human reason alone is sufficient to establish the existence of a deity. When God created the universe, He established natural laws for its running, but He does not involve himself in its activity. Jennens' brother had lost his faith and committed suicide after corresponding with a Deist. Grieving for his brother, Jennens composed the libretto to Messiah as a response to Deism, compiling Scripture after Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible (paraphrasing here and there) to show that Christ was the promised Messiah and that God took an active interest in the redemption of the world. Jennens was reportedly less than satisfied with Handel's score (which he composed in less than a month), complaining that some parts were "far unworthy of Handel, but much more unworthy of the Messiah." The judgment of history has, perhaps, been more favourable.

My favourite selection from Messiah takes its text from Isaiah 40:5:

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed; and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

The last phrase is drawn out in long, solemn notes that underscore its significance. It is immediately followed by a bass solo that thunders out: "Thus saith the LORD of hosts" (Haggai 2:6). Jennens draws out the story of Jesus almost entirely from the Old Testament, primarily the prophet Isaiah, drawing from the Gospels only for the annunciation of Jesus' birth to the shepherds by the angles (Luke 2:8-14). The Creator is no mere spectator, and this birth is no mere accident of history. The mouth of the Lord has spoken it; therefore, it has come to pass.

There is a strong relationship between good art and a good message. I have met many Christians who can appreciate many kinds of mediocre art as long as they mention Jesus enough times and are helpful for sharing the Gospel. Yet, in Messiah, a devout Lutheran composer has created one of the acknowledged masterpieces of the Western musical canon, listened to by millions every Christmas. Thanks to his friend, a devout Anglican with a concern for the spiritual state of England, those millions flock into auditoriums and churches willingly to hear the Gospel sung to them.

I wrote last Christmas about why the Incarnation is important. Only God, taking on true humanity, could atone for the sins of, and intercede for, the human race. Without that first Christmas, when "God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4 ESV), there would be no Easter—no cross to free us from the penalty of the law. But Charles Jennens and George Handel were right to focus on the work of Christ on the cross, and the blessings that result from it. Without the hope of Easter, there would be no joy at Christmas.

[1]Like the text of Messiah, Scripture passages are taken from the King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise indicated.

Why Apologetics?

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By Ian McKerracher

Why should the average Christian, sitting in the pew, study apologetics? Are there not "experts" in that field, just as there are theologians and youth leaders and other graduates of theological seminaries and colleges, all working in their area of interest for the betterment of the body of Christ? Why should I become a Christian apologist?

The question reveals a very significant shift in the way Christianity is done in recent renditions of the Church. It denotes a subtle error in the thinking, the worldview, of Church leadership in the last hundred years or so. The error is the equating of the term "believer" and the term "disciple." It is the latter that we are to go into all the world to make. It is the former that we are making. What is the difference between these two entities? That question reveals the reason we need apologetics!

quot;Jesus Christ is an obscurity (according to what the world calls obscurity), such that historians, writing only of important matters of state, have hardly noticed Him." —Blaise PascalAs I look around the North American Christian church, I see the pews filled with believers. They believe a vast spectrum of things, some of which are Christian, some not so much. I remember watching a person, sitting in the pew, kissing and fondling her Bible. What doctrine would lead to such a behaviour, I wonder? I have heard of believers making animal noises as worship to God. I am sure that others could bring up memories of all sorts of behaviours that have little connection to historical or biblical Christianity. Christian research companies like the Barna Group and Pew Research have sounded a very concerned trumpet of imminent danger based on the horrific level of biblical illiteracy in the modern church, and have been answered with a collective image of church leadership with their fingers in their ears, all yelling "LA LA LA LA." Why that is so is anybody's guess, and I would suggest that it is for a spectrum of reasons, including the enormous amount of work it would take to reverse the trend, the unflattering reflection in the Church of anti-intellectualism gleaned from the surrounding culture, and, perhaps, a little bit of rationalization about how easy illiterate people are to lead.

What does it take to make a believer? Basically, it is mostly an appeal to the emotional side of a person's soul. "Jesus is extending his nail-scarred hand towards you, right now! Won't you respond to his love and let him make you whole?"; "If you were the only person on earth, Jesus would still die for you." You, you, you . . . The hearers of these triggers feel something stir inside of themselves and mistake it for God. While most of us are hard-wired to feel emotions, and I am not trying to dismiss the full, holistic experience of salvation, one based only on emotion will become difficult to live in a sinful world, and impossible to uphold for a lifetime. This sort of evangelism has at least two likely outcomes. One is a lifelong search for the emotional high experienced at salvation and witnessed by going from church to church to attend meetings, conferences, or special speakers. The other is a dismissal of church or even salvation itself as a sham, and Christians as fakers when they fail to measure up. These are not things upon which God can build the infrastructure of discipleship, individually or collectively.

How do you make disciples? This is the question of the hour. It requires Christians to be inconvenienced, to be called upon to pay a cost, and to sacrifice their comfort. These are not things that our culture or our school system or even, in many cases, our families or churches teach us to do. Making disciples will get in the way of your stuff, cost you your money, and interrupt your life. But it is the calling of us all. No more can we handle the new people coming into our churches as if they are fragile or fickle. The new people who are just learning what spirituality should look like will have a myriad of questions, and they need their friends to answer them. Those friends will need the undergirding of apologetics to do their jobs. It is not the job of church leadership to provide the close fellowship of disciple-making. It is the mandate of the people in the pew!

That is the fundamental change looked for between making believers and making disciples. The first is psychology; the second is biblical spirituality. Once the disciples populate the pews again, the Church can expect to return to the healthy transfer of godly wisdom from the more mature to the less, effectively making them both disciples. It is very true that we all "become what we behold," and the new saint in the church who has responded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit will be easily and quickly brought to their own maturity, being surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses" from whom they can glean what a Christian looks like.

It will all start with the church leaders being confident in the workings of that same Holy Spirit. The members in the pews will all feel the confidence to pursue their own well of knowledge. They will not be afraid to be transparent and open to questioning. They are fully engaged in the pursuit, not only of God, but also of excellence in their lives and in the lives of those they lead. The things that they do, their disciples will do, and the disciples will turn around and will demonstrate the walk in the Spirit to those who come after them (2 Timothy 2:2). That's why the saints in the pew need apologetics.

Apologetics Can't Save People

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By Jennifer Pinch

Apologetics is the discipline of providing justification for our conclusions. Let us begin with a brutally honest confession. There are some really bad apologetics out there. There are sincere, gospel motivated Christians who fail to recognize basic rules of logical argumentation and are ill-equipped to identify unbiased, evidence-based research. This kind of defense of the faith raises red flags in the minds of seekers and skeptics, and rightfully so. We need to begin by holding our Christian defense to the exact same standard we would require of any other religious apologetic. This transparency is essential to sharing the reasons for the hope that we have with integrity.

What does this have to do with apologetics "saving people"? Paradoxically, both everything and not much. Allow me to explain. Dubious apologetics have the very real potential of becoming a barrier for some to trust Christian truth claims. Careful apologetics can help to resolve questions and provoke doubt in the intellectual and emotional objections to faith. At the very same time, we must always recognize that God is sovereign. He can and does use our failures for His glory. In fact, one of my Christian mentors is a man who was led toward Christianity through a false prophesy. I also know several former Mormons who came to a genuine saving faith in Christ while members of a false church.

"[Christians] need to master the facts and evidences that support the claims of Christianity and anticipate the tactics of those who oppose us. This kind of preparation is a form of worship." —J. Warner WallaceThe reasons for becoming a Christian are complex. It may be that the testimony of a changed life through Christ was utterly undeniable and persuasive. It may be the hearing of God's testimony about Himself through the reading of Scripture that is recognized as truth and is embraced. For some, God intervenes in a supernatural way to bring people to belief in Christ. There are many reports of these occurrences happening, particularly amongst Muslim people in the Middle East in the last few years. I would also argue that many who claim to be Christians have simply inherited the faith of their parents and when push comes to shove, their faith is extremely fragile. I had the privilege of attending a friend's baptism just yesterday, who realized this painful truth a few years ago. Her crisis of faith was an intense journey. In her baptismal testimony she explained how apologetics rescued her faith. Her studies and God's faithfulness provided her with confidence that it is reasonable to believe and there is good evidence for Christianity.

What is important to recognize is that if the depth of our Christianity is only as deep as being impressed by another person's testimony or a desire for community, and is not also anchored by good reasons to believe, we are at risk of being like those who fell away described in the parable of the sower and the seeds. Jesus describes a sower accidentally scattering seeds along a path (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23). Some of the seeds were immediately eaten by birds. (The birds might be representative of quick-witted Internet rhetoric against God's word.) Some of the seeds sprang up immediately but because they were on rocky ground and had no root, they withered away. (These seeds are representative of people who are persuaded to believe on a subjective, emotional appeal alone, and lack intellectual reasons for their faith.) Some seeds were sown amongst thorns and thistles and were choked out eventually. (Proverbs speaks to this when it says, "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm" [Proverbs 13:20 ESV].) Lastly, Jesus tells of the seeds that fall on good soil and produced grain. Not only did those seeds grow into plants, but they multiplied. (They fulfilled the great commission, to go out and make disciples.)

Bart Campolo, son of influential evangelical leader Tony Campolo, is an unfortunate example of a seed sown on rocky ground. In an interview for WORLD News Group, he said, "The truth of the matter is that, for me, all the supernatural dogma, the eternal life, the heaven and hell, Jesus rising from the dead—all the fantastic things that you have to believe to be a Christian—that wasn't the attraction for me… I wanted to be part of this wonderful community, and so, for me, the dogma was the price of admission, not the attraction."[1] His faith was only as deep as his emotional and social desires. When he was given reason to think his faith might negatively influence his friendships—as Jesus promised it would—rather than standing firm, his shallow rooted, pragmatic faith was revealed.

When the assertion is made that "apologetics can't save people," it reveals a dismissive attitude, often by those who are actually very passionate about sharing the gospel through evangelism. However, if one wants to argue that apologetics can't save people, it stands to reason that neither can evangelism. Salvation is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9). When sharing the gospel, the disputes over methodology are primarily a matter of Christian unity. We all ought to agree that it is the saving work of the Holy Spirit that brings the lost to repentance and faith. The question of how that saving miracle occurs, is unique to the individual. There are Christian believers who bear witness of the fact that they were convinced primarily by evidence. These include brothers and sisters like C. S. Lewis, Holly Ordway, and J. Warner Wallace. On the other hand, there are many examples of Christians who came to faith by hearing the Word of God preached and simply recognizing the truth being spoken, like Charles Spurgeon and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 6. At the same time, salvation is a spiritual rebirth, a transformation that goes far beyond what we can reduce to a sequence of events.

Our desire ought to be faithfulness to the task we have been called to as followers of Jesus Christ. We are to set apart Christ as Lord, always be prepared to give a rational defense for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15), and go out into all the nations making disciples (Matthew 28:19). Evangelism and apologetics are necessarily interconnected. We are the body—one body. Let us not become divided as we seek to boldly share the good news of our risen Saviour!


[1] Warren Cole Smith, "Bart Campolo on Life After Faith," WORLD, October 17, 2015, accessed October 19, 2015, http://www.worldmag.com/2015/10/bart_campolo_on_life_after_faith.

Two More Things Apologetics Can't Do

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By Jojo Ruba

Last week, I started looking at some limitations of apologetics, which still show why apologetics is important. I continue my thoughts this week with two more things apologetics "can't do," but still shouldn't stop us from using them anyway.

3. Apologetics isn't the Bible.

Now, some believers argue that apologetics isn't the Bible; therefore, we shouldn't do anything other than share the Bible with others. Again, as apologists, we should admit that we must always share the truths we learn in Scripture. It's obvious that the Bible shapes the Christian worldview, and apologetics can't replace Scripture.

However, any missionary will tell you that when you go to a foreign country, you also need to teach the skills to read the Bible along with the Bible, especially if the people you speak to don't have a written language. You have to teach them everything from learning how to read the Bible in their own language to understanding basic cultural practices in the Bible.

In our culture, there is so much biblical illiteracy that we often have to do the same thing in explaining the Bible to others. One Christian told me she can't even share her faith with two co-workers because they think she is "homophobic." If she isn't equipped to explain the biblical view of sexuality in a way her non-Christian friends can understand, then they would never go to her to explain her views about the Bible. That's what good apologetics can do.

Now, I understand there are differences in apologetic approaches and our goal at FBB is not to debate them here. But regardless of our approach, it is important to point out that apologetics isn't the Bible and that we must always share the truth of Scripture. But in doing so, we also have to teach important skills that help others understand Scripture, and apologetics can help them gain those skills.

4. Apologetics can't replace the Holy Spirit.

One other Christian objection to apologetics is that Christians don't need to study apologetics because the Holy Spirit will provide the words when we need them.

Unlike the other objections, this idea actually sounds biblical. In Matthew 10:19 (and the parallel passage in Luke 12:8-12), Jesus says, "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say."[1]

Now, of course, God can have us speak whatever He wants. In fact, there are several examples in Scripture where this happens. In Luke 1, Elizabeth and the preborn John the Baptist are both filled with the Holy Spirit and Elizabeth declares God's blessing on Mary and the preborn Messiah (vv. 42-45). In Acts 7, Stephen is filled with the Holy Spirit as He confronts the people about to kill him (vv. 56-60).

But this passage is used against apologetics because some argue that since the Holy Spirit will just put words in our mouths like magic, we don't need to prepare for any kind of interaction with others. Of course, this would be a good excuse not to read your Bible or even evangelize too. But that would make no sense since Jesus specifically taught the disciples so that they can share their experiences with others.

"The predictions of the prophets . . . were read, they were corroborated by powerful signs, and the truth was seen to be not contradictory to reason, but only different from customary ideas, so that at length the world embraced the faith it had furiously persecuted." —Augustine of HippoThe passage can't be used against apologetics in general, because Jesus is talking about a specific time and place when He said the Holy Spirit will give us words. He never says we shouldn't prepare for conversations with others. He says for us "not to worry" about what to say, "when they hand you over" to authorities to attack your faith. In fact, if you read the entire context, this has verse has nothing to do with preparing for everyday interactions but with special interactions when we are treated unjustly by the authorities. This was the exact situation Peter found himself in Acts 4. Being dragged unjustly in front of the ruling council of priests and elders, the Holy Spirit gave Peter the exact words he needed. Yet even in that situation, Peter never once indicates that it is a waste of time using apologetics! In fact, the Holy Spirit, through Peter, declares that the curing of a disabled man was evidence of Christ's divinity. He was using a miracle that everyone in the city observed as good reason for others to trust in Jesus!

In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles once again were brought before the council. This time, Peter declared, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross…And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him" (vv. 30-32). If God intended for the apostles to rely solely on the Holy Spirit to give the apostles "words" to say, why did the apostles have to be "witnesses"? It's clear even in the exact situation that Jesus talked about in Matthew, that the Holy Spirit doesn't just give us words but also uses His witnesses' experiences and training. He lets us experience events and learn things so that we can be useful to Him. Many examples in the Bible (Moses and Aaron in Exodus, Esther in front of her king, Nehemiah asking to bring His people back to Israel, etc.) have God's people giving reasons to authorities without specific words from the Holy Spirit.

In other words, apologetics can never replace the role of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit uses apologetics and experiences we have to help convince others to obey God. He doesn't just give us "magic" words to say at the moment, but many times speaks through our experiences and arguments.

Conclusion

In high school, I learned that there is nothing wrong with admitting that you have limits and as Christian apologists, we should be willing to admit the same. But apologists shouldn't be embarrassed by these limits. Rather, they should show how these limitations actually show the need for apologetics in many aspects of our Christian life, from relationship building to Bible reading and sharing. It allows us to be effective in living out our faith as God's representatives on earth.

Next week, we'll examine the most common argument based on "what apologetics can't do": "Apologetics can't save people". If you want a hard copy of this series, Faith Beyond Belief will be publishing this series as a booklet that you will be able to order on-line.


[1] Scripture citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

What Apologetics Can't Do

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By Jojo Ruba

When I was in grade 12, I was part of as many student clubs as I could be. I was elected to be on student council, joined the yearbook club, was part of the choir's musical, and even showed up at a few juggling club meetings. I did all of this while I was taking a full course load. Eventually, the long days and lack of sleep took their toll and the quality of my work suffered. I had to cut back, dropping a few classes and clubs.

When Christians argue against using apologetics, it's important to accept that apologetics also has limitations. Those of us defending the use of apologetics shouldn't exaggerate what a reasoned defense of the faith can do. But even by acknowledging what apologetics can't do, it becomes clear why apologetics is such a necessary part of the Christian life. Here are two of the top things apologetics "can't do" that actually show why apologetics is essential.

1. Apologetics can't replace relationships with people.

I was at a huge Christian youth event when I talked to a young woman who was sitting in an information booth for the conference. As I chatted with her, I mentioned the idea of learning good reasons to share our faith. Her response was that she didn't really spend a lot of time doing that. Instead, she said, she just built relationships with people and that's how people became Christians.

"Conversion is exclusively the role of the Spirit. But we can rationally commend our faith to thers in the confidence that some, whose hearts he has opened, will respond to the apologetic we present and place their faith in Christ." —William Lane CraigThis popular argument against apologetics is attractive, especially for those of us who don't like to "argue" or make others feel uncomfortable. And as apologists, we should be willing to agree that apologetics can't replace relationships. But here's a question that those who hold this view should be asked: "What do you talk about in those relationships to get people to become Christians?"

If you were to adopt the model this young woman advocates for, you would still have to learn how to explain the faith to someone you are in a relationship with. When the atheist you have befriended begins to ask why you believe in the Christian God or why you trust the Bible, would you simply say, "I don't know but you should believe in that God because I'm your friend"? How much of a friend would you be with that attitude?

In contrast, no one I've heard teaching apologetics has ever come out against relationship building. In fact, in our training, we encourage Christians to learn how to begin a conversation so as to be in relationship with others around us.

The other point to remember is that the Bible never says we have to be in relationship with someone before we share our faith with that person. In fact, there are several examples where the opposite happened. For instance, Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell everything he has and then follow Him, prompting that man to leave and not have a relationship with Him (Matthew 19). He also tells a mocking thief that he was going to Paradise based on just a few words and no prior relationship (Luke 23). Philip also showed the Ethiopian eunuch who the Messiah was and then promptly disappeared (Acts 8). This doesn't mean we shouldn't build relationships when we can, but it does mean relationship-building and apologetics aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, relationship-building requires apologetics, though apologetics can be used outside of relationship.

2. Apologetics doesn't appeal to a world that embraces relativism.

I was teaching an apologetics class when Ambrose interrupted the class to argue against what I was teaching on truth. He said that "apologetics" doesn't work because our culture doesn't embrace propositional truths.

This argument is popular among those who embrace the emergent church or the teachings of Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard (though it is debated whether they properly interpret him). The argument basically goes like this: Our culture has rejected modernity and all the hard claims about "truth" because we recognize that truth is subjective—it is always seen through the subjective understanding of flawed people. Therefore, the only way to reach a postmodern culture is to tell them stories instead of "facts." People who embrace the Christian faith do so not because it is more rational, but because it meets their subjective "needs."

Ambrose later wrote a public comment on our Facebook page that even goes further. He says not only is the "modern" view of truth unreliable, it actually contradicts the Christian message. He wrote:

Reason itself has to be sanctified to be of any use. 2 + 2 = 4 has a kind of rightness. But its rightness is defined in a closed system that is part of a fallen order. What becomes of "reason" and "arguments" once they are sanctified? My point is, the modern apologetic obsession with reason and arguments is already too great an acquiescence to the present age and, by association, its ruler. We are called to get a new mind, not one that thinks more skillfully by the world's own definition. The entire underlying worldview of fbb, from what I have seen, is unbiblical.

Now to be fair, Ambrose is right that human reason is tainted by sin. He is also right that apologetics simply doesn't appeal to a postmodern mindset—it doesn't "work" in changing everyone's minds. As apologists we should be willing to accept that apologetics can't make someone rational.

However, we already know this because Jesus promised that when we talk to others about Him, they will say all kinds of evil about us (Matthew 5:11). But this fact doesn't make Jesus conclude that, "Lack of appeal means you shouldn't share reasons for your beliefs!" Rather, He makes clear that our success or failure has nothing to do with whether the person accepts the arguments. Rather, we are commanded to bring these reasons to people so that the gospel can be understood (1 Peter 3:15). In fact, that's exactly why Luke said he wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts so that his friend, Theophilus could know the "exact truth" of what he believed (Luke 1: 1-4).

And surprisingly, Ambrose's own arguments show that he can't escape the need for reason. When he argues against reason, he does so using arguments he thinks are reasonable! In fact, postmodern Christians who chastise apologists for defending the Christian faith must use their own rules of logic to come to their conclusions! They make an observation (culture rejects truth) and come up with a conclusion that they think will help rectify the problem (Christians should reject modernism's obsession with truth). Despite its tainted nature, they can't escape the tool of reason to help them come to their conclusion. Which is why when I asked Ambrose how he came to that conclusion (that is, how did he reason his way to that view?), he never responded.

As Dallas Willard says:

Today, by contrast, we commonly depend upon the emotional pull of stories and images to "move" people. We fail to understand that, in the very nature of the human mind, emotion does not reliably generate belief or faith, if it generates it at all. Not even "seeing" does, unless you know what you are seeing. It is understanding, insight, that generates belief. In vain do we try to change peoples' heart or character by "moving" them to do things in ways that bypass their understanding.[1]

In my next article, I'll discuss two more things apologetics can't do, but which nonetheless underscore its importance.


[1] Dallas Willard, "Jesus the Logician," Christian Scholar's Review, 28 no. 4 (Summer 1999): 605-614. http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=39.

Giving Reasons to Believe: Why Studying Apologetics Is an Act of Love

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By Nathan Lau

Peter said always be prepared to give an apologetic, for the hope that is within you, and do that with gentleness and respect [1 Peter 3:15]. Apologetics has a broad sweep of two central concepts, giving an answer and giving an explanation. It clarifies truth claims. It does not make your answers confusing and difficult. You have to come to the level of the questioner, because more than answering a question, you are always answering a questioner. Somebody is behind that question, and if you answer the question without answering the questioner, you may come through as being very knowledgeable, but you've really not been persuasive to the one who is looking for the answer.
—Ravi Zacharias[1]

The power of the gospel is that it is true. Historically true. Objectively true. Ultimately true. The gospel (what Jesus taught and did) is not true because we want it to be, but is true because it lines up with reality. There should be no surprise that great amounts of evidence, solid arguments, good reasons, and excellent explanations are available to anyone who looks, to justify the hope in Jesus within us. Not thinking that this matters or that it can make a dramatic difference to people inside or outside the church represents a failure in recognizing human nature and how we are designed by God.

God made us to care about the truth. Interwoven throughout Scripture is the principle that seeking the truth is virtuous, good, and ultimately leads to faith in Jesus. God did not make us to be an uncritical, superstitious bunch of fools. He does not look favorably on magicians and mystics or those who fall for their schemes.

Now, some people will take John 20:29 as an example from Jesus that we should believe without needing to see, but there is a very different context here: "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."[2] When Thomas doubted, he already had every reason and evidence to trust in Jesus. He should not have needed to feel the wounds of Jesus to trust him, and neither should we. Thomas was scared, depressed, and disappointed, which in part explains why he could not clearly see the truth of what was right in front of him. As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

It is not reason that is taking away my faith: on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions [that causes me to lack faith]. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.[3]

Questions and doubts are natural and expected, and both Jesus and God are more than capable of responding to them. The issue comes after God has proven himself to be trustworthy, but due to changing moods or fanciful imagination we stop trusting God against good reason. Good reasons, answers. and explanations are also part of how we defend ourselves against the warnings of 2 Peter 2:1-3:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Put another way, we use good teaching to combat false teaching. We expose heresies through explanation and giving evidence. We defend the truth with all these things while being guided by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). The hearts and minds that God gave us yearn to grasp and understand the truth in all areas. Who of us, except for sinful and corrupt reasons, would actually prefer a lie over the truth?

"Apologetics has a broad sweep of two central concepts, giving an answer and giving an explanation. . . . If you answer the question without answering the questioner, you may comet hrough as being very knowledgeable, but you've really not been persuasive to the one who is looking for the answer." —Ravi ZachariasThe ability to reason, answer questions, and explain are all gifts from God. Curiosity and the desire for evidence and explanation are not inherently evil. In fact, they can be a virtuous thing. People's desire for evidence and explanation may actually be the Holy Spirit awakening a love for the truth in them. Not every skeptic or doubter is necessarily a hater of the truth.

I hope so far you are in agreement that the truth matters, and that humans were made to care about what the truth is. I want to spend some time talking about whether living out 1 Peter 3:15 really works. When Christians are prepared to give good answers and explanations that the questioner can understand, does it work? Put another way, does apologetics help to lead people to a vibrant, strong faith that bears fruit in Heaven? I say yes. The best evidence for me on a personal level, are the changes that studying apologetics have brought into my own heart, mind, and life. I have never been more passionate or amazed by the love of God and what Jesus did on the cross. Another important evidence is the impact that apologetics has had on God-loving people throughout history: C. S. Lewis, Joy Davidman, G. K. Chesterton, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, Greg Koukl, John Lennox, Josh McDowell, and on and on. These dramatically changed lives for Jesus and their stories bear great witness to the power and importance of God-led apologetics. A comparison could be made to whether prayer or reading the Bible is effective. The best evidence is the changed lives. Why would we accept good evidence in one category, but not in another?

The body of Christ, the church, has many varieties of differing passion. But all of us, out of respect and love for the other parts, ought to be careful not to be dismissive or unappreciative of the parts of the body we are not as naturally passionate about. In addition, all of us should be willing and prepared to be trained up and to serve in the other areas as it best serves God's purposes. I am not a musician, but if I can serve God at a camp by slapping some spoons together to a rhythm, I will do my best! For those who have not yet learned the valuable role of apologetics in their Christian life, I wonder if it is for the same reason that some have found little value in reading the Old Testament. Perhaps in both cases no one has gently and respectfully offered good answers as to why the time should be invested in it. Or perhaps a convincing explanation has not been given. If apologetics at its most basic is giving good answers and explanations about Christian beliefs and values, it can hardly be avoided by any Christian wanting to help bring others to trusting faith in Christ.

What should be the motivation behind everything a Christian does (including studying apologetics)? Love, of course! Love for God first, and love for others next (Matthew 22:37-40). God has used a desire to study apologetics to change me. I love people more than I ever have before, and I want them to know what God did for them on the cross. There are so many lost and broken people in this world looking for answers to the questions weighing them down. There are many educated, intelligent, loving, and kind atheists, silently desperate for a good explanation for the joy and hope they see in Christians. We must not forget the poor, the hungry, the widows and the orphans. But who has God put into your life to influence? If the poor, out of love give resources. If the hungry, out of love give food. If the skeptics, agnostics, atheists, or doubters, out of love give reasonable answers and good explanations that they can understand. In this way, studying apologetics can be a great act of love.

Nathan Lau lives in Calgary, AB with his wife Joyce. He has been a registered nurse for 10 years, and is currently working as a instructor at a college in Calgary. He has been involved in various church ministries since he was a teen, and currently serves as a Bible study leader. Seven years ago, he stumbled upon C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias. God used those two books to spark a fire that would lead him for the first time in his life, to truly believing with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27), that belief and trust in God and Jesus is the most reasonable position a human being can take.


[1] Ravi Zacharias, "A Fish Out of Water, Part 1 of 2," podcast, Let My People Thnk, August 29, 2015, accessed September 16, 2015, http://rzim.org/let-my-people-think-broadcasts/a-fish-out-of-water-part-1-of-2.

[2] Scripture citations are taken from the New International Version (NIV).

[3] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 139.

Pietism and the Bible

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By Justin Wishart

The Evangelical church is very diverse in its expression of Christianity. Going from one church to the next, you can experience churches that have a very different "feel" to them. Some years ago I attended a church that had been greatly influenced by Pietism. I was fairly new to studying theology and apologetics, but as I got more proficient, and vocal, about what I was learning, I encountered strong resistance. While my approach wasn't always appropriate and sometimes negative, I was confused by this resistance. Even given some faux pas on my part, surely a pastor could look past this and at least contemplate what I was saying. I eventually came to understand that it wasn't necessarily my approach to the pastoral team that was the problem, but that my approach to Christianity was opposed to theirs. I focused on the "head" while they focused on the "heart," or so I was told. They were a Pietist church, a church which focused on devotion and emotion.

While this church was not directly against theology or apologetics, it was more relegated to the back. Some slogans are common to this movement, such as: "God cares most about your heart," "People don't care about what you know until they know you care," or "Christianity is about relationship, not doctrine." This primary focus on devotion and emotion is a pretty popular movement within the Evangelical church and is the backbone of many charismatic and emergent movements. Pietism is often called non-doctrinal Christianity. It doesn't necessarily deny and attack theology or apologetics, but it does undermine them.

"Christianity...must present itself as the light that makes the facts of human experience, and above all the nature of man himself, to appear for what they really are. Christianity is the source from which both life and light derive for men." —Cornelius Van TilThis idea isn't a new one. Variations of Pietism can be found throughout church history in all areas of the world. However, we shall focus on the distinctive western Evangelical expression. I will outline a few contributing factors which contributed to the rise of Pietism. Many in the church became discouraged and fatigued from attacks outside the church, and tired by the theological fighting within the church. The option chosen was to de-emphasize the intellect, and focus on things which were believed to unite us,like love and joy. Another was the acceptance of a modern anthropology (theology of man). Pietists generally make hard distinctions between intellect, volition, and emotion. They then de-emphasize (or outright disparage) intellect, and emphasize emotion. The "head" is cold and dead, while the "heart" is warm and alive. This all created an Evangelical vision of John Lennon's song "Imagine": where we get rid of the things that divide us, which are typically intellectual things, and we will all be one.

It is easy to see how this position undermines theology and apologetics, since they are generally intellectual things. Why wrangle with theology, or defend Christianity to the world around us? Can't we all just get along? As Evangelicals, we look to Scripture to guide us; so to Scripture we will go. I am not going to defend theology or apologetics directly, but biblically defend the intellect in the Christian life. Does the Bible make such hard distinctions between the intellect and emotions? Should we care about doctrine? Some might find such a Bible study tedious, but every Evangelical should do so at least once. If God has spoken to us, we should discover what He has to say.

Heart vs Head

The first issue which needs to be addressed is this idea that the heart and the head are opposed things. Modernity has designated the head as the domain of propositions and logic and the heart as the domain of emotions and love. Yet, is this what the Bible says? Let's review some key verses. "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5).[1] Here we see clearly that "thoughts" are directly tied with "heart." If Moses (and the Holy Spirit) believed that thoughts only incurred in the head, this verse would make little sense. "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander" (Matthew 15:18-19). Jesus says that it is out of the heart that evil thoughts come, not out of one's head. "But the righteousness based on faith says, 'Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?"' (that is, to bring Christ down)" (Romans 10:6). Here we see a specific proposition being said in one's heart. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Again, we see the Bible saying that one's thoughts are in the heart.

While this is only a meagre biblical study,[2] it should be clear that the modern dichotomy between head and heart is not found within Scripture. The Bible has a much more deep and complex understanding of the word. It is an understanding that contradicts the head/heart dichotomy, so the dichotomy must be rejected as unbiblical.

The Mind and Christianity

While the head/heart dichotomy might be unbiblical, couldn't the emotional experiences of God still be more important in the Christian life? While I do not have space to argue for the supremacy of the intellect, I will at least argue that the intellect is important.

In the gospel of John, the word logos is regularly employed. Logos is often simply translated as "word," but the meaning is much more focused. It refers to the intellectual, propositional nature of language and understanding. We get our word "logic" from this word. So, when John says, "In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word [logos] was with God, and the Word [logos] was God" (John 1:1), how could one not see the importance of the intellect in the Christian life? If Jesus is the logos, then one's intellect is automatically very important. Paul says that, "Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). If Christ is the "wisdom of God," then wisdom, which is an intellectual process, becomes very important. Jesus said, "and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). Knowing the truth is, again, an intellectual activity and Jesus says this is what sets one free. Likewise, Jesus again says, "[t]he words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63). Spoken words, and words one hears, all go through an intellectual process. Therefore, the intellect is important as they are directly involved with what is "spirit and life." 1 Corinthians 2 is a very strong chapter on the intellect in the Christian life, and the chapter ends with, "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16). Surely having the "mind of Christ" is something very much intellectual.

Again, this was merely a small sampling of what the Bible says about the intellect. However, it should be enough to show that it is not scriptural to disparage the intellect. The Bible itself is written in an intellectual form. Why would God communicate with us in a manner which requires us to use our minds if our minds are of little worth? Why would He insert many verses showing the importance of the intellect if we are to deny, or minimize, our intellect? It seems that our intellectual life is a very important component in our Christian life.

While very little more can be said on this subject due to space, it should be clear that the Pietists who disparage the intellect do so against the counsel of God. It is one thing to fight against a dry and dusty expression of Christianity. Yet, to do so at the expense of the intellect that God endowed humanity with is to go against the Bible. Once it is understood that the intellect is important for Christians, this will provide an appropriate Christian environment where disciplines such as theology and apologetics can flourish. Yet, Pietism represents a warning that the church should be aware of. Paul instructs Timothy to "[k]eep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching" (1 Timothy 4:16). Intellectual pursuits should be done with the utmost reverence to God's revelation, which reveres God. The church can fall into an intellectual idolatry where the teachings reflect the person(s) doing the teaching, and not God.


[1] Scripture passages are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] According to Bible Hub, the word translated as "heart" occurs 1223 times in the Bible.

I'm Sorry! But the Church Needs Apologetics

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By Scott McClare and Jojo Ruba

An elderly Christian woman once told me that she didn't need to learn apologetics. She said she knew enough to be convinced that Christianity was correct, and didn't need any more information. In response, I asked her a question (something we at Faith Beyond Belief train a lot on). I asked her, "I'm glad you know enough to be convinced of Christianity. But do you have non-Christian friends who might need to know a little more in order to be convinced to become Christians? Couldn't you learn more for their sake?"

She said I made a good point.

Unfortunately, her initial resistance to apologetics is something too many Christians adopt when we share what we do at Faith Beyond Belief. Christians raise all kinds of objections to why they shouldn't have to learn about how to defend their faith in an increasingly hostile culture.

francis-schaefferThat's why we created this series. We want to examine some of the top arguments from Christians who think apologetics is unnecessary or, worse, damaging to the cause of Christ. Many of these arguments are ones we've heard from friends or family or Christian critics. Many of these arguments are also left unspoken—they are lingering doubts we hear between the lines when we introduce FBB to Bible college professors or pastors or Christian students at Christian schools.

Interestingly enough, simply defining apologetics helps dispel many of the critics' arguments. It's important to start here because there is so much confusion and ungrounded prejudice against apologetics because of how it is defined. And of course, if we want a biblically-minded Christian to listen to the case for apologetics, we should look for a definition in Scripture.

The word apologetics comes from a Greek word, apologia, which means "to give a verbal defense." This is the word Peter uses when he writes, "in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added).[1] Christian apologetics, then, is the defense of the Christian faith. Generally, apologetics focuses on answering objections from non-Christians. Hence we can contrast apologetics with polemics, which is the refutation of false ideas within the Christian faith.

When the apostle Paul writes about fighting spiritual battles, one of the two "weapons of our warfare" he tells Christians to use is effective apologetics: "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The other weapon is practical holiness, and as Peter writes, that in itself can also be an apologetic: "even if some [husbands] do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct" (1 Peter 3:1).

One of my pastors used to be fond of saying that everyone is a theologian; it was just a matter of how good a theologian you were. Similarly, everyone is an apologist. Muslims and Mormons begin their training as youth; Jehovah's Witnesses practice how to have conversations with people at the door. And every atheist I've met seeks to get Christians to adopt their worldview. We all have a belief system we believe is true. As Christians in particular, we want to persuade others that our beliefs are true, as well. Hence, the goal of Christian apologetics is to persuasively answer honest objections that keep people from faith in Jesus.

Why do apologetics? Again, scripture has the answer. We do apologetics because God commands it (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3-4). We live in a society whose institutions, such as schools, media, popular culture, and government, are increasingly hostile to faith. That's nothing new, of course. The first generation of the church fathers, such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian, were largely apologists who saw a need to appeal to the authorities who were persecuting the church, and tell them not to believe the false rumours that circulated about what Christians believed and how they behaved.

We do apologetics because we want to persuade non-Christians to repent and believe in Jesus. Skeptics have many barriers to faith: the reliability of the Bible, the historicity of the Resurrection, the reality of miracles, and others. Reasoned apologetics can remove those barriers.

We do apologetics because we want to help other Christians strengthen their faith. Unfortunately, many Christians are not well-informed about Christianity and cannot clearly define even its core tenets: for example, the Trinity, the relationship of Christ's two natures, the meaning of the Atonement, or the difference between justification and sanctification. This is increasingly worsening as the Internet steadily provides false information that causes further confusion. It's no wonder Christian teachers and youth pastors agree that the average age for a young person to face a crisis of faith is now 13. They don't have to go to university to hear all kinds of false ideas about Christianity—they can just hear them on YouTube.

Apologetics helps define the truth of the Gospel. Other Christians may also hear the answers given to the objections of skeptics, and be encouraged and emboldened themselves. We then become role-models for how we can engage and teach the truth of the gospel of believers who may have no one else to help them.

We do apologetics to protect the church from harmful influences. There are many cults and new religious movements that call themselves "Christian," but they promote false doctrines. These need to be answered and refuted so that they do not lead the church astray. John warned his readers not to even invite false teachers into their homes, because it gave the appearance of approving their message and giving them a base from which to spread it (2 John 10-11). In addition to false religious influences, the church also needs to be protected from secular influences, such as immorality and worldly thinking. We need to clearly articulate God's will that God's people be holy, in both their bodies and their minds. As apologist Matt Slick has written:

The fact is that Christianity is under attack in the world, and we need to fight the good fight of the faith without shrinking back. We need apologetics to give rational, intelligent, and relevant explanations of Christian viability to the critics and the prejudiced who would seek to undermine the teachings of our Lord Jesus.[2]

With all the clear biblical commands, why, then, does it seem like many Christians and churches are indifferent, or even hostile, to apologetics? In this series, we'll examine some of these arguments and excuses to reject making the case for Christ. We've asked our FBB writers to take the most vocal Christian critics of apologetics head-on and provide some solid responses to their concerns.

Ironically, many people not familiar with the term apologetics thinks it refers to apologizing or having to say we are sorry for doing something. Through this series, we want Christians to realize that when they engage in Christian apologetics and defend the faith with "gentleness and respect," they have nothing to apologize for.


[1] Scripture citations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] Matt Slick, "Eight Reasons Why We Need Apologetics," CARM, accessed September 1, 2015, https://carm.org/eight-reasons-why-we-need-apologetics.