Introduction to Apologetics

What's Your Filter

Date: October 26, 2014
Study: What’s Your Filter? Christian Apologetics and Worldview
Teacher: Lawson Hembree

Study Thesis: A Christian worldview enables us to look at all of live through scriptural lenses, which in turn equips us to defend the faith, evangelize wisely, critique unbiblical thought that pervades our culture, and bring God glory in all of life.

Up to this point, we’ve looked at what makes up a worldview by looking at how the Christian, Modern-both Enlightenment and Romantic, and Postmodern viewpoints answer five major life questions. Then we glanced over how a few major world religions flesh those worldviews out. For the second half of this semester, we’re going to turn our focus to apologetics.

The discipline of apologetics is integral to evangelism and necessary for all Christians. If a Christian worldview is the “what” and evangelism is the “how”, then apologetics is the “why” of the Christian faith.

So what is apologetics? It does not refer to offering an apology or excuse.  Rather, apologetics means argumentation to give an explanation, an account, even a defense of a subject’s position or system.

In fact, the term apologetics is derived from the Classical Greek word apologia. To deliver an apologia then meant giving an explanation to reply and rebut charges, as in the famous case of Socrates’ defense.

This may sound formal or intimidating, but it is should not be. We use apologetics every day in our offices, classrooms, and living rooms. Every time we offer a defense of a decision in a paper or email, cite examples to contradict an assertion, or defend our position on a subject, we are engaging in apologetics.

So what distinguishes Christian apologetics? For our purposes, we will define Christian apologetics as: the discipline of offering a defense of and case for, or offer evidence for, the veracity and reliability of the Christian faith.

What makes apologetics different than evangelism? Primarily they differ in emphasis – though the two are certainly intertwined. Evangelism explains the truth of the Gospel – who Jesus is, what sin is, and how to be saved from eternal death.  Apologetics defends the truthfulness and reliability of those claims, and provides a critique against false claims. Christian apologetics is defensive – defending the truthfulness and reliability of Scripture – and it is offensive – attacking the false teaching and unbiblical worldviews. ‘Attacking’, of course, does not mean physical violence–Christians’ opponents are not other people but rather unbelief, so ‘attacking’ is proactive, critical engagement to deconstruct the lies that Satan would dress up as truth, and to call them for what they are: error and unbelief. A Christian apologist is one who defends the Gospel, while also critiquing unbelief.

Many Christians have heard of apologetics, but some Christians make the mistake of thinking apologetics is only for philosophically-minded believers or intellectual Christians. However, the discipline of Christian apologetics is for all Christians. All Christians should be able to articulate the Gospel, offer a defense of its reliability and veracity, and critically engage with unbelieving people around them. Here are three reasons that Christian apologetics is for all Christians:

  1. Christians Should Be Able To Explain Why They Have Faith in Jesus
    1 Peter 3:15 gives us the defining statement: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
    This “hope” that Peter talks about is the hope of eternal life with God, the hope of the Resurrection. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 that “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…[and] If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
    Why do Christians believe an ancient itinerant Jewish rabbi from Nazareth was executed and got up from the grave? The answer may be part of evangelism, but it is squarely part of a Christian apologetic.
  1. Christians Should Be Able to Critique Unbiblical Worldviews
    In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 Paul writes, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
    Note that Paul does not add qualifications. He does not say only the intellectual demolish arguments, or only the Ivy-League trained challenge arguments which set themselves up against the knowledge of God. No, Paul’s instruction here is to the Corinthian church, and his clear expectation is that all Christians in the church should be able to critically engage with unbiblical truths.
    In practical application, Christians are called to, be prepared to “wage war,” by challenging and critiquing unbiblical teachings that contradict the truth about Jesus’ person and work. This does not mean that you must have a Ph.D. or that you have to go to seminary. It does mean that if you are a Christian, you need to advance the truth of the Gospel by clearing the underbrush of lies and faulty assumptions which clutter the view of the Gospel.
  1. Christians Should Use Their Minds and Intellect To the Glory of God
    Note also in 2 Corinthians 10 that Paul says Christians are to take every thought captive to Christ. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Part of a Christian’s normal discipleship in following Jesus should be to “love God with their mind,” that is, using their intellect and mind in their evangelism, discipleship, and apologetics.
    Historically, or at least in recent decades, evangelicals have failed in leveraging the full firepower of their minds for the sake of the Gospel.  There are lots of reasons for this, but the point for us is that being a disciple of Jesus does not mean checking your brain in at the door.
    As Christians, we have nothing to fear in pursuing the truth.  In fact, one of the monikers of the Reformation – the rediscovery of the reliability and message of Scripture– was the cry that “all truth is God’s truth.”  How can this be?  Truth is more than a collection of ideas. Truth is a person, and his name is Jesus.  Revelation 19 says Jesus is Faithful and True.  Jesus says in John 14, “I am the way, the Truth, the life.”
    Following Jesus does not mean turning your brain off. It means giving all of who you are – your heart, your mind, your soul – to him. Part of our stewardship as his disciples is to use our God-given abilities – our intellect, as fallen as it is – for his glory.  We do not trust these faculties, but rather submit them to God and use them for the purpose of bringing him glory.

How do we bring God glory with apologetics? Ultimately, the purpose of studying apologetics and worldviews is not win debates or sound intellectual, but to win hearts by defending the truth of the Gospel and challenging false ideas. The purpose of studying worldviews and apologetics is so we can better engage with our friends, neighbors, colleagues, classmates, and family to winsomely convey the truth and reliability of the Gospel, and defend against false teachers, incorrect assumptions, and unbelief.  We want to help non-Christians question the veracity and reliability some of their beliefs and help non-Christians recognize the rationality of Christian beliefs.

Here are three reasons some Christians hide behind in order to not practice apologetics:

  1. First, some Christians argue apologetics denies the role of faith because apologetics offers a way to “reason oneself” into the kingdom of heaven. This could not be further from the truth. Christian apologetics is about explaining the veracity of God’s truth revealed in Christ – but it is Jesus who saves, not our reason. Mere knowledge and logic, apart from the active work of the Holy Spirit, is insufficient to save a person. Satan has mere knowledge of God – but of course that is insufficient for his own salvation (James 2:19). Saving faith in the person and work of Jesus involves not simply accepting that what the Bible says is true, nor only trusting that God exists, but actually trusting in God himself and having a relationship with him.
  2. Second, some Christians fear what others will think of them. All Christians struggle with the “fear of man” to some extent. Fear of another’s opinion often dissuades Christians from evangelism and apologetics. However, Christians are called to fear God first, not man.
  3. Third, some Christians do not practice apologetics because they are intellectually lazy.  However, even though our minds are fallen, we are called to love God with our mind, to take every thought captive, and use each of our faculties for his glory.  In the age of Google and Wikipedia, and dozens of internet sites and books with helpful, accessible material, there is no excuse for any Christian to be intellectually lazy and not pursue the discipline of Christian apologetics.

Christian apologetics is not only a discipline for Christians to practice, but it is also for the clear practical and spiritual benefit of non-Christians. Here are two ways apologetics benefit non-Christians:

  1. Christian Apologetics Answers Non-Christians’ Questions and Removes Distractions From Belief
    Sometimes non-Christians ask questions to distract from the uncomfortable truth of the Gospel that says they are sinful and morally bankrupt. Often, they will ask questions to change the subject, so as to try to dodge the Gospel’s ramifications for their lives.
    Other times non-Christians clearly have legitimate questions related to faith in Jesus that apologetics helps to answer. It can be unsettling when important questions linger unanswered. Christian apologetics involves answering questions and clearing the brush of false beliefs that obscures the solid ground of belief in Jesus. A natural part of educating and instructing non-Christians in a biblical worldview is being prepared to answer their questions.
    Christians should not be surprised or threatened by this. We, after all, are preaching the Gospel – a fantastic message that we believe should fundamentally reorder all of our lives. Questions should be expected and welcome.
  2. Christian Apologetics, Coupled With Evangelism, Points Non-Christians To Faith In Jesus
    The point of Christian apologetics is not finally to win an argument, but to articulate and defend the reliability of placing one’s faith in the person and work of Jesus. Apologetics is the discipline that defends a biblical worldview, deconstructs unbelief and provides a launching pad for enthusiastic evangelism.
    In Acts 17, Paul stood in the Areopagus, a public square in Athens, and engaged in apologetics – he offered an explanation of, a defense for, Christian faith. Paul used reason and cultural examples of an altar in Athens and a Greek poem.  Paul explained biblical truths about God and his character and our need for his mercy. The point of what he was doing was to communicate so that pagans who believed in many gods would have ears to hear the good news about the One True God who became Man for us in Jesus.
    Paul was serious about apologetics because he understood the stakes. Spiritually, apologetics is warfare, not a board game. The point of apologetics is to preserve another’s life by helping them understand the truth, not to put points on a spiritual scoreboard. The discipline of apologetics is spiritual work for the good of non-Christians and the glory of God in a real and ongoing spiritual war.

Historically, Christian apologetics has fallen into one of two camps. The first is popularly known as the evidentialist school – where the focus is on using objective evidence in apologetics.  The second is the presuppositional school – where the focus is on non-Christians’ presuppositions apart from the Holy Spirit.

  1. Evidentialist
    The main focus of evidentialist apologetics is the idea that we can and should use objective evidences, or proofs, that God has given us in the created order, as part of our proofs and persuasion in apologetics. For example, creation testifies to a Creator, and we should use that belief as part of our proof for God’s existence.
  1. Presuppositional
    Presuppositionalists would stress that evidences will not convince unbelievers to follow God, because people are governed by their presuppositions which – apart from the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work – are naturally oriented against God.  Therefore, they would argue, we cannot prove God or defend the Gospel using our own proofs, or evidences.

In the rest of this class, we’ll blend both of these approaches. We’ll argue that we should use evidences and proofs as we make the case for Christian faith and that— no matter how good our proofs and persuasions are — no one can believe in God apart from His saving work.  The two approaches are complementary, not contradictory.

Apologetics and Worldview, Lesson 7. Capitol Hill Core Seminars
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl


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