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Apologetics – Introduction

January 19, 2012

When I think of what it means to be a knight in the service of Christ I am confronted in Scripture with key passages that use warfare to illustrate the Christian life. Ephesians 6:10-20 is probably the most explicit with the key point in verse 12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12 ESV) I invite you to read the full passage and I think you will be easily confronted with this simple fact: Christians are at war. Not a physical war but a spiritual war. Not a war on battlefields with terrain and topography but a war against the very power of this world which is Satan. A daunting task to be sure (If you don’t think so then you are not paying attention.)

One of the principle battlefields is in the area of reason and debate. It is through the study of apologetics that we can learn how to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV.) This is a key tool in our arsenal as Christians when we talk about our faith and when we are confronted with the logic of the world. Sadly, this is also an area that is largely neglected. We have Christian knights running around with blunt weapons and dented shields when we throw them into the war. Such ought not to be the case.

In response to this our church created an introductory study in apologetics as part of our Wednesday night classes (you can find more information on this at www.wallen.org under STEPS classes.) My friend and associate pastor, Jim Glover created this study a couple years ago and has been teaching it on a regular basis. Last year he asked if I would be interested in taking over the teaching of the class. I was glad to accept and spent the summer of 2011 revising the study guide and preparing to start teaching in the Fall of 2011. The first class, though small, went very well and I have enjoyed teaching on this important subject. We are ready to begin the next semester of the classes and I will be teaching this material again. This time I thought it might be a good idea to present a weekly blog article outlining the main points of the class. This way people who do not have access to this information can get it and those in the class can catch up a little on what they may have missed. We start with a basic introduction:

What is Apologetics?

The first question we usually get asked is, “What is apologetics?” Simply put, apologetics means to give a defense. This is derived from a Greek word we see in 1 Peter 3:15 and Acts 22:1 which is normally translated as giving a defense. It is important to note that the scene here is not of a battlefield but a courtroom. When people ask us why we believe we are called to be ready to provide a defense.

Why Study Apologetics?

The next logical question is why we do this. Why is it important for Christians to be able to defend their faith? Isn’t it enough to simply share the Gospel? Do we really have to engage in apologetics? To this I give two reasons:

First, to better share your faith. It is important to present the basic Gospel and call the world to repent but along with that we are called by Scripture to be ready to present a defense. It is possible to engage in evangelism without engaging in apologetics. It is also possible to engage in apologetics without sharing the Gospel. But why would you want to? Apologetics and the Gospel are intended to go hand-in-hand. When they do not all you have is argumentation. Regardless, this is one of the means by which God calls His people.

Second, to fend off doubt. Not every question or objection to Christianity is intended as an attack. Most, in fact, are simple questions that deserve an answer. These same questions need to be addressed first in the mind of the Christian. Many Christians have some of the same questions as the skeptics. There is nothing wrong with asking questions. Understanding basic Christian apologetics gives you a basis for answering these for yourself.

Questions and Objections

Throughout the study we ask and answer many questions and objections to the Christian faith. Many of these are presuppositions already in the mind of those who are asking. Some of these are:

  • It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.
  • The Bible is full of errors and contradictions.
  • Why are there so many different versions of the Bible?
  • Aren’t there missing books of the Bible?
  • People who never even knew Jesus wrote the gospels.
  • Evolution has proved that God does not exist.
  • The Bible is full of myths and legends.

We must understand how to deal with these presuppositions. First we must recognize that everyone has some kind of presuppositions (even Christians.) How a person responds to the evidence presented depends largely on their presuppositions. For example, an atheist will refuse to believe any account that contains supernatural events because they have a presupposition that tells them that the supernatural is impossible. A Muslim will not believe the Trinity because their authority (the Koran) contradicts this possibility. These must be brought to light or the conversation will go nowhere.

We also need to understand that we cannot argue someone into faith. We can present the evidence and bear witness to the truth but the strength of our argument will not be what convicts them of sin and drives them to the cross. The Holy Spirit must act on the person to bring repentance and faith. We are called to present the evidence of Christianity and show the light of the Gospel to this dark world.

Apologetics for the Glory of God

Finally, we come to the principle reason why you should learn apologetics. God is glorified whenever His people obey His command to share the Gospel. If the glory of God is not your goal in apologetics then you will fail regardless of the outcome. We do not engage the objections of the world to win an argument or to show off our knowledge. We do it because there is a crucial message that people need to hear and that message is obscured by the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. You may be the instrument God uses to shine the light of the Gospel in the skeptic’s life. Or you may be able to teach your children to remain strong for the faith when they encounter the world’s opposition. There is no telling How God will use this in your life.

Introduction

We approach the subject of apologetics on two fronts:

  • Does it make sense to believe in God?
  • Does it make sense to believe the Bible?

The focus of our study is in these two areas and most of the time will be spent on the latter. Why is this? Simply said, we start here because this is where the objections begin. Many of the world’s skeptics and some of the biggest enemies to the faith have determined that if you can destroy these two principles then you can destroy Christianity. And they’re right! What we need to learn is what the facts really say and how we can respond to these objections. We do not spend time in studies of what other faiths teach. There is simply not enough time in a study like this to learn how to properly challenge all other faiths. What we do is provide a solid defense for our faith and learn how to challenge the assumptions of the skeptics.

I will plan on making a summary available each week for the subject we are discussing in the study. I will post it on Thursday of each week (so the members in the class can’t cheat. J) It is my hope that this way others will be encouraged.

God bless.

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