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Apologetics and the dying of Reason

What is the reason many people are unable to present a “rational discourse” and a “reasonable defense” from the Bible? They either don't know how to back up their claims of what they believe, or when trying to prove that what they “think” is true they are not equipped to present it accurately or understandably to those who are skeptical.

I see a good portion of the church neglecting to love and serve God with our mind as much as our heart, we now find apologetics dying a slow and torturous death within the walls of the church because people are leaning on experience. There is a great deal of difference between objective reasoning and subjective know how.

It’s been said over and over; history repeats itself, if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat its mistakes. The apostle Paul said these things in the Bible are written for our example. Spiritually speaking, as Israel went--so goes the church, unless we are aware where they went wrong.

1 Pet. 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, “In other words we are to be ready to answer and defend what we believe to those who are inquisitive and to those challenge us. The only way to be ready is to be prepared, we are to know the issues and the arguments, but most importantly know the answer.

Most Christians have a great deal of preparation before this verse becomes a practical reality. This comes by studying and maturity, I always advise people, you get out of it what you put in it. No time spent makes a saint weak in the faith and non-engaging on the harvest field. When a Christian does not try to grow or do anything with their faith it becomes stale and they lose faith, and their joy turns to sadness. The joy of your salvation is your strength, one cannot help but tell it to others when they are overflowing with happiness and seeing the Lord active in their lives. Our faith is to be shared not hidden.

Gresham Machen wrote  “The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is...”(Gresham Machen Christianity & Liberalism p. 176-177)

The first recorded thing we see Jesus doing as a child before His ministry began is apologetics in the Temple (Luke 2:41-50). You remember the story when he was left behind by his parents and they returned to Jerusalem “Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers (Luke 2:46-47). V.48-50 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.”

He listened and he asked them questions, they asked him and he answered them. Jesus was always upholding the truth. Here Jesus is contending with the learned rabbis of the day and asking them to answer questions, he was challenging them on the Scriptures. Jesus was contending for the faith at age 12.

When He began his ministry Mark 6:2-3 records He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!” Though Jesus was God he learned like any other in His humanity, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him”(Luke 2:40).

Apologetics comes from a Greek word [apologia] which means, “fit for defense,” to “give an answer,” or a “reasonable defense” for what one believes. It does not mean to apologize as some have mistakenly thought. In the time of the Greeks, when someone was summoned to court to face a charge, he would present an “apology” or a defense on his behalf to defend himself.

Lessons for a Dying Church

Today we are supposed to be equipped and able to answer people and lead them to a correct understanding of what is written. But to do this we must know the Scripture well. The truth of our beliefs is to be explained adequately, and this often takes place by comparing the beliefs of others. It should not be reduced to only an intellectual dialogue, that whoever has the best argument wins. You can win an argument and lose the person you have been presenting the argument to.  

It means to provide reasonable answers from the Bible to honest questions and to do it with humility, respect, and reverence for God. 2 Tim. 2:24-26: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” Sometimes in the heat of the battle it does not stay peaceful. sometimes people mock, they ignore what toyu said and are not even listeneing. this is where one needs to have wisdom whether they are wasting their time or actualluy planting a seed of truth.

“Proving” Christianity needs tact in persuading people of the truth by the biblical message. Our goal is to bring unbelievers to recognize the truth of Jesus Christ and to persuade them to put their faith in Him. With the available knowledge we have today there is absolutely no excuse not be able to answer peoples the basic questions they bring up. Apologetics is basically concerned with the question of the truth on the person of Jesus Christ, His claims of who He is and what He did. Within the concept of Apologetics, there is the study of the historic Christian faith from a factual perspective. If Jesus really rose from the dead as He said he would, then His claims to be God's Son and everything He says is true. 

Apologetics also means we pursue to study to answer the whole range of questions from the basic to the hard that keep people from trusting in Christ. Basic questions like, how can I know there is a God?  Why does God not judge evil? Is heaven or a hell real?  Did  Jesus claim to be God? If God is a God of love why does He not accept everyone? Why does he allow evil and suffering in the world?  Or questions often heard like, “Why do you think that Christianity has the truth?” The challenge is for you, it is not left to the pastor to prove that Christianity is actually true and all the other religions are false? The religions of the world can often tell you what is wrong with man and they can see some sort of the solution, but what they cannot deliver is the remedy: because the remedy is Christ’s death on the cross.

Scripture commands us to know what we believe and proclaim it. I’m sorry to say that I don't see very many Christians obeying this command today.

Apologetics helps us answer someone’s misunderstanding of what Christianity is really about. But many people have serious questions about Christian beliefs which just don't make sense to them. Once they receive good explanations, they become more open to the Lord. they move one step closer to receiving the gospel.  

Apologetics means knowing what you believe and why you believe it.If you know this you will be willing to explain it and openly say it. Titus 1:9: “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” The study of apologetics in Christian history has always been the backbone of the church in defending the Christian faith to an unbelieving religious and secular world. It was always an integral part of theological education. The pursuit to understand the state of man has always impacted the culture. In our modern times when it is most needed, with the rise of science, evolution, modernism and new ageism, apologetics has fallen on hard times.

As Paul describes the Church as a body each part is to be functioning for it to be healthy. If we want the Church to stand up tall we need backbone in defending the Christian faith. What was once defended to outside the Church has now made inroads inside the Church. Now the Church needs to defend the faith both inside and outside. Today we are confronted with competing spiritual claims not only from the world, but inside the Church as well. It’s a fact we cannot ignore, hoping it will go away.

Apologetics and polemics

The early church was both apologetic and polemic. They contended for the faith to those outside and had to do the same inside. Jude writes of those who snuck into the assembly and tells the church to “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). This means with vigor and strength.

A divisive teaching or practice from inside the Church can be more destructive to our genuine faith than one from the outside. The epistle of Jude warns of this, and tells us to contend with certain men who have secretly come into the Church and influence the people into not what was delivered by the apostles. Jude’s letter is apologetic, but more accurately polemic, in other words it was written to defend the faith from inside the Church to those who claimed to be Christian, instead of defending it to those of other religious beliefs outside the Church. From the beginning the church had always answered other religions challenges with an intellectual convincing of proofs, answers came from the Scripture not by a show of miracles. The sooner we learn this the faster we will recover from the anti-intellectualism that is in the Church. From the churches beginnings long debates ensued on doctrinal matters. It was a healthy activity because it challenged the people to know what they believed, not just repeat what they heard.

Apologetics is probably the most misunderstood area of ministry in the Church today. It is meant to be a preservative but often blamed as being divisive. Within the area of apologetics comes the practice of discernment. Which means to sift the wheat from the chaff, the truth from false. But some misunderstand this biblical practice of shining the light of truth on falsehood.  The problem is that many people respect famous names over what they actually teach. So they ignore what goes beyond the Bible to rank heresy because of their loyalty to the person and not the Word of God. Lying the straight stick down next to ones crooked stick is not an option. Because of self-focus, self -centeredness in the church, we are losing our passion to share our faith with others around us. We should love people enough to warn of false ways and gospels so they will not be led astray into an eternal hell. True compassion elicits this from us, if we truly have love we will tell the truth on a matter. 

One must discern truth from the error first to be able to address it. Then with an attitude of love and by the Word of God we present it. Those who do not like the light of truth to shine on their error will make sure something that is not the issue become the issue. They will often bring up something of little consequence that does not have anything to do with the matter discussed. They will say you are attacking and ignore the very reason you have brought the subject up. This is often done by the enemy making their soul restless so they cannot hear the truth from the word. 

There are areas of disagreement within Christian teaching. There are certain subjects people see differently and always will because there is not enough Biblical revelation on the subject [it is not the point of this article to pursue what these areas are]. In the few areas where the Word of God is unclear on we cannot say something is a false or heresy. But we should not, we cannot keep silent when a teaching affects the core doctrines, or when it changes the gospel message.

James says to not to do something you know is right, is sin. If you know someone is hearing and practicing the wrong teaching of Jesus, whether they are in a cult or inside the church and you allow them to continue without speaking, it is sin. It is your obligation to help them, If you love them you will speak up. As we pursue learning the Scripture our knowledge of the Lord grows He brings us into a place where love and compassion moves us to be willing to speak up, we don't care if we are looked upon as foolish or are called names; we do it because it is right. Paul writes in Philippians 1:9-10: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”

You can’t do apologetics correctly without judging and that is where discernment comes in. Discernment is seen as an enemy to some people, when it really is fulfilling the great commission, “teaching them all the things I have commanded you,” which would include defending the faith.

Jesus warned us about the end of time saying, “Take heed that no man deceive you.”  We live in the Age of deception, society is believes in myths. Evolution is the philosophy of our age, it is taught to every child that attends public school. There seems to be more falsehood out there to choose from then truth. Its up to us to bring them the truth, “that is you mission if you decide to accept it.” How can you not with God's love in your heart.

Let's step back and take a look at what is taking place in our age. The majority of the whole world is practicing another religion. There are 1.2 billion Muslims, Almost a billion Hindus, 360 million Buddhists, almost 1 billion Catholics not to mention all the other smaller religions. When you add it all up this is nearly 4 billion of the 6 billion people on earth involved in another religion besides historic Biblical Christianity. Then there are supposed to be over a billion Christians (which may not be so accurate), the fact is that we are not speaking to atheists every day, but people who are religious, not non religious; those who believe in a God but have another religious worldview. Certainly they are entitiled to it, but the point I'm stressing is that we should engage in explaining the savior of the world to them.

There are 11.3 million Mormons, 14 million Jehovah’s Witnesses, and various other aberrant groups and cults are growing. Something is seriously wrong with our presenting the truth to them if they are still growing. You will quickly find out what you really know when your confronted by someone in a cult who also knows the Bible from another perspective. You may even be convinced they know the Bible better then you, if so, its time to change that.

Over the past 15 years or so, the LDS church has successfully promoted themselves from being known as a non- Christian cult group to being accepted by many Christian groups as a legitimate denomination under the broad umbrella of Christianity. As a result, many Christians now view the LDS church as a “sister” organization with only minor doctrinal differences from Bible-based Christian groups.

According to a study by U.S. News and World Report. The magazine says that if present trends continue, there could be 265 million adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world by 2080. The magazine attributes the growth in part to an aggressive missions program. The cult sent out nearly 60,000 missionaries to 120 countries last year. (We do know there are many leaving Mormonism as Christians enagage in dialogue with those who are seeking the truth about Christ)  

But we can see what we face is no small matter, and it is not going to improve unless you and I do something about it.

Apologetics is a command to defend the Christian faith in light of those who challenge it. This means openly and vocally if necessary. If defending the faith means responding to the challenges of our day, we must be prepared, as difficult as it may be. Spiritual trends are like the winds of doctrine mentioned in Eph.4 come into the Church; what blows outside the house can certainly be let in if we leave the door open. Defending the faith includes, not excludes publicly speaking out, especially when error has been distributed publicly. The problem right now is a lack of commitment and boldness to go publicly to challenge those who say what is false. We can trace this to the root of not putting our love into action.

You can read all the books and still not know how to engage with the people until your bold enough to. You need to have a basic working knowledge of what these people believe or you won’t know what they mean when they say the same terms you are familiar with. This does not mean you become an expert but one who has familiarized himself with their basic belief system to hold your own in a conversation.

You can only grow so far as a church without apologetics incorporated into its lifestyle. Sooner or later people in the church will be challenged from Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, the International churches of Christ and a host of other groups actively seeking converts. You may even start losing some attendees to them if you do not prepare your people with the truth to counter their twisting of the Scriptures. Apologetics is a preventative for being taken in by spiritual frauds. 

This is where counter cult ministries can help, we have devoted our time to have the answers to specific questions. We already know the ins and outs, we know what to avoid in conversation and we know what works. You are not going to affect someone by one encounter; if possible  you need to become a friend. However this is not always possible and so you need to be able to breakthrough with the one chance you may have. The best way I can suggest without any specifics is to frame your challenge into a question, then the walls will not go up and you can dialogue.

Apologetics is not something you must take a college course in but it is furthering your self-education. We may not have all the answers. But Christians should be able to give at least some kind of well-thought out reply to those who rare in opposition. You may not have the answer ready (although you should) but you can always tell them you will get back to them on it.

Apologetics is spiritual insurance; it keeps people from abandoning the faith. Many of the “liberals” and even atheists that we now see challenging the Christian influence have come from Christian backgrounds. We have lost some deep thinkers because we did not answer their questions adequately.

Unfortunately we have not done a good job with our children? According to Barna’s research we shouldn’t think so. According to today's Christian youth, two people could define truth in totally conflicting ways but both could still be right. In 1991, 52% believed there was no absolute truth. By 1994, the number increased to 62%. In 1999, 78% believed there was no absolute truth. Now in 2001, 91% agree that there is no absolute truth.

Many children go off to colleges and universities and find themselves challenged with everything they grew up with from their parents and church.  But their church never prepared them for answers in the real world so they crumble under the pressure from the disputes they now face. They end up believing the distorted views of the religious professors at the liberal universities they attend. Their faith can be shipwrecked overnight after all the years the parents poured into them while they were growing up. We need to protect the next generation.

In 1963, 65% believed the Bible is the “infallible word of God.” By 2001, only 27% of today's youth agree.

According to Christian apologist Josh McDowell who works with teens “Seventy-five percent of all kids coming to Christ today are not coming to Jesus because He's the way, the truth and the life.” “They are coming to Christ because He is the best thing that's come along so far, that they've filtered through their experience. And as soon as something better to them comes along, they're gone.”

In reality, 65% believe there is no way to tell which religion is true. And 69% believe all religions teach similar lessons.

McDowell said “the greatest challenge facing the evangelical church in the 21st century is communicating the truth of the gospel in a culture where all truth claims are perceived as equal.”

Apologetics goes with evangelism. Paul stated some plant, some water, some harvest. You may only plant the seed of the word and need to pray that someone will come along to water it and eventually be harvested.

Planting is a harder ministry than harvesting. To plant the seed one must break up the hard ground of ones heart first, then the seed must be watered to give it a right environment to germinate. Then there are others who come along to water the seed that has been planted in the person’s heart. They deal with the preparation of ones heart to receive the gospel. They show by logic and Scripture the truth of the matter. Finally someone will come along and everything that has taken place under the Holy Spirits work will gel and the person is willing to receive the gospel and give their life to the Lord.

Can there be saving faith without understanding? Jesus said the seed that grew into a plant and bore fruit was because the person understood (Mt.13:23). Can there be understanding without reasoning? The Bible says no. Paul urges believers in 2 Timothy 2:15: “to study to show ourselves approved unto God, workmen that need not to be ashamed.” This way we can give reason why we believe. Today in an age of spiritual relativism we need concrete answers to explain why Christ is not a way, but the only way to God.

Matthew 13:23: “But he who received the seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit.” They all heard it the same, but only the “good soil” comprehended it. Acts 8:30: “When the Spirit prompted Philip to join himself to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch (who was reading Isaiah 53), he asked, `Do you understand what you are reading?' The eunuch replied, `How can I except some man should guide me?”’ If we are available and prepared we can be used by the helper to be a help for people who are pursuing to know the word.

Evangelism is the lifeblood of the church and apologetics is the backbone, it gives us confidence and courage to tell and explain the faith. This is where each believer can see the power of God at work in their life personally, because they have prepared themselves to answer the objections by His Word. But the key is preparation; to know answers to questions that may come up. One cannot do apologetics if they are not actively involved. Apologetics is a discipline, a lifestyle incorporated in evangelism. Every person God sent on a mission were all first prepared by a burden for the lost and began to be equipped to answer for God as they were being trained by faith in their trials.

“Our weapons are not carnal (of the flesh) but mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Prayer and the word is our weapon if used correctly the walls do come down. Strongholds are the fortresses built to oppose the truth of Christ and the word. Walls are built with false ideologies and philosophies that have taken people captive. It is untruth’s, false patterns of thinking, vain imaginations are what holds people captive; such as evolution, false spirituality, there are many ways to God. Lies such as: death is only a transition heaven, everyone that is good is going to heaven must be challenged from the word of God.

The enemies strongholds are pulled down with the word of truth. The Gospel is veiled to those who are perishing 2 Cor.11:14, it is up to us to make sense out of it. When the Gospel is presented against the philosophies and ideologies contrary to God's word, they will be brought into captivity and obedience to Christ. All the power of the enemy is held in a lie that is believed to be the truth. The current philosophies and worldly ideas of our day that are esteemed as truth are exposed as only mans wisdom against the eternal truth of God. The falsehood is clearly seen when placed next to the straight edge of the word. But we need to know the word and use it so that it penetrates the heart. It is up to us to make sense out of it. Prov. 25:11 tells us “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.” Just the right word from the Holy Spirit who leads us in our witnessing the truth can change a hard situation, for He knows the heart of every individual. I remember one time where a number of us were doing street evangelism and an argument began with a girl who said she believed in God, but had some strange beliefs. As I was praying the Lord gave me a question to ask her. When I did this everything changed, I gave her a track specifically to the question asked and she read it and then came back over to us and thanked us and she now understood what she believed and what the Bible said were very different. We need to be sensitive to God’s Spirit as we converse, He alone knows the hearts of the people we are trying to minister to.

J. Gresham Machen, said the following words in 1912 to a group of young men at Princeton Seminary: “It would be a great mistake to suppose that all men are equally well-prepared to receive the gospel. It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power in connection with certain prior conditions for the reception of the Gospel. . . . I do not mean that the removal of intellectual objections will make a man a Christian. No conversion was ever wrought by argument. A change of heart is also necessary . . . but because the intellectual labor is insufficient, it does not follow that it is unnecessary. God may, it is true, overcome all intellectual obstacles by an immediate exercise of His regenerative power. Sometimes He does. But He does so very seldom. Usually He exerts His power in connections with certain conditions of the human mind. Usually He does not bring into the kingdom, entirely without preparation, those whose mind and fancy are completely contaminated by ideas which make the acceptance of the Gospel logically impossible.”

So who needs apologetics? Everyone needs it to evangelize,  it is a pre- evangelistic tool so someone can receive the gospel. If you are concerned about lost, you need apologetics to help. I have heard some teach that you don’t need to learn about other peoples beliefs, you don’t even need to refute them. Paul did! Proclaiming the gospel is not necessarily the same as giving an answer to the objections people have. All of the concepts were used by Paul: He preached the word, dialogued, used persuasion, pleaded, disputed, argued, convince, gave evidence, and reasoned.  These are the vehicles of communication that were used by Paul, who is our evangelistic model of teaching the Jews and going out to the gentiles that were not acquainted with the God of Israel.

“Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Acts 17:17. Acts 17:2-3 tells us it was his custom to do this. “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. Acts 18:4. Acts 9:29 “And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians.”

Apologetics helps you actually understand what and why you believe; not just knowing that everyone you are associated with believes this same thing. We are not bonded together socially, but by the truth, that is part of our unity in the Spirit. We are to know the truth, it is the truth that sets us free. There is no better way than to learn more about why we believe what we believe than through knowing answers for todays issues from the Scriptures.

In fact to be apologetic in ones approach to the culture and beliefs of the people is to be evangelical; and to be evangelical is to make sense out of the Gospel to those still in unbelief. How do we become ready? Sanctify the Lord God in your heart so you can give an answer. 

God not only uses the pastor behind the pulpit, but he wants to use you. He uses an ordinary Christian's who take the time to explain the unanswered questions that have been obstacles for a person to receive the gospel. Apologetics makes one more effective in their witnessing and Bible presentation. Nothing is more exhilarating than leading someone to know the Lord.

As Walter Martin use to say “Are you willing to do for the truth what the cults do for a lie.” Then you must live it everyday. How can we witness with conviction to someone when we waver in what we believe? We must be sure in our belief so we can be assured of communicating it to others. That is what apologetics is about, ready to give a sound, logical and truthful answer to those who are searching. The church desperately needs to equip herself with answers for today's culture, trends and religions for our light to shine brighter in the darkness.


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