Why Apologetics?

Today, we have a guest post written by Eric Lloyd. He is passionate about apologetics and writes some thought provoking post on his blog called Stand Therefore. You can also find him on twitter. In this post, he gives us a threefold reason for the necessity of apologetics.

The Apologetics Statement of Purpose
To borrow from C.S. Lewis, “I believe in God like I believe in the sun. Not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” [1] This, the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, is certain confirmation of our faith (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6). However those of us who are privileged with this confirmation, should not stagnate in it (Matthew 25:14-29). As Ravenhill once said, “If your desire is only to be saved, sanctified and satisfied, then the Lord’s battle hath no need of thee.” [2] The general purpose of the Christian then, and the Apologist in particular, is to join the battle in a threefold manner, by 1) Fortifying the foundations 2) Defending the faith and 3) Advancing the cause.

Fortifying the Foundations
To every believer the charge has been given; “earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Today, this charge may be of even more applicability than when originally penned. Inclusivism, relativism and loosely-held doctrines have done their part in creating a vaguely defined Christianity (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Thus the “once delivered faith” has become but a whisper, in a very large crowd. Therefore, the immediate purpose of the Apologist is within the camp. That is, to reaffirm the Christian identity as those who define themselves, their faith, and their lives according to Scripture. Apologists specifically should hold Scripture in the highest of regards, as it is the foundation of our faith (Psalm 11:3)

Defending the Faith
The Apologist must work in tandem with the Holy Spirit, to fulfill The Great Commission, while understanding that our purpose is not necessarily to bring everyone to Christ, but to bring Christ to everyone. For although we can engage one’s mind, it is only God who can open one’s heart. Therefore, the purpose of the Apologist is to find common ground with the unbeliever on which to convey the rationale for the Christian faith. The Gospel is never heard in isolation,  rather, “it is heard against the backdrop of the cultural atmosphere in which one lives” [3] Therefore, the broader purpose of the Apologist is to create a cultural atmosphere in which Christianity is no longer considered a blind belief, but a reasonable faith.

In hostile environments of intellectual resistance, the Apologist must thrive. As lofty opinions and falsely deemed “knowledge” continue to mount up against  the knowledge of God (1 Corinthians 15:58), the need for a defense steadily increases (1 Peter 3:15). When malevolent objections are raised against the Christian’s hope, it is the Apologist who should be prepared to answer. When doubt creeps into the mind of fellow believers, it is the Apologist who must be ready to comfort with reason. In the face of uncertainty, and in times of confusion, it is the Apologist who must be resolved, and he, after having done all to stand, must stand therefore.

Advance the Cause
Today’s growing secularism proceeds from the halls of the University. The naturalistic scientist, the atheistic philosopher, the “enlightened” historian and the liberal theologian effect future generations with every lecture given. Therefore, they are the mission field of the Apologist. Whether within the University or without, one of our primary purposes should be to challenge and overturn the atheistic paradigms that are increasingly advanced by secular scholarship. In this way, the Apologists may be able to reverse our Nation’s apostasy and return it to the principles, morals and Scripture on which it was founded.

Finally, the Apologist must be well-studied, ever prepared and always willing the give a defense for the hope that is in him (1 Peter 3:15). And we ultimately do this, not for our purposes, but to give glory and honor to the only wise God; for this, as we must understand, is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Endnotes

  1. Lewis, C.S., Is Theology Poetry
  2. Ravenhill, Leonard, Why Revival Tarries
  3. Craig, William Lane, Christian Apologetics: Who Needs It?  <http://www.reasonablefaith.org/christian-apologetics-who-needs-it>

12 Comments

  • Duh says:

    How do you defend the faith of God in the Bible when this God commands his followers to go into people’s homes cut open pregnant women and smash their babies against rocks?

  • ericdlloyd says:

    Hi “Duh”, can you reference this so your question can be answered in context?

    • Josh Fults says:

      I would guess he is referring to passages such as Hosea 13:16, 2 Kings 15:16 or Psalms 137:9. My question is, are these passages descriptive or prescriptive? Just because the passage says something will happen does not mean that it is the desire of God.

      The killing of babies in this fashion was common practice in ancient warfare. It is definitely brutal, but this is what went on. In these passages I feel we find a description on what will happen. In the Psalm 137:8-9, there is rejoicing over the destruction of Babylon because retributive justice was being given.

      We also know from other passages that God was against murder and child sacrifice. I don’t open scripture and see an image of a God that relishes in seeing harm come to people or watching them tortured.

  • Phil says:

    Here are some of my issues with Christian faith:
    1. God sends His son among the Jews, and He teaches them a lot of things. However He doesn’t leave anything written by His own hand. After His death, his followers start writing down the Gospels, however, and curiously enough, the oldest NT writings come from someone who never met Jesus (Paul) and 15-20 years after the events. The oldest Gospels themselves are dated at least 30-35 years after Resurrection. And all of them are not in the language Jesus spoke, but in a different language altogether. This surely looks like something made on purpose to confuse us. He did all this knowing full well the trail of blood and tears that would result from such confusion. This is hard to swallow.

    2.On top of this, the first writer (Paul) never quotes the master directly, never quotes anything from the gospels, never says a word about Jesus’ teachings. His only topic is His death and resurrection, like His years on Earth didn’t matter a bit. And throughout his letters this guy boasts and praises “his gospel”. But who was he? He appointed himself apostle, by pretending to have had an encounter on a road, but all we have is his words, nothing else. What did he do after supposed encounter? Went away for 3 years and preached his own gospel. Then stayed with Peter 14 days only. So Peter and the others spent 3 years with the Master, and all Paul needs is 14 days? Very hard to believe. Then he goes away again for 14 years. This to me looks like a very long period in the life of a fledgling new faith. Why do we have to believe Paul?

    Any input is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Josh Fults says:

      These are some good questions. There are others that specialize in the history of Christianity that could give you answers in greater detail, but I will share some of my thoughts based on your inquiry. First, the fact that we do not have anything written in Jesus hand is not terribly surprising. This is fairly typical in the ancient world, due to the limitations of recording things by hand. I would also say, from within the framework of Christianity, one might argue that the entire New Testament is written by Jesus through inspiration under the Holy Spirit.

      You are correct; the Gospels have a very early dating, within 70 years of Jesus’ death. This is extremely early and plausible that the writing occurred within the lifetimes of those that new Jesus. From a historical standpoint this is remarkable. We also need to keep in mind the emphasis in this historical context on creeds and oral tradition. It is certainly reasonable to believe that what we have in the Gospels is factual.

      I personally do not see a problem with the fact that the Gospels were penned in a different language than what Jesus spoke. It makes sense being that Greek was so widely spoken at the time. Would not one want to record in the language that could be read by a higher number of people and have a wider footprint?

      I also find comfort in the fact that events were not done in the way I might expect, because it seems less forced and therefore not fabricated. Sure, we will always have questions as to why certain things were done in differing fashions, but the fact is, that is the way it was done. We can choose to keep questioning or accept the way it was done. The question is, is there reasonable evidence to believe in the written account of Christ? I believe there is.

      I don’t feel that Paul minimized the importance of Jesus’ time on earth. It would really be an extrapolation beyond the information he had to write on it. There were other people far more qualified to write on the life of Jesus, and thus, we have their written accounts. Paul’s task was to spread the Gospel message, which is that Christ was crucified, died, was buried, rose, and appeared in resurrected form. This was what Paul wanted to hone in on, along with practical instruction to churches.

      I think it is reasonable to believe that Paul did encounter the resurrected Christ. What did Paul have to gain from fabricating a story that he met Christ? Paul was an incredibly powerful and affluent man within Judaism. We know he persecuted Christians and killed them. He was essentially the equivalent of a Jihadist within Judaism. Why would Paul convert to Christianity? Nothing was to be gained. He then led a life of persecution. He was beat, stoned, and ultimately murdered for his belief in Christ. Why would he do this unless he had, what he believed to be, an encounter with the risen Christ?
      Paul says he met with the disciples and early church fathers. He checked his facts with them to make sure his teachings were correct. I feel that Paul’s teachings are valid and believe his account, especially due to the aforementioned data.

      Mike Licona, takes the “minimal facts approach” in regards to Christianity. He gives the bedrock of the Gospel message and the Christian faith. These facts are widely accepted by the vast majority of historical scholars, even critical scholars. I just wanted to share these facts with you:
      1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
      2. Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.
      3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed.
      4. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed.
      5. The tomb was empty (less scholars are in agreement here, but roughly 75% of historical scholars accept this as a historical fact.

      I feel that these facts are reasonable evidence for belief in Christ. It is at the least a great foundation to start grappling with the claims of Christianity.
      I would recommend checking out Mike Liconas’ works: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus , as well as, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.

      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. Feel free to stop by anytime.

  • Phil says:

    Josh, thanks for your answer. Here are some thoughts:
    You say the fact we have nothing from Jesus is “fairly typical in the ancient world”. This would be perfectly acceptable if we were discussing any other event in ancient history, but here, in Jesus’ case, we are not talking about ANY event, we are talking about THE event, about the Creator of the Universe deciding to intervene in human history. IMHO, we cannot treat it as “fairly typical”.
    Also, we always hear, in Christian apologetics, how miracoulously God preserved the Bible, so it doesn’t fit that the beginning be so shoddy.
    The issue of the language seems very important to me, and it has nothing to do with what language was more widely spoken. God, in His omnipotence and His omniscience, could have arranged for the story to be written down in Jesus’ own idiom, just as he was preaching it to His audience, and then make possible for the originals to be preserved, while also arranging for someone to translate them in Greek right away. Why was it necessary for humans to quarrel ever since about the meaning of Jesus’ message? Why is it necessary to write books of apologetics on this fundamental issue? (there are no such quarrels in Islam for example).
    I will respond later on Paul’s case.

    • Kim Melancon says:

      Lean not on you own understanding….

    • Joe says:

      @Phil,
      Response to your statement on “(there are no such quarrels in Islam for example).”
      I have some questions for you to encourage discussion that the truth may be known……..

      1.The Qur’an says “To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath Allah promised forgiveness and a great reward” (Surah 5:9).
      A.Question: Are you doing enough good deeds to receive salvation on the Day of Judgment?
      B.Question: Are you doing all you can or are you relaxing in your dedication to Allah?
      2.The Qur’an says, “O ye who believe! Turn unto Allah in sincere repentance! It may be that your Lord will remit from you your evil deeds and bring you into Gardens underneath which rivers flow, on the day when Allah will not abase the Prophet and those who believe with him. Their light will run before them and on their right hands; they will say: Our Lord! Perfect our light for us, and forgive us! Lo! Thou art Able to do all things,” (66:8-9). Notice how it says if you are sincere you may receive forgiveness.
      A.Question: How do you know you are sincere enough to be forgiven of Allah?
      B.Question: Does it give you peace to know that even if you are very sincere then, at best, you may receive forgiveness?
      C.Question: If you say that you know you are sincere enough in your repentance before Allah, how do you know you are not deceiving yourself?
      D.Question: Is your heart really good enough to muster enough sincerity before a Holy and Righteous God?
      E.Question: If you say yes, I honestly and humbly ask you, “Are you being prideful?”
      F.Question: If you say you are not being prideful, then are you boasting in your sincerity?
      3.In Christianity, Jesus is God in flesh who paid for our sins on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). Because of that, we Christians are secure in Him and do not have to worry about doing enough good works to please God since we are saved by grace through faith in Him, (Eph. 2:8-9).
      A.Question: Why should we Christians give up our guarantee of salvation in Jesus for the requirements of your Qur’anic law when you yourselves don’t even know if you have done enough good deeds to be saved on the Day of Judgment?
      4.The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:16) and that He loves all people (Matt. 5:43-48; John 3:16). The Qur’an never says that “God is love.” In fact, the Qur’an says that Allah does not love unbelievers (2:98; 3:32).
      A.Question: If Allah does not love unbelievers, can you say that Allah is love, especially if the Qur’an does not say it?
      B.Question: If you say yes, that Allah is love, then why does he only love the Muslims and not all people?
      C.Question: If you say Allah is love, is he more loving than the God of the Bible who loves all people?
      5.In the Bible, Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” In Christianity, the greatest act of love is performed by God Himself — since Jesus is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14; Col. 2:9). Jesus is the one who fulfilled His own words on this. He laid His life down for us.
      A.Question: What is the greatest act of love performed by Allah?
      B.Question: If what Jesus said is true, then hasn’t someone besides Allah performed the greatest act of love?
      C.Question: Why do you, as a Muslim, want me to give up such a great love performed by God Himself (from a Christian perspective) for your belief in Allah who only loves people if they are Muslims?
      6.Islam teaches that the Holy Spirit is Gabriel. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit lives in the Christians.
      A.Question: If the angel Gabriel is the Holy Spirit, how can he dwell in us? (Note: According to the Nestle Aland Greek New Testament Textual Apparatus, there are no textual variations of any of the following biblical references. They are recorded and transmitted to us accurately.)
      i.”Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you,” (2 Tim. 1:14, NASB).
      ii.”Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16, NASB).
      7.Lying is okay?
      A.Question: Was Muhammad wrong for advocating lying? Is Lying okay? “Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him [Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf]?” The Prophet said, “Yes,” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab). “The Prophet said, “You may say it,” (Hadith Vol. 5, Book 59, #369).
      B.Question: Who is more holy, Allah or Yahweh?
      C.In the above quote from the hadith, Muhammad advocated lying. The Christian God would never approve of lying. Does the god of Islam approve of lying? If not, then wasn’t Muhammad wrong? If he was not wrong, then Allah approves of lying. Which God is more holy? The God of Christianity is far more holy.

    • Josh Fults says:

      I definitely agree, we are talking about the Creator of the Universe intervening in human history. I emphatically believe that God went to great lengths to preserve His word (but that is a different discussion entirely).

      You said, “It has nothing to do with what language was more widely spoken.” Could you please qualify that statement? Why has it nothing to do with the predominate language? I see that this is an important issue to you, and it is less important to me. I am sure there are issues and struggles that I have had that would be of less import to you because we see things differently.

      Having Jesus exact words is not a major issue for me because I am more concerned with getting the overall thrust behind what he taught. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe we have a great amount of the intricacies of what Christ spoke. I read books in English that are extremely close to the original translations (Homer or Goethe) and there is little lost in translation besides some of the poetic metering due to the change in phonetics. I believe that God preserved his word in the form it is in just fine. I think all the information is there that we need to know Him, serve Him, and live according to His precepts.

      You ask, “Why is it necessary for humans to quarrel about the meaning of Jesus’ message…and to write books of apologetics?” I believe because humans quarrel over everything. I believe majority of what we find in the Bible is extremely clear, but we approach it with preconceived ideologies. To wax theological, we eisegete rather than exegete the text. Now granted, there are some vague passages in both the Old and New Testament, but none of these are lynchpin issues. We have all we need to form a sound Theology.

      I think we must also understand that scripture is ancient literature. We cannot approach it the same way we approach modern literature. Some of what seems puzzling to use made sense to the readers at the time it was written.

      You are absolutely right. “God, in His omnipotence and His omniscience, could have arranged for the story to be written down in Jesus’ own idiom, just as he was preaching it to His audience, and then make possible for the originals to be preserved, while also arranging for someone to translate them in Greek right away.” God could have also, in his omnipotence, have given them the technology at the time for them to record the message of Jesus on DVD, but He didn’t. I think we can pick apart issues like this until they die the death of a thousand qualifications, or we can trust that God has given us what we need. We can take an objective look at how all of the pieces fit together, not just in scripture, but across many different disciplines. Instead of me wondering why God didn’t do things a different way, we can trust that He knew what he was doing and one day we will have understanding. For now, we see through a glass, darkly (I Cor 13:12). I think some of the questions I have will make sense further along.

      You also stated, “It doesn’t fit that the beginning be so shoddy.” I think perhaps you are not starting at the beginning. What you are calling the beginning is when the canon of scripture was being formed. I challenge you to think of the beginning of God’s word according to John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Adam and Eve (whether you interpret this literally or figuratively) walked with “The Word” or “The Logos” daily, yet they chose to not heed it. So the word became flesh and walked on the earth and many chose to reject it. Next, the word was written down and canonized and it is up to use how we deal with it. I don’t think it had a shoddy beginning and I think that if Adam and Eve can doubt and call into question the word when it is present with them daily, then it would matter very little if the teachings of Christ were filmed. Some of us will choose to reject regardless.

      Last, I would like to leave you with a quote from Ravi Zacharias’ latest book Why Jesus? (which is an excellent read). He writes, “This is what I believe it boils down to: If you are determined to find flaws in the Bible, you will find them, especially in a book that has been around for so many centuries, was written by such diverse authors over a great period of time, and has been translated into so many versions and languages. So it is with the texts on almost any subject. It can be done. Ideas are easy to quibble over, debate, dissect, and reject. One has to start by looking at the big picture, at the overall truth that is being asserted. Then one puts the main ideas of the argument to the tests…and sees how they have been borne out in life, in history, and in personal application.

      Again, thanks for your thoughts. Keep seeking answers. I find that that when we seek truth it always leads us back to God.

  • Kim Melancon says:

    you don’t have to believe to receive .. just have faith that it true.. faith is the only way belief will come 2 U……come 2 U …you can try to sit a figure it out….. strain your natural mind.. but it wont be revealed to you…. the truth you will not find….. but if you have faith it will come 2 U….

  • ericdlloyd says:

    Josh, you said: “…and it has nothing to do with what language was more widely spoken.” How do you know that? Would it not have been better to reach as many as possible? Also, it isn’t necessarily the “exact” words that are most important, but the message as a whole. I believe the NT authors were more concerned about spreading the message of Jesus’ teachings and resurrection, more than copying down every word he said. What do you think?

  • Phil says:

    @Joe, your zeal is commendable but you are completely missing the point. What I said about Islam was just an example of how foundational scriptures of a religion can come into existence without so much uncertainty, quarrels etc as was the case for Christianity. That was all, I don’t have the slightest desire to engage in a comparison between Islam and Christianity (nor am I a Muslim, if this causes you to sleep better).
    @Josh, all you say about Paul may be all right, but all I’m saying is that to have somebody like him (a total stranger) write the most important foundational scriptures doesn’t sound like part of a preordained divine plan. On the contrary, IMHO it looks like the new religion was coming into existence with one hand (or both) tied behind its back. Can you imagine how much blood and tears would have been spared if: 1. Jesus wrote down His teachings Himself, or 2. one of the original apostles wrote them down right away (like some chronicle), and 3. the fledgling Jesus movement established the canon right away after the Resurrection.
    Instead we have Paul, who bursts into the scene totally unannounced and emerges as the greatest theologian of them all. Then you have the Gospel of John, like 60 years after the events, making the case that Jesus is God. I guess we can imagine how many things change over 60 years. This handicap I think, is inescapable, and here is a question that will drive home this point:
    How many of the foundational beliefs and dogmas of Christianity would have been possible to gather from the Gospel of Mark alone, as the oldest of the gospels and the closest to Jesus time?

Leave a Reply

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: