Tag Archive: church


Continuing from the prior post, here are some more objections to apologetics often given from within the church.teen-talk-1438715

“You can’t ‘prove’ that God exists.”

Most apologists are not trying to “prove” the existence of God. Indeed, proof is too strong a word; it seems to me that proof lies in the eye of the beholder, and so can be influenced by or resisted for any number of reasons. Apologists’ goals are more modest. We provide evidence that belief in God and the Christian faith is reasonable and rational. We want to give them reasons to take the gospel seriously and give it consideration for their lives. As Greg Koukl says, we are trying to put a stone in their shoe, to help them see that Christianity is worth thinking about.

“Apologetics is just about arguing with unbelievers.”

I think people get a bit over excited about this one simply due to an imprecise use of the words, and often I am guilty of this too. When my kids start getting loud bickering with each other, what comes out of my mouth is “Stop arguing and get along!” But arguing is not what they are doing; they are quarrelling, fighting, and/or name-calling. This is not what an apologist does, though (or shouldn’t be!). Instead, we use arguments and good evidence to show reasonable conclusions supporting Christian ideas. As I will discuss further in a future post, argumentation is the gift that God has given us to discover truth.

“Apologetics doesn’t work.”

When someone offers this objection, I want to ask them, “What exactly are your expectations?” Are they assuming it is being offered as a silver-bullet approach that should work every time it is used? Remember Romans 1:18 says that unbelievers suppress the truth; the Holy Spirit does the work inside their hearts. We obey by offering the gospel persuasively. Also, how are they gauging success or failure in this endeavor? Is it a failure if they do not convert immediately? Must they do so on the spot for it to be considered a successful or useful tool? Most people don’t make the important decisions of their lives in an instant or without serious and careful contemplation.

“You can’t argue someone into the kingdom.”

This is true. Also true is that you cannot love, preach, or lifestyle-witness anyone into the kingdom, either. Our job is to love, preach, live, and give a defense, all in such a way that will show the truth of the message we bring. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to turn the hearts of the hearer towards what has been heard. Without the Spirit’s work, nothing works, and even though He could do it all without our help, God has commanded Christians to spread this good news in a partnership with Him to reach the world. Apologetics is one of the tools we use in doing our part.

Are there other objections you have heard or thought of? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

Previously, I spent a good bit of time and space examining one of the most often objections I hear to apologetics, that concerning “Doubting Thomas.” I’d like to discuss a few more objections,stop-1-1428620 and I’m going to try to hit several in a less exhaustive treatment than the last. Most of them are more easily dispensed with anyhow.

“God doesn’t need defending.”

Yes, this is true. But truth does need defending. It is under attack all the time. Christian case-makers are not in the business of defending God; we give reasons to believe in Him, and offer corrections to faulty thinking and ideas about God. In accordance with 1 Peter 3:15, we offer a reasoned response for our beliefs: “but 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; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

“God can’t be known by reason.”

In support of this objection, 1 Corinthians 1:21 may be quoted: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” The good news of the gospel may seem like foolishness to those in whom the Holy Spirit has not yet removed their hostility towards God, but certainly the Bible isn’t teaching that the gospel itself is folly. As is pointed out in Romans 1:19-20, unbelievers suppress belief, but that is not the same as saying God cannot be known. The foolishness of salvation is only in the eyes of the hostile unbeliever.

“Without faith, you can’t please God. Apologetics is contrary to faith.”

If Christianity is shown to be reasonable, is there then no room for faith? Does belief then become cold, non-relational facts as head knowledge takes the place of faith?

Except by accident, I try not to use the word “faith” anymore. I think this English word no longer captures the meaning of the biblical concept translated in most bibles now as “faith.” We are talking about trust now, not blind faith, and I think this is a better, more precise word to use. Belief without evidence leads to irrationality which is, as pointed out in previous posts, contrary to Biblical model and instruction.

“The word apologetics is not in the Bible.”

The English word apologetics is the anglicized form of the Greek word apologia, so yeah, it kinda is in the Bible. Anyway, even if the word itself is not in the Bible, the use of it is throughout the work of the apostles, in particular with Paul in Acts 17 on Mars Hill. Also, the words Bible and trinity are not in the Bible, either, but we as Christians are certainly not ready to throw out those concepts for that reason.

Next up, a few more objections and how I would approach them. Are there other objections you have heard or thought of? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

 

Having previously given several examples of Jesus’ and Paul’s use of persuasion and careful reasoning approaches to evangelism, let me now show you how God, through His inspired authors,studying-2-1475294 has given us the commission to each be careful and considered Christian case-makers.

Let me start by reminding you of Paul’s instruction to the church in 2 Corinthians 10:5

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Through careful reasoning and persuasion we are to destroy the arguments raised against the knowledge of God, not through empty rhetoric, intimidating personality, abusive use of Scripture, or threat of force.

Over in Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul writes concerning the Christian’s gifts and design:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. [NASB, emphasis mine]

Does the thought of evangelism make your palms sweat? Relax, that may not be your gifting. Paul says that some, not all, received the gifts of being apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. However, no such qualifiers are given in 1 Peter 3:15

But 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; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

This command is not issued to “some” of the believers, but seems to have the expectation that all believers should be ready to make a persuasive defense (apologia) of their faith. God expects all Christians to engage in apologetic study; this should not be simply a niche, academics club within the church, or a peripheral topic relegated to a specialist teacher or occasional special guest lecturer, but a discipline in which all Christians ought to apply themselves. As J. Warner Wallace puts it, “Christianity does not need another million-dollar apologist, we need a million one-dollar apologists.” We need people studying, getting into the game, engaging and improving their interaction skills as they do so.

Move down towards the end of the New Testament into the book of Jude, in which we will find this verse in Jude 1:3

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

We are to stand up for and contend for the faith! Not just as “true for me,” or a private experiential and subjective faith, but as a public, objectively true reflection of reality. Repeatedly we are called to a convinced and reasonable trust in Christ:

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 – Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Romans 14:5b…Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

2 Timothy 3:14 – But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.

You are probably familiar with the passage in Matthew 5:13-16 in which Jesus tells us to be salt and light in the world:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I believe that these verses instruct us to provide cultural correctives towards Biblical truth and morality as it goes astray, and do so by confronting ideas and arguments. If Christianity truly reflects reality as it is, even apparent contradictions between it and contemporary thought can be shown to be faulty. We need to approach each situation with care, tact, and discernment, using the right tool for the job at hand; use “gentleness and respect,” as instructed in 1 Peter 3:15 above. This tactical approach is summarized in Colossians 4:5-6:

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

In the next post, I will give you some practical reasons why you as a Christian should study apologetics (if the previous posts haven’t yet convinced you!).

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

gavelAnd behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

– Luke 10:25-28

What is Christian Apologetics?

In brief, it is the bridge between faith and the intellect, and is part of loving God with our minds. In this, and the next few posts, I’d like to go into some detail about the “what’s” and “why’s” concerning Christian apologetics. I intend to make the case for you both from a biblical standpoint as well as from a purely pragmatic one as to why you (if you are a Christian) should care about Christian apologetics and hone your skills in Christian case-making.

What apologetics isn’t

“Apologetics” is a word that may not hold much meaning for most, and may lead others to think it has something to do with being sorry. As in, “I’m a Christian, and I’m really sorry about that!” or “I apologize for what these other Christians are doing!” No, this is not what I’m meaning by the word.

Others may hear the word “apologetics” and think about someone who just really likes to debate and beat people into submission with their rhetoric and personality, someone who knows a few facts and is just looking to shout down any opposing viewpoint. While this sort of apologist does exist, this is not what I believe the Bible calls us to be, and not what I am going to try to show you.

Prepared to make a defense

Because of the unfamiliarity with the word by most, and the negative association many have who do know the word, I have been moving away from the word “apologetics.” Instead, taking a cue from J. Warner Wallace, I think a better term is “Christian case-making,” although for the purposes of this introductory post, I will be using the two terms interchangeably. The goal of apologetics, then, is to demonstrate the reasonable nature of Christianity and its ability to best explain reality among the competing hypotheses. It is the field of theology that provides defense of Christian truth claims by providing evidence in favor of those claims and carefully investigating opposing viewpoints. Christian case-makers are concerned with answering the question “what is the rational warrant for Christian truth claims?”

Broadly speaking, apologetics provides two services. For the Christian, evidences are marshalled which serve to strengthen our belief and trust that the Christianity is an accurate guide to reality. This also gives us courage and confidence to work to persuade others without having to rely only on our subjective experiences as evidence. As the Stand to Reason tagline goes, we want to show that Christianity is something worth thinking about. For the non-Christian, apologetics is pre-evangelism. It is not common that people on hearing Christian gospel presentation will immediately convert.  Often they will need convincing that it is an intellectually viable option. How can someone accept “God loves you and has paid for your sins,” if they are predisposed in belief that God cannot exist?

In part 2, I’ll show you the origins of the word “apologetics,” and in doing so, give a hint of the flavor of what and how apologetics should be.

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

I daresay that marriage would not be in the state of redefinition that it is today if the earlier problem had been addressed. Matt Walsh, on his blog, writes in his characteristically direct and precise style:

I sat down to tell the world that gay marriage is the greatest threat to the sanctity of marriage.

But then I remembered this:

That’s a sign I saw on the side of the road a little while back. Divorce for sale! Only 129 dollars! Get ’em while they’re hot!

And then I remembered an article I read last week about the new phenomenon of “divorce parties.”Divorced is the new single, the divorce party planner tells us.

And then I remembered another article claiming that the divorce rate is climbing because the economy is recovering. Now that things are getting a little better, we can finally splurge on that divorce we’ve always wanted!

And then I remembered that — ebbs and flows notwithstanding — there is one divorce every 13 seconds, or over 46,000 divorces a week in this country. And then I remembered that, although the “50 percent of marriages end in divorce” statistic can be misleading, we’re still in a situation where there are half as many divorces as there are marriages in a single year.

And then I remembered no-fault divorce. I remembered that marriage is the ONLY LEGAL CONTRACT A PERSON CAN BREAK WITHOUT THE OTHER PARTY’S CONSENT AND WITHOUT FACING ANY LEGAL REPERCUSSIONS.

And then I remembered how many Christian churches gave up on marriage long ago, allowing their flock to divorce and remarry and divorce and remarry and divorce and remarry, and each time permitting the charade of “vows” to take place on their altars. And then I remembered that churches CAN lower the divorce rate simply by taking a consistent position on it — which is why practicing Catholics are significantly less likely to break up — but many refuse because they are cowards begging for the world’s approval.

And then I remembered that over 40 percent of America’s children are growing up without a father in the home. And then I remembered that close to half of all children will witness the breakdown of their parent’s marriage. Half of that half will also have the pleasure of watching a second marriage fall apart.

And then I remembered that more and more young people are opting out of marriage because the previous generation was so bad at it that they’ve scared their kids away from the institution entirely.

I remembered all of these things, and I decided to instead write about the most urgent threat to the sanctity of marriage.

Divorce.

So whose fault is it that the institution of marriage is beaten and broken? I don’t think we want to contemplate that question, for fear that we might see ourselves in the answer.

Read more here: http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/02/04/ive-been-divorced-four-times-but-homosexuals-are-the-ones-destroying-marriage/

Nancy PearceyInstead of addressing teens’ questions, most church youth groups focus on fun and food.  The goal seems to be to create emotional attachment using loud music, silly skits, slapstick games — and pizza.  But the force of sheer emotional experience will not equip teens to address the ideas they will encounter when they leave home and face the world on their own. A study in Britain found that non-religious parents have a near 100 percent chance of passing on their views to their children, whereas religious parents have only about a 50/50 chance of passing on their views.  Clearly, teaching young people to engage critically with secular worldviews is no longer an option.  It is a necessary survival skill.—Nancy Pearcey

(from The Poached Egg)

The hemorrhaging of youth from our churches won’t stop until we get intentional about solving the problem.  On the university campus, secular college professors are very Brett_04_mdintentional about indoctrinating your kids.  In a candid moment, prominent atheist professor Richard Rorty tells you exactly what college faculty like him plan to do with your kids: ‘…we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own…we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization….So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable..’ Make no mistake, there are plenty Richard Rortys out there, waiting for your kids.  So, what are you going to do to prepare them for the serious challenges ahead?—Brett Kunkle (from, Who’s Waiting for Your Kids?)

(from The Poached Egg)

Jason Wisdom at the Because It’s True blog asks the question, “Is your church raising an army of skeptics?”

I don’t know how many times I have heard people downplay the need for doctrine and apologetics by saying things like, “What people really need is not a theology or evidence, but an experience. No one can take an experience away from you, and no argument can override what you have actually experienced.” Now, please don’t misunderstand what I am about to say, I believe that the Holy Spirit indwells every regenerate follower of Jesus. I believe that there is a first-hand, personal, experiential component to knowing and walking with God. So don’t hear me say what I am not saying. I am not trying to de-supernaturalize or de-personalize Christianity (though some will no doubt accuse me of doing precisely that). At the same time, I think there has been a movement within evangelical Christianity, especially over the past 30 years, to focus so heavily on the personal, relational element that it has almost become a new branch of Christianity–one where subjective experience trumps both revelation and evidence.

See the rest of the article here: http://www.becauseitstrue.com/blogarticles/is-your-church-raising-an-army-of-skeptics

Greg Koukl, in his October mentoring letter:2014-10-13 11.55.02

Some pastors think apologetics is window dressing, fine for those who like that sort of thing, but an extravagance, a non-essential. Agreed, not everyone will make a vocation of defending the faith. But sooner or later each Christian will be forced to face the harshest critic of all: his or her own inner doubts.

That’s right, the toughest opponent you’ll ever have to confront is you. Someone once said, “The heart cannot believe what the mind rejects.” This is also obvious. If you’re not confident the message of Scripture is true, you can’t put your trust in it even if you tried. Trust cannot be manufactured. Faith cannot be squeezed out by acts of sheer will.

However, if you get your hands on substantiating evidence—if you find out the facts and are equipped with compelling reasons—your confidence grows automatically, deepening and invigorating your faith.

http://www.str.org/articles/how-to-answer-the-harshest-critic-you-ll-ever-face-mentoring-letter-october-2014#.VDwCJvldV8E