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    Nov 23, 2014

    Class 1: Introduction to Christian Apologetics

    Series: Apologetics

    Category: Core Seminars, Apologetics, Evidence for Faith


    Intro to Apologetics
    I. What Is Christian Apologetics?
    Welcome to the first class of the Apologetics core seminar.
    The purpose of today’s class is to explain what Christian apologetics is and communicate why Christian apologetics matters to you. I trust that today you will see that the discipline of apologetics is integral to evangelism and necessary for all Christians. I hope our time together whets your appetite for the next few weeks of material to think about how to connect the “what” of a Christian worldview with the “how” of evangelism. Hint: it’s the “why” of apologetics.
    First, we should answer the question, what is apologetics. It does not refer to offering an apology or excuse. Rather, it 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 memo, or cite examples to contradict an assertion, or defend our position on a subject, we are engaging in apologetics.
    So what is 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.
    Apologetics differs from evangelism 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. Note that Christian apologetics is defensive – defending the truthfulness and reliability of Scripture – and it is offensive – attacking the false teaching and unbiblical worldviews. By attacking we do not mean physical violence. Christians’ opponents are not other people but rather unbelief. What I mean by attack 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.
    (Any Questions?)
    II. Who Are Christians Apologetics For? Christians
    (Ask who has read books about or studied apologetics). Many Christians have heard of apologetics. But some Christians make the mistake of thinking apologetics is only for philosophically-minded believers or intellectual - or as we would say in Washington, DC, “wonky” – Christians.
    However, the discipline of Christian apologetics if 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. Let me give you X reasons that Christian apologetics is for you, for me, and for all Christians.
    1. Christians Should Be Able To Explain Why They Have Faith in Jesus. I Peter 3:15 gives us the 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 I Corinthians 15 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.
    2. Christians Should be Able to Critique Unbiblical Worldviews. In II Corinthians 10 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, Christian, you 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.
    3. Christians Should Use Their Minds and Intellect To the Glory of God. Note also in II Corinthians 10 that Paul says Christians are to take every thought captive to Christ. In Matthew 22, 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.
    It may not be unusual in our type-A, driven congregation for us to think how we can leverage the full firepower of our minds for the sake of the Gospel. But it is worth noting that historically, at least in recent decades, this is one area in which the evangelicals have failed. There are lots of reasons for this 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 not 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. Rev. 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, no. it does mean 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? 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 you and I 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.

    4. Christians Throughout History Have Used Apologetics to the Glory of God.

    Early Church
     The Book of Acts contains a description of Paul’s apologetics, who "reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there" (17:17) as well as at the Areopagus (17:19ff).
     The Apostle Paul employs the term apologia in his trial speech to Festus and Agrippa when he says "I make my defense" (Acts 24-26).
     A similar term appears in Paul's Letter to the Philippians as he is "defending the gospel" (Philippians 1:7 & 16)

    Church history
     Many early church fathers were noted apologists. The early church was marked by a time of distinguishing Christian doctrine from pagan belief. Some notable church fathers in the early centuries of Christianity included Justin the Martyr, Irenaus, and Tertullian. In fact, Tertullian is known for writing an “apology” for Christians living in the Roman empire.
     The Reformation was marked by apologetic arguments of differing values, from John Calvin to Thomas Aquinas.
     In modern times notable Christian apologists have a blend of approaches to defend the faith. You will be familiar with some apologists: Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, William Lane Craig, Jack Wellman and J. P. Moreland. These apologists claim to have based their defense of Christianity on historical and archaeological evidence, theological and philosophical arguments, scientific investigation, and other disciplines.

    Finally, we should briefly note three possible reasons some Christians might hide behind to not practice apologetics.

    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.

    Second, some Christians fear what others will think of them. If you struggle with the Fear of Man, join the crowd – we all do to some extent. Fear of another’s opinion often dissuades Christians from evangelism and apologetics. If you particularly struggle with fear of man, I recommend the Core Seminar on this very topic, or read Ted Welch’s book When People Are Big, and God is Small.

    Third, as I alluded to previously, 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.
    III. Who Are Apologetics For? Non-Christians.
    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.
    (1) Christian apologetics answers non-Christians’ questions and removes distractions from belief.
    Clearly, sometimes non-Christians ask questions to distract from the uncomfortable truth of the Gospel that 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.
    But 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.
    Consider again, Paul’s example for us 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 all 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.
    Paul said in Ephesians 6 that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Our opponent is not non-Christians. Our opponent is unbelief and false beliefs. And at a more fundamental level, as Christians, our opponent is he who opposes God himself. False teaching and lies began in the Garden with the Father of lies himself, Satan.
    In II Thessalonians 2, when talking about what Satan is like, Paul says “the work of Satan [is] displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
    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.
    (Any Questions?)
    IV. What Are the Approaches of Apologetics?
    Historically, Christian apologetics has fallen into one of these 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.

    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. R.C. Sproul is a well-known evidentialist. For example, creation testifies to a Creator, and we should use that belief as part of our proof for God’s existence.

    Presuppositional Schools of Apologetics

    Presuppositionalists would stress that evidences will not convince unbelievers to follow God, because people are governed by their presuppositions which h– 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. Van Til, out of Westminster Seminary, is the well-known presuppositionalist.
    This core seminar blends both of these approaches. This course will 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. We have been contrasting various worldviews in recent weeks, but we are not contrasting apologetics approaches during our course. The two approaches are complementary, not contradictory.
    VI. What Apologetics Questions Will We Be Considering In The Future Weeks?

    Teacher, you may either:
    1) Ask the class for the questions they want answered, since you will be able to touch on nearly all of their questions in coming weeks.
    2) Give the class a preview of topics to be addressed in coming weeks.