What is Apologetics?

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The word appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the New Testament, and both the noun (apologia) and verb form (apologeomai) can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Five Things that Science Cannot Answer

One of the favorite objections that come from the atheist is that they will not believe anything that is beyond the realm of science.  Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and others have asserted this kind of objection in one tone or another.

William Lane Craig has debated the atheist Peter Atkins, where Atkins also made a similar assertion.  Well I have gone and put together a little video to share on those five elements that science cannot answer.



What are these five elements that science cannot answer?  Science as good as it is when properly conducted using an accurate scientific method cannot prove . . .

1.  logical and mathematical truth claims.  In fact science presupposes logical and mathematical truths.  But science does not prove them.

2.  metaphysical truths.   Science cannot prove metaphysical truths like there are other minds out there are different from myself.   You do not need science to determine that the outside world is very real.

3.  ethical decisions and statements of ethical value.  As hard as Sam Harris tries, he will not succeed in equating the epistemological and ontological values that exist.  Science cannot make moral decisions or conclusions.  You need the discipline of ethics.

4.  nor make aesthetic judgments.  One has said, "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." One does not use the empirical method to make these determinations.  Thus science is limited in this area as well.

5.  Science itself cannot be justified by the scientific method.  For the person making the claim that they are testing all truth claims using science, they are going to have to take that statement and test it using the scientific method.  This by the way is impossible.

Please understand, I believe that faith and science are NOT enemies.  In fact, science properly used and understood is a great tool for determining certain truth claims.  But it is not the end all of all matters of truth.  Early scientists who held to a supernatural worldview, men like Francis Bacon, Copernicus, and Johannes Kepler, to name a few, also believed that faith and science were allies.

Though we cannot prove God's existence with indubitable certainty, there is one thing that we do know. That is if we delve deep into the biological and examine the many facets of the DNA, we will find that we cannot help but see the design.


Monday, July 4, 2011

The Difference between Apologetics and Evangelism

As an elder in our church and as an apologist, I am reminded that there is a difference between the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and what I call "the Apologetic Mandate" (1 Peter 3:15-17).  This difference is found from conversations with folks on both sides of the scale have some confusion between evangelism and apologetics.  One group thinks that apologetics is irrelevant and that you just need to give the gospel.  The other group says you must do apologetics as a means of evangelism.  Both of these groups are way off kilter.

First off let me say, that we are called and commanded to do the task of apologetics.  We are also called to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5).  So what is evangelism and what is apologetics?

First off let me qualify apologetics with the term "Christian apologetics", which is the branch of philosophy that is devoted defending the reasonable content of the Christian faith with particular refererences to those criticisms of that content that comes from outside and even inside the Christian faith.[1]    In other words, apologetics answers questions and objections that people may have about our Christian beliefs.  There may be times where apologetics may be a part of a evangelism, but it is not evangelism in the purest sense of the usage of the terms.

So what is "evangelism"?  One of my professors from seminary put it this way.

"Evangelism involves the presenting of Jesus Christ to men and women that under the conviction and leadership of the Holy Spirit, they will confess their need for the Savior, repent of sin, and trust Christ as Lord and serve Him in one of His churches."  (Gray Allison, Winsome Words for Willing Witnesses).

John Stott, at the Lausanne Convention in 1974 confirms Allison's definition with the following, "To evangelize. . . does not mean to win converts. . .but simply to announce the good news irrespective of the results."  Stott and Allison are not in conflict with one another.  The gospel is good news!  What is that good news?  What is the gospel?  The gospel is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5,

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the Twelve. . ."

The gospel is not about sharing your testimony.  It is not imposing the truth or the f-a-c-t-s of the gospel upon someone.  It is not about social action as noble and needed as social action is in a corrupt global world.  Lastly it is it not about accruing results.

Earlier in this essay, I mentioned that I graduated from seminary.  Let me say that it is one of the most, if not the most, evangelistic seminary in America!  Yes, I am very very grateful to have graduated from such a very evangelistic seminary, where students were required to develop a lifestyle of evangelism, however I am concerned about its pride in keeping track of I have this issue about keeping track of the number of professions, recommitments, and church starts students have been a blessing to participate in.  Where are those professions?   Where are those recommitments?  What are we doing to train our students to equip the people in the pews not only to do evangelism but dovetail its handmaiden to our evangelism.  What is that handmaiden?   The task of apologetics.

Seminaries today are weak, and by weak I am meaning that spiritual formations may bring a person closer to God intimately, but if you leave out apologetics studies, one will only be learning about God with the heart and the soul.[2]  Bring IN apologetics studies (an not just a one semester course) and bring the mind in as well.

There is a difference in evangelism and apologetics.  Let's make sure that we appeal to the soul as well as to the mind as we point to the problem of man's sin, but then bring in the solution, not being afraid of any objections in the process.



Notes

[1]  The reason I mention inside the Christian faith as well is because of the recent statistics of kids that are leaving home for college and 'walking away from the Christian faith.  I believe (and have been ranting on this for years now) that apologetics is needed in our churches to help reinforce the faith and that is (or is not) being preached from pulpits.

[2] There are very few seminaries that are equipping their students with concentrations in apologetics.  Biola University, Southern Evangelical Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary are pace setters in this discipline.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Six Characteristics Which Make Up a Good Worldview

Have you ever realized that you have a worldview? It may be a Christian worldview, an atheistic worldview, or one that believes in many gods or even that everything we see around us is "god."  At this point, you might be thinking, "Whoa, wait a minute, what on earth is a worldview?"

There are a variety of definitions that are presented by different authors.  One of the more popular writers on the subject of worldviews is James Sire, who states that 

"a worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions, that may be true, partially true, or false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides that foundation on which we live and move and have our being".[1]  

Another writer states that "a worldview is, first of all, an explanation and interpretation of the world, and second, an application of this view to life.  In simpler terms, our worldview is a view of the world and a view for the world."[2]

Having taught a couple of courses on worldviews, I like Sire's definition because of its specificity. If you look at Sire's definition worldviews can be true or they can be false.  They can be consistent or inconsistent.   We can embrace them consciously and volitionally; or we can embrace a little bit from one worldview, and a little from another worldview without even thinking that what we believe is consistent or sound.  Again, the question is not about everyone having a worldview.  We know that everyone has a worldview.  The question is whether or not the worldview that you embrace is a good one or not.

Take for example the questions, "Where do I come from? (Origin); "Why am I here?" (Meaning); "How can I change?" (Condition); and "Where am I going?" (Destiny).  Each of these questions all fit the specific definition of Sire's definition.  Is it possible to have an inconsistent worldview?  If you are a professing Christian how would you answer those questions, and are each of the answers consistent with the previous questions?  What does it mean to have a "good worldview?"  Here is a set of criteria that I found in a great source by Ravi Zacharias that will help in the framing of your worldview.
  • A good worldview will have a strong foundation in correspondence.  This means that is it will have factual support.  Conversely, it will refuse that which is known to be false.  It must harness all areas of reality and not retain a selective sovereignty.  To refuse to include facts that challenge the thesis or to arbitrarily make some subservient to others because they better fit a predetermined conclusion betrays a prejudice that distorts the worldview.
  • A good worldview should have a high degree of coherence or internal consistency.  A logically contradictory system cannot be true.  To be internally consistent it cannot have contradicting deductions, regardless of what “experiential need” are met in the process.
  • A good worldview has explanatory power.  The collation of facts leads to initial postulations, from whence we devise our theories, our hypotheses, and then finally delineate our “laws.”  United facts and integrated deductions lead to systems.  Facts ultimately do not just speak for themselves; they help build a theory, or provide the prescriptive elements, the eyeglasses, through which we see the world.
  • A good worldview will avoid two extremes.  It will not be too simple nor will be too complex.  This is the famous Occam’s Razor Test (William of Occam (1300-1349)) who supposedly said “do not multiply entities without necessity,” which basically means that we are to resist the temptation to make our explanations too complex.  IF an explanation becomes too complex, Occam’s razor will cut it off.  On the other hand, an explanation should not become too simplistic that it commits the reductive fallacy.  To make a man an incomprehensibility is to go to one extreme.  To consider him a mere brute is to reduce him to the other extreme. 
  • A good worldview is neither too simple nor too complex in its explanatory power.  This is pretty self-explanatory.  
  • A good worldview has more than one line of evidence, not just one knockout argument.  Cumulative evidence converges from several sources of data.  
  • A good worldview is not complete in itself until it is able to refute, implicitly or explicitly, contrary worldviews.  The law of non-contradiction applies not only within a worldview, but also between worldviews.  Thus, it is more reasonable to say that all religions we know of are wrong than to assert that all are right.  Any system that opens its arms wide enough to incorporate everything will end up strangling itself when the arms close in.
As you can see, these are some great criteria that you can use to help shape your worldview.  If one examines all six of these elements, taking the elements of the biblical Christian worldview, it will be easy to see that it meets the standard set forth by these criterium.

Over the next several weeks, I hope to have a short summation of the worldviews that are right now competing with the biblical Christian worldview using the four main questions hinged upon origin, meaning, condition, and destiny.  Stay tuned as there is more to come.  -- RL

Notes

1. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1988), 17.  Even Wikipedia has a page that defines a worldview pretty well and can be found here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_view.

2. W. Gary Phillips and William E. Brown, Making Sense of Your World (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 29.

3. Ravi Zacharias, A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 189-91;  This section of the appendix of Zacharias’ work is worth the whole book.  These six points are taken from Appendix 2, entitled The Establishment of a Worldview. In this section Ravi references Arlie J. Hoover’s work The Case for Christian Theism. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1976 and Ron Nash’s Faith and Reason.