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, September 12, 2012

Objections Coming from Those Against Apologetics, Part 2: You Can't Prove God's Existence!

As I continue to march forward in this "apologetic for apologetics" I would like to bring in another objection that comes from Christians and atheists alike.  Let me bring back to mind the recent criticism earlier this week:

"Trying to prove to someone that Christianity is right, by logic, when the bible is filled with what many see as contradictions, even if you can twist it into a reasonable conclusion, does not work." 

Another well meaning believer told me

"The problem with "debunking" an atheist's POV is that it doesn't lead them to want to learn more about Christ or follow him, which should be the goal of any true Christian... first off, using the Bible as a resource to "disprove" someone who doesn't believe in the Bible is backwards. The Bible itself is not going to lead a non-believer to Christ."

As I look at these two criticisms, it shows me how lacking the Christian community is or at least these folks' churches are in there understanding for the need of apologetics in evangelism.  Because our culture and the church has allowed relativism and other isms and schisms to the forefront, the type of evangelism needed today CANNOT HELP BUT have the Christian discipline and task of apologetics undergirding it.

So the objection I would like to bring before us in this posting is one that says, "you and I cannot prove God's existence with indubitable certainty."  How many times have you and I heard this?  Believe it or not there are well meaning apologists out there (we're on the same team folks!) who believe that they can prove that God exists with absolute certainty.  While the evidences may voluminous, there is still the lack absolute certainty in their arguments, and therefore a need for faith that God does exist.

Well meaning Christians are not the only ones making this claim.  The atheist will tell you and I, that we cannot prove God.  At the same time the atheist cannot prove the non-existence of God.  In interchanges such as these, I have been told that "you cannot prove a negative', however this is another future posting.  All I will say here is that if we say that God exists, and the atheist says that God does not exist and that you and I cannot prove a negative, the burden of proof is still on the atheist.

So let's get to the objection and look at the statement.

"You cannot prove God."

The statement, "You cannot prove God" believe it or not, is actually a legitimate statement.  In fact if it were possible to prove God's existence with absolutely indubitable certainty, then there would be no need for faith.  Of course many of the crowd with the new atheists and the Nones would like to throw down that our faith is either, delusional, or considered blind faith or credulity.[1]

The problem with argument is that faith comes from facts or evidences.  In order to have faith in something, you have to know and believe what you are believing to be true.  And then you have to trust that to be true.  Trust is the key ingredient in faith.  When it comes to the facts and the worldview of historical biblical Christianity, there are facts that have been proven to be better than the other worldivews (i.e., Jesus' life and work, Jesus' sacrfice for sin on the cross and His bodily resurrection, that God has spoken and intervened in the life of Israel, and still intervenes in the life of those He calls to salvation through faith in Christ)  That is why it says in Hebrews 11:1,  "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

So while I might not be able to prove God's existence with absolute certainty, the element of faith comes in when looking at all the factual evidences and seeing those as a reinforcement to the faith that I have been given by God to place in what Christ has done.  That faith is an assurance, and a conviction that the evidences for believing something to be true.  Those things I have summarized in the previous paragraph.

"God has put enough in this world to make faith a most reasonable proposition.  But He has left enough reason out to make it impossible to live by shear reason alone."  If we had all the reasons to prove that God existed with indubitable certainty, then there is no more room for faith.  Not only that, but could it be that if we would have the kind of knowledge to prove God (a Being with absolute knowledge) existed, would this mean that we might be dancing with the idea of having infinite knowledge ourselves?  Does that make sense?  Where is faith in that?  Where is the need for faith?

Let me wrap this up and share a quote that I have heard others use.  It is from Blaise Pascal, who put it this way, "the heart has its reasons that reason does not know."  There is a point in which you go beyond plain rationality.  Yes it is true that you cannot prove God but let us not forget that God Himself has said, "The heavens declare the glory of the Lord and the firmament shows His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1).  We may not be able to empirically prove the existence of God, yet there are plenty of arguments for His existence to show that the secular worldview is a meaningless worldview without God.

This is where a persuasive apologetic come into the picture.

There are plenty of Scriptural references where apologetics is needed, and even commanded.  Let me also share with you, the reader, and I close with this.  You and I need to remember that whatever means, the Holy Spirit uses our words, it will not be my nor your persuasive prowess.  It will not be our tactical arguments.  Can God use them?  Absolutely.  Will God use them?  Certainly.  But it will not be through our eloquence, nor our abilities.  We are called to be His mouthpiece in this post-Christian culture.  We are also needing to remember that  when a person comes to Christ, it will be because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit..  How many times will we win a discussion hands down and yet no one comes to faith in Christ?  You may use apologetics "to put a stone in someone's shoe" (spiritually speaking here) and God will take that and the Hound of Heaven (the Holy Spirit) will work through that until that person bows or does not bow the knew to Christ.

A well trained apologist or a well studied Christian can out argue almost anybody they meet, because that person has not done half of the homework that you and I have done.  But the point of any discussion is not to win the discussion, nor the argument, but to nudge the person along the direction of Christ so that they can good look at Christ and come to Him and not your mind or my mind or our argument.

Thank you for your comments and encouragement in the past postings.  I invite you to pose a question or a comment on anything that you engage on The Real Issue -- R.L.

Notes.

[1] Credulity is the disposition to believe something on little evidence.  A delusion is the disposition to believe something to be true despite evidence to the contrary.

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