Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why So Much Opposition to Apologetics When it is All About Discipleship?

This morning I had the privilege of reading Eric Chabot's piece entitled, Why Does Opposition to Apologetics Come from Mostly Within the Church?  In his posting he brings in a series of five issues that are potential catalysts for this opposition. What I would like to do in my posting on this very same issue is springboard off of his first point, and perhaps may have a  posting on another of these points. Please go the linked article to read his posting.  

When bringing up the subject or the discipline of apologetics, have you ever had someone ask you, "what am I apologizing for?" Some folks who have heard that word, meaning giving an explanation for why you and I believe what we believe, will joke about the word, "apologetics." Others will be serious with that question.

The title of this post, though, is a serious question. As Eric Chabot made in his first point, that there is an "ignorance about apologetics in the Bible." From what I have experienced in my locale, I couldn't agree more. Like Eric, I too have taught on the subject of apologetics in the Bible, and likewise I have witnessed similarly, the fact that many Christians have really not learned to read the Bible apologetically.

What? Read the Bible Apologetically?

Like the word "Trinity" the word "apologetics" is not in the Bible. So what does it mean? Simply stated, it means in one context, giving a reasoned defense for why one is a Christian. Another way explaining it is that apologetics is the "communication and the defense of the Christian gospel"[1] or to give "credible answers to curious questions"[2] about our Christian faith? There is a more rigorous definition for apologetics, that makes it an academic discipline, but I will leave that out for the time being.

Looking at the word apologetics, it can be broken down in to two parts. The first part is the root of the word, logia (λογια) from the word logos (λογος), which means "a word." Put with the prefix apo (απο) in this context (back or after), it means in a literal sense, "to give an answer back."

All through the Bible we see the writers, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, giving an answer for God's existence, and desire to intervene in the lives of sinful humanity. Apologetics is a biblical and a forgotten spiritual discipline.

Is Apologetics Biblical? Yes!

The most popular verse for where we get this word "apologetics" is found in 1 Peter 3:15, which says,
"but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (give an apologia) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (NASB). Other New Testament passages where we see the giving of a reason for why we believe are found in, Acts 25:16; 19:33; 22:1; 1 Corinthians 9:3; Philippians 1:7, 16; 2 Timothy 4:16.

Someone might say that Jesus never engaged in apologetics. Really? In the gospels, we see Jesus engaged in giving responses to the Pharisees and Sadducees. Think with me for a moment when Jesus was confronted with a loaded question[3] in Matthew 22:15ff.

There were two dilemmas that Jesus' enemies were trying to put Him in. The first was a debate on whether or not it was right to pay taxes. If Jesus said "yes," then He would be against the Jews, because the poll tax was toward Rome; and Rome was persecuting the Jews. If He said "no," then the Romans would have Him killed immediately. But Jesus was wiser than the Jews and forced them a question to get them to open up to different assumptions, "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Lundberg loose paraphrase). That was giving an answer back on a difficult issue.

The second question on the resurrection from the Sadducees was just as interesting. Jesus, responded to people who denied the resurrection and gave them something else to ponder,

29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (22:29-32).
Space does not allow me to go further, but there are other places where we see Jesus giving "an answer back" or a "reasoned response" to those who asked Him.

Also in the Old Testament, there are practical examples where we see:  God and Moses (Exodus 4:1-9); Moses and Aaron before the Pharoah (Exodus 7:8:13); Moses  (Exodus 7:17-12:30); Elijah versus the prophets of Baal at Mt Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40); God responding to Israel (Isaiah 1:18);  God through the mouth of Isaiah (Isaiah 48:3-5) and others.

So just from a few examples we can see that apologetics (giving a reasoned defense) is biblical. This discipline is one that also defends itself. How so? For those who want to challenge this and say that they disagree, they are going to find themselves giving a "reasonable" defense on why they disagree. The only problem is that they will find themselves arguing with Scripture and in a thorny contradiction.

Let's Be Practical Now. . .

As we have seen so far, there are plenty of examples in Scripture from the Old Testament to the New Testament where there were those who were defending the faith. The Apostle Paul was at the forefront in the defense of the faith.

That being said, I believe that it is something that every believer should be involved in and be able to do. But how can that be done?

A good place to start is by studying, and not just reading the Bible. The Christian must study the Bible in order to discover and then begin to teach those truths to others. When we are teaching those truths that we have found in Scripture, we are giving our apologia or a reasonable answer concerning why we believe in Jesus Christ.

Sure there are some folks who are misinformed, thinking that apologetics does not work in our culture and that all we need to do is "share the Word." But even the questions like, "does God exist?", "what is the purpose of our existence?" and "is the Bible really true?" all have their answers found in Scripture.

At the same time, there are other arenas where apologetics has a place. We live in a time where things like religious pluralism, relativism, questions on science and philosophical debates are at the forefront of our culture. God is the only true God. Truth is what it is. . . TRUTH.  The questions of our culture have not changed, but how we articulate our answers may start in the Bible or they may start from another frame of reference and ultimately land in the Bible.

Nevertheless, the best place to start is Bible study if you and I are to read and study the Bible apologetically. Without it we will never be able to know the true foundation of our faith.

Let me encourage you to begin, if you haven't already, in understanding the forgotten discipline of apologetics. Equally important though is seeing it from the Bible first and then branch out in your knowledge of this wonderful discipline. You will find that careful reading and study will lead to the answer and assist you to defend the faith when those you share with challenge you.

At the same time, go out and get out of your comfort zone and share your faith. When you do that, you may find that there are questions you may not be able to answer at the moment, and will have go back and study. But what harm is there in that? Right?

Also get involved in discipling someone who has a hankering for learning how to be a growing disciple in the Lord. The more you know about God, the more you love Him and want to see others come to love Him as deep as you do. That is what we call discipleship.

Notes

[1] Check out the website bethinking.org which has information for beginners all the way to advanced level thinking.

[2] Bobby Conway's One Minute Apologist has some great resources for some of the pressing issues in quick response videos.

[3] A loaded question also known as the complex question fallacy is a question which contains a controversial or unjustified assumption. A traditional example is the question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" Whether the respondent answers 'yes' or 'no,' he will admit to having a wife and having beaten her at some time in the past.

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