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.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

In the Culture We Have Today, Pre-evangelism or Apologetics Cannot be Ignored

A couple of postings ago, I shared with you about four dangerous trends that are confronting the church and the culture. With these four trends, the task of apologetics is needed more than ever. People today are living out a humanistic existence, reflecting no need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  

Just the other day, I was at Sheets, picking up a smoothie, and saw someone with a tee shirt that had the word "Church" on the back. I thought that this might give me to seek an opportunity to talk with the young man sporting the tee shirt, with the hopes of a conversation. It turned out that the concert shirt a country musician named Eric Church's world tour and not for the Epic Life Church[1] that is here in "the Burg."  

How the conversation started with my asking the young man, do you go to that church. He corrected me and told me what the shirt was and then promptly told me that he didn't go to church and did not care about whether or not God existed. When I asked him why, he told me that he never gave much thought to either one of them and then walked off with his sandwich and drink.

My point in sharing this with you is this. This was a potential pre-evangelistic conversation that not many believers would be prepared to engage in. When I used the term "pre-evangelism" I am referring to apologetics. I am also saying that handing this young man a tract like the "Four Spiritual Laws" or a "Got Life" doc would not have worked, in this scenario.  

But many pastors do not pay attention to the need for apologetics in their churches. And if they do, they do it with a video and filling in a worksheet, but little preparation with role playing and practicing before they go out in the post Christian culture. 

What does apologetics do for the church and for believers?  Let me share with you four things, I am sure there may be more, about pre-evangelism, vis-a-vis apologetics that will benefit church pastors and their church members.

1. Apologetics helps believers better know their faith and equips them to share their faith more effectively and confidently.  Why do you believe in Jesus? Why doe believe the Bible? How do we know that Jesus really rose from the dead? What is the meaning and purpose of life?  Does God exist?  These are questions, along with others that Christians should hopefully be able to articulate to someone who asks them for "the reason for the hope that they have" in Christ. (1 Peter 3:15-17).  

You never know when we will find ourselves in a conversation with someone who is skeptical (to whatever degree) to the Christian faith.  By working through the "why" of the Christian faith, you and I will be able and ready to converse with the person in hopes to "clear the bushes" so that they can get a clear view of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for them.

2.  Apologetics helps believers in answering people’s real questions which hinder them from accepting the gospel.  Not everyone in the church service believes the same way as their pastor.  Not everyone in the church pew believes in the same way as the other "sheep" in the pews. In fact their may be some who doubt what the pastor is preaching. There may be others who have a question about the Christian faith but are too afraid to ask someone who may be a stronger believer.  

Several months ago, I was in conversation with a man who had questions about Jesus' existence because of the Zeitgeist movie.  This movie attempts, with shoddy arguments, to prove that Jesus did not exist and that He was a copy cat messiah based on pagan myths. 

This movie ensnared the mind of this man, and he was asking me questions about the movie, and I had the chance to share with him about the real Jesus and His historical existence. Folks, internet can be a dangerous playground in some "neighborhoods," and the sheep might run into some slick argument written by a skeptic that has them questioning their faith.[1] And we don't think we need apologetics and apologists in churches away of what is on the internet? Really?

3. Apologetics helps believers gain influence in the public square, and provide an open door for them to become a public influence through education, the media, the arts, etc.
Apologists are definitely needed in the church today. Just like the early church, there are times where there is a need to help prevent false teachings and apostasy in the Church. Things like the "centering or contemplative mystical prayer,"or the"new apostolic reformation," are just some of the things creeping into churches today. The pastoral leadership, needs to be aware of what is happening in the church culture and the apologists in the churches can hold up the pastors' arms and alert them to such heresies.


4. Apologetics is definitely needed because of the the false claims coming from cults and the world religious world views.  Things like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and the world religions like Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam have been around a long time.  Things that are attacking the truth claim of the Christian faith, like "Christian yoga" and the Word Faith heresy are based on Hindu teachings and mind science respectively. Yoga is from and inseparable from the Hindu pantheistic worldview. The Word Faith teaching is based on a modernized form of gnosticism. 

Christian involved in apologetics can also reach out to the culture and not just the cults. Apologetics has a missiological arm to it, reaching into the culture to respond to the humanistic ideologies of our day, and in turn encourage believers to know and understand  the times in which we are living and encourage believers in what we ought to do; just like the sons of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32.    


The son of Issachar were "men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do." Shouldn't we also as believers understand the times in which we live, and then learn from the Word, and from incorporating the spiritual discipline of apologetics and pre-evangelism, so that we know then "how we should then live" in this post Christian culture?

Notes

[1] To show you how much I jumped the gun, the name of the church is really Epic Life Church. God took my mistake and gave me an opportunity to put a "stone in a young man's shoe" about God, and the importance of going to a church to know more about Him.

[2] This is one reason why the statistics are high with young people walking away from the faith and some adults leaving church.  The numbers in our culture are on the rise and we need apologetics type preaching to make the message relevant to people who are overburdened by the baggage from the world.

2 comments:

Maxaipa said...

This phenomenon is called the "rise of the nones" and is carefully documented in Dr. James Emery White. The Church and Christians have for too long celebrated cheap grace, hypocrisy, prayed one another in the back, ignored Christ's commands and set such a poor example of what it is supposed to mean to be a new creation in Christ that people are no longer interested in considering a message they believe to be empty and hypocritical.

Sivraj Jarvis said...

Thanks for the post. I found it via a twitter link. A bunch of thoughts came to my mind as I read your post.

1. A lot of people look at Billy Graham's Crusades and think "Wow! What a gifted man!" While that is very true there is something else that is also true that is rarely seen.

Prior to BG coming to a place to preach, a ton of pre-evangelistic spadework had been done for years. Lots of tilling and sowing. This is unseen.

What if God is right now raising up someone like a BG for the future? Will we be like an apologetical John the Baptist and pave the way?

2. I know that sharing faith is not the easiest thing in the world and I have balked on more than an occasion. However its much easier to take on someone on say an issue like relativism and this is still Kingdom service.

3. I have the Woodbridge & James's Church History, Volume II opened up in my Kindle reader and here is a quick excerpt:

~~> "In the first half of the eighteenth century the onslaught of deistic literature and “unbelief” was powerful and provocative. ... In response to this wave of literature, Christian apologists undertook a massive effort to defeat not only deism, but atheism, Arianism, Socinianism, and Unitarianism." (Woodbridge, John & James III, Frank, Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day...)

~ Like the new atheists of today, the deists and their ilk of yester-century also poured out all kinds of uncharitable vitriol. However Christian apologists responded with a prayer-powered apologia and experienced resounding success. There is a reason why said ideologies are not as rampant today as they could have been. ~~> Apologetics was pursued. Such stories can be multiplied as this sort of thing has happened more than once in Church History. It can happen today. Success is possible. Press on.

In Him,
~ Raj