Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Nature of Apologetics in a Morally Suicidal Culture

One of the things gnawing at me lately is trying to find a way to break the thinking most believers have about apologetics.[1]  Just from conversations over the last several months, some believers have this impression that when we address the subject of apologetics, we are talking about a special discipline for a special select group of Christians.  This is not true.

Still some others have the impression that a person needs to be "ready" as if to have a certain level of spiritual maturity, before tackling questions that they may have had before coming to faith in Christ.  and that having an apologetics program is a like having an "upgraded software package" that upgrades the Christianity 101 course.[2]

As you might guess, neither one of these understandings are correct. Apologetics is about equipping believers to give credible answers to the curious questions that are confronting the Christian faith. The word apologetics comes from a passage that is most referenced, 1 Peter 3:15-17* which states,

"but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16and keep a good conscience so that in the think in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong."

What I would like to do in this posting is just highlight three things that I believe will give us a better understanding of this discipline.  I would like to do this before embarking on a series addressing the apologetics of Jesus, and how He used what would be popularly called apologetics in modern terms.

What it means to sanctify Christ as Lord 

When you think of the word sanctify, we often hear a couple of meanings for the word, "sanctify" or to be "set apart."  This word sanctify conveys both meanings, both of which relate to the each other.

The first one that I want to speak into is the word "holy."  When something is made holy it is sanctified.  This word sanctified carries its meaning from the Old Testament when speaking on how the priests were to be sanctified (2 Chronicles 5:11); how God saw the firstborn of Israel during the captivity when He judged Egypt (Numbers 3:13), and how God presented Himself to those who He was to judge and will judge in the future (Ezekiel 38:16; 39:27).

With reference to the New Testament believer, it is Christ who makes us holy and sets us apart to serve Him. I am reminded of Peter's admonition, that we are called to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  But God has set us apart in His truth (John 17:19) so that we might bear the truth in a world going mad by the day. For the sake of time and space, I will just give these two examples for this point.

Notice that there is a location or a locus for our being set apart/made holy.

The locus of that sanctification is our hearts

Many Christians think of the heart as this muscle in our chest cavity that pumps blood 70-85 beats a minute. But the heart is not just the blood pumping organ in our bodies. It is also the seat of our emotions and the center of our reasoning.

I once had well meaning believer tell me that when they share their faith, they share only Scripture in order to appeal to the conscience.  The conscience is just one part of the soul.  We also have our emotions and our reasoning capacities.  When someone is under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is working on the seat of the emotions. But He is also doing business with the conscience which incorporates one's reasoning capacities.

This is very biblical when we look at two passages where Jesus saw and challenged the Pharisees, seeing and addressing that they were reasoning in their hearts.  Mark tells us that Jesus saw the Pharisees, who had just heard Jesus declaring the paralytic's sins being forgiven (Mark 2:6). Luke tells us in Luke 5:22, "But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, 'Why are you reasoning in your hearts?"

We like to tell folks that Jesus is in our hearts. If we refer to just our emotions and conscience, with reference to our hearts, that is not a sound apologetic. It is nothing more than experiential testimony that can easily be debunked, if the heart does not include one's reasoning capacities.

Let's move on.

The temperature of our answer back

I like to think of apologetics as giving credible (reasonable) answers to the curious questions that confront out faith.  (Thanks Bobby Conway for letting me use this and adapt it for our usage.) When we break down the Greek word, apo-logia, we get the prefix apo which denotes a meaning implying direction (from, on account of something).  The root is the word logia from logos, meaning "a word." Put it all together and you have a word or answer from, in this case, a question or on account of the question being asked.

Knowing this we see the attitude or the temperature that is conveyed in our response. We see two godly characteristics, gentleness and reverence. These two attitudes are important because we are dealing with hearts and minds.

Imagine a harsh answer or a short and straight to the point answer that does not probe beneath the surface of an underlying presupposition. Imagine in today's culture being asked about the current volatile social issue, and responding with "God says it's wrong!" or something even more blunt of an  answer.  I am not saying that we not tell the truth.

This also does not mean we soft sell or sacrifice the truth because we are dealing with minds and hearts that are hostile to the faith. Often times, we have to take a fews steps back and make sure that the question being asked is the real issue, before with give the answer that we were initially thinking we should give.  A lot of times there is an undercurrent issue that needs to be addressed before we go and give a biblically cohesive answer.

This is just one way of answer with the gentleness and reverence. It is better to keep a conversation going, with the hopes of getting to the gospel than to take the short end route and lose the person possibly forever because we are perceived by our counter conversant as something that is not what Christ desires us to be.

Think about this the next a hot button question comes up. Be careful how you answer and seek to keep the conversation longer than 8 seconds, which is the time you need to stay on the bucking bronco in a rodeo.

Strength for doing right in a world going wrong

Two of the most missed out verses in this great passage, giving us the apologetic mandate are verses 16 and 17 which tell us,

16
and keep a good conscience so that in the think in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong."


I don't know whether you realize this or not, particularly if you have a passion for apologetics as a means of strengthening your discipleship (like I do) that things are going to heat up in this culture. We need to be preparing ourselves and seeking to equip others to give answers to the top tough questions facing the Christian faith.[3]

What will this do?  It will strengthen your faith, your knowledge of our God and the truthfulness of the Christian faith. By learning and applying the reasons you will grow in your devotion to the Lord, and confidence that what you believe is the true road to knowing true meaning and purpose for our lives.  

Notes

*All passages are in the New American Standard unless otherwise noted.

[1] Apologetics involves more than giving a presentation or giving a response to a criticism against our faith. It also entails asking questions, and asking questions or speaking into the question being asked. What this posting is about living the apologetic life of disciple.
[2] Apologetics courses are now starting to gain some tracking in the some undergrad programs thanks to professors who have been engaging the culture before coming onto their respective faculties. These programs have been a long time coming, like the apologetics major that has been implemented in recent time at my alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University.

[3] If you would like to know that we think are the tough issues facing our churches in the culture see our posting Four Dangerous Trends the Church Needs to Address.

See These Posts from the Real Issue Similar to this Post. . . 

Four Dangerous Trends the Church Needs to Address     

Now That the Court Has Ruled How Then Shall We Live?     

Apologetics Serves Evangelism in a Post-Christian Culture 

In the Culture We Have Today Pre-evangelism or Apologetics Cannot Be Ignored!


Rob Lundberg is the Director of the Real Issue Apologetics Ministry, a ministry devoted to equipping believers and answering the culture with credible answers to the challenging questions that are facing the Christian faith and the church today. He can be reached by email at roblundberg2000@yahoo.com


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