Thursday, August 4, 2016

What Purpose Does Apologetics Have in the Church?

Whenever we talk to another believer about the subject of apologetics, we often get some unique reactions. Some think that apologetics is about arguing someone into Heaven.  It's not about arguing as much as it is persuading or encouraging one to believe.

Others think that apologetics is about debating two contrary views.  While conversation has the potential to get spirited if the wrong attitude is taken this is a misnomer as well.  

This posting is not a response to the reactions to apologetics. That might sound like another blog posting.  What I would like to do here is just share some of the notes that I am putting together for our church, and what we are planning to teach in the not too distant future.

By the way, we are seeking to teach a six to eight week training block the question, "What If Christianity is Actually True? How Can We Know & Why Does it Matter?"  This compound question was a twelve week series with our students at Ratio Christi at Germanna; but we are looking to condense or introduce this material bit by bit to those in the church.  

That being said, let me take a quick moment to share some things about what apologetics has to do with the church and why it is important. 

Apologetics has both positive and negative goals or purposes.  

Apologetics is positive where it builds a positive case when it builds a positive case for the Christian faith, by defending the objective nature of truth, giving reasons for the existence of God and providing a defense of miracles, and for the credibility of the gospel records, and evidence for the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ

is probably a lot of where the Apostle Paul’s understanding of apologetics when he states in Philippians 1:16, . . .that “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.  He earlier alludes to this in chapter 1:7, "For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me."

is in this objective that we are primarily concerned with apologetics toward an unbelieving, skeptical, question asking world.

other part or objective of apologetics, which is negative, has to do with preventing believers from falling into error, and misunderstandings regarding the Christian faith.  Here we are speaking to believers, educating believers, and equipping believers, so that they will not fall into error. Apologetics is used to bring that education to them, so that they will not be deceived and so that their faith can actually be built up and they can gain some confidence in their faith.

The American church has had not just an assault from cult groups like
 the Mormons, the Jehovahs Witnesses and other groups. The church has also been infiltrated by faulty movements and theologies coming from the likes of the Word Faith Movement (positive confession/name it claim it), contemplative prayer (Buddhist mysticism), “holy laughter,” believers participating in yoga, the new apostolic reformation (IHOP/Prayer Furnace movements), positive attraction, Oneism (New age Eastern mindfulness movement disguised with Christian terms), etc.  If you think that I am being unfair or wrong on some of this, I would like to invite you to dialog with me on this.

What is our standard?    Our standard comes from God’s two books (don't lose me here).  The first book is what is known as  the general revelation of God (the creation which shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1).  The second book is the written special revelation that we know as the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 we see a description from the offensive side: "For though we do walk   according to the flesh we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."  We should be able to defend our reasons for believing   (1 Peter 3:15).

but we can also "go on the attack" against the ideologies but not the individualWe can seek out those who oppose Christianity (2 Corinthians 10:5). Of course, we should be prepared to do this beforehand, and all apologetics is to be done with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

Apologetics can also be about the work of convincing people to change their views on truth and reality. 

In this, it is similar to preaching because its goal is ultimately the defense and presentation of the validity and necessity of the gospel. It is an attempt to persuade the listener to change their beliefs and life to conform to Biblical truth and to come to a saving relationship in Christ.

Some areas of cultural engagement within the discipline of Christian apologetics deal with the use of evidence, reason, philosophy, etc. There is some tension in some camps of the church (at large) on this.  

Unbelievers have good questionsChristianity has good answersAnd God has told us to give them the answers they are looking forHowever some of the questions that are being asked have underlying issues, so it is important to listen carefully to what the person is asking.

everyone has deep philosophical questions, and God never guarantees our successThe  successes that we experience are His business, and He has told us to be ready.

Something for YOU and I to remember.  

chose one highly-educated religious person as an apostle. That was Paul. The rest were fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor, etc. They were normal people of the day who were available and willing to be used by the Lord. They were filled with the Spirit of God, and they were used as vessels of God. God uses all things for His glory. So, when we engage in pre-evangelistic discourse with a “seeker,” we are doing apologetics by faith.

The Lord has called every Christian to be ready to make a defense of his faith. That means you are called to give reasonable answers to questions regarding Christianity. Now, this does not mean that you must have a Ph.D. or that you have to go to seminary. However, it does mean that you should be willing to at least give an answer for your beliefs

If you find you cannot, then prayerfully take it to God and start studying.  If you need any assistance, let our ministry assist you through one on one conversation, inviting us to meet for coffee, or inviting us to come and speak to your church, Bible study group or group.  

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