Why Apologetics?

GUEST POST - Devin Pellew, Ratio Cristi

Susie was brought up in a Christian home. Her father was a pastor and instilled in her the need to read the Bible and memorize Scripture. As a child Susie excelled in her Sunday School class and won many awards. As Susie got older, she began learning things in her high school science classes that caused her great distress. If the Bible is the Word of God, where does science fit in? She was being taught that the universe came into existence through natural processes alone and that the origin of life was really just a freak accident. What about "cave men" and the transitional forms in the fossil record? Are we really just a product of chance and natural processes? These issues weighed heavily on Susie yet she did not want to tell her Dad that she was having some serious doubts as science seemed incompatible with what she had been taught in her Sunday School classes growing up.

Things got worse when she entered her first semester of college. Her second class of the week was Intro to Philosophy. She was shaken to the core when the professor boldly proclaimed that "God was dead". Throughout the semester the professor not only attacked the existence of God but also taught that the Bible could not be the Word of God because it was "filled with contradictions". Susie, shaken to her core, came home at Christmas break and told her parents that she had abandoned her faith because science and philosophy had demonstrated that God did not exist and that the Bible was not His Word. Her dad was heartbroken but was not able to counter the arguments Susie had learned in school. He thought to himself "where did I go wrong?" Susie was brought up in the church, memorized scripture and went to VBS every year. How could this happen?

 

Sadly this scenario plays out in many homes every year. It is estimated that three out of four teens, who grew up in a Christian home, walk away from the faith they were brought up in. [1] So how do we respond? Sadly, many churches do not know how to "stop the bleeding".

 

Throughout the history of the church, there have always been vicious attacks on the existence of God and the Bible. Scripture commands believers to give a defense for these attacks. 1 Peter3:15 reads: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”. The Greek word for “defense” in this verse is apologia, which is where we get the term Apologetics. Apologetics is the branch of Christian theology that provides a defense of the faith drawing from philosophy, logic, science and history. Many today in the church believe that faith and reason are opposed and incompatible. Many have never heard of thinkers like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Anselm and others who dedicated their lives to answering the attacks on the Christian faith.

 

Why Apologetics?

 

Christians need to learn apologetics for these three reasons:

1) We are commanded by God to give a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Peter3:15).

Not every Christian is called to go to seminary and to dedicate their lives to defending the faith. However, all Christians need to know what they believe and why they believe it. Throughout church history there have been many who have tried to infiltrate the church in order to lead others astray through false teachings. Paul addressed this in his admonition to the Ephesian Elders:

Acts 20:28-31 ESV

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears."

In order to identify and discern a false view of God or a corrupt gospel, we must first know what the correct teaching is. This comes through reading the Bible, prayer and studying theology. Everyone is a theologian on some level. The question is whether we will be good ones or bad ones. Scripture tells us to "study to show ourselves approved" (2 Timothy 2:15) and to be able to give an answer for the faith we believe (1 Peter 3:15). Learning apologetics for the Christian is a command- not an option.

2) We are commanded to evangelize (Matthew 28:19).


We live in a culture that is increasingly skeptical. Forty years ago there was a tremendous degree of respect for the Bible in this country. However we now live in a culture where mocking the Bible is not only acceptable but is encouraged. The rise of Scientism, the view that only that which can be proved scientifically is true, makes dialoging about the existence of God and the reliability of the Bible particularly challenging. When engaging in evangelism, Christians are challenged to give reasons why one should believe that God exists and that the Bible is an authoritative book. Up until the 1800’s, Christians have been well versed in philosophical and historical arguments for the existence of God, the Resurrection of Christ and the authority of the Bible. However, today most unbelievers (and many Christians) have never heard the existence of God and the reliability of the Bible defended with logical arguments. In our culture it is impossible to do evangelism without engaging in apologetics. We all have different gifts and talents within the Body of Christ so everyone will not be experts, but we should strive to study up on some of the basic objections commonly given to help us and to give us confidence as we share the Gospel with others.

3) The future of Christianity in America depends on it.


There is a battle going on in academia and in our society as a whole and biblical Christianity in America unfortunately is on the decline (as was noted above). One way to counter this decline and to intervene as our young people are abandoning the faith is to show them that there are real answers to the objections that they will hear in the classroom and in the media. Most of these objections have been answered centuries ago by men like Aquinas, Augustine and many others. We do not have to fear reason and logic. These tools are actually on our side!

If we want to be effective in our evangelism, protect our young people from the attacks on Christianity and be faithful to God’s command to defend and share the Gospel, then we must not neglect the ministry of apologetics. Below I have listed a few of the top, beginner level books that will equip any Christian to dialog with the average atheist or skeptic. We have truth and the power of the Holy Spirit on our side. Let’s not run away from the culture when our faith is under attack but rather let’s engage the culture and defend the Gospel. Let us contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek (Crossway, 2004)

On Guard by William Lane Craig (David C. Cook, 2010)