The Scriptural Case for Apologetics: 7 Quick Points

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1) Every Christian is an apologist, for every time we  clarify our beliefs to a sceptic, we are defending it from misunderstanding and misrepresentation. Every time we explain why we believe we are offering an argument for the faith. The only question is “will we do apologetics well or poorly”?

2) Is it really so surprising that God would want to engage our minds? After all, he calls the whole person – body, mind and soul, if you will – to submit. Rational argument alone cannot deal with the deep biases against God’s truth, but evidence has its place in commending the word of God to the unbeliever, and in convincing him to repent.

3) Only God can effectively call someone to faith.  But how does God call us? Typically, through his word; and it is astonishing how often God’s word reasons with unbelief. For example Paul opens his chief theological statement, the book of Romans, with a critique of idolatry and polytheism.  The creator’s eternal power is revealed through the natural world; the author of this creation must be far greater than anything in the created realm. Yet, even though everyone instinctively searches for God, pagans worship with pieces of wood and stone. This is foolishness, for they should know that something even more beautiful lies behind the beauty of nature.

Romans 1 v 19 ...what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

4) Paul makes a similar argument to the Athenians in Acts 17. The ‘world and everything in it’ reflects the power of one creator. If everything in this world depends on a creator, then it follows that the creator cannot depend on anything in nature. It is madness, then, to bring food to idols as a means of honouring the divine. Furthermore, it is absurd to suggest that anything fashioned by  human hand could contain or convey the majesty of the creator. These arguments would have been familiar to the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers of Athens. They might even have been sympathetic to Paul’s argument that because all men searched for the same thing, it was more reasonable to believe in one creator. Creation, after all, testified to one designer and one providential plan

Acts 17:25 He is not served by human hands. He doesn’t need anything. He himself gives life and breath to all people. He also gives them everything else they have.

5) Of course, if the gods of the pagans cannot adequately account for creation, neither can atheism. Atheism is on trial when Paul writes in Romans and preaches in Athens. Sadly, the philosophers cut Paul off when he mentioned the resurrection; the intellectual elites of Athens were moreinterested in fashions than truth, as Luke makes clear. But it was a tragic moment when Paul was silenced at the Areopagus, for the reader of Acts knows that he had excellent evidence for the resurrection.  Acts not only appeals to the eyewitness testimony of the apostles;  Paul could ask the Roman procurator Festus and King Herod Agrippa II to consult the public record! Presumably, the Jewish authorities had some difficulty in accounting for facts like the empty tomb!

Acts 26:25-26“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things,and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.

6) In 1 Corinthians 2v4-5, Paul says that “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power”. But Paul was not critiquing apologetics in this passage; his target was the Corinthians’ love of rhetoric. As James Beilby points out in Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It

 The point of 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 is that Pail did not want to present the gospel in the language of the trained orator who applied very specific and formal rhetorical skills and devices in order to persuade his audience. Such rhetorical devices were common among both the Jewish rabbis and the Greek philosophers. He didn’t want to win a battle of rhetoric and impress people with his argumentative skills….So there is nothing in this passage that suggests that using thoughtful, logical arguments in the service of defending and commending the faith is inappropriate.”

7) Most know that  1 Peter 3 verse 15 teaches Christians to give a reason for the hope within them . What we often fail to notice is the example set by Paul elsewhere in Acts (e.g. 17v2, 18v4, 19v8-9 and 20v7) where he is described as “reasoning” (dialegomai) with unbelievers. In his letters, Paul did not simply repeat the claims of the Gospel and pronounce that the Judaisers would be damned. Paul advanced powerful arguments for his message and he was not afraid to use reason to dissect unbelief.

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