"Apologetics is Biblically commanded of every Christian."
Prof. Craig Parton, J.D. began the first session yesterday with this statement. I had never seen apologetics (defending of the faith) as something Christians are commanded to do but here he was stating this as fact. Then, he opened the Scriptures and read the following,
...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 (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)
As believers we are to know the faith so that we may proclaim the truth to the unbeliever. I'm not just talkig about know the basics but to, as the Bible says, "study to show yourself an approved worker..." (2 Tim. 2:15) However, those who want to engage often feel they are not prepared or equipped with the tools they need to actively answer the questions of unbelievers. Not only are many believers ill-equipped but they fear saying the wrong thing. They want to make an impact but just don't know how.
So, rather than running into an intellectual retreat, we should be equipping others with the tools necessary to help them answer the questions of unbelievers. Just think the value we place on training others for various tasks such as a roofer or builder, doctors and lawyers, those in the military or security vocations. If they were not properly trained would you trust them to do their vocation well? You probably would not take medical advice from someone who knows nothing about the inner workings of the body and you would not take a child to court as your attorney. No, you want someone who has had training, been prepared for the task ahead. In the same way, believers are to be prepared and trained in order to answer the questions of the unbeliever.
We don't answer their questions as if that will change their mind. What we do in apologetics is remove, one by one, that which hinders them from believing, the hurdles they put up to be able to excuse themselves from trusting in Christ for salvation. As we answer their questions removing those obstacles we bring them closer to the house of salvation to the very Door and they either walk through it or turn around and walk away.
Always presenting the Gospel first and then answering their questions we proclaim to them that their sins have been forgiven, that Jesus has died for them and that they may have eternal life. We don't answer their questions with our testimony, except to say that you too are a sinner saved by grace alone, but we bring them the message of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. Then we answer their rejections in love, with grace and tenderness.
Some gems from yesterdays lectures are:
Testimony is a starting point, if need be but the down side is that its ever enough because a change of life is not enough. They need the Gospel first.
Apologetics is about defending Christ...not your denomination
Answer their questions. Don't answer questions you think they have or objections you may have had but answer their questions with gentleness.
Apologetics is NOT winning the argument. Rather, it is a tool of evangelism to proclaim Christ crucified and risen again.
You defense of the faith must be a defense of Creedal Christianity (that's a great start for another blog post)
"Give Law to satisfied sinners. Give Gospel to terrified sinners." - Martin Luther
I had not heard this before but how wonderful to know that the unbeliever who is truly seeking, we may give them the Words of Life, proclaiming to them the One who IS Life so that they may receive eternal life.
As Christians, our faith is founded on fact. In class yesterday, we discussed this idea of "blind faith". That is not the Christian faith. Our faith is grounded in historical events; God coming to earth as a baby, growing up among real people, dying on a real Roman Cross and physically rising from the dead with well over 500 eye witnesses of the event. We do not have some belief that is just an illusion or a faith that is as graspable as vapor. No! We have a faith that has proof, evidence which vindicates the truths of the Bible, the historicity of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrections.
As believers, it is our duty to, as Peter says in his letter, be prepared to make a defense. Being prepared is what struck me. Preparation for anything takes time, focus, energy and faithfulness to the task. It is not a shoddy preparation for we battle not the powers of men but principalities and rulers who want people to die in their sins. Preparation takes thought. Preparation takes up our time, forces us to put aside lesser things so that we can be better equipped and improve our skills. Friends, we Christians are on the front line and should do what we can to know our faith better, know the evidences for our faith, and be able to share that with the skeptic and unbeliever.
Realizing that are told to always being prepared to make this defense it might seem that this is an aggressive defense but it's not. We are to defend the faith with reverance and gentleness. Reverence because we have a message from the King of kings, our Lord and Savior. Gentleness because those we proclaim this message to are in serious spiritual trouble and we certainly don't want their rejecting of Christ to be because we were rough or aggressive. Our defense must be with love and grace for sure, but that's not a wimpy kind of love because we have a sure hope within us, a faith founded on fact and a reason for that hope within.
As I thought about what Prof. Parton said, that it is "commanded" I thought to myself, this is more of an honor given to believers. We are not told to tell others "just take it by blind faith" but instead, we can give a well-evidence reason for the faith we have. As we learn these tools we can use them at the grocery store, with our friends, family and neighbors. You may not see them come in the Kingdom but you can be assured that God uses some to plant, some to water and fertilize and He gives the increase.