Misunderstood Apologetics

People often misunderstand apologetic for apologetics. An apologetic person usually expresses sorrow for something said or done. It can mean a written or spoken expression of regret or remorse. However, an apology did not originally mean what people usually think it means today. It originally meant to give a verbal or written defense for a cause, an action, or a doctrine.

The Apostle Peter wrote, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (First Peter 3:15). He used the word apologia for defense. We are to give a defense of our faith, not to apologize for it as many think today. Peter urges Christians to be able to defend their faith whenever someone asks them about the hope that is in their lives.

When we as Christians give a defense or justification for our faith, we are engaging in a discipline known as “apologetics.” Dictionary.com defines apologetics as, “the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity.” Perhaps you are thinking that apologetics is some kind of difficult practice that only trained theologians can do. Often it involves the classical arguments for the existence of God, proof of the reliability of the Bible or creationism. While that certainly is apologetics, any time you tell someone why you are a believer in Christ, that is apologetics. You are giving a justification for what and why you believe.

Maybe you feel somewhat intimidated today thinking of standing before a professor or scientist and giving a reason for the hope that is within you. Often critics of Christianity will ask you to prove the existence of God. Can you defend the Christian faith? Are you up to the challenge, or would you remain silent when someone asks you to “prove” Christianity is true?

You cannot “prove” God in the empirically scientific sense like critics demand. Then again, neither can they disprove him in the same way. You cannot prove God by subjecting him to a test tube or petri dish. It requires a different kind of science.

Think of a murder trial. In this scenario, you have a victim, a defendant, and a body of evidence. In addition to the judge, you also have a defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney. Both attorneys have the same evidence, the same victim, and the same defendant. The difference is the presupposition or starting point.

The defense attorney “presupposes” the innocence of the defendant. If the attorney did not believe in the innocence of the defendant, then why take the case? Likewise, the prosecution presupposes the guilt of the victim, otherwise, why bring a case against the defendant? Both attorneys will use the same evidence to try to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt to the jury so that they will render a verdict. (Let me say here that I am not a lawyer and I have not played one on TV either. This is just a general observation.)

The purpose of the trial is to examine all the evidence and interpret it in such a way as to support the presupposition of the attorneys. They cannot change or alter the evidence. They cannot hide evidence. They need to make it all available for both sides. They present their case in a way that gives the most reasonable understanding of the evidence. Then they submit all that to the jury by way of testimonies and argumentation so that they see guilt or innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is interesting to note the expression “reasonable doubt.” A murder cannot be proved scientifically as it is impossible to recreate the murder under controlled circumstances as required by “empirical science.” It cannot be observed. The best anyone can do is to present the available evidence and give it the most probable interpretation. The jury then has to decide which interpretation is the most credible. Then they vote. They determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant based on the arguments of the attorneys and their presuppositions.

Apologetics means giving a written or verbal defense of a belief. Usually it refers to trying to prove the existence pf God or the reliability of the Bible. Atheists, agnostics, and believers all have the same evidence. All have a presupposition. Where they start with the evidence will determine where they end with it, what conclusions they will draw. An atheist presupposes that God does not exist, so he or she interprets the evidence to support that presupposition. The agnostic presupposes that it is not possible to know if God exists and interprets the arguments to support that belief. Likewise, the believer presupposes that God does exist and interprets the evidence accordingly. Ultimately, each person must decide which case is the most probable.

What about you? Which way will you vote? Will you vote to believe that God exists? If so, that will affect every aspect of your life. As for me, I will never apologize for being a believer in Christ, but I will tell you what I believe and why.

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IT CAN’T BE THAT EASY

That was how the young couple I was training in FAITH Evangelism responded. They had accompanied me to make an evangelistic presentation to a family. The teenage daughter, after hearing the presentation, decided she wanted to repent of her sin and trust Christ. After a simple prayer, she became a follower of Christ.

When I asked for feedback about the training experience, the young man said becoming a follower of Christ couldn’t be that easy. We want to make it a difficult process. We add rituals, ceremonies and festivities to show we are sincere. A Syrian officer named Naaman contracted leprosy. A Jewish servant girl told him to go to Israel to see the prophet Elisha to get healed. Elisha sent a servant out to greet him and tell him to go dip seven times in the Jordan River and he would be healed. Naaman went away angry. However, his servant stopped him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13).

One criticism of “Sola Fide,” or faith alone, is that once people “pray the prayer,” they can live any way they want. “Once saved, always saved” or perseverance of the saints does not mean that at all. Once people believe in Christ, a change needs to occur as a demonstration of that faith. Both the Apostle Paul and Apostle James point to Abraham to prove their points. Paul says Abraham was justified by faith alone. James said that his deeds justified him. There is no conflict. It is not a case of faith or works, but a faith that works. Abraham was credited with righteousness twelve years before he was circumcised and four hundred years before any one of the laws was given to Moses. He could not have kept the Sabbath, Passover, or any feasts, yet he was considered righteous because he believed. So how did he demonstrate his faith? He packed up and moved to a land that God had not yet even revealed to him.

When God approached Noah to tell him that he was going to destroy all flesh, he told Noah to build an ark large enough to carry all the kinds of land-dwelling animals. God gave him the dimensions and told him how to prepare for the coming deluge. How did Noah demonstrate his faith? Genesis 6:22 says that “Noah did according to all that God commanded him.” He went from being a farmer to being a ship builder. As James stated, he showed his faith through his actions.

As Jesus approached the town of Jericho, he encountered a man named Zacchaeus up in a tree. Zacchaeus desired to see Jesus, but the crowd would not permit it. Jesus told him to come down and take him to his home. There Jesus participated in a hospitable meal. Zacchaeus said, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.” What did Jesus mean by “a son of Abraham”? Wasn’t Zacchaeus already Jewish? Galatians 3:6-7 says, “just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore, know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” True sons and daughters of Abraham are not those who keep Jewish rituals and festivities, but those who simply believe what God says.

Notice the changes in all three of these lives. Abraham left the place where he felt at home and moved to a place that God had not yet revealed to him. Noah’s belief in what God told him motivated him to begin building a ship. Zacchaeus’ faith motivated him to restore those whom he had defrauded and give generously to the poor. Their lives drastically changed.

Believers often use Ephesians 2:8-9 to justify spiritual inactivity: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Yet they forget to add verse 10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” We are not saved by works, but for works.

Everyday Evangelism

Evangelism doesn’t have to be scary. When Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world, he didn’t necessarily mean that you have to give up everything and move to another country to be a witness for him. In Matthew 28:19-20, commonly known as the Great Commission, Jesus simply meant, “as you go…” As you go about living your life, you look for opportunities to share the message of Christ with those you come into contact with regularly. Think of your family and friends. Do they all know Christ? What about your co-workers or fellow students? Have you ever talked with them about Christ?

God wants to use you to reach others.

Christ did not command only a select few to go. He wants all of us to tell others about him. On the evening of his resurrection, Christ talked with two of his disciples as they walked toward Emmaus. He explained the role of the Messiah using Scripture. When they realized who he was, they ran back to Jerusalem to meet with other disciples. While they were talking, Christ appeared to them again and explained his purpose. Then he told them that they should preach repentance and forgiveness of sin in his name beginning where they were. They were his witnesses (Luke 24:13-49).

God wants you to begin right where you are. Begin with the people you know and come in contact with daily. Talking about repentance and forgiveness is more difficult than inviting someone to Church. Christ never commanded the world to come to the church and learn. He commanded the church to go into the world and teach. He wants us to leave the four walls of our church buildings and take his message to people who have not come into the building.

You can reach people that others can’t.

People have many reasons for not coming into a church building, but it is more important for you to invite them to Christ than your church meetings. You may not think of yourself as a great speaker. You may be tempted to think your pastor or youth minister should do the talking, but you will contact people your pastor or minister may never meet.

You never fail when you share Christ.

If all you know is your testimony, you may not think it is spectacular, but God will place people in your path that maybe only you can reach. I like Darrell Robinson’s definition of being a successful witness in People Sharing Jesus. He basically says that a successful witness is sharing Christ and the way to know him in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. Doing that, you will never fail.

You listen for other’s needs.

Opportunities to talk about Christ often come up in normal everyday conversations. As you are listening, others may talk about needs in their life. They may talk about stress or other difficulties. They may express questions or doubts about the future. Many years ago, when I was in college, I worked in an optical laboratory. One of my co-workers asked my opinion of fortune tellers and mediums. Rather than launch into a tirade against them, I simply let him know that I did not worry about the future, but that I trusted God with my future. That led to an opportunity to share Christ with him. If you train yourself to listen for those types of comments, you will find you have plenty of opportunities to share Christ.

Get Outta here!

When you get out of the church walls, and speak naturally about Christ, you will find that people aren’t as offended by the gospel as you may have heard. People are often pleasantly surprised when you naturally transition to talking about Christ without grabbing them by the collar and shouting, “Brother, are you saved?” You don’t come off as “churchy.”

God wants to use us more than we realize. Don’t sell yourself short by saying, “I don’t know how God can use someone like me. God has created you uniquely and he wants to use you if you are willing. All you have to do is go. Telling others about Christ is one of the most exciting parts of being a Christian.