Tag Archives: apologetics

A (very) brief intro to apologetics

[HT Defend the Word]

Share/Bookmark

Training, sparring, fighting

There are at least three elements that make up a solid defender of the Christian faith.

Training

You can’t fight if you don’t know how. You might be able to flail about, but you won’t be very effective. What’s worse is that you are just as likely to hurt yourself and those on your side than you are the enemy. Especially since part of the training process is developing the ability to tell the difference between friend and foe and properly take stock of a battlefield before charging off to engage the enemy.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. -2 Timothy 2:15

Sparring

The expression used of a 2nd lieutenant in the army is “butter bars”.

After completing OCS (Officer Candidate School), a large number of newly minted butter bars tend to think that they are General Patton reincarnated and have the belief that after months of schooling they know much more than 30 year combat hardened NCOs.

Like the army, we are prone to think that mere knowledge will be enough to face the enemy with, and unfortunately many (including myself) have rushed off into battle without spending the time to properly spar with our fellow brothers at arms first.

The reason for this is simple. We never want to go into battle without at least stress testing new tactics and ideas with our battle hardened comrades. Its better to find out that our armor and weapons aren’t up to snuff in the sparring ring where our opponent isn’t seeking to do permanent damage than it is to discover our shortcomings as the knife is plunged deep into our heart by a true enemy.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17

Fighting

All the training and sparring in the world is pointless if it is not ultimately employed on the field of battle.

The primary means of advancing the kingdom of Christ is through winning the hearts and minds of those around us who have been captured by the enemies of false teaching and sensuous pleasure.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. -Ephesians 6:12

Because of this, it is incumbent on us to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) to engage the enemy wherever we find him, in whatever form he happens to be in.1

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5

As we fight, it is important to keep in mind that the enemy is not “flesh and blood”. So when we are interacting with a non-Christian we should treat them with the utmost respect and civility. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight with every fiber of our being the thoughts and practices that have captured them.

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. -G. K. Chesterton

At the same time

Training, sparring, and fighting should be ongoing activities in each Christian’s life. Some might object that new Christians shouldn’t be rushed into battle for fear of their being cut down. To that I propose that we “go to the lions” and teach our new recruits how to fight by going with them into minor skirmishes. Part of the role of a mature Christian should be designating and delegating strategic targets of opportunity for less mature Christians.

However it is incumbent on all Christians to charge the gates of hell in order to advance the kingdom of Christ here on earth.

  1. I’m using the personal pronoun “he” here to refer to anything that “sets itself up against the knowledge of God”. []

Is your pastor a warrior?

In 1 Corinthians 9:7 Paul says:

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Paul clearly indicates in the verse above that a pastor or teacher should be viewed as a soldier, someone who tends to and protects the flock. What would that look like today?

A pastor who is a soldier actively seeks opportunities to fight against the rising tide of anti-Christian sentiments. They..

  • write against such anti-Christ forces.
  • debate advocates of ideologies that set themselves against Christ.
  • take time to train their flock to defend the faith, and more, to actively engage the enemy on his own ideological ground. Training businessmen to engage their coworkers with the truth of the gospel in a winsome and tough-minded fashion. Training students to not only survive in the modern classroom, but thrive in what is now an ideological battlefield where no prisoners are taken.

Pastors generally have no problem asking for a tithe. But when 80% of youth walk away from the faith and the vast majority of Christians cannot give one good reason why they believe what the believe (a requirement, by the way, given to all believers per 1 Peter 3:15), then we need to start asking some hard questions. First and foremost we need to ask why pastors and other “professional Christians” continue to get paid for doing such shoddy work.

So before you write out your next tithe check you should ask yourself.

Is my pastor a warrior?

Was Jesus an advocate of blind faith?

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. -Hosea 4:6a

The Bible does not require of even condone the “blind faith” of Immanuel Kant.

Problems with church planting: Forgetting to till the soil

In my last post I discussed the problem of market saturation when it comes to churches, particularly in the south where it is easy to find a church on almost every corner. However in the north the market saturation is less obvious because the problem is not an abundance of church businesses but a lack of market interest in religion in general and Christianity in particular.

This is not to say that market conditions cannot change. However the way in which markets change is through educating the consumer. This is wholly different than simple advertising where the goal is simple brand awareness of a product being offered to solve a known and understood problem and/or need. When companies wanted to introduce the personal computer to the average consumer who has never seen one before, they had to first undertake a campaign of education about computers in general and simultaneously seeding the potential market with a clear vision of the promise of a digital future.

The same thing needs to happen if we want to turn spiritually barren plains into fruitful fields.

Practically, this means a deliberate emphasis on apologetic training and engagement with individuals in markets that have, for a variety of reasons, selected against Christianity.

Before any new businesses can be established, we need to undertake a campaign of educating people of the product (worldview) of Christianity and what it has to offer. In fact, I would argue that such an education campaign needs to be undertaken even in saturated markets like the bible belt. We need to combat false impressions people have developed regarding what church is, what Christianity is all about, and most importantly, who God is and how we can know he exists and sent His Son to come and die for our sins to set us free.

We need to till the soil.

Set forth your case conference

Here is a link to more information about the conference. The conference will be held this November 18-20 at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. I am personally looking forward to seeing Alvin Plantinga speak. As Craig mentions in the video above, Plantinga is one of the best philosophers alive today.

Hope to see you there!

Like riding a bike

We’ve recently undergone the task of teaching our daughter to ride her bike without training wheels. And through the tears we often hear the protest “you’re hurting my feelings” from our less than enthusiastic daughter. To her, riding a bike has gone from an enjoyable activity to a huge chore that her parents force her to undertake almost every evening.

While working with my daughter I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between learning how to ride and learning theology and apologetics.

Learning how to ride a bike is hard. Especially for children whose motor skills and sense of equilibrium are still developing. Learning how to ride a bike results in a lot of falls, tears, and anger. And worst of all, it is not over in a day.

The same could be said for learning theology and apologetics.

It takes hard work, time, and a willingness to risk making mistakes (sometimes very big mistakes) to learn theology and apologetics. Feelings are bound to get hurt along the way as we both develop and sharpen our beliefs and as we learn how to argue for our beliefs. Sometimes we get embarrassed when we go to argue for a newly formed belief we don’t quite fully understand and, due to our lack of experience, end up falling flat on our face when blindside by a rebuttal we hadn’t considered before.

And just like riding a bike. We don’t learn theology or apologetics because it makes us feel good or because the potential positive feelings later on will outweigh the pain experienced now. We learn how to ride a bike because it is a good thing to learn in and of itself. With theology and apologetics, we can add to this that we also study them because they help us grow closer to God.

No one said that learning theology and/or apologetics is easy.

It’s like riding a bike.

On presuppositionalism

Here is an exchange I had recently with a brother in Christ on the topic of presuppositionalism and it’s possible pitfalls when it comes to being a basis for apologetics and evangelization:

They:

when the presuppositionalist claims there is no common ground, how duz the classical apologist respond?

Because one of my seminary buddies (he’s in seminary, I’m not) said that all we can do is deliver the Gospel and if God wants to save He will. Then my buddy quotes something from Romans 10 about how faith comes from the Gospel.

My response:

I think your friend needs to take a few courses or read a few good books on epistemology. Specifically, I would recommend Alvin Plantinga’s work as it is widely recognized as some of the best epistemological work in that area. I think Plantinga still comes down in the presupposionalist camp, but his exploration of the topic shows that there is a lot more there than Van Til (the father of presuppositionalism) thought.

As for faith, I don’t think it is accurate or logically valid to say that faith is given to us by something/someone else. I would contend that the Biblical view of faith is “to trust” and that it ultimately falls under the category of epistemology or how you know what you know. Faith is not an object and therefore cannot be given or taken away from anyone. Here is a piece I wrote on the dynamics of faith.

As for the common ground. Not all presupposionalists take that view. Some (like myself) will use presuppositionalism to point out that different sets of presuppositions lead one to different conclusions so that a philosophical naturalist and a theist will approach the subject of the resurrection differently. In that case presuppositionalism is used more as a line of argument in a cumulative case for the rationality of Christianity.

In that respect I find great value in presuppositionalism. However the other side, what you elude to, is the view that since we start off in different epistemological camps and since man cannot change his own mind (which entails the negation of limited freedom in any meaningful sense which is quite beyond the scope of this post), there is no use even attempting to change someone else’s mind through reason and evidence.

It is that view of presuppositionalism that I find quite unfortunate in the Christian community as it necessarily undercuts any sort of evangelism as it essentially requires the other person to come without any objections.

Since our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity I also believe the second view of presuppositionalism is not only unwise and unhelpful but downright dangerous and detrimental to the Christian church as the clear message it sends to non-believers is “we will not engage you, you must just accept what we say on blind faith”.

I believe that persuasion is the center piece of evangelism. Therefore I think anything that hinders or nullifies our ability to persuade others (in an intellectually honest fashion) is unhelpful and wrong.

The missing link of a Great Commission Resurgence: Apologetics

The Southern Baptist Convention, of which I am a member, has undertaken a challenge recently laid down by Southeastern Theological Seminary president Dr. Danny Akin in his sermon “12 Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence”. This challenge, in a nutshell, is to get back to our Biblical roots and primary mission of telling the world about Jesus.

While the axioms that make up the core of this movement are quite sound, I believe we are missing one key to actually bringing about a resurgence or making ourselves as Southern Baptists agents of change in our culture. Specifically, how we do evangelism.

I’m not talking about methods or programs, I’m talking about how we prepare and train for engaging a culture that is increasingly hostile to the objective claims of the gospel. The risks we run rushing unprepared into a world that, as Francis Schaeffer once said, is unable to even process the epistemic notion that there could be such a thing as objective truth and that we as mere mortals could dare to know it.

In short, we need to step back and make sure we do some serious preparation among our own members before we send them out. We need to encourage an intentional investment by local churches into apologetic training. Learning both the tactics and the information necessary to stand firm on the rock solid foundation of the faith that many throughout history have died defending.

Interestingly enough, the North American Mission Board has a program well-suited to the task of assisting local churches in their efforts to train and equip their members to “contend for the faith” as Paul encouraged Jude1 . This is known as the Certified Apologetics Instructors program directed by Mike Licona, a well known and respected defender of the faith.

If churches are serious about taking up the Great Commission Resurgence challenge and truly wish to engage the world around them, to storm the gates of Hell as it were2 , I hope they make use of the fine apologists who belong to this program and who are ready, willing, and able to serve their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in equipping them with sound training.

  1. Jude 1:3 []
  2. Matthew 16:18 []