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20 Nuggets from Apologetics | C21

“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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pet 3:15-16).

The content below is taken from Dr. Timothy Paul Jones’s “Introduction to Missiology” lectures at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Spring 2021).

1. Apologetics: The church’s reverent, reasonable, and humble defense through Spirit-empowered words and lives of the hope we have in the risen Christ, as this hope has been revealed in His Word and in the world. The purpose of apologetics is to partner with the Spirit of God and His people by means of Scripture [special revelation], reason [a rational defense], nature [general revelation], and history [evidential]. As R. C. Sproul has stated succinctly, the goal is to “unmask the unbeliever’s suppression of the evidence.”

2. “In a time when biblical preaching is shunned by many and lifestyle evangelism apart from gospel proclamation is the preferred evangelistic methodology, we are in danger of trying to win people through kind acts and social service alone. But the example of the apostles and earliest followers of Jesus contradicts this sort of approach.”[1]

3. The strongest thing you can do as a witness will often be marked by humility and meekness. "Our willingness to embrace the realities of our neighbor’s difficulty is what empowers our witness and makes our testimony of Christ effective and hearable."[2]

4. The most important apologetic is that which proceeds from parents to their children: “My mother was in greater labor for my salvation than she ever was for my birth.” -Augustine

5. “Apologists should have calluses on their brains from thinking, on their hands from serving, and on their knees from praying.”[3]

Four Methods of Apologetics

6. Classical Apologetics uses the following four arguments to first establish that God exists before contending second, to contend for the truth of the Christian faith in particular. J. P. Boyce, B. B. Warfield, R. C. Sproul are notable classical apologists.

a. Ontological Argument: We can know about God through reason and/or nature [general revelation] apart from special revelation [the Bible].

b. Cosmological Argument: There is nothing independent from nature; all things depend on something else.

c. Tassalogical Argument: The order and symmetry of nature gives evidence of a designer.

d. Teleological Argument: The orientation of all things towards a certain purpose give evidence for God and His purposes.

7. Evidential Apologetics demonstrates how the Christian faith is evidenced in history. It is not true because of the evidence . . . the evidence shows us what is already true. Simon Greenleaf and Hugo Grotius are notable evidential apologists.

8. Transcendental Apologetics demonstrates how an Christianity offers a more coherent and probable explanation of human rationality, morality, and desire than any non-Christian alternative. This method of apologetics is effective in a secular age. Francis Schaeffer and Tim Keller are notable transcendental apologists.

9. Confessional (Ecclesial) Apologetics defends the truth of the gospel by appealing to evidences of the presence and power of the resurrected Christ in the life of the church and its confessions.

The Authority of Scripture

10. “When one examines how the world looks whenever Christian ethics are properly applied, the evidence is clear that divine imperatives are far superior to social constructs and subjective emotionalism.”[4]

11. Simon Greenleaf argued that the testimony of Scripture would stand up in any common law trial because the case for the truth of Christianity could be proven as a legal certainty through (1) admissions against the personal interest of the writers, (2) the ability for honest reporting, (3) the sufficiency and consistency of the witnesses, (4) the conformity to experience, and (5) the conformity to historical evidence. It would be crazy to talk about God being crucified unless it were true.

12. "Charles Manson used the White Album in a way that the Beatles never intended [via murder] - and that's worth remembering when you consider all the ways the Bible has been used, abused, and misused over the centuries."[5]

The Problem of Evil, Pain, and Suffering

13. Most often, the issue that keeps people from trusting God is pain, not evidence. It will be difficult to share evidence if we do not first empathize with the pain. “Leadership begins by identifying with the pain of the people you are trying to lead.” -John Perkins

14. How a good God can allow evil is the greatest challenge that college students who walked away from the faith faced. There are three responses to this challenge.

a. Soul-Making Defense: Evil and suffering are necessary to form us into virtuous people.

b. Free-Will Defense: A world with moral goodness requires at least the possibility of moral evil.

c. Felix Culpa Defense: There is a goodness and a beauty experienced through God’s redemption that would never have been possible if the cosmos had never needed redemption. God entered into our suffering through Christ. This is, perhaps, the strongest argument for the ‘problem’ of evil.

Creation and Design

15. If Jesus believed His Bible and if I trust what He taught on the basis of the testimony in the Gospels, it makes sense for me to believe the same texts that He believed.

16. William Paley and the Watchmaker Analogy. Paley contended that if we were to discover a rock in nature, we may assume that it had always been there. Yet, if we were to discover a watch, we would come to a different conclusion. Paley illustrates how the several parts that have been so formed as to form a purpose would lead us to rightly believe that "there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use."[6]

17. Because that which is moral will bring us the most happiness, following the designer’s order leads to the greatest fulfillment in life.

18. Every human pursues understanding through belief, even if misplaced. All humans strive for beauty, goodness, and truth. “Values like artistic beauty are what we would expect if humans were created by a personal, loving, and beauty valuing God.” -William Davis

Moral Therapeutic Deism and the Drift from Orthodox Christianity

19. Universalism (all people will experience salvation), pluralism (all religions are equally lead to salvation), inclusivism (Jesus's work on the cross accomplished salvation even for some who have not believed in Him as the only means to be saved) have become increasingly popular, even within the church. Yet the Bible is clear that there is no salvation apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:18, 36, 6:29; Acts 4:12). Faith includes both allegiance and assent. There must be a "that" to which one is allegiance belongs to (John 3:18, 20:31; 1 John 5:1).

20. The first thing to be disregarded of confessional creedal orthodoxy is typically the doctrine of hell. The ground of condemnation before God is not the rejection of the gospel but the guilt that results from rebellion against what is known about God (Romans 1:20).

Definitions

a priori – knowledge/reasoning that is derived prior to experience or observation.

a posteriori – knowledge/reasoning that is derived from experience or observation.

compatibilist free will: free will is affected by human nature but a person cannot choose contrary to the fallen nature and desires.[7] (Jonathan Edwards)

libertarian free will: free will is affected by human nature but retains the ability to choose contrary to fallen nature and desires. [8]

epistemology: the branch of philosophy that studies how we know what we know.

metaphysics: a division of philosophy that studies what is outside of objective experience that includes ontology, cosmology, and epistemology.

ontology: relating to the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.

[1] Christopher W. Brooks, Urban Apologetics: Why the Gospel Is Good News for the City (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2014), 105. [2] Brooks, Urban Apologetics, 34. [3] Brooks, Urban Apologetics, 150. [4] Brooks, Urban Apologetics, 104. [5] Timothy Paul Jones, Why Should I Trust the Bible (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2019), 99. [6] Zondervan et al., The History of Apologetics: A Biographical and Methodological Introduction, 2020, 347, http://www.vlebooks.com/vleweb/product/openreader?id=none&isbn=9780310559559. [7] “What Is Compatibilist Free Will and Is It Biblical? | Carm.Org,” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (blog), September 11, 2010, https://carm.org/about-philosophy/what-is-compatibilist-free-will/. [8] “What Is Compatibilist Free Will and Is It Biblical? | Carm.Org,” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (blog), September 11, 2010, https://carm.org/about-philosophy/what-is-compatibilist-free-will/.

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