Apologetics: Part 2

 

Here are Brad Poston’s notes for the conclusion of last week’s sermon on defending the faith.

Theory of Apologetics Part II

 

Key Texts: I Peter 3:13-17, 2 Peter 1:16-21

 

  1. Definitions (I Peter 3:13-17)
    1. Apologetics has nothing to do with apologizing or asking for forgiveness of anything in Christianity.
    2. Apologetics comes from the Greek απολογια (apologia) which is translated as “defense” in I Peter 3:15.
    3. Definition of apologetics: the branch of theology that seeks to provide a defense of the Christian faith in order to remove excuses for unbelief in the hope that the Holy Spirit will use it as a tool to awaken and renew faith.
  2. Principles from I Peter 3:13-17
    1. The Church is being persecuted for colliding with culture, which implies missional living.

 

i.      The character of the apologist cannot be separated from the content of apologetics (vs. 16 explicitly states apologetics are to be done with a good conscience).

 

ii.      “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” ~ G.K. Chesteron

 

  1. It is morally proper to defend the faith- we don’t have to maintain the same silence that Christ had before his accusers.
  2. The faith is capable of being defended with reason – it is not beyond evidence, reason, or defense (come to the class to hear a more thorough presentation of the evidence).
  3. We must engage outsiders with gentleness and respect – the purpose of apologetics ought to be to win a person, not an argument.
  4. Apologetics is not guaranteed to bring success either in ending suffering or in producing faith.
  5. Principles from II Peter 1:16-21
    1. The Christian story is not a cleverly devised myth that only appeals to superstitious people (vs. 16; also see the story of Thomas in John 20:24-29)
    2. The Biblical record is constructed from eyewitness testimony, much of which has been publically confirmed through history and archeology (vs. 17-18).

 

i.      Contrast with the mode of revelation in other religions (we don’t even know the authors of the earliest Hindu scriptures).

 

ii.      Contrast with the miracle claims in other religions like Islam.

 

  1. The testimony of Scripture is supernaturally inspired by the Holy Spirit and does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact or truth (vs. 20-21).

 

i.      In a court case, the character of the witness is as important as the content of the witness’s testimony.

 

ii.      Because Christ’s character is trustworthy, we are rationally warranted in trusting the content of His testimony both in the things that have been seen in Scripture as well as the things that are yet unseen in Scripture.

 

  1. The eyewitness testimony of the apostles is inferior to the testimony of the prophetic word of God (vs. 19).

 

i.      Ultimately, the foundation of our faith is Christ- not merely the evidence.

 

ii.      To elevate the evidence as being a higher authority is to make an idol of our own minds and invite unbelief (this is fundamentally the ultimate issue behind the creation and evolution debate).

 

  1. Despite the last point, it is not inappropriate for apologetic evidence to bolster our own faith in the even more firm foundation of the word of Christ (vs. 19).

 

i.      Our faith in its infancy may rely heavily on evidence, but mature faith trusts in what is unseen and does not require evidence (which does not mean that there is not evidence, but it means that we no longer rely on it to the same extent).

 

ii.      Remember that faith grows as part of a relational and developmental process – Abraham wasn’t called to sacrifice Isaac until the end of his life.

 

  1. Application of Apologetics in Culture
    1. Apologetics is a community responsibility as well as an individual calling (John 13:34-35)

 

i.      When we act in love and fellowship towards one another in a Biblical fashion, the apologetic value of the Church as a whole is increased.

 

ii.      Not every member of the Church can or will be an expert in apologetic arguments, but every member should be able to at least begin to articulate why they believe the gospel and live as they do as well as know where to go in order to find help when needed.  Know your own story!

 

iii.      Every member should continue to be sanctified in a growing knowledge of Scripture, which is even more supernaturally powerful than apologetic arguments (2 Peter 1:19).

 

  1. Apologetics is one way we imitate Christ (John 14:10-11)

 

i.      Christ does not harshly demand that we obey him without any evidence in the infancy of our faith, so why would we demand that of others?

 

ii.      This implies that we need to learn to listen to the questions our culture is asking as well as the question behind the questions.

 

  1. Offensively, apologetics is a tool for prophetically challenging the culture (2 Cor. 10:3-5, I Timothy 3:15)
  2. Defensively, apologetics is one tool among many that Christ gives us to defend our own hearts and faith (Col. 2:8; 2 Peter 1:16-21).
  3. Respond in grateful worship to the reality that Christ has given us a sure foundation for trusting in His character and word.

 

A Dreadful and Good Thing Happened…

Last Monday a dreadful thing happened. “Clean My Mac” is a program that runs a weekly clean up of my Mac and keeps it fast and clean of “junk”. Well, last week it selected around 10 years worth of writing I had produced and I hit delete without reviewing the files. I assumed the program would never do such a thing. Yes, I know I should have backed them all up. Yes, I know about every thought you are having now because I’ve had them and kicked myself numerous times last Monday (literally and figuratively). Don’t ask how I kicked myself. It’s not pretty. Moving on….

Besides all of the technical things I need to do differently and have already begun to do in order to insure such does not happen again due to my failures, there are greater things in play.

1. Comfort does not always come through the Lord just “zapping” one out of the fog but comfort often comes by the words and hands of people in fellowship. As I moped around wondering why the Lord would not just make me feel better about it as I was asking him to do, I later discovered that the Lord uses people who love him as messengers of his grace and means of bringing great comfort. So, don’t neglect fellowship with other believers. Often grace from the Lord comes through other people sent to love on you and you may be the one who needs to show love to one waiting on the Lord’s grace. Know what I mean?

2. Either the Lord is totally done with me and this is the first horrific domino to fall in my great crash or the Lord has given me time to do it better and I have years of service yet to come and time to be a better writer (I’m sure there are other scenarios but I’ll just mention these two).

As I was encouraged on Monday through the means of faithful brothers the Lord reminded me of William Carey, the Father of Modern Missions, and a story of God’s grace to him in the loss of his translation work in India.

William Carey dedicated his life to spreading the gospel in India. Serving as a missionary there from 1793 until his death in 1834, he hoped to translate Scripture into as many Indian languages and dialects as possible.

Carey supervised the creation of India’s first printing press. He established a large print shop in the city of Serampore, where he did his Bible translation. The building was two hundred by fifty feet, and twenty translators worked there in addition to typesetters, compositors, pressmen, binders, and other writers.

On March 11, 1812, Carey was teaching in Calcutta. While he was gone, a fire started in the printing room…. Despite many hours of exhaustive efforts to fight the fire, the building burned to the ground. Just five pieces of equipment were saved.

Carey’s entire library, his completed Sanskrit dictionary, part of his Bengal dictionary, two grammar books, and ten translations of the Bible were lost. Gone also were the type sets for printing fourteen different languages. Vast quantities of English paper, priceless dictionaries, deeds, and account books were all gone.

When Carey returned to Serampore and surveyed the scene, he wept and said,

“In one short evening the labors of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God. I had lately brought some things to the utmost perfection of which they seemed capable, and contemplated the missionary establishment with perhaps too much self-congratulation. The Lord has laid me low, that I may look more simply to him.”

Although he was heartbroken, he did not take much time to mourn. With great resiliency Carey wrote,

The loss is heavy, but as traveling a road the second time is usually done with greater ease than the first time, so I trust the work will lose nothing of real value. We are not discouraged; indeed the work is already begun again in every language. We are cast down but not in despair.”

Carey resolved to trust God that from the devastation would come a better press and more scholarly translations. Within a few months Carey had set up shop in a warehouse.

Little did Carey know that the fire would bring him and his work to the attention of people all over Europe and America as well as India. In just fifty days in England and Scotland alone, about ten thousand pounds were raised for rebuilding Carey’s publishing enterprise. So much money was coming in that Andrew Fuller, Carey’s friend and a leader of his mission in England, told his committee when he returned from a fund-raising trip, “We must stop the contributions.”

Many volunteers came to India to help as well. By 1832 Carey’s rebuilt and expanded printing operation had published complete Bibles or portions of the Bible in forty-four languages and dialects!

Now, I’m by no means William Carey, and my small labors have not even begun to reach the magnitude of this, one of my heroes of the faith, but the lesson is the same. He has laid me low that I may look more simply to him. In this I will rejoice.

Romans 8:28 and Psalm 84:11 are battle cries right now. Nothing good will he withhold from me. Nothing. He works for my good in all things. Nothing evil can befall me unless he intends it for my good. This is a reality for all of us who follow Jesus. I’m holding on tight to that, and you know what? It’s all good. I’m all good. My soul is at rest. I’m at peace. Why? Father has me and is doing me good. Praise be to Father, Son and Spirit!

What about you?

1. Are you in need of the Lord’s encouragement? Be with God’s people. Perhaps someone needs you to encourage them. No one is helped in the faith by a swift and well meaning kick in the teeth or critique of their application of their skills. Know what I mean? However, we are to encourage each other. We all need it and we all need to give it. It’s part of fellowship.

2. How have the providences of God been hard and yet good for you? How has he laid you low that you may look more simply to him?