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Finding Jesus in Apologetics (An Apology For Apologetics)

July 11, 2012

“Apologetics” comes from the Greek verb “apologeomai”, which means “to speak in defense of” and also the related noun “apologia”, which means “a defense”. Apologeomai and apologia do not mean “to apologize” as if you were sorry. It’s more like a defense lawyer making a case for a client or a scientist explaining (defending) a theory. When Plato wrote “The Apology” he wasn’t saying he was sorry for what Socrates said, he was defending Socrates work. The subtitle of this post doesn’t mean I’m being or saying sorry for apologetics, or saying I’m sorry for saying sorry, it’s “a defense (apologia) for speaking in defense of (Apologeomai)”.

Apologetics–Christian apologetics–is the rational and reasonable defense of the Christian faith. Apologetics gives intellectual understanding to the faith that Christians hold, why we believe the truth of the Bible, and even why, using evidence and reason, we can trust that the Bible is the real Word of God. I would be remiss, however, if I did not say that you cannot discount or discard the role that The Holy Spirit plays in a Christians faith and walk in faith. This is something that’s very real, a very real experience in the life of those that have accepted Jesus. If you have not yet accepted Jesus, if you’re seeking what Jesus, Christianity, and the church is all about and have not experienced the Holy Spirit, you’ll have to take this one on “faith” and in the meantime investigate the rational reasons for Christianity. It’s also important to recognize here, if you haven’t accepted Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It doesn’t mean the evidence (or The Holy Spirit) doesn’t exist, you just haven’t found and experienced it.

A belief that profoundly affects the way a person lives is often called a “worldview”. A persons worldview encompasses their hearts and minds; it will direct the way they live their lives. An atheist (someone who doesn’t believe in God) may have a worldview that differs from an agnostic (someone who is not sure if there is or isn’t a god). In the United States, a democrat may hold a different worldview than a republican–or they may have the same worldview and just like to argue 😉 Committed followers of Jesus have a worldview that not only is a worldview of an intellectual nature, but one of the heart, and of a spiritual, eternity-minded nature. Jesus changed the worldview of billions of people through His life, teaching, death and resurrection. Christian apologetics helps to define and defend the Christian worldview, where it comes from and why it’s of utmost importance.

Apologetics covers a wide range of fields: philosophy, science (yes, science), cosmology, genetics, history (in it’s many facets), textual criticism, which involves the authentication of ancient texts, and more; anything that involves intellectual reason for accepting the truth of Christianity.

Apologeomai is used ten times in the New Testament, six of which occur in Lukes The Book of Acts, where Luke gives us details about much of the early work of Peter, Paul, and other members of the early church after Jesus resurrection and ascension.

Apologia is used at least eight times in the New Testament and is found in what’s called “the apologists verse”, 1 Peter 3:15, where Peter, Jesus disciple, writes “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. Peter was telling the early church to able themselves to answer reasonably why it is they believe Jesus of Nazareth, this carpenter born in Bethlehem and crucified for His teachings (as well as our salvation) was the Messiah promised in scripture written centuries before they were born. We’ll come back to this verse later.

The apostle Paul, originally named Saul before his conversion, who authored 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament, which were originally Pauls letters to early churches that were meant to nurture and guide them, was not one of Jesus original disciples, but rather early on in the infancy of the Christian church Paul persecuted, imprisoned and saw to the execution of Christians because he didn’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God who had suffered, died, and risen for our salvation.

Paul had been a Pharisee who had studied under a very well known and respected teacher of Jewish law named Gamaliel. Ironically, Gamaliel did not support the persecution of Christians and even saved Peter and other apostles from the death penalty while they were imprisoned for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Gamaliel stood before the Sanhedrin, a sort of religious court, and said “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God”. (Acts 5: 38-39).

So how did Paul go from someone who hated and persecuted Christians to one of the greatest proclaimers and apologists of the Gospel in history? Paul tells us in his own words:

Acts 22:1-16
1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”
2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.

Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. 6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me? ’
8 “ ‘Who are you, Lord? ’ I asked.“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
10 “ ‘What shall I do, Lord? ’ I asked.“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do. ’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight! ’ And at that very moment I was able to see him. 14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name”. Luke also tells this story in Acts 9: 1-18.

Many times in Acts and in Pauls letters we see Paul, who was educated in Israelite law under Gamaliel, defend the Gospel of Jesus rationally by using his knowledge of what we call the Old Testament to prove that all the prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus, and that Jesus was in fact the Messiah prophesied about in ancient scripture.

Today Christian apologists use history, textual criticism, archeology, physics and practically all of the sciences to defend the Christian faith. Philosophy, the science of seeking truth, is also widely used.

So why apologetics? Why is apologetics important? There are two main reasons, and each can be divided into sub-categories.

1) Apologetics for those that have not accepted the truth of Christianity.

Christian apologetics can be a powerful intellectual awakening to those who have not considered the truths of Christianity, whether because of initial skepticism or simply not having considered it at all.

For skeptics, apologetics can refute faulty arguments they may have held to, and offer new arguments in favor of the truths of Christianity they may not have come across or considered.

For those who have not considered the truths of Christianity and have an open mind (and heart), often called “seekers”, apologetics can be a great introduction to the truths of Christianity, and a great evangelism tool.

One of the most well-known apologists of our time, a man who has authored books on Christian apologetics that have sold millions, is Lee Strobel. Lee Strobel was an award-winning legal editor at the Chicago Tribune, one of the largest newspapers in the world, and Lee was an atheist. Then his wife became a Christian and his world turned upside-down. Lee couldn’t stand the fact that his wife became a Christian; this Yale-educated journalist with a background in law thought Christianity was nonsense. So Strobel came up with a plan: Using his education and background in journalism he would investigate Christianity and put together a report that thoroughly debunked it, and present it to his wife. But something happened during Strobels investigation. The further he dug, the more the evidence pointed towards Jesus being who He and his followers said He was, and doing what the Bible records Him doing. This Yale-educated, award-winning journalist with a background in law came to the realization that the Bible is in fact true; and it changed his life, his worldview forever. Links to some of Lee Strobels books that resulted from his investigation are at the bottom of this post.

2) Apologetics is a very useful discipline for committed Christians.

Apologetics can enable Christians in their own life and walk with God. What’s one of the first things you say to someone that you fall in love with? Often it’s something like “I want to know you more” or “I want to know everything I can about you”, so that we can feel closer to that person. By immersing themselves in apologetics Christians can learn more about the life of Jesus and His early followers. More about the universe, what we often refer to as creation, and why what the Bible says about all these things make sense; rational, reasonable sense. Through apologetics we can know more about the truth of the Bible, more about Jesus, more about why this faith we hold in God is rational and reasonable. These things can only bring us closer to Him.

Apologetics can enable the believer to answer the tough questions they may come across, whether from an individual or through some sort of information media or social network. There are a lot of people today who have rejected Christianity or are “on the fence” because they have doubts or questions about the accuracy and truth about what the Bible says and teaches. Questions that may have a scientific or philosophical nature. Apologetics doesn’t run and hide, or try to ignore these doubts and questions, but rather it faces them head-on with intellectual integrity. Apologetics can be a very powerful tool for sharing the truth of the Gospel of Jesus.

Apologetics. For those who are curious and seeking the truth of Christianity, it can be a powerful tool for you. At the bottom of this post I’m including links to books and websites of some very good apologetic resources and I encourage you to check them out with an open mind and heart. I pray you use them and more to find Jesus.

For Christians who are not familiar with apologetics, this can be something to aid you in your faith. Many, if not all Christians question their faith at some point. It may be when tragedy strikes, and we don’t know where God is in it; it may occur when a skeptic confronts us with a question that we don’t know the answer to, or a viewpoint that contradicts our faith; we may question if He exists at all. Doubts are ok, good even, when they lead us to an honest quest for the truth. Don’t forget, John The Baptist, who heralded Jesus coming as the Messiah, and was Jesus cousin, had his own doubts, despite his previous personal experience with Jesus. When John The Baptist was in prison he sent a messenger to Jesus to ask Him “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2). So you shouldn’t feel ashamed or weak if you have doubts, but rather confront those doubts with honest investigation. God blessed us with the ability to use reason and intellect, these things are gifts for us to use to get closer to Him.

Apologetics is also a powerful tool to help Christians share their faith, especially with someone who may have doubts or questions. Peter, whose name was “Simon” before Jesus gave him the name “The Rock” (yes, Peter, or “Petra”, was called “The Rock” almost 2,000 years before wrestler Dwayne Johnson) said “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. Christians who are educated or familiar with apologetics can not only share their faith, but give a good reason why they have that faith, why they hold to a Christian worldview. Often, when confronted with the hard questions of a seeker or skeptic, a Christian who doesn’t know about apologetics will stumble, or worse, make something up. Jesus disciple Peter calls for us to give an informed and reliable answer to why we hold to the truths of the Bible. So we see that apologetics isn’t just something for scholars and the intellectual elite to study and discuss, but it’s a tool that every Christian should carry with them. Now I’m not suggesting that you need to become a doctorate-level scholar in philosophy, science and everything else that apologetics entails; but a good well-rounded knowledge of apologetics can and will help you. If you’re faced with a question or doubt that you don’t have an answer for, you’ll know where to look for honest, reliable answers, whether for yourself or someone else. Again, I’ve included a sampling of links to some very good apologetic resources. I pray that you check them out and make apologetics an integral and vital part of your walk with Jesus.

For a sampling of apologetics resources, check out the links below. (Blatant self promotion: On the “Upcoming Posts” page of this blog you’ll see that I’m working on a few apologetic posts. Stay tuned!)

The Poached Egg

Lee Strobel On Amazon

William Lane Craig On Amazon

WLC’s Reasonable Faith Website

Apologetics315

Hope’s Reason

Tim Kellers “The Reason For God” On Amazon

An excellent sermon series based on Tim Kellers book

Traverse City Apologetics

Apologetics On Campus. Ratio Christi.

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