Do you become flustered when someone asks about your beliefs, especially someone who is hostile to you? Listen to this lesson to see that we need to be ready to answer everyone who asks us. Find out what apologetics means and the importance of it. Understand that this is a strong stand for the truth of the Scriptures and not an apology for what we believe. Imagine yourself as a missionary trying to tell someone about the gospel who believes in a perverted pagan worldview.
To help clarify some of the terminology used in the study of apologetics, Dr. Dean has begun developing an Apologetics Glossary.
During this class Dr. Dean discussed apologetics and referenced some additional material by Charlie Clough on the subject:
The Goodness of God; Giving an Answer - Part 1
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter Lesson #083
March 9, 2017
“Father, we are thankful for this time that we have to look at Your Word, to explore what the Scripture says, to think, probe more deeply into the implications of Scripture, that we may think about how we present the gospel, think about how we communicate Scripture to other people, that we may come to be more efficient and more effective in our side of the gospel presentation.
We know that God the Holy Spirit is the agent of evangelism, ultimately, but nevertheless that does not absolve us of the responsibility to be clear, to be organized, and to be as effective as we can in communicating the gospel.
Father, we pray that You would help us to focus and concentrate as we go through our material this evening. In Christ’s name. Amen.”
All right. It has been a month since we met on Thursday night, because I was gone to Kiev; that took out three Thursday nights, so it has been a month. Unfortunately, the coming schedule is going to be a little bit less consistent—more consistent than the last month, but less consistent than every week. Because, of course, next week is the Chafer Conference and there will not be class on that Thursday night, but, of course, we will start again the next week. So that kind of chops up the topic a little bit, but nevertheless I think we will do pretty well.
What I wanted to do tonight in the first 10 or 12 slides is just review the high points of what I covered last week, because we need to understand the context in relation to a very important verse, 1 Peter 3:15, which introduces this important word, APOLOGIA, which is the word for making a defense, giving an answer, giving a reasoned or rational answer for the hope that is in us.
As I was studying the other morning, a kind of a funny thing happened. I wish I was smart enough to think this through ahead of time; I would have set it up a little differently. But I was reading through various Scriptures related to how we are to communicate and interact with people. And that’s always difficult, because people are not always the easiest to interact with. Sometimes they anger us, sometimes they frustrate us; all kinds of things happen when we’re trying to deal with people—and especially people who don’t agree with us and may become antagonistic to what we believe.
As I was reading through various verses in the pastoral epistles related to apologetics in communicating the gospel, I ran across three verses in 2 Timothy, and as I read them, I thought, “You know, my group of pastors that meet on Friday morning should be reminded. These are good verses; we all need to be reminded that this is in the Scripture.” So I just copied and pasted them into an e-mail and then send it out, and I just had a blind copy on all the recipients of the e-mail and didn’t think anything about it. Well, it wasn’t long before I got an e-mail from someone who said, “Was that for me? Did you mean that for me?” And then I got another one, “Did I do something wrong?” And then I got another one, “Has somebody been complaining?” I realized that before long, over a third of the people who received the e-mail thought that, for some reason, I was you sending these verses to them. And they either have a very sensitive conscience, or they have a guilty conscience.
But I will read them to you and relate this to how we, as believers, should be communicating the gospel to other people. In 2 Timothy 2:24–26, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all.” That includes those people you have trouble being gentle with. Okay? “… Be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
There were a number of pastors who thought, “Somebody’s complaining about something I’m doing, that I’m not as patient with somebody who’s in opposition.” That was interesting to see that response.
But that is to govern our response to the gospel. As we see in 1 Peter 3:15, we are to, “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.” In other words, it’s the same idea as humility; it is authority orientation toward God, submitting to Him. It’s not about me; it’s not an argument where I’m going to try to win the argument. It’s not about being smarter than the other person. We’ve all gotten caught in those kinds of traps.
Let’s go back and look at the context. Tonight we’re going to really focus in on giving an answer and start trying to understand what this means: To give an answer to those who ask us.
1 Peter 3:13-17. “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 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; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
I wanted to point out a couple of words like the word “always,” which doesn’t mean, “some of the time.” That means we need to be trained and we need to be ready to be able to give a defense.
Now, the cults do a great job of this. If you’ve ever gone to your front door and seen a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses or a couple of Mormons, or whomever else, they are well trained. They have Sunday school classes; they go through all kinds of drills; they role-play. They are trained!
Most Christians can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag. I’m talking about the ones who think they can—the ones who go to Bible churches that are taught something. I’m not talking about 98% of them that have never been taught anything. But it’s hard to do that. Because most the time when we need to make that kind of an explanation, it’s not when it’s convenient. How many people have had situations like that occur when it’s convenient? It’s not when it’s on our mind and we just read those notes yesterday. It’s not when it’s the easiest set of circumstances.
So, we need to be ready. That calls for a special kind of training. If you’re in the military and you are well trained in your job, you’re trained to do it without thinking about it, because when the situation occurs and everything’s blowing up around you and the bullets are flying, you’ve got to be able to do your job without thinking about, “Now wait a minute. Does this part go here? How do I turn this on here? What do I set this instrument at here?” You do it.
So, we don’t do a good job in most churches of training believers to be able to give an answer for the hope that is in us. Most churches, unfortunately, don’t even do a good job of helping people understand the gospel. That’s the first step—you have to clearly understand what the gospel is and what it isn’t.
We’re always to be ready to give an answer to everyone. Those universal terms are very important to notice. But it’s in the context of suffering for righteousness’ sake, being involved in hostility, adversity, persecution, maybe gossip and slander—sins of the tongue that are directed our way—and we don’t deserve it. We have done everything the way we should, and yet we become the target of character assassination, we become the targets of hostile words, we become the targets of slander—all kinds of things.
The main idea that Peter says, in this section, is though severe persecution occurs and will occur to Christians through time—we’ve lived in a bubble in this country, and I think that bubble is disappearing—it is not the norm. The norm is that people do not attack you because you do good. But in this situation that Peter is talking about, it is a situation where people are doing good and still being reviled for it.
He starts off saying, “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?” That’s the point. This is unusual, that you’re still attacked even if you’re doing the right thing. Now we are seeing more and more of this in this country. In fact, as I pointed out at the beginning, one of the key words here is that word “evildoers.” I think that when President George W. Bush used that term in relation to the 9/11 terrorists, he really angered and set off all of the postmodern relativists. That’s pretty much most of the liberal wing of the Democrat Party—which is most of the Democrat Party. Because they’ve given up the idea that there is right and wrong, absolute good and absolute evil, and that these terrorists have bought into absolute evil.
So, by using that term, what he was doing was exposing his presuppositions about life—that the core of his being he believed there was absolute right and absolute wrong and that those who committed these acts were evil. That, in and of itself, is an extremely hostile statement to somebody who is a postmodern relativist. It goes against everything that they believe in. So here he is doing a good thing, and yet there were those who opposed him greatly. We’re seeing more and more of that today.
1 Peter 3:14 says, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.” Then there’s a quote from the Old Testament. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” In other words, put your focus on the Lord, understand we’re living in the devil’s world, and we’re going to face these kinds of hostile actions.
We’re going to suffer, PASCHO, same word used of Jesus’ suffering on the Cross, which is always the pattern, always the paradigm for Peter. How do we handle adversity, suffering? We always look to the cross. In contrast, we are blessed, we are privileged to serve the Lord.
That’s the context for 1 Peter 3:15, “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.”
This is part of sanctification. We sanctify the Lord God in our hearts—we set Him apart. This is important; we make it a priority to do so. But the verse doesn’t end there.
It goes on. [In order to] having a good conscience. We are to be able to clearly articulate why we believe what we believe to those who ask, in any circumstance or situation, and that is to have a good conscience. The result is … I’m going to get into the whole issue of conscience here eventually. It is interesting how Peter uses the term in Peter, but I’m not going to go in that direction just yet.
“That when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct.” Remember, that’s been a theme all through Peter—our conduct, how we live our lives. That, ultimately, “those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”
“For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Now, most Christians I know would say, “No. It’s better not to suffer.” I know that probably doesn’t apply to anybody here, but that’s what most people think. It’s just better not to suffer.
We want comfort; we want everything to go smoothly. But we live in the devil’s world. We’re on a mission for the Lord Jesus Christ, that puts a target on our back in terms of the angelic conflict, and we can’t escape that.
So that brings us to this passage. I put the two verses together, 1 Peter 3:15–16. “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; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”
I want to take probably three, maybe four, classes to go through something I’ve never taught through before in terms of Bible class, and that’s this issue of Apologetics—to understand what this is all about and why this is important. We’re going to break it down and look at several key questions.
This is just in terms of an introduction—this is an introduction to an introduction. First of all, we need to define the term. There’s a lot of misunderstandings about the term “apologetics.” What is apologetics? Why is it important?
Second question, “Why should we learn about apologetics?” I’ve heard some people make statements like, “Well, the Bible doesn’t have any apologetics in it.” Really? Hmm. If you understood the worldview context into which Genesis 1 was written, you would realize that almost every phrase is a slap in the face to a polytheistic pagan.
It is not only apologetic—a defense for Christianity—it is polemic. It is a hotly debated structure, and everything Moses writes in chapter 1 is distasteful to a polytheistic pagan who believes that something—the gods, or matter, or something lasted for eternity, preexisted whatever the current state is. Not unlike modern evolutionists.
It is almost combative in what it is saying. It is picking a fight with pagans. But most people are so ignorant of the pagan views at that time that they don’t read it that way. That’s why it’s important to understand the time in which the Scriptures are written.
From Genesis 1, if you properly understand what apologetics means, you have this kind of an orientation. Of course, that flies in the face of what I understand is the one of the pseudo-values that dominate millennials, and that is any kind of criticism of what anybody else says, or anybody else believes, is by its very nature wrong and therefore sinful. There are millennials, those who are 45 and under, who’ve bought into this idea that criticizing somebody else’s belief system is wrong. They believe what they believe, and to respect it, you should validate it.
That’s what we see in the hypersensitivity of our culture; we are expected to validate and approve everybody else’s sinful lifestyle. The homosexuals and the transgenders and everybody else, they don’t want simply the freedom to do whatever it is they’re going to do, they want the approbation of everyone. To criticize them is wrong; that is sinful.
So, what happens here in this. This is part of apologetics. If you’re going to communicate the gospel and Scripture to someone who, at the core of their being has a sense that sin means you can’t be critical of somebody else, and God is critical of other religions, they’re going to conclude that, therefore, God must be sinful because He criticizes and demeans other religions. Think about the episode with Elijah on Mount Carmel. He’s sarcastic, he’s demeaning, he has no respect whatsoever for the priests of Baal and the Ashtoreth. In fact, when it’s all over with, he’s going to execute them all. That’s just completely insensitive—he has no respect for them, so he’s got to be wrong.
See, what happens when we try to communicate in a pagan environment is that just as we bring certain ideas and values to the table in our communication, they also bring certain ideas and values to the table, and we have to somehow figure out how to communicate. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
1. What is apologetics?
2. Why should we learn about apologetics?
3. Why do some people object to apologetics?
That, in and of itself, is an interesting study.
4. Fourth, the claim that the Bible doesn’t use apologetics; therefore, why should we?
Now the Bible doesn’t give a rationale for the existence of God, but that’s not the same thing as apologetics. The Bible starts with the presupposition that God exists, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not using apologetics, if you understand it.
5. What’s the difference between apologetics and Christian evidences?
A lot of folks think that those two terms are synonymous, but they’re not. Some people even get the idea that if you have a biblical apologetic, you don’t use Christian evidences. And we need to talk about that, because a lot of people get that idea.
6. On what basis do we defend, support, or argue that Christianity is the one and only truth?
See, if you’re going to say the Bible is true, then somebody’s going to say, “Well, prove it.” How do you know it’s true? That’s a legitimate question. That doesn’t mean that they’re wrong in asking the question, but that that question needs to be addressed and answered. It’s not an easy one. It’s not something you’re going to give a short little pithy answer to. You’re going to have to stop and think about that.
Let’s just look at the first question. What is apologetics? Somebody once told me that a lot of disagreement and a lot of confusion can be cleared up if you simply define your terms clearly and precisely. One reason a lot of people get into confusion—and this is one of them—is because they have a wrong understanding of what the word basically means. I’m going to reference the Oxford English Dictionary. If you’re British, that’s your ultimate authority, if you’re American, then you go to Webster’s Third International [Dictionary], but I’ll start with the OED. There are three definitions listed in the OED, but I’m only going to mention the first one and the third one; those are the only ones relevant to what we’re talking about.
The first meaning is, “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or a failure.” The first meaning listed in a dictionary is the most common usage, so this is what most people default to when they hear the word “apology.” They think that this is some sort of a regretful admission of having done something to offend somebody else or committed some failure, but the word has a much older meaning. The third use of the three is the one that is used less commonly in everyday discourse, and that is that it refers to a justification or a defense.
Classically, you had a work written by Plato, called Apologia Socratis, his defense, and it was a legal term that was used in ancient Greece to describe somebody’s legal defense in a courtroom, their response to an accusation, and that is close to the way in which we use it. In common usage, most people think of the first meaning, but we’re not apologizing for the Bible. We’re not saying, “Oh, I’m sorry the Bible says things that offend you. That’s too bad.” No, we are going to take a strong stand for the truth of the Scripture. It is this third meaning that is the one that most closely relates to the biblical teaching on apologetics—how to give an organized explanation for why you believe what you believe.
That’s looking at this first question, “What is apologetics?” It comes from the Greek word APOLOGIA, and that’s the noun form. There is also the verb form, and the two together are used about 17 times in the New Testament. The noun refers to a speech of defense and is usually translated as defense or reply. These definitions come out of the Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon. It’s a speech of defense, usually a formal presentation in a courtroom, where some person is accused of something and they’re giving a reply.
The second meaning that’s listed is the act of making a defense, as in court, or some individual who’s eager to defend themselves in the face of a charge. The third meaning that they list is the claim of extenuating circumstances, or making an excuse. That’s a limited meaning. I don’t really find that in the New Testament. Arndt and Gingrich has more than one occasion where they slip a meaning in there that I don’t think is reflected in the text.
Seventeen times we see that the noun or verb appears in the New Testament with either the sense of vindication—to vindicate someone’s actions or belief, or the sense of defense. That’s according to Ken Boa who’s got about a 600-page plus book called Faith Has its Reasons. What’s interesting is from the time I first began to read in the area of apologetics back in the 1970s to now, the number of books has exploded, and it’s a fascinating area of study.
But it’s not for everyone in terms of the more technical sense of the term, because it does get into a lot of more technical issues, which is one objection that people have. They say, “Well, it just seems so technical.” It seems like when you read an apologetics people are thinking in terms of extremely detailed philosophical arguments. And, yes, that’s true, because since the early second century when Christianity had broken out of the Levant area and was making inroads into Greek culture and Roman culture, the avant-garde of the Greco-Roman intelligentsia was attacking the ideas of Christianity. So, there was a need to articulate what Christians truly believed. A lot of times it was based on fake news. Today is no different—fake news has always dominated. So, people needed to have an understanding of what the Scripture taught and why.
It’s used one time of a legal defense that isn’t related to a spiritual situation, and that is in Acts 19:33. “And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward.” I always thought, “That’s not a good situation to be in, where you’re in a small crowd surrounded by a larger crowd that’s hostile and everybody else is shoving you forward to be the spokesperson.” That’s the situation there.
Then we see the next sentence. “And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people.” Now the situation here is that this is in Ephesus. Paul has been preaching the gospel in Ephesus; people have been responding. There’s been a huge number of people turning away from the idolatrous worship of Diana, or Artemis of the Ephesians, who was also referred to as the many breasted goddess because she was a great fertility symbol.
One Demetrius is mentioned in the text who is the leader of the silversmith guild. He gets everybody together, gets them all riled up to riot in the city to throw out these Christians who are threatening their business because the silversmiths made these little idols of Diana that people would buy. The tourists would come, worship in the temple, and this was big business for them. So, money was at the heart of this.
And with the Christians coming in and saying, “There are no other gods. There is only one God,” their business was being threatened. This is when they went to the theater in Ephesus, and there’s this this riot, basically, that’s taking place. But the Jews are there as well. The Jews are also monotheists, the Jews don’t believe in many gods, so they’re being attacked by the polytheists as well.
They have to defend themselves as monotheists, and they get this Alexander to be their spokesperson; they’re going to push him out in front so that he can defend their monotheistic views. And that’s the context. It says that he wanted to make his defense, or present a rational argument, for their position against polytheism.
The word is also used in Acts 24:10, “Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak.” This is talking about Felix who was the Roman governor in Judea at this time.
Paul had been arrested, so he now is having a formal hearing; it is a courtroom situation. And Paul answered and said, “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself.” That’s the word APOLOGIA there. He is presenting a formal legal defense in a hearing situation for why he believes. This is used several times in Acts for Paul. We will look at that it in more detail, because we have to understand how the word is used in Scripture and, therefore, have a better understanding of what it means.
One of the comments that is made—also related to this word—is that its general use at the time of Scripture is to simply be able to clearly, rationally articulate what you believe and why you believe it to someone. We would say that’s just part of witnessing, but you and I both know that when we’re communicating the gospel to people, they ask questions.
Now some people just don’t like to get involved in conversations that may take 10, 15, 20 years to resolve and that may call upon them to have an in-depth knowledge of Scripture, so they just quote another Bible verse. I call that “shooting your gospel gun” at somebody or “doing a gospel drive by.” That’s not what Paul did, that’s not what anybody in the New Testament did, and that’s not what we’re commanded to do.
But there is a difference between the way the words were used in the Scripture time and their more technical sense today. “The New Testament, then, does not use the words APOLOGIA, and APOLOGEOMAI [which is the verb form] in the technical sense of the modern word apologetics. The idea of offering a reasoned defense of the faith [but this basic core idea] is evident in three of these texts (Philippians 1:7 and 17, which relates to the Apostle Paul, and 1 Peter 3:15).”
There is a sense that’s there in the New Testament, and then there’s a more technical sense that develops. The late 1700s is the first time we have the word used as a distinct branch of theology. I think it should be an additional branch. For example, those of you familiar with Chafer Systematic Theology, he covers just about everything. Except, Arnold Fruchtenbaum came along and said, “There’s another branch that’s been ignored,” and that’s Israelology. I think he’s right there. That is an understanding of the role of Israel within Scripture. And I think apologetics is another area that should be taught within systematic theology; it pulls together a lot of important things.
To be able to present the gospel to people, we have to have an understanding of anthropology. To understand anthropology—that is, the makeup of man and his abilities to understand truth—you have to understand hamartiology and the impact of sin on people’s ability to reason and to think. We also have to understand the role of God the Holy Spirit in the process. All of these things come together.
But just as a final note here before we move on to its more technical definition, apologetics has nothing to do with saying that you’re sorry for something. It is a rational, legal defense of one’s position or one’s belief system.
Robert Reymond wrote The Justification of Knowledge. I want you to notice that title, The Justification of Knowledge. Some of these ideas are pretty basic to most of us. If you have been a Christian for most of your life, you’re thinking, “Well, I just don’t understand why I have to justify knowledge.” If you’ve grown up in a postmodern world, or a world that is completely inundated with relativism and uncertainty, they don’t believe that you can really know anything for sure. That’s the position of agnostics.
I’ve had the opportunity to witness to a number of agnostics. I always like trying to use a little bit of strategy, saying, “Well, if you’re a true agnostic, that means you don’t believe you can know anything for sure. Do you know that for sure?” And usually they’ll have to respond, “Well, I think so.” “Okay. Well, if we know that for sure, there’s at least one thing we know for sure. Just to be consistent, maybe there’s something else we can know for sure, so let’s start knocking down these rationalizations right off the bat.”
Robert Raymond says, “Christian apologetics is the discipline wherein an intelligent effort is made to defend before an unbelieving world the truth claim of the Christian faith, specifically its claim of exclusive true knowledge of the living and true God, in a manner consistent with the teaching of Scripture.” So what we see, at the very beginning, is this idea that it has something to do with thinking. You have to think through what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. That means it really needs to be part of your mental makeup.
It’s a defense. Now some people don’t like the word “defense” and it’s not the sense that we’re being put on defense. It’s the legal sense—that we are articulating and answering the question why we believe what we believe. And that’s why it’s a defense. It’s not because we are being defeated or we are taking a position of being victims or something like that. You all have been around and listened to me teach about words long enough to know that words have a lot of different meanings and nuances, and in this context it is simply being able to respond to the legitimate question, “Why do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?”
I mentioned in the last Bible class that back in 1970, when I first went to college, I was in ROTC and on an ROTC scholarship; that’s when I first met the head of the Military Science department at Stephen F. Austin, Jim Callahan. Sometime during that fall was the first time I gave him a little booklet called War, Moral or Immoral to read. Some of you remember when that book came out.
So we had our first conversation about the gospel, and it was 30 years later before he trusted in Christ. By that time the Lord got his attention by giving him lymphoma. I found out he was at MD Anderson here, and I went down and sat down in his hospital room. He asked me that question. He said, “Robby, tell me. Why do you believe what you believe?” Exact words. So what are you going to say? You could say, “Because the Bible tells me so.” And that’s an accurate answer, but the response from somebody who has a brain and has been using it and has been totally brainwashed by a pagan worldview is, “Well, how do you know that? What’s the evidence? I don’t want to be guilty of just having to put my brain into neutral to believe something apart from rational evidence, logical evidence.” The Bible doesn’t expect us to put our brains into neutral at all.
So we have to think about these things and how we’re going to articulate it. If you’re going to give an answer for the hope that is in you, aside from thought, what else is evident in that phraseology? You have to understand how to communicate. If you’re going to give an answer, you’re going to communicate. So you have to understand communication. At the very core of communication you have two things: you have words and you have logic.
If we look at the Scripture, we go to passages like John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Logos.” LOGOS is the Greek word that is usually translated “word,” which has to do with communication and revelation. But LOGOS is also the root of our English word “logic.” Because communication—the structure of any sentence—has logic embedded within it. So that you can’t make a statement about anything without relying upon logic and consistency for that communication to make sense.
The more you think about these things, it starts getting a little more detailed and people’s brain cells start to fry a little bit and start to smoke, because we’re normally only used to thinking like this if we’re in some kind of freshman philosophy class and the professor’s trying to destroy our Christian belief.
It’s an intelligent effort to defend before an unbelieving world the truth claim of the Christian faith. Christian faith claims to be the only truth; we worship the Lord Jesus Christ. “I am the resurrection and the life.” “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” That’s a truth claim. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” That is a truth claim. Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” That is a truth claim. So we have to be able to articulate why we believe that.
Then he goes on to say, “… specifically [apologetics relates to] its claim of exclusive true knowledge of the living and true God, in a manner consistent with the teaching of Scripture.” Now that’s a really important statement. Because at the heart of a lot of the debates that occur within apologetics is the idea that you can do a right thing—give an answer for the hope that is in you—a wrong way, a way that is consistent with the pagan assumptions of the person you’re talking to but not consistent with the Trinitarian’s assumptions of the Bible. A lot of people sacrifice and compromise the truth of what they’re saying by the way in which they say it. We will get into some of that, because that’s at the heart of a lot of this. So it’s got to be consistent with the teaching of Scripture.
One of the things that’s valuable about this, as you think through it, is that you will learn a lot about how to communicate in other areas. A lot of these principles will help you clarify and articulate your political beliefs, your understanding of history, your understanding of other things, because it helps us to think through how to communicate—especially to somebody who doesn’t agree with us—and how to avoid certain logical and presuppositional traps.
On the Dean Bible Ministries website, where the lesson for last time is listed (1 Peter Lesson #082)—Barb posted two things that Charlie Clough wrote. For those who want to explore this a little more, you should probably read both of them. The first thing that he wrote he called, “Framework Pamphlet One” (FP1). There are a lot of people who are familiar with Charlie’s Framework pamphlets, and they all start with FP2. Right? Where’s FP1? Well, this is FP1; it’s called, “Giving an Answer.” He’s never revised it.
He hasn’t taught it since he was at Lubbock back in the late 70s. I was very grateful for it, because he looks at three different approaches to apologetics and shows how you evaluate them. It came out right before I took a course called “Apologetic Systems” when I was a Dallas Seminary. Depending on who you read, there are as many as five or seven different systems. Charlie did a did a good job introducing the topic.
I always appreciated all Charlie’s stuff, because not only did I read what Charlie wrote, but I would buy every book in his bibliography and then read every book in his bibliography. That was just mostly during the time I was in seminary, because that’s what you have to do to really learn something—not just read somebody’s secondary regurgitation of the material, but go read the primary sources.
In his revision and updating of that, he wrote an article (“Theology and Apologetics”) for a theological work that was edited by Mal Couch, who is now with the Lord. Mal Couch was the president and founder of Tyndale Theological Seminary, and Mal was the editor. But Mal didn’t understand apologetics. Mal thought that Charlie should really be saying something that was just the opposite of what Charlie was saying. When Charlie wrote this article, that’s a chapter in that book, Mal—no editor should ever do this—basically rewrote it. So that if you read the article in the publication in which it came out, it’s basically meaningless and it’s trying to argue the opposite from what Charlie thought was true.
So this is the original article. I’ve also got that posted on the website so people can look at that. In there he says, “Apologia describes a carefully reasoned defense in response to a line of questioning or wrongful accusation by recognized authorities.” For example, in court you’ve got recognized authorities and they are accusing a person of something, and so an apologia is a carefully reasoned defense. That’s what a defense attorney would present in a courtroom.
He goes on to say, “The word may also refer to a more informal defense outside of the courtroom against personal questioning or accusation.” Somebody might say, “How can you believe that Christian stuff?” I have a friend that I was in college with. In fact, he was very, very close to Col. Callahan when we were in ROTC; he was a year ahead of me. He was also a scholarship student, and he was really skeptical of Christianity.
He and Callahan would get together, and they would kind of feed off of each other in this cynical, anti-religious stuff. Back around 1981 or 1982—I’d been out of seminary about a year—I remember going to a little breakfast place in Nacogdoches. We were up there for reunion. We were sitting around eating breakfast, and we had this long 2- to 3-hour conversation where he just kept trying to shoot down. “Why are you going to seminary? What a waste of time this must be! Why do you believe this religious stuff?”
So I walked my way through various things, and of course he didn’t want to listen to any of it. But see, we never know how God is using this stuff. You fast-forward 30 years—this was after Col. Callahan died and his son had been very close to this other guy as well. But his son was a believer, and he called me up one day. He said, “You know, Robby, we’ve got to get him saved. We’ve got to make sure he’s going to go to Heaven.” And I said, “Okay.”
So I called up a buddy of mine that was part of a hunting club, because this other guy was a big hunter, big gun nut. I call this other guy up who is a believer and an evangelist; he had actually been one of my campers at Camp Peniel back years ago. I told him the situation. He said, “Let’s go hunting. Pick a date. We’ll go up to the camp, we’ll go hunting, and we’ll see what transpires.”
This other guy had invited a Baptist pastor along at the same time. We talked about spiritual things around the table and around dinner, and it was kind of interesting. As we went to our bunks, this buddy of mine and I were in the same room. You turn out the lights and you’re still kind of talking before you go to sleep. And he said, “You know, Robby, I came to the Lord as a result of reading C.S. Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity. I said, “Really? How did that happen?” He said, “Well, back when I was a company commander with the 101st Airborne …” That’s back when I saw him in 81 or 82.
“When I was a company commander with 101st Airborne, I had a chaplain who gave me a copy of Mere Christianity and said, ‘You need to read this.’ ” As far as I can put things together, that was probably within a year—maybe within six months—of the conversation we had had in Nacogdoches. He went on to say, “Every night I would read a little bit of that.” And here was this guy who was extremely intelligent, Oxford educated, and was a classic cynic and skeptic of religion. “Every night I would just read. All I could read was two or three pages, and he had me so confused. I realized that all of the objections I had to Christianity amounted to nothing, and before I finished reading the book I trusted the Lord as my Savior.” Isn’t that a neat story? We never know how what we’re doing fits within that.
See, there’s a circumstance where both C.S. Lewis came to the Lord through apologetics, and that’s what brought this friend to the Lord—through apologetics. So there are some people who think, “Well, apologetics is useless.” Well, you’re not thinking. Rhat’s the informal use of apologetics as well as the formal with reading C.S. Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity.
Then Charlie writes, “The intent of an apologia is to win over the person being addressed, to change his mind about what is true.” But see, when you say “change of mind,” immediately you’re talking about thought—you’re talking about beliefs and you’re talking about the assumption, there, that something is true as opposed to false. That is a loaded term.
You may spend a lot of time just talking about what truth is to convince somebody that there is something such as truth, because that’s how brainwashed they are today. If you don’t think a lot of people in this culture are brainwashed, just read the news about how a lot of people are reacting to fake news about this president. There are people with some really crazy ideas that have no basis in fact—and that’s what happens when you’re brainwashed with paganism.
So here’s my thought. From this we see that the definition of apologetics involves the knowledge of facts and determination of truth. What is a fact? You think that you know what a fact is. But there are people out there who will debate you on what you mean by the word “fact.”
I’ve read of one Harvard professor who believes that the resurrection is a fact, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means. Anything can happen in a universe of pure contingency, so just because Jesus rose bodily from the dead doesn’t mean He’s God—or anything else. That’s out there. So, in apologetics you have to think about what is a fact, what is truth.
Over the centuries the meaning of knowledge, facts, and truth have been intensely debated—by theologians as well as philosophers. Underlying this discussion are assumptions about a specific view of reality. If you don’t think that’s an issue, you are not paying attention to what’s going on in this country. Half of this country believes in one view of reality, and the other half believes in a totally opposite view of reality; and the division between them is growing further and further apart.
There’s more and more hostility. I would not be surprised if we have a shooting Civil War in places before the next 10 years are over. There is such hostility. I’ve never seen anything like this! The last time I have seen this kind of belligerence in writing in newspapers was stuff I read that was written back in the 1850s in relation to the abolition issue and slavery leading up to the up to the Civil War. It’s irrational. When people are wedded to their irrationality, it’s not long before their emotions get out of control.
Underlying this discussion are assumptions about a specific view of reality. How one person understands reality is directly related to his worldview, but most people don’t even know what their worldview is—they have never taken it out and looked at it. They don’t even know they have one. They never heard the word before. But they have one, and it controls how they’re interpreting the data.
This includes an understanding of the ultimate nature of reality—you remember my iceberg chart that I’ve used in the past—how we know anything and how we validate or justify that knowledge. That’s why Reymond’s book was called, The Justification of Knowledge. How that knowledge affects our understanding of truth, which in turn impacts ethics and the determination of right and wrong, or even if right and wrong exists.
Now, if you’re talking to somebody who grew up in a Judeo-Christian environment, a Judeo-Christian worldview, it’s not going to be that difficult to explain the gospel to them. Because when they think of God, they mean the same thing as you—that’s what they picked up as they were growing up. But if you’re talking to somebody who’s an aboriginal in Africa or Australia and they’ve never heard anything about God other than a plethora of deities in their polytheism, then when you say “God,” they’re going to hear something that you don’t intend to communicate.
So it’s very important to go through these things. That’s why some people have gone places as missionaries, and they have spent their entire life and maybe seen one convert. It’s difficult. When I was in seminary, there was a man; I knew his daughter because she had been a student at Dallas Bible College and was friends with some mutual friends. But this guy came back and I’m not going to mention his name; it just came to me. But he had married an Indian woman; he had spent his life in India. I was told that he lived in a room that’s about half the size of the DBM office—either the one up here or the office back there—and that was everything. He had labored among the poorest of the poor in India for 20 years since he had graduated from Dallas Seminary. And he had led maybe three or four people to the Lord. Now, if your theology is not big enough to think that is much more significant than somebody who’s got tens of thousands of people listening to them on the Internet, then you have a pretty pathetic theology. Because that’s what it takes sometimes to penetrate the darkness, the spiritual darkness, in some of these cultures.
The term apologist came into vogue in the early church. It becomes a more technical theological term by 1794, but in the early church, it is usually broken down. The period from AD 100 to 250 is the Age of the Apostolic Fathers, that is, those who were discipled by the apostles. The next period, from AD 150 to 300, is called the Age of the Apologists, because by that time you have Christianity penetrating into the areas of Rome and Greece where your educated elites are taking offense at it.
As I said, if you’re going to give an answer, it involves communication. I’ve created two or three slides to try to illustrate the basic problem here. And we’ll probably stop with these four slides tonight.
So, you’re going to be a Christian missionary. You are going to go to some culture with New Tribes Mission that has never ever even seen somebody from outside of their aboriginal environment, much less seen a Bible or seen a white person.
Let’s start there. They’ve never seen a white person or heard of anybody living beyond maybe 25 miles from where they were born. And you are going to communicate the gospel to them. You are fired up and excited to do that.
So you’re the Christian missionary, and you have to go communicate the gospel to these pagan aborigines. How are you going to do that? The first question is, “What is your common ground with these pagan aboriginals? What are you going to do? How are you going to begin to find some area where you can communicate to them? Is it going to be language? Is that the area of common ground? Well, you don’t have a clue what they speak.
Is it the culture? Well, you live in a totally different culture than the kind of culture they live in. So how are you going to relate to them?
Is it religion? Well, they are polytheists, and you are a theist. What do they even mean by the word “God”? And when they hear you say the word “God,” what do they mean? Once you learn whatever their word for God is.
Or truth. Maybe they’re totally relativistic. Maybe they are like the Sawi people. You remember Don Richardson was with New Tribes Mission, and he went into Papua, New Guinea back in the 60s. He is communicating to this tribe and trying to explain the gospel, the story of Jesus to them, and they had such a perverted sense of right and wrong that the greatest value in their culture was to deceive someone to the point where it would cost them their life. You were an important person; you had really arrived if you could betray somebody so that they died. That was the ultimate value.
So when he told the story, Judas came out the hero. How in the world do you communicate the gospel to people who have such a perverted view? But see, that’s what we have to do. Give an answer. You are not giving an answer if you don’t understand what they’re hearing when you say things. Are values or reason going to be the common ground? Or experience?
What does a missionary need to do to communicate with the aborigine? He has to learn the language, doesn’t he? And when you learn a language, those who are bilingual will tell you that cultural values are embedded, or encoded, within that other language. So that if you are talking Spanish, or Italian, or Arabic, the language that you use also relates to the cultural values of those people.
So when you talk about culture, you have to learn their culture, what their values are. This takes a lot of time. What their religion is—how that impacts things. If it’s a spiritist culture, then everything is alive, everything has its own spirit; so when you start talking about one God, this just doesn’t even compute. You might as well be speaking some other foreign language.
When it talks about truth and values and reason, all of these are going to be greatly distorted. It takes a lot of time to learn how to properly communicate truth—doctrine—to an audience like that. Because they’re not hearing what you’re intending to communicate.
This is part of apologetics. When you’re talking to somebody, do they mean the same thing when you use the word God, or truth, or when you talk about life, or creation, right and wrong? Are these the same?
Now, notice we changed the slide. We went from pagan aborigines operating on human viewpoint on the right. You’re talking on the basis of divine viewpoint, and now all of a sudden these pagan aborigines are your post-modern sister, or your post-modern friend, or your post-modern coworker operating and living totally within their human viewpoint structure, speaking a language that doesn’t mean the same thing your language means. So how are we going to give an answer to them? Without sacrificing our assumptions, how are we going to talk to them in a way that they can understand these terms? That’s the process of giving an answer. We have to make sure that we are properly communicating when we talk about these key ideas in the Scripture.
Genuine communication involves making clear what one person thinks to another person. If you haven’t made it clear, you’re not communicating. Secondly, as such, the person who is communicating from a divine viewpoint framework should make sure that in his communication of his culture’s beliefs that he does not compromise his own divine viewpoint standards in the process. A right thing done in a wrong way will do exactly that—you are giving away the farm in order to win a small part of the argument.
In a more technical sense, “giving an answer” assumes giving an understandable explanation that communicates truly to the person who comes from a different framework.
We’re going to stop there. I’d encourage you if you’re interested in getting into this a lot more in depth than what I’m going to do, to read those two papers I’ve posted by Charlie. There is so much more to this. I was so very interested in this when I was much younger. One of the reasons I went on to pursue a second Master’s degree in philosophy is to understand our own culture better—to be able to communicate to it—and more of these issues. Because a lot of apologetics is related to thought, to reason, to logic, to philosophy, to metaphysics, and epistemology. What are these issues? Let’s close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and begin to think through what it means to helpfully, accurately communicate and give an answer for our faith that communicates to the person to whom we are speaking—how to ask the right questions, how to know what questions to answer that are asked of us, and what questions to ignore—the wisdom that comes only from spiritual growth and spiritual maturity and talking to people about the Lord.
We pray that you will give us a real desire to communicate the gospel to others and to grow and learn and develop this skill set. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”