Wednesday, 21 October 2009

A New Testament Insight into Apologetics

This post introduces my own notes on my teaching on 1) apologetics; 2) how to prepare for apologetics; 3) and how to become an effective apologist. I believe Christians more than ever need to grasp the vital aspect of this ministry within the Christian community and by the grace and wisdom given by God, prepare themselves to take a stand against the desperate attacks of the opponent and falsehood.

The meaning of apologetics:

In apologetics there are two terms we need to consider:

· Apologetics = defending your faith
· Polemics = criticising the view of your opponent

Both approaches are Biblical and in most cases these two are combined into one approach.

The four primary purposes of apologetics:

1. To defend the gospel (Philippians 1: 7)
2. To communicate the gospel by means understandable to the hearers (Acts 17)
3. To give an answer to those who question our faith (Colossians 4: 6) (1 Peter 4: 15)
4. To expose falsehood (Matthew 23) (Acts 17)

Christian attitude in apologetics:

Apologists who resort to insult, personal attacks, accomplish little in their attempt to defend Christianity or expose falsehood.

· Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4: 6)

· But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (1 Peter 3: 15-16)

However we need also to consider the attitude of Jesus to those who were willing to communicate with him yet with the sole intention to insult, humiliate or attack him (Matthew 12: 24, 38) (16: 1). Jesus knew these types of people, to whom he often engaged with by appealing to polemics (Matthew 23) and spoke with harsh words (Matthew 12: 39) (Matthew 23) (Luke 11: 37-52). On some occasions he decided simply to ignore these and move on (Matthew 15: 12-14) (16: 4). Jesus referred to these are wicked (Matthew 16: 4), blind (Matthew 15: 14), hypocrites (Matthew 23: 27-28) and even brood of vipers (Matthew 23: 33). Whether you like it or not, there is a place for this within Christian communication towards certain categories of opponents. Yet in the light of 1 Peter 3: 15-16 we need to act wisely. Also note that insult is not to be misunderstood as challenging or exposing your opponent.

Preparation for apologetics:

Be ready spiritually: Jesus Christ needs to be the focus of your life:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord (1 Peter 3: 15)

A good apologist keeps his spiritual life intact. In other words Christ being Lord of our life and our life and our belief has to correspond: ‘If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness we lie and do not live by the truth’. The word used here is ‘pseudometa’; which implies that unless Jesus is Lord of our life we simply lie to ourselves. Jesus emphasises this in the Gospel: ‘why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say’ (Luke 6: 46)? That is ‘pseudometa.’ Rather we should practice as Paul reinforces: ‘So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him’ (Colossians 2: 6). Notice here how conversion, life and faith has to correspond.

· ‘...aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you’ (2 Corinthians 13: 11)
· ‘Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice. And the God and peace will be with you’ (Philippians 3: 9)
· ‘Keeping a clear conscience’ (1 Peter 3: 16)

Conclusion: Holy lifestyle and a Christ-like attitude is essential for a successful apologist

Be rooted in your faith:

This is applies to the Christian to know his faith and be strong in his faith. The Bible commands us to be strong and rooted in our faith:

· Be on your guard: stand firm in the faith (1 Cor.16: 13)
· I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends upon human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2: 4-8)

Be courageous:

We need a lot of boldness as Christians to face the society we live in, be it in a college, in a university or a work place. It is a fact the community, the authorities, the education system and the media almost work collectively to derive us from the freedom to speak and hold onto our opinion, and indeed to study and research Christianity from a positive standpoint. Furthermore these aspects of society frequently question the Christian faith and undermine it. Now wonder so many Christians are driven by fear and hence fail to stand up for their belief, which they realise might cause them to fail in any given work or study, while the reality is that our fear hinders our progress. If we want breakthrough, risks have to considered and contrary to what Christians often tend to perceive, the common person is often impressed with our courage.

The Bible says:

· Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened (1 Peter 3: 13)
· Be on your guard: stand firm in the faith: be men of courage: be strong (2 Cor. 16: 13)

Be ready time- wise:

That apologetics is a tool and skill we need to be ready to practice spontaneously at anytime only reveals how urgent this aspect is in the life of every Christian. We read:

· Always...(1 Peter 4: 15a)
· prepared (1 Peter 4: 15b)

Be prepared with and know your information:

Know the Bible:

· ...go make disciples of all nations...teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28: 16)

· They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2: 42)
· Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom (Colossians 3: 16)
· You will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3: 14)
· But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you have learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 14-17)

Know the sources of your opponents:

Paul’s sermon at Areopagus reveals that he possessed an excellent insight into the books and beliefs of the Greek ideas and philosophies (Acts 17). This requires Christians to possess knowledge about atheism, Islam and other views that oppose the Christian faith.

Organising your study:

The Christian needs to engage in study and daily set of time for study and research; here are a few vital categories of studies:

· Topic study (topics and verses that cover a number of doctrinal topics and then to memorize them within a specific amount of time)

· Context study (find methods that help you to memorize the context and the passages, and methods that provide you with insight into the structure of the Biblical books.

· Set of time to gain inside into philosophy, science, church history and other religions

The purpose with this is:

· that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4: 6)
· ...always be prepared to give an answer to everyone (1 Peter 3: 15)

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A response and challenge to those who oppose the Christian faith.