Apologetics is for....?

(Jami ) #1

Hello Connect Community! I’ve been a “stalker” on this platform for a number of months, just gleaning from your insight and enjoying your discussions. Now I have a question of my own:
who is apologetics for and how much does it take?

Let me give context. I am a lover of apologetics and if RZIM gave tattoos I’d probably get one on my forearm! :slight_smile: However, I encounter a good number of people in my life who seem to feel intimidated by the intellectual pursuit. I used to accuse these people of copping out, but now I recognize not everyone is wired the same nor do we discover the many attributes of God in the same fashion. However, at the risk of sounding judgmental, I’m feeling like there’s a threshold: not all of us will be Ravi Zacharias (or even qualify for the team!:slight_smile: But at the same time, I can’t imagine not having an answer for the validity of the Bible, or literary proof that Jesus claims to be God, or a basic understanding of how the three persons of God relate to one another and to the Believer. These seem foundational to me for every true Believer.

I’m in a position of leadership and feel compelled to challenge Christians to engage their minds with apologetics, but also want to be cognizant of the uniqueness of everyone’s discovery of Scriptural Truths. And let’s be honest, some of the most profound knowledge I have of God (his Goodness, his Faithfulness, his Presence, etc) are things I experienced…not argued my way into.

what do you think? where’s the line for how much we SHOULD be asking the Church to engage versus how much apologetics is a personal method of worship and learning?

(Jimmy Sellers) #2

It is an excellent question. I go to a church that I love very much but when you mention Apologetics to educational minister he doesn’t think it has a place in the church. Interesting enough we have sermons at least 2 times a year bemoaning the loss of our youth once they go off to school. It’s almost like when you graduate from school you are graduating from church.
There are a few threads already on connect. I’ll post a few links.

and my thoughts

“The purpose of apologetics is often assumed to be to convince outsiders of the value of the beliefs and practices of a religion or way of life. This may be an occasional side effect, but it cannot be the primary function. Rather, works of apologetics are really written for insiders. The arguments in such books may find their way into discussions between adherents and outsiders, but the primary audience is the believing audience . Apologetic writings sustain the insider’s commitment in the face of critique, ridicule or contradiction from outside (and from questions and doubts inside).”

deSilva, D. A. (2004). An introduction to the New Testament: contexts, methods and ministry formation (p. 103). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Let’s hear from the community.

(SeanO) #3

@bjstaples Personally, I think that we do people a disservice when we do not teach them how to think deeply about God and I think that at the heart of apologetics is having a deep, Scriptural understanding of Christ and the Gospel. An inability to think critically leaves people at the mercy of their emotions, persuasive speakers and every new idea they stumble across.

The author of Hebrews was clearly frustrated that the people whom he was addressing were not mentally comprehending what they were being taught. They were being intellectually lazy and not applying what they were learning. Obedience and study are a requisite part of the Christian life if people are going to grow in maturity! And I think that both of these are at the heart of apologetics - we cannot truly understand the goodness of God unless we obey His commands and walk in His presence. We cannot understand the glory of His truth if we do not study the Word and grow in understanding.

Hebrews 5:11-14 - We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

I think Moreland makes some great points in his book about the need for people to think.

“Anti-intellectualism has spawned an irrelevant gospel. Today, we share the gospel primarily as a means of addressing felt needs.”

“But their overall effect was to overemphasize immediate personal conversion to Christ instead of a studied period of reflection and conviction; emotional, simple, popular preaching instead of intellectually careful and doctrinally precise sermons; and personal feelings and relationship to Christ instead of a deep grasp of the nature of Christian teaching and ideas.”

“I am responsible for what I believe and, I might add, for what I refuse to believe, because the content of what I do or do not believe makes a tremendous difference to what I become and how I act.”


I do think we have to acknowledge that not everyone has the same abilities - and that is why God has given the Church people gifted as teachers. The wise must protect the simple and the strong the weak. But we should urge everyone to study God’s Word as best as they are able - to strive to intellectually grasp the truths of Scripture more.

(Stephen Wuest) #4

“Apologetics” is just an explanation for something.
An apology for some proposition might be formal (such a logical proof), or informal (such as a commonly held cultural behavior or value). An apology could be authoritative (such as based on an argument in Scripture) or unauthoritative (such as an explanation based on inputs that are commonly accepted by some audience, but not necessarily held to be authoritative by orthodox Christians).

Apologetics should use argument forms, that are logically sound. (It would help to know some formal logic, and carefully craft your arguments.)

“Christian apologetics” involves explanations for historic/orthodox propositions that are part of “the faith, once for all delivered to the saints.” This means that those involved in Christian apologetics need to know what orthodox theology is.

Unfortunately, our younger generations in America have little training in formal reasoning, and so they confuse emotionally pleasing arguments, or popular arguments, with logically valid arguments.

This leads to a problem. Many younger Christians will not accept logically valid arguments, because they are emotionally unsatisfying or unpopular on social media. While apologetics probably used to be aimed more at unbelievers than Christians, the general lack of critical thinking skills across the board in our younger American generations, means that younger Christians often need rudimentary introductions to foundational ideas, that are the foundation for valid reasoning.

Apologetics is reason-based. But we have other ways to discover truth. These include observing the beauty and order in the natural world. And the direct revelation from God that Paul says that we all received, to discern right from wrong. (We sometimes call this the conscience, or moral consciousness.)

Biblical illiteracy among younger Christians, means that many of them cannot recognize arguments or conclusions that are taken directly from the Bible. This is a disaster, for pastors and teachers. Many pastors and teachers can no longer make valid arguments directly from the Bible, and resort to home-brew emotional arguments that do not deal with what the Bible asserts, about a given topic.

I am horrified, with the need for logically valid apologetics. Aimed both at younger Christians, and non-Christians alike.

(Jami ) #5

Thanks Sean! Make no mistake, I’m certainly not arguing against the need for critical thinking and personal study. I’m seeing the same statistics and exodus from the Church’s youth - I absolutely see the need for reason and critical thinking.
My point is, we can get really hung up on a lot of things in this discipline. We talk about everything from the scientific proof for creation to the ethics of artificial intelligence. And there is insane amount of research for just about every point - one could spend a lifetime doing the research; and maybe some should. But validating every point for or against a literal 7 days of creation (for example) seems like a bit much for the average Believer. So where is the line? Again, the question is not for or against apologetics or critical thinking. The question is the threshold for allowing one to call themselves “convinced”. **NOTE: especially when considering more than half the known world doesn’t have the resources for this type of extensive pursuit.

(SeanO) #6

@bjstaples Good point. I know teachers use a concept called scaffolding to meet different students in the same class with different capabilities at a level where they can still benefit. Perhaps a similar approach would be helpful with apologetics in Church?

We identify a few people who are capable / interested and invest more deeply in them, include a few illustrations / points for them in the teaching. Focus the rest of the teaching on the majority group at a bit lower level. And then have some material for those who are still struggling with the fundamentals.

(C Rhodes) #7

@bjstaples. I was raised in a church that placed great emphasis on critical thinking. Even as a child we were required to present panel topics three Sundays out of each month. We would explore the topics collectively or sometimes individually. We were required to provide convincing oral argument coupled with textual proof. The Q & A could be brutal if you were unprepared. One of the indicators of spiritual mishap in our midst was a sense of undeclared superiority to others. We never said it aloud, but we knew few religious people could match our intellectual prowess. I lived to see in my own congregation and in the lives of people I love, that intellect is not enough. The sin nature is not considerate of education, intellect, ignorance, apologetics nor simple homegrown wisdom.

I learned that it is a mistake to consider one discipline greater than another. It is a mistake to assume that GOD can do a greater, better, or more through work through one venue or denomination over another. GOD spoke through the donkey to the prophet. I have no doubt GOD can speak through me. The question to answer is not whether I am prepared, but whether I am willing.

I am more respectful and trusting of the many ways GOD advocates for the redemption of all His children. The bottom-line is, only GOD can direct the word or action necessary to provoke change. So, I believe it is more important to hear what should come next rather than believe myself capable of a certain task, because of personal preparation. I may believe in Apologetics I love to learn. But Apologetics is first and foremost for my benefit. Whether I practice apologetics or not, the will of GOD is known. Souls are redeemed lives are set free.

I believe where ever the Grace of GOD finds you, He will equip you for the task at hand. That makes for some amazing living! To see GOD work with the insufficiency of personal humanity.

No wonder He says take no thought of what you will say when you stand to give an account. Matthew 10:17-27 and Luke 12:11-12 kjv.

(Billie Corbett) #8

Great answer, SeanO. I totally agree with your comments and those quoted.

Personally, I think the modern church has muddied the waters, regarding equipping the saints / believers, (the mandate to build up the believer in the faith)…and seeking to evangelize at the same time.

To my mind, apologetics is intended for believers, so they can “give an answer for the hope they have within them.”

If believers are strong in faith, hope and love, rooted and grounded in the word of God and the gospel…if they are equipped by God through the means of grace… As Jesus said, “For the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what you ought to say.”