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
- Definitions (I Peter 3:13-17)
- Apologetics has nothing to do with apologizing or asking for forgiveness of anything in Christianity.
- Apologetics comes from the Greek απολογια (apologia) which is translated as “defense” in I Peter 3:15.
- 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.
- Principles from I Peter 3:13-17
- 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
- It is morally proper to defend the faith- we don’t have to maintain the same silence that Christ had before his accusers.
- 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).
- We must engage outsiders with gentleness and respect – the purpose of apologetics ought to be to win a person, not an argument.
- Apologetics is not guaranteed to bring success either in ending suffering or in producing faith.
- Principles from II Peter 1:16-21
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Application of Apologetics in Culture
- 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).
- 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.
- Offensively, apologetics is a tool for prophetically challenging the culture (2 Cor. 10:3-5, I Timothy 3:15)
- 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).
- Respond in grateful worship to the reality that Christ has given us a sure foundation for trusting in His character and word.