Is Apologetics a Worthwhile Endeavor?

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Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
This discussion started here (the fact that a discussion of Platonist influence on Tolkien turned into a debate over apologetics proves that we really are Presbyterians :D).

Calvinus said:
Maybe we should reexamine the idea of aplogetics and what it does and does not achieve.

So here we are:

Apologetics is the defense of the faith. Its purpose is to give an answer for the hope that is within us and to present the Gospel intelligibly and persuasively to shut the mouth of the skeptic.

I here make a distinction: as much as I love apologetics and the philosophical arguments that it generates, I recognize that no one was ever converted by apologetics. Similarly, no one was ever converted by the word preached. In every case, the Spirit has used the apologetic or the spoken words of the preacher to bring the person to a knowledge of God. Therefore, our task in apologetics is to be faithful in presenting the word, so that the unbeliever will have no excuse.
 

SolaSaint

Puritan Board Sophomore
Very well said. I also feel that apologetics is good for building the faith of our fellow Christians who may have had their faith shaken by skeptics or false teachers. Through apologetics we can equip and encourage believers to know what they believe. There is much out there that can cause doubt among even the strongest of Christians and we need to know and teach truth to refute error. Apologetics isn't just directed at the atheist and the unbeliever.
 

paculina

Puritan Board Freshman
Apologetics is also good for increasing our knowledge and understanding of our own faith. There's nothing like having to defend what you believe or having to teach it to someone else to make you dig in to Scripture and find out why you really believe as you do.

If a JW appears at your door with a magazine disputing the doctrine of the trinity, how do you know he's not right unless you get into the Word and study what Scripture teaches about the triune God? After all, the word "trinity" never appears in Scripture. If they accuse you of believing in 3 gods, how do you refute that if you don't get in there and study it?

If someone appears at your door and offers you a copy of the KJV Bible and the 13 Articles of Faith, courtesy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, how do you know that those 13 Articles of Faith, despite their use of the words Bible and Jesus and God and other Christian-sounding vocabulary, do not represent the historic Christian faith unless you know what the Bible teaches? If the Mormon tries to run you in circles about the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, how do you defend Sola Scriptura if you don't know why you believe it?

This is a big thing that the cults, the JWs in particular, but also the Mormons, have on the church. They know backwards and forwards what they believe and why and how to defend it. Many Christians are quite biblically illiterate and they get run around in circles and sucked in to these faiths because they don't know what they believe and why and they don't know how to tell the real from the fake.
 

SolaSaint

Puritan Board Sophomore
Laurel, very well said. I think every church needs to have classes on apologetics. Every believer needs to be able to defend the faith. I would venture to say most of those filling the pews these days have very little idea of why they believe in Christianity.
 

davidsuggs

Puritan Board Freshman
Agreed

Many good points here. Of course there are multiple things accomplished by apologetics. The first, of course, is simply obedience to the One who saved us by His grace, and 1 Peter 3:15 pretty much justifies the entire enterprise in that respect. Beyond that, however, there are other blessings. Rick's point is very important (i.e., encouragement to the saints):

Acts 18:27-28
And when he [Apollos] wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Additionally, apologetics is also used of God to further render the unbeliever without excuse (though his inner knowledge of God already condemns him sufficiently: Romans 1:18-32).

Another good reason is to shut the mouth of the unbeliever in our God-ordained struggle against unrighteousness to the glory of God (by the way, a great, and brief, exposition of this earthly struggle can be found in Kuyper's The Practice of Godliness).
 

MarieP

Puritan Board Senior
Apologetics is good, when used lawfully ;)

Allow me to give a personal testimony. I don't have anyone particular here in mind, but I know I'm far from the only one whose struggled with this. Like anything, apologetics can become an idol (as all good things can). There is the strong temptation to start reading your Bible with an eye toward what it doesn't mean rather than what it does mean. There's a strong temptation to read the Bible to be able to refute those who contradict (Biblical language, of course!) while neglecting to first and foremost read it to commune with God and to see where we ourselves need to repent and mature in our life and understanding.

Signs this had become an idol in my life:
1. I took more pleasure in hearing someone refute Mormonism than in hearing instruction on growing in love for Christ and one another.
2. I couldn't read verses like John 3:16 or Matthew 16:18 without my mind immediately going to what they don't mean
3. I counted listening to apologetics lectures as my "communion with God" for the day
4. It became divorced from a daily walk with God- which is ironic because the very verse where the term apologetics comes from is about a ready defense for the hope that is within us
5. Because it was divorced from daily life, I would come off as increasingly cold and harsh- knowledge puffs up, love builds up
6. I became cold in my prayers- since it was becoming academic to me, there was no real sense that I did apologetics because I wanted to glorify Christ and actually wanted sinners to flee the wrath to come and escape a Christless eternity
7. I forgot that the sinner's real problem was their sin, and everything else is just an excuse to fool themselves into thinking they didn't need to repent and turn to Christ
8. Apologetics became more about pointing people to a set of truths (which it does do) than about pointing them to a Person

How I am seeking to keep from this ever happening again:
1. Prayer, prayer, and more prayer.
2. Relying on the power of the Spirit, realizing that apart from Him I can do nothing
3. Asking God to show me Christ and how I may love, serve, and obey Him more fully as I read the Scriptures
4. Praying for opportunities to share Christ and His Gospel with others, knowing that is what the lost need to hear first and foremost
5. Keeping away from those things that tempt me most (some places online I used to frequent)
6. Keeping near the cross and empty tomb in my own mind and heart, remembering that it was God's grace that saved me, and it's going to be the Gospel that saves sinners
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
To me, apologetics is communicating to someone, who doesn't quite have a handle on our points, what we are truly trying to say. I think this is very important.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Apologetics is good, when used lawfully ;)

Allow me to give a personal testimony. I don't have anyone particular here in mind, but I know I'm far from the only one whose struggled with this. Like anything, apologetics can become an idol (as all good things can). There is the strong temptation to start reading your Bible with an eye toward what it doesn't mean rather than what it does mean. There's a strong temptation to read the Bible to be able to refute those who contradict (Biblical language, of course!) while neglecting to first and foremost read it to commune with God and to see where we ourselves need to repent and mature in our life and understanding.

Signs this had become an idol in my life:
1. I took more pleasure in hearing someone refute Mormonism than in hearing instruction on growing in love for Christ and one another.
2. I couldn't read verses like John 3:16 or Matthew 16:18 without my mind immediately going to what they don't mean
3. I counted listening to apologetics lectures as my "communion with God" for the day
4. It became divorced from a daily walk with God- which is ironic because the very verse where the term apologetics comes from is about a ready defense for the hope that is within us
5. Because it was divorced from daily life, I would come off as increasingly cold and harsh- knowledge puffs up, love builds up
6. I became cold in my prayers- since it was becoming academic to me, there was no real sense that I did apologetics because I wanted to glorify Christ and actually wanted sinners to flee the wrath to come and escape a Christless eternity
7. I forgot that the sinner's real problem was their sin, and everything else is just an excuse to fool themselves into thinking they didn't need to repent and turn to Christ
8. Apologetics became more about pointing people to a set of truths (which it does do) than about pointing them to a Person

How I am seeking to keep from this ever happening again:
1. Prayer, prayer, and more prayer.
2. Relying on the power of the Spirit, realizing that apart from Him I can do nothing
3. Asking God to show me Christ and how I may love, serve, and obey Him more fully as I read the Scriptures
4. Praying for opportunities to share Christ and His Gospel with others, knowing that is what the lost need to hear first and foremost
5. Keeping away from those things that tempt me most (some places online I used to frequent)
6. Keeping near the cross and empty tomb in my own mind and heart, remembering that it was God's grace that saved me, and it's going to be the Gospel that saves sinners

Good post. It sort of reminds me that we should focus more on heaven than on hell.
 

ryanhamre

Puritan Board Freshman
"No one is saved by apologetics, but no one is saved without apologetics either."

- John Gerstner in Handout Apologetics
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
A good backbone for many studies in apologetics is the history of philosophy. It enables you to see that there is nothing new under the sun: many of the same errors appear over and over; when viewed through the lens of scripture, you can learn to answer not only those around you, but also avoid error yourself. The study is also valuable from the standpoint of iron sharpening iron by examining the presuppositions brought to the discussion of religion.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Christianity is in the process of, and is going to, dice and slice all other worldviews, not by the sword of iron, which Joshua and the Israelites used to conquer Canaan, but by the Word of God.

Sound apologetics, a biblical approach to philosophy and the philosophy behind the various false religions, and the proclamation of the Gospel, are being and will be used to accomplish this.

For their rock is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede.(Deut 32:31, NIV)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (II Cor 10:4-5)

Every false worldview must be analysed presuppositionally in comparison with the biblical worldview, and demolished.

Reasoned argument was one of the tools that God gave the Apostles and which He has not removed from the Church. But in order to do this more effectively each worldview must be studied and the sand that it is built upon exposed. Obviously some Christians are going to be more gifted at apologetics than others but we must all try our best, along with proclamation of the Gospel.
 
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