Apologetics can be a loaded term as it encompasses so much in the way of history, theology, philosophy, science, and archaeology. Many in the church make the claim that Jesus did not use apologetics, so why should we. But this is not the case.
For an illustration, let's take a look at Jesus pointing out a Self-Refuting argument.
In Matthew 12:22-28, we read about Jesus casting out a demon and the following exchange:
22Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Here, Jesus points out a clear logical fallacy committed by the Pharisees. In today's world, people still do the same thing. How often have you heard someone talk about speaking "their truth" or "that's true for you, but not for me"?
By asking questions the way Jesus did, we can point out the problems with these views to help bring a better understanding of the nature of truth and in so doing, bring someone closer to being ready to hear the Gospel.
Jesus used arguments and we should too.
Many have an idea that the discipline of Apologetics is limited to showing some esoteric point to be true or getting into long debates with atheists. The truth is, apologetics is about one thing - bringing people to Christ. Some see evangelism and apologetics as differing from each other in their end goal. But is this the case?
The late Dr. Francis Schaeffer referred to apologetics as "pre-evangelism". He believed that most were not ready to hear the Gospel as they had many questions or objections that were in their way. Apologetics was the way to prepare the person to hear the Gospel so that they could respond without the obstacles of those questions. One could say that apologetics correctly done would be the "handmaiden" of evangelism. Apologetics is there to help our evangelistic efforts, not to get into fights over doctrine or ideas about evolution.
In, The God Who Is There, Dr. Schaeffer wrote:
They (non Christians) are valuable, so we should meet them in love and compassion. Thus, we meet the person where he or she is. Consequently, if I were with Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail, and the Philippian jailer said to me, “sir, what must I do to be saved?” for me to start talking about epistemology would be horrible. I would say what Paul said, “Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” because the jailer was, on the basis of previous knowledge and events, ready for that answer. Now on the other hand, if we are dealing with someone who has honest problems and who really believes that truth is truth – things are true and things are false, it would then be a different need. In that situation, if he or she had questions on the historicity of Christ’s resurrection and so on, we would deal with those questions – because he or she already accepts that truth is truth. .
Evangelism and Apologetics go hand in hand and we should, as Christians, be prepared beforehand to engage in both disciplines so that we can follow the command of Christ to make disciples of all nations.
Scheaffer, Francis A. , The God Who Is There, InterVarsity Press, 1968.
*Editors Note: This article has been edited for clarity.
This idea is making the rounds once again. This go around, the narrative is blaming Zondervan for removing parts of the Bible. So, did the NIV version remove over 64,000 words from the King James Version of the Bible? In a word, yes. But it's not what you think.
First a bit of history. This is not exhaustive and I can recommend some colleagues of mine who can give a more detailed account. The King James Version of the Bible was based on a set of manuscripts known as the Textus Receptus or "received texts". This was a small group of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that was translated by Desiderius Erasmus in 1516. The KJV was published in 1611. It also formed the basis for the Tyndale and Lutheran Bibles among others. These manuscripts were full of typographical errors and some books, like the Revelation of John, were not complete and were translated back into Greek from the Latin Vulgate adding more mistranslation and strange wordings to the mix. Also, many passages contained words that were mistranslated or that there were no English equivalents for, such as "Baptize". These manuscripts also contained passages that are not present in the earlier and much better Greek manuscripts found later at Oxyrhynchus Egypt.
So, the NIV when it was produced, relied on these manuscripts along with other sources to produce a more accurate translation than the KJV. The charge against it assumes that the KJV is the original version of the Bible which it is not. That is not to say that the NIV doesn't have it's own issues, but there was not a conspiracy by Zondervan or Harper Collins to sneak in a falsified copy of the Bible. And this accusation is a very old one. More modern translations such as the ESV or the NASB have footnotes for the variant passages to let you know they do not appear in the earliest manuscripts.
The larger issue here is many western Christian's ignorance of textual history. Can you trust your Bible? Absolutely. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence for the reliability of scripture and the sheer number of manuscripts show it hasn't changed over time. But, there is not and was not a conspiracy to change the Bible and remove words from it for the NIV version.
A few years ago, I saw a post by someone that immediately struck me as off:
"Sola Scriptura" is this a true saying? No, it is not. A person could memorize all of scripture and be no better for it. It is the Holy Spirit that gives understanding. It is not something that can be put into a bible translation, bible commentary, a theological writing, or traditions. It is the living water that flows from God. Do not put your trust in people and what they say, put your trust in God. He says he will teach us through the Holy Spirit. Go to the Lord in sincere humbleness with an empty mind of a child and let him teach. Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
Immediately, there are a couple of issues here and I want to give them a quick response.
First, something that glares at me is the statement "He says he will teach us through the Holy Spirit". Where do we get this idea? From Scripture! So unless the poster is suggesting the Holy Spirit planted in their mind or outright audibly told them this, scripture was the source for this teaching.
Sola Scriptura in Latin means “by Scripture Alone”. In Protestant Christian doctrine, it means that the Bible, and the Bible alone, is the sole, infallible source for the teaching of the church and Revelation of God. It is considered inerrant and infallible in Christian doctrine.
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness”. This means that the words of scripture are not mere writings and teachings of men, but the words of the LORD Himself.
Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit would remind us of all Jesus said. “"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Here, Jesus is clearly speaking to the apostles. This does not mean the Holy Spirit doesn’t teach us, but Jesus is clearly telling the disciples that the Spirit would remind them of all that He said and they in turn were able to write it down.
Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that all scripture is the authority for doctrine and theology. It doesn’t mean that the Bible is the only source for truth. In fact, in order for the Bible to be true, Truth must already exist and have a standard for it – in the case of Truth, that standard is God Himself. But the Bible is the inspired world of God containing all of the information needed to make one wise unto salvation - 2 Timothy 3:15
This objection mischaracterizes Sola Scriptura as a claim to be the sole source of Truth which is not the claim being made by this doctrine. And it does not align with scripture itself which clearly shows us that the Bible is the ultimate written authority for Christian doctrine, theology and practice. While the Holy Spirit leads and prompts believers, it does not contradict scripture nor impart ancient secret truths not revealed in scripture before now.
Often, I see other Christians objecting to the use of apologetics altogether. They will usually say that faith doesn't require evidence or it's not faith.
But is that the case? If we look at the word "faith" itself, we can get a clearer picture of what the Bible is actually talking about.
First, faith comes from the Latin "fides" which means "good trust". But the Greek word used in the New Testament is "pisteuo" which means to have confidence in or to credit the thing believed in. The other greek word used for faith is "pistis" which means "conviction of the truth of anything".
So faith is trust and trust is object centered. You put your trust in something. But does God require a blind trust or has He given evidence that we can put our trust in? As always, we must consult scripture.
First, Jesus says in John 10:24-26
"So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep."
And again in vs 36-38, Jesus says
"do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
What about Thomas? Jesus told him blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed. But not seen what? The resurrected Jesus. But, what did Thomas see in the time he spent with Jesus? Healing of the sick, raising of the dead, casting out of demons, feeding of 4k and 5k, etc. Shouldn't then, Thomas have believed when Jesus told the disciples ahead of time that he would suffer, die, and on the 3rd day rise again? Jesus gave evidence.
What about John the Baptist? In Matthew 11, we see the following:
"Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians:
"7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel." Phil 1:7
There are many more passages in the NT that admonish us to offer a defense (apologia) for the Gospel we preach. But the one that gives us the direct command is 1 Peter 3:15:
"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense(apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect"
In John 20, the apostle writes " Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
Acts 1:3 tells us "He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God."
God has not left us without evidence of the truth. It becomes clear that we as Christians need to know what we believe, why we believe it, and how to articulate that truth.
"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Romans 1:19-20
Recently here in my state, a man was acquitted of manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend. In response to the loss, the District Attorney who prosecuted the case stated:
"..Of course, we're gutted, However, what people will not understand is this: The number one reason we lost is the burden of proof in a circumstantial case is not just beyond a reasonable doubt but it's far higher."
Is this true? Do I need to be absolutely certain before I can say this man is guilty or innocent? What about the case for Christianity? Do I need to be certain of every detail before I can accept the evidence as pointing to it being true?
The truth is, you don't. In fact, most of the time, we know things are true or false without having all of our questions answered. But this brings up a question: How does one weigh evidence?
According to J. Warner Wallace, semi-retired Cold Case Detective and Christian author and speaker, understanding evidence first begins with understanding the difference between direct and indirect evidence
Direct evidence is eyewitness testimony. A person witnesses a robbery and testifies in court. That is a direct evidence case. Indirect evidence is everything else. Indirect evidence is also known as circumstantial evidence. Even DNA and fingerprint evidence is not direct. It's only a fact. In a circumstantial case, you draw inferences from the facts [evidence] you are presented. People can draw different inferences from the same facts. A lot of this can be based on your personal bent. So what you must do is set aside your presuppositions and determine to follow the evidence wherever it leads - even if it's to a place you do not like.
Circumstantial evidence can make the strongest case for Christianity by building a cumulative case. A cumulative case can be compared to a puzzle. Once the pieces begin to be put together, they start to form a picture. At some point, if there are enough pieces, you can see what the picture is even if you don't have all of the pieces.
Rational Inference is a basic law of logic and all of the facts are not required to make such an inference. There is a huge, circumstantial, cumulative case for Christianity. And when you weigh all of the evidence together, you begin to see the picture of Christ form. There will still be unanswered questions. I have them and you will too. But we don't make decisions based on being absolutely certain.
Back to the criminal case. I was not there to see the evidence, I'll leave it up to the jury. But if the DA thinks that a circumstantial case requires a higher burden of proof, he may have sunk his own case or had a bad one.
If you think you can't be a Christian because you cannot answer every question, apply that same burden of proof to everything else you think is true and see if those things hold up under the same scrutiny. You may find your case for those things wanting.
Recently saw this meme on social media:
Now, there are a lot of issues here, but what caught my eye was "..Peer reviewed DOCUMENTATION, Empirical results of repeatable EXPERIMENTATION.."
So this bring into question if one could test the Supernatural. Specifically, if you posit that God is the supernatural explanation of the universe, could you test God? This is what is known as a catagory error. In other words, since God would be supernatural, any tests that are by their nature designed to test nature would be null and void. You would have to use other tools to determine if God is a reasonable explanation for the universe given the evidence. Now you could use science to determine a particular supernatural claim such as if someone claims to have been miraculously healed of cancer, you can use science to determine from medical records if they indeed had cancer and you can use science to examine them now to see if the cancer remains or if a natural explanation is more reasonable like chemotherapy.
Proper tools for determining the supernatural in principle would be philosophy and logic as examples. Philosophical arguments for God being the cause of the universe would be the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Ontological Argument, Leibniz Cosmological Argument, and so on. These arguments rely on the truthfulness of their premesis. If the premesis are true, then the conclusions logically follow.
Many naturalists assume that God is not a reasonable explanation for the universe (and many other things) because it cannot be "proven" by science. But the mistake is using the wrong tool for the job. As Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason would say, it's like "trying to weigh a chicken with a yard stick".
Because God is an autonomous being, requiring documented scientific experiments showing His existence is really moving the goal posts a bit. It would be better to require scientific evidence of the results of His existence. Even then, ideas like morality, logic, and even reason would not be able to have science reveal the reason for their existence as they themselves are abstract objects like mathematics. You know they are there, but you cannot determine why using science. You can only see their results.
This requirement fails at a fundamental level and sets the bar higher than science can prove about itself.
One of the most oft asked questions of any apologetics speaker is "How do I get apologetics in my church?". But I think what they are really saying is "how can I get my pastor to do apologetics?"
It goes without saying that if you want to bring apologetical teaching into your local church, you should be prepared to head that up. But it doing so, you should not think of yourself as a teacher, but a servant.
Your job is to serve your church by equipping the local body to make the case for Christianity. Want to bring apologetics to your youth? Serve in the youth group. Want to lead an apologetics group? Serve in your church. We are about meeting the need of the body to answer questions, not to put our intellect on display.
This past weekend, I had to privileged of joining 50+ of my brothers and sisters in Christ at the Cross Examined Instructor Academy learning to be a better apologetics speaker and presenter. Amongst the great apologetic instructors, we learned from Bobby Conway, lead pastor at Life Fellowship Church in Charlotte, NC. One of the things he shared with us was creating an environment of apologetics. You do that by having a 3D approach to the Gospel: Declare, Display, and Defend.
This means you must declare the good news and display it in your life before you can defend it's validity. This requires that we meet the need your church has for apologetics training while working as a servant team member of your church. This allows you to develop the trust of your pastorate and care for those you are leading in apologetics. You will have to lay your agenda aside and be a part of your church's mission as a whole and seeing how apologetics fits into that mission.
So, put on your best livery and be prepared to serve the Lord in whatever capacity He requires as you help equip the saints for the good works prepared beforehand for them.
As a lay apologist, often times I feel confronted by a lack of authority. What I mean is, I don't have a seminary degree. I have the privilege of learning from some of the brightest men and women in the apologetics community, but to others I'm just a regular guy and that's fine because it serves a greater purpose - that regular men and women can be good Christian case makers.
However, when leading an apologetics group, this can lead to some unique challenges. Participants may ask "what makes this guy so knowledgeable?" or "well, that's just his opinion". So when writing material for a class, I like to prevent what I call "apologetics in a vacuum." I never want to give the impression that what I am sharing is just something I've come up with. But I also want to develop the skill of creating my own material to better improve my grasp of apologetics. So how does one deal with this apparent conundrum?
What I have found helpful is to treat each talk like a jury trial with a list of expert witnesses. For example, I may be speaking on eyewitness reliability. I lay out the case of why the apostles are reliable, but then I show a quick clip of J. Warner Wallace speaking on how to test eyewitnesses to make sure you can trust their testimony. Or If I'm speaking on the KCA, I may show another clip of William Lane Craig explaining the KCA.
In this way, not only do I write my own presentation going over the subject material, but I have the benefit of providing expert witnesses to demonstrate that what I am presenting is a proper argument for the subject at hand. The participants also have the added benefit of learning of other more learned apologists whom they can further their studies with outside of the group.
But it should be noted not to rely too heavily on expert witnesses as the group needs to have the confidence that YOU understand the material you're presenting and can discuss any questions that may arise. In the end, I feel like this method is good for the lay apologist to prevent the belief that you only posses a myopic view of the subject but are instead a student of the apologists you are seeking to emulate.
I must confess something. As a Christian, I was embarrassed by the supernatural. What I mean is I discounted God's intervention in our everyday lives. It was reflected in my prayer life and my thought life. Now I believed God still performed miracles, but I assumed that when I prayed about an issue, that God would give me an answer that was the equivalent of gathering Manna while discounting how the Manna got there in the first place. I thought answers came in making the right decision or what amounted to God's providence. It never really entered my mind to pray earnestly for a Miracle.
Then, I got a copy of Lee Strobel's new book, The Case For Miracles. This is one of Lee's best books to date. This book challenged me in ways I never saw coming. Interviewing people from all belief spectrum's like skeptic Michael Shermer or theologian Craig Keener, Lee craftily takes you on a journey showing that not only are miracles possible, but they are happening all over the world and with more frequency than we every imagined. Lee tells a story about a pastor named Duane Miller. Duane had lost the use of his voice after a bout with the flu. But the flu had left his vocal cords so scarred, he could only speak with a rasp. He resigned his pastorate and then lost his new job due to his inability to testify in open court.
Duane's case was medically hopeless. Even a college of Swiss Doctor's saw no hope of recovery. One day, Duane's Sunday School class asked him to preach to them - even with his raspy voice. They always recorded their Sunday School lessons and this day was no different. After reading from the Psalms, Duane suddenly regained his voice! You can hear the sounds of joy and the weeping of Duane's wife as he struggled to grasp what had happened. I remember hearing this 20 years ago and this story still moved me. But Duane's miraculous story is but one of many Lee relates. Lee also speaks about what happens when miracles do not occur. The book does not shy away from objections to the miraculous and the supernatural, but takes them head on to see if they have merit.
This book is challenging to the modern, American Christian and will renew your awe and wonder of the awesome and mighty God we serve.
This book is a must read.