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