Since this is a series of posts, let me briefly remind you of what I have already gone over in Part I. In the first post in this series, I defined faith, described apologetics, and went over my first point on why we need apologetics in Christianity. That point being that it is pre-evangelism. The way I argued this was with a knight allegory, but I will instead use an expression used at the film school I attend to make the point clearer.
When it comes to film, filmmaking really boils down to 2 things: knowing your audience and knowing how to tell a story. Relating this back to the topic at hand, apologetics is about knowing how to tell a story, while evangelism is about knowing your audience. Let me quickly explain what I mean by that. Apologetics is all about understanding on a logical and technical level who you’re, what you believe, and how to appropriately answer any objections to Christianity. Evangelism is all about understanding on a moral and spiritual level who someone is, what is holding them back from the cross, and how to appropriately guide them to the cross. Both are equally relevant and dependent on each other in outreaches to the world. Whether that’s a missions trip, feeding the homeless, street witnessing, etc. The bottom line is, as my Dad always says “Apologetics is pre-evangelism. And if it’s not, you’re doing it wrong.”
- Apologetics Saved the Church From Heresy
A long, long time ago in an ancient world civilization kind of far away, there was a meeting called the Council of Nicaea. Where in A.D. 325, a whole bunch of church leaders from the East and the West gathered together to discuss a series of current Christian topics at hand. These topics included, but were not limited to the date of Easter, defining the Trinity, and the nature of Jesus Christ. The latter being the most prominent topic of the meeting because it was debated by two opposing forces within the church at the time.
One side of this debate was Arius the priest who was the dill-pickle that thought that Jesus was not eternal, but created. He was punched in the face for this heretical claim during the proceedings by Bishop Nicholas. Who is better known as Saint Nicholas, the original inspiration behind Santa Claus. The other side of the debate was led by Deacon Athanasius and Bishop Alexander who argued the biblical stance of Jesus being eternal like God the Father. The whole council, which consisted of hundreds of bishops and other prominent Christian leaders, watched as one of the most important debates in Christianity took place over the most central truth of Christianity: Jesus is God.
It was a debate that had so much riding on it: the future of Christianity, the foundation of the church, and the emperor of Rome, Constantine, residing over the proceedings looking to end the division in the church, which he thought would end political division within the Roman Empire, only added to the tension. It was the debate of the century. After much back and forth, a vote was taken and the vast majority agreed with Bishop Alexander and Deacon Athanasius that Jesus is God, while Arius was eventually expelled as a heretic from the church, along with Arianism.
Why do I bring this up? Because it is instances like this where large opposition has risen against the church, usually from within the church, and without the use of apologetics, would have destroyed the church. Another time where this has happened was the Protestant Reformation, which was when Martin Luther boldly came before the Catholic church, which had seriously deviated from correct biblical truth, to bring them back from their heretical claims like that the Pope’s word was equal in measure to God’s Word (the Bible).
So the greatest Christian church split in history happened. It was a time when apologetics was absolutely necessary to defend the Christian faith from those who had twisted it. Other instances when apologetics saved the skin of the church from either destruction from the outside or manipulation from the inside were the following: the rise and fall of Gnosticism, the Age of Enlightenment when the church was under attack from the intellectuals of the time, or even today with the rise of Prosperity Theology, otherwise known as the Faith Movement.
Every generation of the church body has had its heresies, cults, false religions, and worldly belief systems to deal with that help the body of Christ stay on its toes by confronting them head-on with apologetics to protect the flock of God from turning away from God. Such responses have been, in the case of the Enlightenment era, great thinkers who defended the Christian worldview like Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (The Cosmological/Contingency Argument, invented binary language), Rene Descartes (The Origin of the Idea of God Argument, invented the cartesian coordinate system), and Blaise Pascal (Pascal’s Wager, invented the first working mechanical calculator). These being of course the fathers of modern philosophy and science, are still impacting the culture with their use of apologetics even after death centuries later. As was once said in a lecture at Rice University by Professor John Lennox, “Far from being a hindrance to science, belief in God was the motor that drove it.” In short, without apologetics, Christianity would not be where it is today because of those bold enough in the faith to protect others from the deceit of the Devil, the world, and even our own corrupt selves.
- Apologetics Builds Up the Church
If you do not know why you believe what you believe, why believe? This is the motivating question behind my apologetics passion and why I care so much for it. I strongly believe in the fact that every believer needs to not only know what they believe, but to know why they believe it in the first place. Christianity is not led by blind faith, but is led by bold faith. But this faith is not bold because we mean to be blunt. Rather, it is because we know what we believe to be true, which causes the believer to understand certain things like the fear of God, the compassion of Christ, and that there are billions of people living today who are not ready for the return of Christ. It’s an abundance of emotions to know God, while at the same time know how few know God. It’s sad and joyous all at the same time. It’s the motor that drives the believer to distant lands all across the globe or to local rough parts of town in our cities because we feel the burden of the broken to mend them with the good news of the Gospel.
But with this burden for the broken comes questions from the broken that wish to be built back up, yet are afraid of being broken again. How can the broken be reassured that what you have and offer from God is any different from say Islam, Buddhism, or any other belief system with the same exact claims? Claims of fulfilling meaning, purpose, and value? This is when apologetics is to be appropriately used in defending the Christian worldview by differentiating it from the other man-made religions, and in so doing builds up the believer at the same time as reassuring the broken.
Apologetics not only defends against outward opposition and intense inquiry, but also from inward doubts and fears. One fear that used to cloud my mind early in my faith was ‘How do I really know that God exists? Is what I am experiencing really a supernatural experience that I can relationally interact with God or just my feelings overcoming my emptiness for relevance in life?’ Eventually, I came to the same conclusions that the late C.S. Lewis came to in his lifetime. That for every desire, there exists a satisfaction for these desires of ultimate meaning, purpose, and value. This is better known as The Desire Argument famously made by Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity, and that conclusion, along with the fact that the universe screams for a necessary, intelligent, mindful, personal, first-cause that could conceive of the universe itself. This was my starting point as to why I believed in the existence of God and has helped me when going through times of doubt or times of spiritual struggle. Knowing God is always there is something that I always find comfort in and helps me cope with the harder times in life as I bet it does for other believers as well.
You see, apologetics builds up the church by reinforcing the spiritual connection the believer encounters at first with Jesus with logical and relevant facts to support such an ambitious relationship to embark on with the Creator of everything. I mean, how many people really understand the uniqueness of interacting with God on a day-to-day basis worldwide? Not many because it sounds too easy at first to accept, but in reality is far from it. That dynamic with God really starts when we admit we are wrong and He is right. It’s so simple it boggles the minds of the greatest skeptics around the world! Lunacy to some to even consider they could be wrong or better yet, indebted to God.
The more you learn in the realm of apologetics, the more you appreciate and understand your relationship with God. Things like how the persons of the Trinity interact, essential doctrines that finite the specifics of certain aspects to Christianity, and the list goes on and on. It’s encouraging to know that I know what I believe in and then have even more joy when sharing that faith with others because I fully grasp what I am sharing. It’s logical substance fueled by fiery passion equalling a great servant of God. Apologetics is meant to build the body of Christ up, not tear it down or for that matter, anyone who is not apart of the body of Christ.
Just as a Mother tells their child to put on their coat to protect themselves from the fierce weather, so too you ought to put on the shield of apologetic faith to protect yourself from the horrors of spiritual warfare. In so doing, the church in general is built up knowing that whatever comes opposing truth can be deflected with that same truth. On a simple level though, every Christian should know a little apologetics because God commands us to in 1 Peter 3:13-16 in order to further the Gospel. In that passage, the Apostle Peter writes that we should give a defense for the hope that is in us. So above all else, the believer needs to know apologetics and use apologetics because God commands us too in His Word in order to further the expansion of the kingdom.
To end, here are some great resources in no particular order that you can use to sharpen your apologetics utility belt in furthering the message of the Gospel, as well as strengthen your own faith:
- On Guard by William Lane Craig
- Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- Know What You Believe by Paul E. Little
- Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler
- Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul
- Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias
Of all of these resources though, I recommend Paul E. Little’s book, Know What You Believe, the most because it covers everything the Christian absolutely needs to know in detail without the extra baggage some of these other suggestions may have from the author’s personal bias. It’s short with only 139 pages including chapter notes and covers everything the Christian absolutely needs to know about their faith. Highly recommended resource and it’s one book I turn too often to sharpen my faith. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!