Great Stuff — Confessional Bytes on Why Apologetics?

Found on Jim Pierce’s Confessional Bytes blog:

 

If you are a regular reader of Confessional’s Bytes, then by now you have read ad nauseum that I was an atheist for 18 years prior to being a Christian and Confessional Lutheran. Every chance I get, whether it is speaking to others, or writing comments on message boards, I like to talk about what Christ has done for me and continues to do for me: He has forgiven me of all my sins and this not because of any works I have done or did (after all I was a blasphemous atheist), but He has forgiven me out of His unmerited favor upon me.

I also like to use my story in making the point that God’s Holy Word is powerful. I know that the Holy Spirit does work through His Holy Word in creating faith (Romans 10:17)! When I was a atheist there was no amount of reasoning that would have convinced me that God really does exist and that Jesus is God the Son who died on a cross for my sins. Indeed, I spent years studying the arguments of Christian apologists such as John Warwick Montgomery, Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, and many others and to no avail. The more I studied, the more entrenched I became in my own atheism. Indeed, I became evangelical about my atheism and joined the ranks of men like Richard Dawkins in promulgating militant atheism. There was not a single logical argument or bit of empirical evidence that would convince me that God exists and that Christ died for my sins.

Unfortunately, my insistence on this truth over the bondage of my will to sin when I was an atheist is mistaken by some as a treatise against the work of apologetics. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a Lutheran layman I firmly believe that we should be able to give a reason for the hope that is within us when called upon to do so.

In my opinion, apologetics is a useful tool through which the good news about Jesus can be spoken to others. In fact, I often engage in apologetics, that is arguing in favor of what Christ has not only done for me, but for the whole world (John 3:16). For me apologetics is something quite personal, since it involves the confession of my faith in Jesus Christ. God does not need my defense nor my confession, but the Scriptures are very clear that those who confess Christ before men, He will confess them before His Father (see Matthew 10:32-33). As Christians we confess Christ.

I am certainly a supporter of apologetics, in the sense that I point at above, but there is another view of apologetics that I am wholeheartedly against. It is the view that I, or anyone else for that matter, am capable of proving the truth of Christianity to the satisfaction of the skeptic. The reality of the situation is that apologetics is actually for those who already solely trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Evidential arguments in support of the resurrection of Jesus, for example, will not at all bring the skeptic to his knees in repentance. One will be lucky to get any agreement out of the skeptic regarding the miraculous, period. However, sound arguments and solid evidence in support of the resurrection of Jesus most certainly will embolden us Christians to speak out against those attacking the truth and will provide us tools through which we can speak God’s Word that He has given to us to tell to others who don’t know Him.

I am not against apologetics. If we are too busy arguing ontological arguments for the existence of God and pointing out archaeological evidence for the historicity of Christ and the reliability of Scriptures, we may miss the reason why we are talking to someone about Jesus. I believe we have to keep in perspective why we confess our faith to others and that isn’t so we can trot out “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” but rather that we may tell others about the mercy Christ has had on us poor miserable sinners. The bottom line is not to convince a skeptic we are right, but to tell them that they are in trouble with God and the good news is their sins are forgiven in Christ.

Jim Pierce
ConfessionalBytes

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff — Confessional Bytes on Why Apologetics? — 14 Comments

  1. …but there is another view of apologetics that I am wholeheartedly against. It is the view that I, or anyone else for that matter, am capable of proving the truth of Christianity to the satisfaction of the skeptic.

    I agree and look at “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him…” for understanding in this regard.

  2. Does this mean, Confessional’s Bytes, will be added to the “linked blogs” section? I sure do hope so! JP & Confessional’s Bytes, are quite a blessing to everyone, including BJS.

  3. Thanks for this, Jim!

    Notice the word “defense.” I think the best use of apologetics is defensive rather than offensive, a good tool for Christians who are under constant assault from teachers and the media telling them that their faith is stupid, unreasonable, naive or based in myth. Many, many young people have been lead astray by these attacks. As an evangelism tool, I would agree with you that it is no magic bullet.

    Apologetics gives me confidence that I can wholeheartedly defend the literal truth of the Bible and is useful for building up other Christians. Arguments only harden the hard of the enemies of God, but then, so does the Word of God itself.

  4. #4 Kitty and Jim P,
    We may not witness the acceptance of the logic of the faith, but if we remain silent, we lose the opportunity to give the unbeliever something to think about. We are not Calvinists who believe that arguing for the faith is ineffective.

  5. @sue wilson #7

    I am not sure I understand your point here, Sue. Have I, or Kitty above, asserted that we should “remain silent?” I also am not following your statement “We are not Calvinists who believe that arguing for the faith is ineffective.” Yes, we are not Calvinists. Is there something I wrote above or that Kitty states which is Calvinistic? Can you point it out?

  6. I like apologetics. It keeps me on my toes when I challenge myself to see if I can clearly explain the hope that is within me. I have been with the same hairdresser for the last seven years and after several short term apologetic sessions as I am getting my hair done, she is beginning to come around to a more orthodox way of thought and slowly turning from her Pentecostal leanings. Maybe I am not practicing actual apologetics as it may be defined but I do have to know my stuff to be convincing. And I have to do it from the Word and not from some outside source.

  7. I’ve certainly not read every work on apologetics, but I do know that I’ve not read a single one–including baptist authors–that would suggest one can come to saving faith through reason. You’re argument seems to be a bit contrived.

  8. @Bob #11

    What do you think about Josh McDowell’s inviting people to pray the “sinners prayer” with him at the end of his video series “The Resurrection Factor” (transcript here)? You don’t think Mr. McDowell is arguing his case for the resurrection so as to persuade people to make a decision for Christ?

    Quoting from the transcript I linked.

    I would like to give you that opportunity right now to place your personal trust and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; to place your trust in a resurrected Christ. He loved you so much; He came out of glory, out of heaven, took your sin upon himself, died on the cross, was buried, and raised again the third day. And now He says, “But to as many as received him to them he gave the right to become a child of God.” This is the prayer that I prayed to place my trust in Christ. Maybe it will help you right this moment to express that very desire. I don’t ask you to bow your head. I do not ask you to close your eyes because years ago I learned that the key to prayer is not in the position of the body, but the attitude of the heart. You can’t fool God. This is the prayer that I prayed. Just quietly in your own heart, if you are sincere, you can express this desire to God. I prayed, “Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. Forgive me and cleanse me. At this moment, I place my trust in you as Savior and Lord. I accept your forgiveness. Forgive me. Come into my heart and change me from the inside out. Thank you that I can trust you. In Christ’s name, Amen.”

    As a former Evangelical of the Arminian stripe I believed that the human will was sufficiently free to make a decision for Christ once confronted with overwhelming evidence of the truth. Yes, we ultimately blamed the Holy Spirit, but as a Baptist and Pentecostal I walked “sinners” through evidence in order to persuade them to accept Christ into their hearts.

  9. @ Jim n Kitty
    I probably overinterpreted your comments. When Kitty agreed with “It is the view that I, or anyone else for that matter, am capable of proving the truth of Christianity to the satisfaction of the skeptic.” I made the assumption that Kitty felt that there was therefore no reason to try. I have heard pastors in my district deny the validity of laypersons witnessing to friends and relatives, so I may have been overreacting to your comment, Kitty. Sorry if I was.

    Jim, I disagree with your statement that apologetics is for Christians, not skeptics. I think that apologetics may be the only way for Christians to reach some skeptics. Logic is not the enemy of witness. Again, if I over-defined your words or extrapolated them into an unintended area, I do apologize.

    Thanks for your reply. It’s important that we keep our thoughts and comments accurate and not argumentative for no reason. 🙂

  10. @Sue Wilson #13

    Sue,

    Thank you for the apology and it is well received, but wasn’t necessary since I don’t think my writing style is terribly clear. You are right to raise questions which in turn can hopefully be clarified.

    I think I understand what you are trying to get at with “I think that apologetics may be the only way for Christians to reach some skeptics”, but really we don’t reach anyone. It is the Holy Spirit who reaches people through the Word of God and that is important to keep in mind here. However, as I stated in my article, and I think you and I will agree on this point, apologetics is a useful tool through which the Gospel can be confessed to the skeptic. I also agree with you that “Logic is not the enemy of witness.” Here again, the point in my article is that we must keep in perspective why we are providing logical and evidential arguments in talking with skeptics (see the last paragraph in the article).

    Thank you for the follow up and for the apology. Both are well received.

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