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Defending the faith 101

>> Friday, May 28, 2010

How do I defend the faith? You'd be surprised at just how many answers you could get to this question. Since this is only a blog, I'll try and obey the rules of bloggin' and keep this simple-- and hopefully edifying! Here are some basic tips on Christian apologetics:

1. You're not neutral. Don't pretend to be. Don't worry. Neither is your opponent. One of the unfortunate and greatest weaknesses in modern-day Christian apologetics is the "myth of neutrality" error. What do I mean? Many Christians enter a discussion with say, an atheist, and give all the ground away by saying something like "Well, God almost certainly exists. I think the evidence is overwhelming. What do you think?" This is a philosophically bad approach and on top of that... it is wholly unbiblical too! Remember the charter verse of Christian apologetics? 1 Peter 3:15 right? What does the apostle Peter say? He says:

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

See that? Before Peter gives the command to give a defense of the faith to anyone who asks we are told to honor Christ the Lord as holy. It is dishonoring to Christ, in the beginning of our apologetic, to assume neutrality or give the impression that "maybe there's a god". The Bible says:

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?-- 1 Corinthians 1:20

This is the apostle Paul straight-up challenging the wisdom of this world and calling- out fallen men's philosophical and religious systems. He says the wisdom of this world is foolish. That is how God feels about philosophical/religious systems that are opposed to the knowledge of Him. We don't have to pretend neutrality to point the person to Christ. We must maintain an apologetic that does not create a divide between our evangelism. In other words, a biblical apologetic is inseparable from evangelism. If, evangelism consists of calling people to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus then our apologetic cannot be running backward from that (pretending that Jesus isn't Lord). Just take a look at the apologetic situations going on in the book of Acts. No neutrality. No separation of apologetics and evangelism. The unbeliever is not neutral... don't pretend that you are either. Otherwise, like Dr. Greg Bahnsen said, "You will be an enemy behind lines".

2. A really great tool on how to critique and dismantle any unbelieving worldview (Atheism, Mormonism, etc.) comes straight from the pages of Scripture itself (of course :] ). Greg Bahnsen referred to this as the "two-fold" apologetic method. In Proverbs 26:4 we read:

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

How can this be applied to our apologetic situation? It can look something like this:

A.) Don't use the unbelievers starting points, foundations, presuppositions, etc.. Basically, don't reason in the way he does. Simply speaking, don't reason apart from biblical presuppositions with a commitment to Christ as Lord. Again, as an example with the atheist, don't assume neutrality. Don't reason according to his basic assumptions (which starts with a rejection of God). He is wrong from his starting point! He opposes himself! You need to demonstrate that his worldview reduces to absurdity. When you don't take his starting points and demonstrate to him that he is wrong from the start you will be in a position to refute even his underlying assumptions and call him to repentance and faith. It can look something like this:

Atheist: Where is your evidence for God? I don't believe in God because there is NO evidence.

Christian: First of all, there is so much evidence that ultimately you will be left without excuse before God for your unbelief. Secondly, you just stated that you already have disallowed any discussion of any evidence for His existence. So you began your argument disallowing me to even present such evidence. However, everything that you are doing even now, asking for evidence, reasoning, using logic and all the rest doesn't even make sense apart from the existence of God. You are demonstrating even in your profession of non-belief in God a subtle dependence on Him even to make your argument. If you were right and God didn't exist then you wouldn't have any reason to assume induction (that the future is like the past) allowing for you to examine evidence in the first place. Also, you can't make sense out of your appeal to logic and reason if you hold to your unbelieving presuppositions. You are essentially refuting your own position even reasoning against God.

B.) The second way that we can use this verse in Proverbs is to then do a further internal critique of the unbelievers system. We now want to jump into their worldview for a moment and demonstrate that if we reason in the way they are we will be reduced to foolishness. Here's an example:

Mormon: The bible has been corrupted. It is missing many plain and precious parts. You need a modern day prophet to tell you what God is saying and what He has said that is lost.

Christian: O.K., I understand what you are saying. Only there is a major flaw in your reasoning. You claim that you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord right?

Mormon: Absolutely! He is the Savior and Lord of the world!

Christian: Can He lie?

Mormon: No. Never. Not even a possibility.

Christian: Then I think we have an irreconcilable contradiction in your belief system. Because, you say that Jesus is Lord and that He cannot lie. You also claim that the Bible has been corrupted and is missing many plain and precious parts. However, Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). If your claim about Scripture is true then Jesus is made to be a liar. Which both you and I agree is an impossibility. If His words were lost then His statement is not true. However, if He preserved His word and it is not missing many plain and precious parts then Joseph Smith is shown to be a liar. Which one are you more comfortable with?

So, using this "two-fold" apologetic method we can basically say:

1.) Don't reason like they do. Use Scripture as your starting point and maintain your commitment to Christ as Lord while you evangelize.

2.) Do an internal critique to show them that their views cannot work.

Dr. Bahnsen used to say "reduce the unbeliever's worldview to absurdity. If you have done this you have done your job as an apologist because you have left them in a position to repent".

Obviously, there is more that could be said. But, I hope this helps! I would highly recommend reading "Always Ready" by Dr. Greg Bahnsen if you want a primer on Christian Apologetics. Now lets get out there and reach people!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Jeff Durbin
Apologia Church

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