What Is Apologetics?

*#1 in the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe by Pastor David Craig 

“When I find something in my faith difficult to believe, it often helps to consider how the alternative is *more* difficult to believe.” ~ Gavin Ortlund

What Is Apologetics? (Some Definitions)

“The discipline that offers an apology, or defense, of Christianity. Apologetics (from Gk. apologia, ‘defense’) both defends the Christian faith from its detractors and clarifies misunderstandings of it. In the early church, the apologists wrote to Roman elders who were persecuting the church and argued the case that Christians should not be punished or killed, because they were doing nothing wrong. They also clarified misunderstandings such as charges that Christians were atheists, cannibals, and committers of incest. Apologetics deals with arguments for the existence of God, the reliability of Scripture, evidence for the resurrection, the problem of evil, and more.” ~ Greg R. Allison, The Compact Dictionary Of Theological Terms, Kindle Loc. 269

“Apologetics, in its most basic form, is the practice of offering an appeal and a defense for the Christian faith. In other words, apologetics, through word and deed, answers both why a person can believe (defense) and why a person should believe (appeal). The goal of apologetics is to clear away the debris of doubt and skepticism in order to make a path for the gospel to be heard.” ~ Joshua D. Chawtraw and Mark D. Allen, Apologetics At The Cross, p. 17.

“Apologetics is concerned with the defense of the Christian faith against charges of falsehood, inconsistency, or credulity.” ~ Steven B. Cowan, Five Views On Apologetics, p. 8.

“Apologetics has to do with defending, or making a case for, the truth of the Christian faith. It is an intellectual discipline that is usually said to serve at least two purposes: (1) to bolster the faith of Christian believers, and (2) to aid in the task of evangelism. Apologists seek to accomplish these goals in two distinct ways. One is by refuting objections to the Christian faith, such as the problem of evil or the charge that key Christian doctrines (e.g. the Trinity, incarnation, etc.) are incoherent. The apologetic task can be called negative or defensive apologetics. The second, perhaps complementary, way apologists fulfill their purpose is by offering positive reasons for Christian faith. The latter called positive or offensive apologetics, often takes the form of arguments for God’s existence or for the resurrection and deity of Christ but are by no means limited to these.”  ~ Steven B. Cowan, Five Views On Apologetics, p. 8.

“That branch of Christian theology that has as its aim the reasoned advocacy of the Christian faith. It includes both positive arguments for the truth of Christianity and rebuttals of criticisms leveled at it.” ~ Millard J. Erickson, The Concise Dictionary Of Christian Theology, p. 14

“Apologetics is the branch of theology that offers a rational defense for the truthfulness of the divine origin and authority of Christianity, In the classic sense of the word, ‘apologetics’ derives its meaning from the Greek word apologia, which means ‘defense.’ A judicial term, it describes the way a lawyer deliberately and rationally presents a verbal defense of a particular claim. Or, more precisely, apologetics is to ‘speak away’ (apo = away, from; logia = speech, word) the charge brought against an individual (Acts 25:16; 19:33; 22:1; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 1 Peter 3:15; Philippians 1:7, 16; 2 Timothy 4:16).” ~ H. Wayne House & Joseph M. Holden, Charts of Apologetics and Christian Evidences

“(Gr. apologetikos, ‘suitable for defense’) The endeavor to provide a reasoned account of the grounds for believing in the Christian faith.” ~ Donald K. McKim, The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms 

“Apologetics provides well-reasoned evidences that empower nonbelievers to choose Christianity rather than any other religion. Apologetics can be used to show the unbeliever that all the other options in the smorgasbord of world religions are not really options at all because they are false. Apologetics can remove mental roadblocks that prevent nonbelievers from responding to the gospel. Apologetics not only provides a defense for the faith but also provides security to Christians. Believers can be sure their faith is not a blind leap into a dark chasm, but rather an intelligent decision founded on fact. Apologetics does not replace faith; it grounds our faith…Apologetics demonstrates why we believe and what we believe.” ~ Ron Rhodes, 5-Minute Apologetics Today, p. 12.

“Christian apologetics is simply the presentation of a case for biblical truth, most notably the central truth of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior. But a richer, more relational and more humble definition must include the central concern of apologetics: Christian apologetics lays before the watching world such a winsome embodiment of the Christian faith that for any and all who are willing to observe there will be an intellectually and emotionally credible witness to its fundamental truth. The success of any given apologetic argument is not whether it wins converts but whether it is faithful to Jesus.” ~ James Sire, A Little Primer On Humble Apologetics, Kindle, Loc. 197)

Two Aspects of Apologetics

Within the task of defending the faith there emerge at least two distinct aspects. (1) The destructive or defensive aspect The destructive or defensive aspect seeks to “dismantle” or explain away arguments against Christianity.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

[Paul addressing overseers/elders/pastors in the church] “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” ~ Titus 1:9-11

(2) The creative or offensive aspect offers evidence and proofs to support arguments for the truthfulness of the Christian faith.

[Jesus’ appearing to the disciples after the resurrection and just before his ascension to heaven] “He presented himself to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” ~ Acts 1:3

[Jesus’ appearing to the disciples after the resurrection] See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” ~ Luke 24;39

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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

The Ancient Use of Apologetics

In secular society, the use of apologetics as a defense against the attack occurred as early as the 5th century BC when Socrates presented his own defense before an Athenian court, which was later chronicled by his student Greek philosopher Plato in The Apology. During the 1st century AD, Josephus offered an apologetic on the ancient origin of the Jewish religion in his Against Apion (AD 93-95). In the early years of the church, Justin Martyr (100-167) and Tertullian (155-235) are recognized as apologists through their writings—First Apology and Second Apology by Martyr and Apologeticum by Tertullian. Among  other apologists were Tatian, Athenagoras, and Theophilus. Their main task, as Christianity sought to gain acceptance as a legitimate religion within the Roman Empire, was to defend Christianity against attacks from within the Roman philosophical society and pagan religious culture. Irenaeus (AD 130-202) defended the faith (Against Heresies, AD 180) against Gnostic ideas that emanated from within the church.

The Biblical Use of Apologetics

The principal Scripture for describing and advocating apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15 which 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.”

A few examples from the Scriptures (there are many more):

  1. Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 in order to demonstrate Yahweh as the Most High God;
  2. God giving Moses evidence that God would speak through him in Exodus 4;
  3. Stephen giving a defense of the faith before his persecutors in Acts 7;
  4. Paul arguing for his faith before kings, magistrates, and philosophers in Acts 17 and 22;
  5. Paul and Barnabas gave evidence for God and said that idolatry was worthless in Acts 14:6-20;
  6. Jesus defending His claims and challenges of the Pharisees and Sadducees ( Matthew 22:34-46; John 5).

How About You?

What are five of the most important “Whats” you believe and “Why” do you believe them?

Examples:

What is the meaning of my life?

What is the essence of God?

What is the essence of humanity?

What are the reasons I believe what I believe about anything?

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why I am I a Christian and not… (an atheist, mormon, muslim, etc.)

Why do I believe there is a God?

Why should anyone believe what I believe? 

Next Step:

Write down your top 5 What’s and Why’s and come up with an apologetic for each!

*You can subscribe to the Valley Baptist Church San Rafael Channel on YouTube to watch the lecture for this video as well as sermons from Dr. David P. Craig.

Book Review of Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure by Robert W. Kellemen

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Learning From The Apostle Paul in Overcoming Anxiety

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

This is a short and helpful booklet (43 pages) that helps you to understand and apply the Apostle Paul’s exhortation from Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” 

Some of the helpful gold nuggets Kellemen shares are as follows:

“in anxiety, we turn to self instead of turning to God. Anxiety is fear without faith. It is vigilance run amok. We scan the horizon constantly, fearfully, but without ever taking action or responsibility and without clinging to God.”

“in vigilance, we turn to God. Through faith, we face the reality of our neediness by trusting in the unseen reality of a God who cares and controls.”

“We experience the power of life and death in two gardens: the garden of Eden and the garden of Gethsemene. If we live by the power of the flesh, then we live a fear-based, self-centered life that follows the model of the first Adam. If we live by the power of the Spirit, then we live a faith-based, Christ-centered life that follows the model of the second Adam.”

“In anxiety, we choose a crippling focus on our circumstances. In worshipful prayer, we choose a healing focus on God’s character.” 

The greater part of this booklet is an examination, exhortation, evaluation, and application from Philippians 4. Kellemen gives a wonderful and practical exhortation based on the following seven insights: (1) Guard Your Relationship with God, Your Guard: Faith in Your Father; (2) Commit to Mature Relationships with God’s People: It Takes a Congregation; (3) Cling to Your Identity in Christ: Wholeness in Christ; (4) Put on the Mind of Christ: The Weapons of Your Warfare; (5) Practice What You Preach; Living and Loving with Courage; (6) Soothe Your Soul in Your Savior: Emotional Maturity 101; (7) Live Wisely in a Fallen World: Jars of Clay.

At the end of each brief exhortation Kellemen has several helpful questions to help you apply the Gospel in your daily life. I highly recommend this booklet – it’s brevity is a positive – especially if you want quick help in dealing with your anxieties from our all wise God.

Book Review on “The Day Approaching” by Amir Tsarfati

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Hope for The Approaching Days Ahead

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig 

The subtitle of this book is An Israeli’s Message of Warning and Hope for the Last Days. If you have read Amir’s first book (this is his second) or ever heard him speak – you know how passionate he is for the good news of Jesus and the promises of God to his chosen people. In this book he outlines “The Day Approaching” which is a biblical term that encompasses more than one specific day. It’s more like many days over a period of time. 

He writes, “The Day is approaching. This is the Day when Jesus will rapture His church from the earth to meet Him. This is the Day of the Lord’s judgment on sinners and the discipline of His people, Israel. This is the Day when Jesus will set foot upon the Mount of Olives, coming a second time to dwell on earth with His creation. This is the Day of the rule of the King of kings from His throne in Jerusalem. This is the Day of Satan’s confinement, and of his eventual release and mankind’s rebellion. This is the Day of the Great White Throne judgment, when the sheep and goats will be separated. And it is the Day of the new heaven and earth, where we will enjoy the presence of the Lord forever.”

Amir writes from an Israeli perspective and from a premillennial and pretribulational position. He makes a careful distinction between Israel and the Church. His writing is clear, his explanations are logical and well articulated, and he cogently and carefully leads the reader to our hope in Jesus and the good news of his life, death, burial, resurrection, and return throughout the book. 

He answers many questions related to the “Day Approaching,” Here are some of the questions he raises and answers in this book: Did Jesus describe our Time? How can we interpret the seventy weeks in Daniel? What do the seven major feasts in the Old Testament point to? Are the Festivals Fulfilled? Does God still have a plan for the Nation of Israel and its Land? Where is God in Israel today? Will there be a literal Millennial Kingdom? What will we do during the Millennium? Why do we even need a Millennium? 

I highly recommend this book as an excellent introduction to eschatology (the study of the last days or end times). Amir writes for beginner’s but even those who are well versed in eschatology will learn amazing insights (especially about Israeli culture, history, and their future) by reading this offering.

Book Review of John Piper’s “Coronavirus and Christ”

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Jesus is Our Rock of Certainty At This Moment of History

Book Review by Dr. David Craig

I am so glad to have John Piper’s theologically sound and biblically based wisdom in the midst of grappling with the Coronavirus. In this short book Piper shares from personal storms he has gone through in his own life (cancer) and the storms that all humanity must endure when living in a fallen and sinful world. 

Part One: The God Who Reigns over coronavirus gives a theological and biblical foundation for going through suffering based on a robust examination of God and His attributes of Holiness, righteousness, wisdom, and sovereignty. His stated aim in this section is to “show why God in Christ is the Rock at this moment in history—in this pandemic of the coronavirus—and what it is like to stand on his mighty love.” He also repeats this statement in several of the chapters and substantiates every statement he makes like it with a plethora of scriptures and theological illustrations to back it up: “The same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it.”

In Part Two Piper answers this question “What Is God Doing through the Coronavirus?” with the following six answers: (1) God is giving the world in the coronavirus outbreak, as in all other calamities, a physical picture of the moral horror and spiritual ugliness of God-belittling sin; (2) Some (not all) people will be infected with coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions; (3) The coronavirus is a God-given wake-up call to be ready for the second coming of Christ; (4)  The coronavirus is God’s thunderclap call for all of us to repent and realign our lives with the infinite worth of Christ; (5) The coronavirus is God’s call to his people to overcome self-pity and fear, and with courageous joy, to do good works of love that glorify God; (6) In the coronavirus God is loosening the roots of settled Christians, all over the world, to make them free for something new and radical and to send them with the gospel of Christ to the unreached peoples of the world.

Each answer is supported by Scripture, sound theology, and supplemented with various useful applications. Overall, Piper’s treatment is deep, concise, profound, and eminently helpful. I highly recommend his book as a very positive treatment of our biblical and theological response to the coronavirus. 

Book Review of The Essential Jonathan Edwards by Owen Strachan and Douglas A. Sweeney

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A Fantastic Introduction to the Works and Life of Jonathan Edwards

Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

I have wholeheartedly taken C.S. Lewis’ advice to read an ancient book for every modern book that I read. I find that of all the ancient theologians I enjoy reading Jonathan Edwards the most. However, it takes me a very long time to read his writings and I have to pick them up, and put them down, slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully. Honestly, he’s hard to read quickly, but well worth it if you are willing to patiently, thoughtfully, and prayerfully wade in.

Enter in “The Essential Edwards” by theologians Owen Strachan and Douglas A. Sweeney. They have done an absolutely fantastic job of breaking Edwards down for the modern reader. The five major sections in this book cover these five main topics: (1) Lover of God; (2) Beauty; (3) The Good Life; (4) True Christianity; and (5) Heaven and Hell. Each chapter includes excerpts from his journals, sermons, treatises, and miscellanies with brief explanations or commentary on his writings. They then close each chapter with practical ramifications of his work and life for today.

I think that anyone who wades into the water with Edwards in this book will want to go deeper. I liken it to snorkeling for the first time. You see amazing fish and want to go deeper to see more. This book will make you want to go deeper – to scuba dive – into the writings of Edwards and explore the deeper waters of this incredible theologian-pastor who will guide you into greater focus, intimacy, and passion for Jesus.

I personally want to thank Owen Strachan and Douglas A. Sweeney for this tremendous gift to the modern church. I am grateful for their efforts and hope that many will enter into the deeper waters of Edwards via this outstanding book by two practical theologians who love Edwards and his Lord.

 

 

Book Review of R.C. Sproul’s Surprised by Suffering

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Biblically Based Reasons for Suffering

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

It’s difficult for Christians in the United States to grasp that a huge part of our lives entails suffering – probably due to the influence of the so-called “American Dream” and the onslaught of prosperity preachers in our midst. However, it’s really impossible to read Genesis through Revelation at face value without realizing that part of our vocation in a fallen world is that tests, trials, tribulations, and persecutions, are not only possible, but inevitable for those who follow Christ.

Sproul states early in the book: “The promise of God is not that He will never give us more weight than we want to carry. The promise of God is that He will never put more on us than we can bear…What is difficult to bear without Christ is made far more bearable with Christ. What is a heavy burden to carry alone becomes a far lighter burden to carry with his help.” He emphasizes how and why God uses suffering in Christian’s lives so that we can become more like Jesus – spiritually mature and useful to others.

Here are some of the strengths of this book:

(1) The amount of references used to show that suffering is a huge part of Christian growth and the development of our character.

(2) The stories of biblical characters that suffered and what we learn from their suffering: Joseph, Elijah, Job, John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, and Jesus.

(3) The hope that our sufferings aren’t worthy to be compared with the glories to be revealed in the new heaven and earth.

(4) He writes about how to prepare for, endure, and be victorious over trials and triumph in Christ.

I highly recommend this book to prepare you for suffering well, and with purpose, for the glory of God, and the glories that await us in Heaven.

The Peace Which Christ Gives His True Followers – Jonathan Edwards (1750)

More good stuff on Edwards from my buddy Dave Steele

Veritas et Lux

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On this day in 1758, Jonathan Edwards breathed his last breath. His next breath was in glory where he appeared before the Savior he loved during his earthly days as a converted man.

The coronavirus crisis has led many people down a path of anxiety, fear, and despondency. Edwards was familiar each of these maladies. In fact, he endured many challenging season over the course of his life and ministry. One of those seasons is described in this post.

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Imagine shepherding a congregation of people, only to find yourself
expelled from the church. That is exactly what happened to Jonathan Edwards – America’s greatest intellectual. Within a month of his dismissal, Edwards pens a series of sermons – one of which is entitledThe Peace Which Christ Gives His True Followers.

The Text: John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the…

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God the Best Portion of the Christian – Jonathan Edwards (1736)

Excellent article on Edwards from Dr. David Steele

Veritas et Lux

Two hundred years after Calvin published his first edition ofThe jonathan-edwardsInstitutes,Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon about being content in God. The title of the sermon wasGod the Best Portion of the Christian. Edwards’s text is Psalm 73:25:

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.

The central truth is set forth at the beginning of the sermon, in deductive fashion:It is the spirit of a truly godly man, to prefer God before all other things, either in heaven or on earth.

Two propositions comprise this short sermon

1. A godly man prefers God before anything else in heaven.

Edwards presents the God-centered paradigm in this section by leading readers on the correct biblical path. He notes, “Every godly man hath his heart in heaven; his affections are mainly set on what is to be had there…

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The Preciousness of Time – Jonathan Edwards (1734)

Great post from my friend David Steele on the greatest “Time Manager” of all “time”!

Veritas et Lux

Time is a precious commodity that must be treasured. Such is the argument in jonathan-edwardsJonathan Edward’s piece entitled,The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It.

The subject of time was no stranger to Edwards. He thought about the “improvement” of time often. Even in his famous 70 resolutions, he addressed the matter of time.

Resolution # 5

Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most

profitable way I possibly can.

It would serve us well, then, to consider the precious matter of time from Jonathan Edwards’ perspective.

Section 1: Why Time is Precious

Jonathan Edwards states four reasons why time is precious.

  1. Because a happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of it.
  2. Time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious.
  3. Time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because…

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THE BUCKET LIST

Great article from my good friend Dr. David S. Steele

Veritas et Lux

The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson is about two very different men who are both diagnosed with terminal diseases. One of the men, upon learning of his condition, decides to draft a “bucket list.” The list would include achievements and things to see before he “kicks the bucket.” After viewing the film, I began to re-visit my bucket list:

  • Attend a baseball game at every major league park in America
  • Visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London
  • Walk the streets of Geneva where John Calvin ministered
  • Stand at the Castle Door in Wittenberg
  • Climb the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial

A bucket list is an important tool because it helps a person discern what is most important in life. What is on your bucket list? Who would you want to see? What would you want to accomplish? Where would you travel?

We know that the Apostle Paul had…

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