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Christian Research INSTITUTE

 

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Too often people suppose the task of apologetics to be the exclusive domain of scholars and theologians. Not so! The defense of the faith is not optional. It is basic training for every Christian. And that means you!

 

First, the Bible informs us that apologetics is not just a nicety; it is a necessity for every believer. Writing in a world steeped in mystery cults, the apostle Peter admonished believers to “always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). As such, Paul vigorously defended the gospel (Acts 17:15–34; 18:4) and charged Timothy and Titus to do the same (2 Timothy 2:23–26; 4:2–5; Titus 1:9–14).

 

Furthermore, apologetics is necessary for the preservation of the faith. Not only must the church defend against objections from without, she must also guard against false teachings from within. Thus, Paul admonishes Timothy to “preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:2–4). Defending essential Christian doctrine against perversions by pseudo–Christian cults is a crucial task of the Christian apologist.

 

The Scutum Fidei, a diagram frequently used by...

The Scutum Fidei, a diagram frequently used by Christian apologists to explain the Trinity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Finally, apologetics is necessary for the cultural relevance of the church. In a post–Christian society in which theism is no longer en vogue and belief in the possibility of miracles is viewed as simpleminded superstition, apologetics creates intellectual room for the acceptance of the gospel. In place of merely pontificating dogmatic assertions, Christian apologists are commanded to provide defensible arguments “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

 

For further study, see J. P. Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind:The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2007); see also Hank Hanegraaff and Tom Fortson, 7 Questions of a Promise Keeper (Nashville: J. Countryman, 2006).

 

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write
to you about the salvation we share, I felt
I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith
that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

Jude 3

 

 

 

 

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Apologetics offer to unbelievers — with “gentleness and respect” — that which helps them see the light of Christ more clearly.

 

Christian Research Institute

By: Gannon Murphy

This article first appeared in the Effective Evangelism column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 24, number 4 (2002). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org

Apologetics has been defined as “the discipline that deals with a rational defense of the Christian faith.”1 Since Christianity posits a certain knowledge and understanding of God, it is the task of the Christian apologist to demonstrate the grounds of biblical revelation and to establish why placing one’s faith in Christianity is not only reasonable but also existentially vital.

Christians have a biblical mandate to engage in apologetics. Peter said, “Always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15; NASB). The word translated here as “make a defense” is the Greek, apologia. The apologist par excellence from biblical times was the apostle Paul himself. The Bible tells us that Paul “reasoned” with unbelievers in order to explain the truths of Christianity to them. Paul used terms and arguments his contemporary audience could understand, and he provided “reasoned” responses to their objections (e.g., Acts 17:17). Paul instructed others to carry on the apologetic task, saying that we must “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5).2

One need not possess great intellectual gifts such as Paul’s to engage in apologetics. Christians rather should make use of the particular gifts God has given them while providing answers “for the hope that is in [them].” The goal of apologetics is not to win arguments for the sake of winning arguments or to engage in some kind of intellectual one-upmanship. It is, instead,  The apologist is charged with removing obstacles, especially intellectual ones, which hinder a faith commitment to Christ. We must recognize, however, that it is ultimately the work of God through grace alone that results in one’s salvation. Paul asserted this truth: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–62) once wrote that “it is the conduct of God, who disposes all things kindly, to put religion into the mind by reason, and into the heart by grace.”3 Along with Pascal, it has been the firm conviction of apologists throughout the centuries that arguments do not, in and of themselves, convert; rather, true Christian conversion is rightfully attributed to the work of God in grace.

The question that naturally arises, then, is: If ultimately the gift of salvation is solely dependent on God, why have apologetics? What are the proper goals of the apologist? From a biblical standpoint, it appears there are at least three. We will explore these goals and how they fit in with the soteriological (saving) work of the Holy Spirit.

Goal Number One:To Remove Intellectual Stumbling Blocks That Hindera Faith Commitment to Christ

As we’ve seen, Paul taught Christians to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Apologetics is not a biblical suggestion. It is a biblical command! Christians have a divine mandate to share with unbelievers the reason for the hope that lies within them. Christ does not call on the world to make a “blind leap of faith” into a dark abyss of mindless credulity. He rather calls people out of the darkness and into the light of the truth.

Never in Scripture does God command that people believe apart from offering them reasons to do so. Jesus Himself said, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (John 14:11). Peter reminded the unbelievers of his day that Christ was “a man accredited by God to [them] by miracles, wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22); indeed, Peter and Paul argued vigorously for the truth of Jesus’ messianic identity by appealing to the meticulous fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in His life, ministry, death, and resurrection (see Acts 3:11–26; 13:27; 26:22; 28:23). We must also be prepared to offer such reasons for belief.

Even so, the question still remains how removing intellectual barriers fits in with the work of the Holy Spirit. There are at least two ways. The first of these involves a consideration of the elements of saving faith. The sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers identified three. They called them the notitia, assensus, and fiducia. The notitia, or “notes,” is the information contained in the gospel message. This information may be communicated either through reading Scripture itself or by hearing it spoken through a secondary agent. The assensus refers to one’s intellectual assent to that which is presented in the notitia. In other words, it is an understanding of, and agreement with, the truthfulness of the gospel message. Finally, there is the fiducia. This refers to one’s submission to the truths contained in the notitia. This is more than mere intellectual assent to the truth. It is placing one’s trust in it. For example, it’s one thing to know and agree intellectually that a chair can support your body. It is quite another thing to put that belief to work by sitting on the chair and thereby demonstrating your trust in its ability to support you. In the same way, the Bible makes it clear that people may come to know, understand, and even believe in the things of God but still withhold their faith and trust in Him in wanton disobedience (see, e.g., James 2:17–20).

When we engage in apologetics, we address ourselves to the first and second of these items, the notitia and assensus. By stripping away layers of intellectual objection, we leave people without any intellectual excuse before God; yet we acknowledge that only the Holy Spirit can move them to entrust their lives to Christ (1 Cor. 12:3).

The second reason we remove intellectual stumbling blocks is simply that the Holy Spirit often uses these efforts as the very means through which He convicts people of the truth. Many Christians, this writer included, can attest to having heard the words of an apologist at one point in their life and suddenly a “light” turned on inside of them that convinced them of the truth of what they were hearing. This “light” is the work of the Holy Spirit through the work of an apologist.

Goal Number Two:To Support and Further Ground Believers in Their Faith

This will equip them to witness boldly for Christ and it will also help to protect them from being deceived by worldly philosophies. Paul said, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8). We live in an age that bombards us with a plurality of ideas, many of which are in diametrical opposition to the things of God. Any Christian student on the university campus these days can attest to this. The news and entertainment media also frequently caricature Christians as ignorant and regressive, fomenting doctrines that hinder progress.

In these circumstances, apologetics helps undergird believers in their faith so their witness may be like Paul’s in the synagogue where he “spoke boldly…arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8). It reminds us, as Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–74) put it, that “faith does not destroy reason, but goes beyond it and perfects it.”4 Apologetics demonstrates that we need not fear the intellectual attacks of the committed secularist. The God of Scripture is real, and there is nothing that conventional wisdom can muster to prove Him false. Apologetics strengthens faith and trains Christians in the discernment of error and the proclamation of truth with boldness.

Goal Number Three:To Silence the Attacks of the Unbelieving World

It seems unbelievers ceaselessly look for opportunities to place reason and science at enmity with faith. Calvin once said part of the apologetic task is to “stop the mouths of the obstreperous.” Peter supported this contention when he said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Pet. 3:15–16). By giving reasons for our faith and living an upright life, we “shame” those who “slander” Christians to discredit Christianity.

We must not underemphasize Peter’s apostolic command to keep a clear conscience when engaging the unbelieving world. Apologetics is not merely a call to engage in intellectual argumentation; it is a call to live a life of Christian character. Peter also wrote, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Pet. 2:12). As we “contend for the faith” (Jude 3) with evidences and reason, we must strive to live lives that are beyond moral reproach. By doing both, we are more able to silence the attacks of the unbelieving world and live to the glory of God.

Scripture tells us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). We honor this directive when we develop each of these dimensions in our lives and use them to the glory of God. The Christian apologist seeks not to forget the important role that the mind plays in bringing the lost to Christ — especially when it is combined with the strength of a worshipful heart and soul.

 

Blog :  http://www.parchment9.wordpress.com

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A Reponse to Perceived Disconnect in Pastoral Care

This dissertation was written by theology student Keith William Marshall in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of M.Th.

It addresses the question, “What does it mean to offer pastoral care in both the manner in which Jesus wished it to be undertaken and in terms of the content of the care that is offered to Christ’s flock?”

Abstract

Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, ca. 600, pro...

Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, ca.  seventh-century manuscript in an uncial script without divisions between words, probably originating in Rome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This dissertation is written in response to a perceived breakdown in pastoral care.

Chapter one allows us to see something of the hurt and disappointment which many are currently experiencing. Some of the letters quoted are by experienced clerics with decades of experience.

In Chapter 2 we consider pastoral contexts. We look at the Pastoral Great Commission of John 21:15-17. We consider the appropriateness of the primary metaphor which the dissertation uses. We finish by looking at the Trinity as a model of community.

In Chapter 3 we look at pastoral commonalities in the models and writings of four figures from the sixth to the twenty-first century. We find agreement that pastoral care must be individualised but that the context for care can vary considerably. All agree it critical that the “under-shepherd” is an example.

In Chapter 4 we consider Jesus as kenotic archetype. We look at the nature of divine love. We suggest that Jesus is to be understood in the Gospels as being genuinely dependent on God in his humanity and that he taught and modelled kenotic service.

In Chapter 5 we use criteria derived from our study which relate to the three dimensions of the Christian life. We test these criteria by examining three different contexts of pastoral care.

Our conclusion is that excellence in pastoral care will promote love for God reflected in a prayerful dependent spirituality, love for one another reflecting Trinitarian communality, and love for others in kenotic service which will include enabling sheep to also become “under-shepherds.”

In “under-shepherds” promoting and valuing these three things as essential, they will, however tentatively, be responding to Jesus‟ commands: to “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17) and to “Follow me” (John 21:19, 22).

St. Camillus Catholic Center for Pastoral Care...

St. Camillus Catholic Center for Pastoral Care (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Blog :  http://www.parchment9.wordpress.com

 

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Jesus

Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Matt Slick

There are several reasons why we need apologetics.

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber to be an example of a charismatic religious leader.   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first and most obvious is because we are commanded to defend the faith:  1 Peter 3:15 says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Second, we need apologetics because it helps Christians know their faith. This is something that is sadly lacking among believers.  Most don’t know much about their faith, let alone be able to describe the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, His physical resurrection, or even to tell the difference between justification and sanctification.  Apologetics helps to define and defend what the truth of the gospel is.

Third, apologetics is an attempt to keep people out of hell.  God takes sin very seriously, and He will punish those who have rebelled against Him and are not covered in the blood of Christ.  As Christians, we should be motivated to present the truth of salvation in Jesus.  We should not sit idly by and ignore the dilemma of the unbeliever.  We need to tell them that sin is real because God is real, and that breaking God’s law has a consequence.  Since we have all sinned, we cannot keep God’s law perfectly.  Also, we cannot undo the offense to an infinitely holy God because we are not infinite or holy; the only thing left for us is to fall under the judgment of God.  But God has provided a way for us to escape that judgment.  That is why God became man in Jesus.  He claimed to be God, (John 8:24,58; compare with Exodus 3:14).  Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross, (1 Pet. 2:24).  By trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we will be spared from the rightful judgment of God upon the sinner.  Salvation is not found in Buddhism, Islam, relativism, or in one’s self: It is only found in Jesus.  We need to not only defend God’s word and truth, but also present the gospel to all people so they can escape the judgment to come.

Fourth, we need apologetics to counter the bad image that Christianity has received in the media and in culture.  Televangelists and their scandals—both sexually and monetarily—are a disgrace to Christianity. The Catholic church hasn’t helped with its scandals involving priests.  On top of that, the media is very biased against Christianity, and you will see negative opinions of Christianity promoted everywhere.

Fifth, we need apologetics because there is a constant threat of apostasy in the visible Christian church.  Such is the case with the Metropolitan Community Church denomination, which openly advocates the support of homosexuality in violation of scripture (Rom. 1:18-32).  Also, as of 2002, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is in risk of apostasy by entertaining the idea of accepting homosexual relationships into church.  “The United Church of Christ set up a $500,000 scholarship fund for gay and lesbian seminarians Friday and urged wider acceptance of homosexuals by other denominations.” (United Church Makes Gay Scholarship, CLEVELAND, June 16, 2000, AP Online via COMTEX).  Or “The supreme court of the United Methodist Church was asked Thursday to reconsider the denomination’s ban on gay clergy.” (Church court of United Methodists asked to decide on gay clergy ban, NASHVILLE, Tennessee, Oct. 25, 2001, AP WorldStream via COMTEX).  Such examples are demonstrations of the incredible need for defending biblical truth within those churches that claim to be Christian.

Sixth, another reason we need apologetics is because of the many false teachings out there.  Mormonism teaches that God used to be a man on another world, that he brought one of his goddess wives with him to this world, that they produce spirit offspring that are born into human babies, and that you have the potential of becoming a god of your own world.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that there is no Trinity, that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, that there is no hell, and that only 144,000 people will go to heaven.  Atheism denies God’s existence, openly attacks Christianity and is gaining ground in public life and schools.  Islam teaches that Jesus was not God in flesh, that Jesus did not rise from the dead, and that He did not atone for our sins.  It teaches that salvation is partly based on one’s works and partly based on Allah’s grace.  It teaches that the Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel (Surah 2:97; 16:102); that Jinn are unseen beings created (51:56) from fire (15:27; 55:15); and that Muhammed was greater than Jesus. Even within the Christian church there are false teachings.  We can see that from both within the Christian church and outside of it, false teachings are bombarding believers (and nonbelievers) all over the world.

Seventh, the rise of immorality in America is a threat not only to society but also to Christianity.  This is a serious issue because an immoral society cannot last long.  The Barna Research group statistics show that 64% of adults and 83% of teenagers said moral truth depends on the situation that you are in.  19% of the adult population believes that “the whole idea of sin is outdated.”  51% believe that “if a person is generally good, or does enough good, he will earn a place in Heaven.”

When a society’s morals fail, the society fails. Just look at history and think of Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece or present day Enron, Watergate, and White House interns. Immorality seeps down into all areas of our culture. Consider this:  In the New York Times, online, of May 12, 2002, in the article “With Games of Havoc, Men Will Be Boys,” the author, Warren St. John, interviews some players of what he says is a very popular video game.  One young man says, “What I like to do is get in the car and drive around and do drive-by shootings.  You can haul someone out of their car and beat on them and steal their money and their car.  It’s kind of amusing that you have that ability.” ….  A publicist from Long Island says the game’s allure comes down to “just going on killing sprees.”   Not all video games are violent, but the fact that it is so popular and that the youth are being trained up by them is very disturbing.

I am not advocating a theocratic socio-political rule administered by stern Christians wearing black-and-white outfits and tall hats.   But these kinds of social trends are disturbing, and they reflect a moral decline in America, where what is good is called evil and what is evil is called good.   God tells us in Phil. 4:8, Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.  We cannot ignore God’s word without a consequence.

The eighth reason we need apologetics is because schools are not friendly to Christianity.  My own experience in non-Christian schools was a strong awakening to the unprovoked hostility that exists in school, where the philosophy teachers, history teacher, and even the art teacher all took shots at Christianity.  Don Feder in the Conservative Chronicle, in his article of Sept. 22, 1993, titled “Fighting Censorship, PAW Does it Its Way,” said that in some junior high libraries, book titles included The Joy of Gay Sex and How to Make Love to a Single Woman. There is an impressions series for grades one to six which promote the New Age and the occult; a controversial drug education program called Quest, which tells students that they alone can decide whether or not it’s OK to use drugs; as well as texts that direct students to fantasize about suicide, attack religion and undermine family authority.   Following is an email I received that represents the hostility of secular schools.

“Our daughter had acquired an atheist’s heart since leaving home and attending college. It seems that the books in college breed atheists because they are full of the philosophy of anti-God thinking.  She has been in college for four years now, and one of the last times we had a chance to talk to her, she said that she doesn’t think about sin, or heaven, or hell anymore because, according to her, they do not exist. She said that when she was young and asked the Lord to come into her heart, she did not know what she was doing because children do what they are told.”

The fact is that Christianity is under attack in the world, and we need to fight the good fight of the faith without shrinking back.  We need apologetics to give rational, intelligent, and relevant explanations of Christian viability to the critics and the prejudiced who would seek to undermine the teachings of our Lord Jesus.

English: Resurrection of Christ

                             Resurrection of Christ                  Wikipedia)

If there was ever a time that apologetics is needed, it is now.

 

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