Defense Of The Christian Faith
Author: Byron Pulsifer, © 2017
Most of us are quite familiar with the word ‘defense’ when it comes to what takes place in a criminal trial. It is the primary role of the defense attorney to stand up for his/her client to make sure that their rights under the law are adhered to, or, in other words, to guarantee that the accused person receives a fair and impartial trial. Or, to make sure that any accusations against the lawyers client are addressed and false accusations are dealt with.
But, what does the word ‘defense’ mean when we talk about how it is used in relation to attacks on the Christian faith?
The origin of the word ‘defense’ , and the word ‘apologetics’ has its source from the Greek word “apologia” which signifies a formal defense of any kind. And when we refer to the term ‘Christian Apologetics’, we are talking about a particular branch of theology (theology basically means the study of God) that specifically addresses the question “is Christianity believable?”
Over the past four centuries attacks against all kinds of religions and spiritual beliefs have taken place, and the Christian faith has received the major proportion of these attacks including those coming from individual Christians from many walks of life.
The main question is this: is what is written in the Bible believable or not? So, what is a solution to the question?
The main solution is to use what is known as Apologetics that is a specialized defense that is focused on answering all questions and eliminating all doubts as to the believability of the Christian faith.
Why Is A Defense Needed At All?
In our current social environments and educational systems, Humanism, which means a philosophy (philosophy simply means the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics) in which man is elevated to the position of God, is the foundation of our current thought and educational processes.
It is with the cumulative effects of Humanistic thinking and education that causes so much doubt in a variety of people of all ages. Apologetics, on the other hand, can help people in doubt by providing answers to many of their problems; help them see the root causes of problems; and, give them a capacity to deal effectively with attacks or questions they currently face and in the future.
The Biblical basis for Apologetics is demonstrated in the Bible where it states, “And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”(1 Peter 3:15, NLT) This means that defending our Christian faith is part of our spiritual duty. Apologetics is, then, a defending of our faith and has nothing to do with the English word apology. And even though the Bible stresses faith and belief, it also encourages reason and investigation as demonstrated when God gave Moses two signs that would establish that it was God who sent him to Pharaoh. In conclusion even as the Bible condemns unbelief, it encourages sincere inquiry. Thus, this is where Apologetics plays its significant role.
Apologetics deals with attacks to faith outside of the Christian faith; Polemics addresses attacks originating within the Church. The main purpose of Apologetics is twofold; 1) to refute or eliminate errors, and 2) to establish truth.
History of Christian Apologetics
Christian Apologetics not of recent origin; they are as old as the Bible itself. In fact, the attacks against the Word of God started as early as in the Old Testament period. Pagans held a Universalist theology which maintained that salvation was available to everyone irrespective of any religion and that there was no exclusiveness of doctrines or practices.
The New Testament era fared no better. With the advent of easier accessibility to writing materials and the use of “scribes”, and the rise of New Testament documents that proclaimed doctrines related to man’s sins, total depravity, salvation by grace alone these more clearly made more people uncomfortable. This discomfort was caused directly by clear New Testament doctrine that clearly exposed their errors, prejudices and biases.
While Christian Apologetics was strong in the first five centuries, it waned for almost a thousand years. But, given that creation was widely accepted by the masses, it was difficult to overthrow the authority of the Bible, and by the middle of the nineteenth century, dissenters concluded that only a rejection of the Bible would solve their problem. But, dissenters knew that philosophical speculation carried no weight unless it had a scientific base. So, when Charles Darwin proposed the Theory of Evolution arguing that it had a theoretical base in science, the dissenting movement embraced his theory wholeheartedly.
The mingling or synthesizing of evolution (which is defined as the process by which different kinds of living organism are believed to have developed from earlier forms during the history of the earth) with creationism ( defined as the belief that the universe and living organisms originate from specific acts of divine creation, as in the biblical account, rather than by natural processes such as evolution) ushered in the era of compromise where compromised interpretations of Genesis came into prominence.
In around the nineteen-fifties, American evangelical Christians began an aggressive writing campaign that defended the historical reliability of the Bible. This gave birth to the modern interest in Apologetics and Creationism.
Creationism in India also came under attack from the radical thinking of Western theologians so much so that it was difficult to discover theologians who had an evangelical commitment or who were willing to take a stand for the historical and scientific reliability of the Bible. The first Indian to take a strong stand against the Theory of Evolution was Professor H. Enoch in his book “Evolution Or Creation”, and in 1970, Dr. Johnson C. Philip developed a project known as Creation Research that functioned mainly through the publication of articles in more than six languages and in almost a dozen countries. This movement is now known as the Calvin School of Apologetics and Theology.
By the sixties and seventies, evangelical Christians started to exert significant influence among theologians, thinkers and Bible teachers leading to the publication of thousands of apologetics books, magazines and thousands of articles.
What Is The Importance Of Apologetics?
Both the Old and New Testament emphasize defense of the faith. This was also understood by Jewish and the Church Fathers which lead to timely devotion to writing refuting arguments. While it is true that the nature of attacks against the Christian faith change with each new generation, the purpose of Apologetics remains the same as indicated below:
1) To refute all accusations that is brought against the Bible and the Christian faith.
2) To demonstrate that only the Bible and the Christian way of life works in life and provides permanent peace and happiness.
3) To eliminate the sincere doubts of believers and non-believers so that hindrances for growth and faith are removed.
4) To provide sufficient evidence to achieve the above goals.
What Can Apologists Do?
Four different ways of thinking about Christian Apologetics can be seen as follows:
1) There is a small group of people that are totally skeptical seeing no value in Apologetics and even oppose the Christian faith.
2) Christian rationalism places undue trust on reason which indicates that a comprehensive set of arguments in favour of the Bible is sufficient as to allow a person to see the truth.
3 )Logical Christianity contends that reason leads to the discovery of spiritual truth which, in turn, requires the last steps are to be completed by a leap of faith.
4) The most widely held view of evangelical and fundamentalist scholars is that once faith is established it can be shown to consistent with truth and reason.
What is The Overall Purpose of Apologetics?
The following points help clarify the role, purpose and contributions of Apologetics in order to highlight both what Apologetics is meant to do and not do.
1) Apologetics is meant to assist those who are distressed due to doubts, those who are sincere inquirers and to preserve the faith of the inquirer. Only with the apologist’s clear understanding of the proper role and purpose will they be able to put tense and skeptical God-fearing Christians at ease.
2) Apologetics is limited to aid a person to see that the attacks leveled against the Bible are NOT valid, but NOT to create faith in skeptical minds. Thereafter, it is up to the inquirer to make the leap of faith.
3) The main purpose of apologetics is remove the barriers that hinder faith and to help Christians who already have been saved to make a greater commitment to Christ.
4) The rational age puts demands in place before a statement is accepted as true. Rather than thwart the reliability of the Bible, this kind of thinking has actually assisted Christians by using principles of rational thinking to make valid claims that the Bible is a unique book.
5) Another purpose is to help a person wishing to abandon their unbelief.
6) Apologetics is meant as a cure for sincere doubts but not as a treatment for deliberate unbelief. The only cure for such unbelief is divine intervention.
Practical Value of Studying Apologetics
There are four distinct and practical values of studying Apologetics as follows:
1) To conserve one’s faith by being prepared for spiritual warfare. Successfully facing attacks against the Bible strengthens one’s faith.
2) A formal and systematic study of apologetics allows a person to know not only the major lines of attack against the Christian faith but makes a person understand which line of reasoning and answering is likely to have the greatest impact on listeners, and,
3) While every generation raises some new objections, it is important to note that all accusations fall into certain broad categories and that these categories will be recognized by those who undergo a systematic introduction to apologetics.
4) All of the above activities assist in one’s ability to witness to those outside and inside the Church.
In summary, the Christian faith can be defended!
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