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Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

God Needs No Defense?

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A surge of pious agreement overcame me the first time I heard someone confidently assert that “The word of God no more needs defense than does a lion in a cage. Just let the lion loose, and it will take care of itself!” There seemed something very right about that sentiment. It almost appeared irreverent to disagree with it.

Well, something about that assertion is indeed right. God is certainly not in need of anything – much less the puny efforts of any particular man or woman to defend His word. He is the Creator of heaven and earth, almighty in power, and sovereign in controlling all things. The Apostle Paul, when reasoning with the Athenian philosophers, made that very point: he declared that God is not worshiped with men’s hands “as though He needed any thing, seeing that He gives to all life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:24). If God were ever to hunger, for instance, He would not need to tell us since the fullness of all creation is His (Ps. 50:12)! He depends upon nothing outside Himself, and everything outside of Him depends upon Him for its existence, qualities, abilities, accomplishments, and blessings. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

So it is obvious that God does not need our inadequate reasoning and our feeble attempts to defend His word. Nevertheless, the pious-sounding remark with which we began is still mistaken. It suggests that we should not concern ourselves with efforts at apologetics because God will directly take care of such matters Himself. The remark is just as mistaken as saying that God does not need us as evangelists (He could even make the stones to cry out, couldn’t He?) — and therefore efforts at evangelistic witness are unimportant. Or, a person might misguidedly think that, because God has the power and ability to provide his family with food and clothing without “help from us,” he does not need to go to work tomorrow.

Thinking like this is unbiblical. It confuses what God Himself needs from us and what God requires of us. It assumes that God ordains ends, but not means to those ends (or at least not the instrumentality of created means). There is no need for God to use our evangelistic witness, our daily work for a paycheck, or our defense of the faith — but He chooses to do so, and He calls us to apply ourselves to them. The Bible directs us to work, although God could provide for our families in other ways. The Bible directs us to evangelize, even though God could use other means to call sinners to Himself. And the Bible also directs us to defend the faith — not because God would be helpless without us, but because this is one of His ordained means of glorifying Himself and vindicating His truth.

Christ speaks to the church as a whole through Jude, commanding us to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). False and heretical teaching was threatening the church and its grasp of gospel truth. Jude very well knew that God was in sovereign control, and indeed that God would in time directly deal with wicked teachers, consigning them to everlasting condemnation. Still Jude also urged his readers themselves to contend with the error of false teaching, not sitting back and expecting that God would simply take care of it Himself.

Paul wrote to Titus that overseers (pastors and elders) in the church are required to be especially adept at refuting those who oppose the truth of God (Titus 1:9). However this is not merely the assigned task of ordained men. All believers are commanded to engage in it as well. Addressing himself to all members of the congregation, Peter penned the following command: “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to give an answer to anyone who asks from you a reason for the hope that is within you, yet with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). It is God Himself, speaking through Peter’s inspired words, who calls upon us as believers — each and every one of us — to be prepared to defend the faith in the face of challenges and questions which come from unbelievers — any one of them.

The necessity of apologetics is not a divine necessity: God can surely do His work without us. The necessity of apologetics is a moral necessity: God has chosen to do His work through us and called us to it. Apologetics is the special talent of some believers, and the interested hobby of others. But it is the God-ordained responsibility of all believers.

Greg Bahnsen, Ready to Reason

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This morning I had the privilege of hearing Alan Shlemon preach on “Bad Arguments Against Religion” as part of an apologetics weekend. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: A reasonable defense of Christianity is needed because false ideas are obstacles to people believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Undoubtedly, one of the most important things we can do for fellow Christians is to pray for them. That’s true of pastors and elders – pray for those under your spiritual care. It’s true of parents – pray for your children. It’s true of grandparents – pray for your grandchildren. It’s true of every congregation – pray for your pastors and elders. It’s true of all of us – pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ!

Here’s what the apostle Paul wrote: “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:19-20).

The “this” Paul referred to was his house arrest in Rome at the time he wrote this letter to the church in Philippi. His circumstances could have been worse, but they were still bad – he could have been in one of the many Roman prisons. Paul’s circumstances caused  anxiety among the Christians in Philippi. They were worried about him and about the spread of the gospel. As a result, they prayed for Paul, for which he was profoundly grateful. We know, too, that he prayed for them. When we pray for one another, we go before God’s throne of grace in intercession – pleading for them and asking that God’s will be done and that He be glorified.

Let me give you some ideas of what we can pray for each other:

  • That they would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).
  • That they would glorify God in all things (1 Cor. 10:31).
  • That they would be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:2).
  • That the fruit of the Spirit would be developed and displayed in their life (Gal. 5:22-23).
  • That they would love God and others with all they have and all they are (Matt. 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:28).
  • That they would give cheerfully and generously (2 Cor. 9:6-7).
  • That they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (Col. 1:10).
  • That they would delight in the Word of God (Ps. 1:2).
  • That they would fix their eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2).
  • That they would trust God with everything in their life (Prov. 3:5-6).
  • That they would have the boldness to preach the Word of God with boldness and confidence (Acts 4:29).

This is only a small list, but it’s a good place to start. You’d love it if someone were to pray these things on your behalf, so do it for others!

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Apologetics is the art and science of defending the faith – defending the truth of Christianity – Voddie Baucham shows how that can be done in the process of preaching and teaching God’s Word in his book Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word. Part of Baucham’s preaching style is to anticipate the objections of skeptics (and other non-believers), and then answer them using the text of Scripture being explained. In addition to explaining how the faith can be defended, he also demonstrates by providing a transcript of one of his sermons.

Expository Apologetics is a layman’s introduction to presuppositional apologetics, which is connected frequently with Cornelius Van Til in the early 20th century. Baucham makes the concepts of the system understandable and applicable. His treatment of Romans 1 – what everyone knows and is answerable for – is excellent.

Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are commanded to “set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you, with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Expository Apologetics by Voddie Baucham will help you obey that command. Tolls lege! Take up and read!

 

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K. Scott Oliphant, in his book Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith, has given us both an introduction to and a fresh understanding of Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics.

The most popular form of apologetics (defending the faith) today is what is known as Evidentialism. In other words, we defend the truthfulness of Christianity by presenting evidence for God’s existence, His creation of the universe, the historical and literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Covenantal apologetics, on the other hand focuses its attention on the underlying assumptions we all have as fallen human beings, and then proceed from that point (while not denying the importance of evidences).

God relates to human beings on the basis of covenants. The Westminster Confession of Faith 7.1, says “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension of God’s part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant.” God condescends to deal with us despite our sin, and He does it by means of covenants which are solely based on His grace and mercy.

Covenantal apologetics is based on several foundational truths. The faith we’re defending  must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), who condescends to create and to redeem. Human beings (made in the image and likeness of God) are all in a covenant relationship with God. All people know the true God (see Rom. 1). Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know, while those who are in Christ see the truth for what it is. The suppression of truth, however like depravity, is total but not absolute. Three basic concepts should be understood and presupposed as being true: the authority of Scripture (there has to be a final word), a sense of the divine (and a knowledge of Him) in every human being, and God’s common grace in every human being.

There is some deep water in spots, but Oliphant makes his case in a way that’s understandable. Covenantal Apologetics has changed the way I think about apologetics, including wanting to read more of Van Til.

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After reading through the Bible in a year, Bear Grylls made this statement – “What did I learn? I am a great sinner, Christ is a great redeemer.” Amen!

Reading through the Bible from cover-to-cover is something every Christian, and every person who wants to consider themselves educated, should do. It doesn’t matter if you do it in a year or not, just do it.

This year, I’ll be using the “5 Day Bible Reading Plan” from http://www.bibleclassmaterial.com. It’s “basically chronological” with readings from both the Old and New Testaments. It’s different in that there are only five days of reading per week, giving time to catch up if you need it. You can print out a copy of the reading plan here.

There are a number of other good plans, too. Ligonier has several here. All of the ESV’s reading plans are here. Whichever you choose, stick with it, and you’ll learn what bear Grylls did.

“Am I a Christian, Pastor Timothy Keller?” is a very interesting op-ed written by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. He asks Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, a series of questions. Keller answers his questions in what sounds like a conversation between the two. You should read it. Most of us have been asked questions like this before, and it’ll help us prepare and think through our answers. You can read it here.

We saw Rogue One last week, and thought it was very good.

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The God Who Is There, by Francis Scaheffer, is a classic. Written in the late 1960’s, its relevancy today cannot be denied. Schaeffer had the uncanny ability to see and understand the spiritual and intellectual climate of the last half of the twentieth century. Schaeffer’s ministry, and this book, ignited a generation of Christian thinkers and apologists.

Yes, the book is that good, and yes, it’s that foundational. Historic orthodox Christianity has something to say to this culture, just like it had something to say when this book was written. In fact, it is the only solution to the problems we face. Schaeffer was interested in the logical conclusions of a person’s worldview, a presentation of truth that always takes into account the dignity and depravity of man, a commitment to remain faithful to biblical orthodoxy, and the necessity of both truth and love as we speak and as we live. All of that, and more can be found in this book.

I highly recommend The God Who Is There. It will help you understand our time (both then and now). It even has a glossary, which is helpful.

Tolle lege!

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