Christian apologetics has become a pretty hot area in the last few years. Seems to me that Christians are starting to get serious about their faith, especially Christian men. The Lutheran Hour Men’s Network that I was part of starting a few years ago and very ably led by a layman Geoff Abendschoen, became very involved in group studies of Christian apologetics.
The word apologetics, apologist, not someone who’s worried about past failings. You’re not saying you’re sorry about something. It is from the Greek word ἀπολογία apologia. To defend: “Christian apologetics (Greek: ἀπολογία, “verbal defence, speech in defence”) is a branch of Christian theology that aims to present historical, reasoned, and evidential bases for Christianity, defending it against objections.” (Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_apologetics) In his epistle Peter writes ”
1 Peter 3: 15; “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,”
Peter uses the word ἀπολογία in his epistle. We have to have a good reason why we believe what we believe. We have to be able to understand it well enough in order to articulate it to someone who is either a non-Christian (and they are a lot more common today, I was one). Or to defend against those who are actively antagonistic towards the Christian faith. I will stipulate that it usually doesn’t work against those who are antagonistic. Frankly they are very set in their belief, they are not interested in changing their beliefs and if anything, have chosen to oppose your Christian belief. They are not interested in other points of view and really never make critical examinations or understanding of their own points of view. I know Christians are often accused of that mind set, but I’ve seen it a lot more in secularists. They really don’t have a good understanding of theology, of philosophy, of science, etc, and they really don’t care. “It’s all about what I can see, touch, quantify and everything else is fantasy…” Something to that effect. Well, there’s a whole lot in the world that we know is there, but we really can’t explain it. Try explaining electricity or gravity to start with.
When I was in seminary (Concordia Seminary, St Louis, Mo, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod), apologetics was actively discouraged. I certainly understand why, being a Christian is based in faith, the faith that God gives us to believe. We don’t need to have a hard and fast reason. God gives us the faith we need, one of the “solas”, Sola Fide, by faith alone. God gives it to us and we aren’t going to talk someone else into faith through apologetics.
Yes, I get it, and we should never expect that analysis of history, philosophy, theology etc, will make us Christians, it won’t, only the Holy Spirit will. However, we still have Peter’s urging and there are still people out there weak in their faith and knowledgeable clergy and lay people have a responsibility to articulate their faith. Interestingly, the LC-MS’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), has published a report buttressing the need for apologetics. The CTCR’s concern is particularly in the area of “scientism”, this is a belief system that has arisen in the last few decades where “believers”, the “faithful”, trust entirely in whatever they can quantify in science. Needless to say this is a stand that is very tenuous. Science certainly doesn’t have the answer to everything, in fact, many times, scientific answers aggravate a situation. Look at medical science, it has made incredible strides, but, first, we are all going to die. Second, remember the last time you heard a television ad for a medication? Wanna stay healthy? Stay away from taking medications. The world is in desperate need of hope and promise and Jesus gave that 2,000 years ago and based on His resurrection, I know what my ultimate reality will be, the New World of the resurrection.
As I said apologetics was kind of discouraged when I was in seminary (for the record that was actually this century, I graduated in 2010). The CTCR, came out with its report in 2015 saying:
“There is something of a renaissance of apologetics both inside and outside the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), and this is a great opportunity to forge alliances between theologians, scientists, philosophers, and professional apologists in our church for the sake of defending the faith. While the Word of God has its own authority independent of reason, scientific apologetics can play an important role in creating the intellectual and cultural space that allows the Gospel a fair hearing. To be sure, reason cannot produce faith. But it can clear away misconceptions and refute erroneous worldviews that lead people to reject the Christian claim out of hand. Christian scientists and philosophers can help here by marshaling evidence that this is a created world and that human beings are a special part of it. This task has become more important because of the rise of the New Atheism, which seeks to use materialistic science to discredit revealed religion.”
“This report will provide guidance and encouragement to a number of constituencies who seek to combat scientism (italics mine) and recover the sense of science as a vocation which glorifies God and provides beneficial services to the neighbor. These constituencies include:
- Students, teachers and investigators in the sciences;
- Pastors and other church workers who minister to those involved in the sciences n regular congregations and in campus ministry.
- Administrators and teachers at Christian high schools and universities who would like input to help them think through the hard task of integrating the Christian faith with science education;
- Non-scientific Christian laity whose faith is being attacked as an unscientific relic of the past.
(In Christ All Things Hold Together The Intersection of Science and Christian Theology A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod February 2015 p 12)
It kind of stuns me to talk to a lay-person who is telling me how Christians are just talking myths and it’s all about science, and the person obviously has no understanding of genuine science. Most genuine scientists today will agree that there has to have been some kind of Intelligent Design of the universe, down to the very basics of the universe. Take the cell, DNA. There is no way that either could have come about accidentally. Anyone who tells you otherwise is making it up. In fact most genuine scientists will stipulate that DNA is an incredibly sophisticated code. If there’s a code, then there has to be a Coder. The same can be said in terms of our environment on earth, our position in the solar system, even the galaxy. Yet people who have no idea of any of these concepts will look me in the faith and tell me Christianity is just myth. Jesus is the most studied man in the entire history of mankind, there is no doubt that He lived and no reason to discard what the Bible says He did. If you did that you would have to reject the entire all of antiquity. Jesus has been studied more than anyone, if you can’t accept His life and what He did, you can’t accept anything prior to modern history (14th century, give or take). Frankly I just don’t have enough faith to be an atheist, or believe in Scientism, (sounds a little too close to Scientology for me).
God created an incredible universe, the only way that creation could have come about is by a Creator. To believe in anything else is to either be in complete denial, or simply ignorant of the facts. We have way too many people today who create their own reality and deny, well, reality! Our society today has become not just less intellectual, but if anything anti-intellectual, mostly brought about by those who presume to be intellectual and are simply not. The lack of critical thinking in today’s society is stunning. Deny Christianity? Sure, and for no good reason. Believe what you see on the Internet or CNN? Sure, because that’s based on science. I had a person tell me once that Einstein proved that everything is relative, his theory of relativity. There’s a lot of people reading this right now who will say “sure, that’s right”. His theory of relativity was about how light travels, how time slows down the closer we travel to the speed of light. Nothing about how your belief system is just as valid as another. Sorry, as I said, I can’t have scientific knowledge and believe that there’s no Creator. That’s a psychotic mindset.
Based on this, we Christians do need to become much more sophisticated in all the basic subjects. We need to be much more critical in our thinking and ready to assert that. We are in the midst of an ignorant and lazy society that expects us to believe non-sense and reject Christ. That’s ridiculous and we have a duty, 1 Peter 3:15 to defend the faith, present it to those around us, especially those who are weak in the faith and might fall from salvation believing the world’s ignorance.