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LTM: What is Apologetics?

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It should be emphasized here, however, that the purpose of apologetics is to defend, not to prove the faith and that defense, on a personal level, ought to be done with the goal of building a relationship.

 

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What is Apologetics?
By Peter Bocchino - President, Legacy of Truth Ministries

 

The word apologetics is derived from the Greek word, apologia, which translated means (to give) “verbal defense.” It is not a military term but a judicial term. Within the context of Christianity, it means to verbally defend the true character of God. The word, apologia is used seven times in the New Testament. The three most frequently cited scriptures include:

Acts 2:14-40 - Peter gives a verbal defense of the faith
Phil. 1:16 - Paul claims to be called to defend the gospel
1 Peter 3:15 - Peter tells us to be prepared to defend the gospel

The above scriptures testify to the fact that apologetics, or defending the Christian faith, is not only a Biblical position but an effective means for communicating the gospel. This is reason enough to study apologetics. It should be emphasized here, however, that the purpose of apologetics is to defend, not to prove the faith and that
defense, on a personal level, ought to be done with the goal of building a relationship.

It is important to understand why apologetics involves more than just an academic preparation of the mind. Although the ability to think on one's feet is critically important, it is equally imperative to have both personal and spiritual depth. We must be fully aware that the nature of the battle is multi- dimensional?that is, intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual. The best apologetic we can give to a lost world is living a life that
reflects the character of Christ. Effective apologetics (what I do) is directly related to my character (who I am). Hence, we must endeavor to model the character of Christ toward skeptics, while refuting and correcting the errors in their arguments. Note the exhortation the apostle Peter gives to Christians living and suffering in a
hostile, pagan society:

In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

Effective apologetics requires a humble and sensitive spirit for comprehending the deep truths of God. In humbling ourselves before Him, we get a deeper level of understanding--the ability to know and comprehend His truth. However, for us to be effective apologists, knowing and understanding truth is not enough. We must have the wisdom, that only comes through close communion with God, to know when and how to apply His
truth. Wisdom comes from a deep compassion for people that only God confers upon us as our hearts are one with His. As compassionate people we will treat others with gentleness and respect as we speak the truth in love.

Apologetics involves the discipline of philosophy. If we are seriously in pursuit of truth, we must learn how to apply philosophy correctly to life. We may not feel comfortable with the term philosophy, but we use it all the time. When we think about life, we use logic and logic is a branch of philosophy. Therefore, thinking about life is a philosophical activity that everyone engages in, it is just a matter of whether one uses it correctly or
incorrectly. Some people think that philosophy is reserved for the highly educated, but this idea is not necessarily true. Even those who have a very limited education are capable of following an argument. C. S. Lewis reminds us:

Uneducated people are not irrational people. I have found that they will endure, and can follow quite a lot of sustained argument if you go slowly. Often, indeed, the novelty of it (for they have seldom met it before) delights them.

Lewis views philosophy in the same way as the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed that philosophy, by definition, had to be practical and meaningful. They believed philosophy was as useful for the uneducated craftsmen of their day as it was for the educated metaphysician. So we need not veer away from philosophy. Regardless of a person’s educational background, philosophy can become a meaningful tool.

The word philosophy comes from two Greek words: phileo, love + sophia, wisdom. It is interesting to note that the Greek word phileo signifies the kind of love that one has for a friend. The philosopher loves wisdom as if it were a close friend. The ancient Greeks combined these two words in an attempt to describe a distinctive type of mental exercise, the exercise of reason in search for truth. For the Christian, Jesus is wisdom personified. Hence, true Christian philosophy is the love of the person and wisdom of Jesus! As Paul said, all Christians who are truly spiritual have the potential of apprehending the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:15).

Philosophy can also be thought of as an inquiry into, and an analysis of, the fundamental realities of our existence—including the analysis of the very words and concepts that constitute everyday language. Moreover, philosophy is the effort to engage in a rational and consistent examination of the truth claims of any system of belief. However, if truth does not exist, why bother with philosophy? Think of all the philosophers and philosophy books that exist in the world today. If the academic discipline of philosophy is devoid of truth, it seems that philosophers are in need of significant help. Something must be seriously wrong with philosophers who write and speak about the love of a close friend who does not exist!

Look at the following methods of apologetics and note how they are separated into three categories:

PHILOSOPHICAL
APOLOGETICS

To be able to control dialogues in order to keep them moving into he right direction, namely, toward TRUTH.

THEISTIC
APOLOGETICS

To identify the proper macro-model (World View) by which one interprets the data of the universe, ultimately revealing the with principles of nature of REALITY.

EVIDENTIAL
APOLOGETICS

To determine the micro-model which squarely fits the macro-model. Test jurisprudence and
investigation of EVIDENCE.


Philosophical apologetics helps to keep a dialogue moving in the direction of TRUTH. The laws of logic are the indispensable tools that accomplish this task. This type of apologetic is fundamental to the other two. If mistakes are made in this area, they will be carried over into Theistic and Evidential Apologetics. There must be some ground rules established and agreed upon before any progress can be made in answering the questions associated with the existence of God and the truth of the Christian Gospel. The first three chapters of Unshakable Foundations are dedicated to philosophical apologetics.

Once the ground rules are established and a person agrees that certain laws of logic cannot be violated, we can move to Theistic apologetics. In this area, we can actively pursue questions that center on the nature of ultimate REALITY (the existence of God). It is important to note that we are still searching for the best way to determine the validity of historical Christianity. To jump to Christian apologetics, at this point, is highly
presumptuous on our part. A worldview must be agreed upon first before the interpretation of historical evidence. If not, the same evidence can yield different conclusions. Hence, Unshakable Foundations looks to the disciplines of science and law to show that only the Theistic worldview makes sense, especially in light of
the concept of justice (chapters 4-10).

Once the macro model of Theism is in place, then we can begin to engage in what is commonly referred to as Christian or Evidential apologetics. This is the discipline that will try to bring into focus the historical evidence consistent with the Theistic world view. To short circuit philosophical and theistic apologetics and jump directly into this category (in a society that is not primarily theistic) is a frustrating and often fruitless endeavor.

The goal of this part of the book is to verify, beyond a reasonable doubt that the essential claim of Christianity is true. That is,

" Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, he was buried and he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

If this claim can be shown to be false, than Christianity is a useless idea. As the apostle Paul stated,

" If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. . . . we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

Hence, Unshakable Foundations examines the evidence from more of a legal perspective rather than a philosophical or theological one. The most significant aspect of Christianity is that it is a religion based on fact and anchored in history. Most other religions have unverifiable postulates and theories based on unestablished major premises. In contrast, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ rests on verifiable facts and historical events. So direct and strong is this evidence, that it stopped and restarted most of the world's calendars.

We endeavor to show how a variety of independent and converging evidences stand firm to establish the truth claims of the Christian religion. Since we will have already established the fundamentals of logic to be as transcultural as the mathematics on which they are based. Then we can demonstrate that the same is true of legal reasoning. In a court of law, truth claims must be supported by enough evidence to make them verifiable according to the principles of jurisprudence. In this phase, legal reasoning will be used to weigh the evidence for and against Orthodox Christianity.
For a detailed overview of Unshakable Foundations, along with the systematic and cumulative weight of ideas, see the book introduction under the book information heading.