I’m teaching a class on apologetics at my church. It’s Sunday morning at 9:15 am, for the next few weeks. Here’s the first lesson!
I invite your comments.
Below is the lesson as written.
The idea behind apologetics is to offer a defense of the faith. The idea is to use well-formed, well-founded arguments to demonstrate the truth of Christianity.
The idea is not simply to win arguments. It shouldn’t be our goal to use this approach to pick intellectual fights just so we can feel smart. Apologetics is not for beating down people who disagree with us.
It is, however, a means of starting and continuing important conversations. It’s a means of opening up dialogue. If you’re good at apologetics, you’re good at asking piercing questions. It will help you examine your own beliefs, and those of others. “If you believe that, then what about…?”
Therefore, apologetics is more a scalpel than a sledgehammer. Precision and care matters more than sheer force and persistence.
So, why study this stuff? Shouldn’t we just rely on the Bible and prayer and forget the rest?
We are reaching out to people who don’t automatically accept the Bible’s authority. “The Bible says so” means nothing to them; in fact, it may detract from your message if that’s your sole justification. Relativism is popular. It’s a postmodern notion that there isn’t really any truth, and that everyone basically defines their own reality. Relativists may ask, “how can there be only one way to God if there are so many religions? Aren’t all religions valid?”
We’re a skeptical culture.
We are constantly being sold things. If we smell a sales pitch, up come the defenses, and down goes your credibility.
We’re Americans. We’re suspicious of authority, and lately, authorities have given us good reason. Religious ones included.
Apologetics is helps us dissect other beliefs and contrast them with Christianity. This is extremely valuable. I want to take a moment to illustrate.
We have a strong undercurrent of materialism in our culture. I’m not talking about the worship of wealth, though we have that, too. I mean the philosophical idea that only matter is real.
Materialism comes out a lot in science classes. Oftentimes, it seems like there’s a huge divide between religion and science. There ought not to be. The problem is with the belief that everything can be explained by science. Proper science deals strictly with what can be observed, measured, and tested. If you believe that everything is the result of matter and energy interacting, then it’s logical to believe that everything can be explained by science. As it turns out, the problem is between spirituality and materialism.
As you look at the philosophy of materialism, you begin to see some big problems with it. Without a transcendent creator:
- life has no purpose
- morality is reduced to preference
- the origin of the universe is left unexplained
If there is no stated reason for the universe to exist, life has no purpose, and no real value. We have no end goal, and no reason to be here now. All our joys and sufferings are meaningless. And because we have no stated purpose, there is no true moral law. We have no one to answer to. Society may make up rules, but even those rules are based on nothing. Think about it: we couldn’t even assume that life is sacred.
And perhaps most surprising is that, taking a materialist view, the beginning of the universe has no explanation. The scientific explanation of existence goes back to the Big Bang and stops. Consider this for a moment: a materialist says that matter is the only thing that’s real. The Big Bang Theory says that the entire universe started in an infinitesimal point – in which the laws of time and space break down – and exploded. So, where did the matter come from? The materialist view offers no explanation.
This is why delve the disciplines involved in apologetics: when we do, we see how trustworthy our faith is. We shouldn’t fear science and philosophy: Christianity can bear their scrutiny.
Which brings us to my final reason to study apologetics: people inside and outside the faith have hard questions. Where did Cain’s wife come from? Why did Jesus have to die? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there only one way to Heaven? It’s not just unbelievers asking.
Take heart. There are good answers to these questions. Some questions about our faith can be answered by history, by deeper study of ancient language and culture. Some questions are based on false assumptions we have about God, and once we expose them, the question changes or disappears. Take the question about Cain’s wife. There’s a very simple answer: the Bible doesn’t say! But if you accept that the Bible doesn’t always explain everything, there’s no problem.
We’re studying apologetics so that we can answer others’ questions, and strengthen our own faith.
Posted on May 1, 2011, in Christianity, God, Holiness, The Bible and tagged apologetics, Church, materialism, morality, philosophy, Ravi Zacharias, reason, spirituality, The Bible. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.