PREPARED TO GIVE AN ANSWER (explaining our faith)
Most of us will experience doubts during our Christian walk, and many of us will at some time be faced with questions about our faith. How we will wish we were
...................better prepared for these most important conversations,
.............................were more sure of the reasons for our faith,
...........................................and better able to communicate those reasons to enquirers!
The study of apologetics has been a passion of Larry’s (Peterliberty) for quite a while and he shared the following notes with the Yeshua teams some time ago, to help us become more deeply grounded in our faith and better equipped to share that faith with those with whom we come into contact.
I have personally benefitted and am most grateful to him for the time he has put in to produce the series.
He has agreed that we reproduce the series to make these intriguing studies available to our newer members.
Should you wish to reproduce the notes in any form please contact Larry to obtain his agreement.
One further matter of interest......
Larry is planning to write a book this coming year. The book is provisionally entitled “God and Government”. Having followed his articles on apologetics this past year this book will be a MUST for me as soon as it is published.
When we bear in mind how much power governments wield in our world, how we have seen the Christian faith increasingly marginalised, and how we have seen the galloping secularisation of society, it is clear that a book of this nature is desperately needed.
Larry is asking for prayer for this new venture.
Please give him your regular prayer support.
PREPARED TO GIVE AN ANSWER: Introduction
This thread is dedicated to the series of articles on Apologetics being run by Larry (PeterLiberty). It is envisaged that articles will appear approximately every two weeks. Larry introduces the series as follows:
"'Prepared to Give an Answer', the title for this Christian apologetics and worldview series, is found in I Peter 3:15.
This series is intended to assist team members in their knowledge and understanding of the Christian worldview and in their proclamation and defense of the faith.
The proclamation of our faith is simply our witness--the sharing of our beliefs with others for their benefit and understanding. The defense of our faith is explaining why our faith is preferable to believing something else. The proclamation and defense of our faith necessarily go together. If we are unable to give an adequate reason for preferring our faith over an alternative, unbelievers have every right to dismiss us with a derisive "so what?"
The intention of the articles is to prepare team members to give an answer by: (1) expanding and strengthening our knowledge of the content of Christian teaching and our understanding its relevance in our world, (2) expanding and strengthening our ability to proclaim our faith, and (3) expanding and strengthening our ability to defend our faith against a myriad of alternatives.
Comments of team members regarding the content of the articles are welcome. Readers are also encouraged to offer suggestions for the subjects of future articles."
(Larry is prepared to respond to enquiries made either on the thread or direct to him. However bear in mind that any question you may have may well be reflect what are also the concerns of others, and for this reason we encourage you to use the team message board.)
PREPARED TO GIVE AN ANSWER : Module 1
Prepared to Give an Answer
What is Truth?
We live in a world today in which the one prevailing idea is that there is no absolute truth. This idea is now called “postmodernism”. Faith gave way to autonomous reason in the Age of Enlightenment. This was the foundation of modernism. Human reason became the foundation for truth rather than revelation. In postmodernism both faith and reason are scuttled and the notion of absolute truth from either source sinks with them.
What is postmodernism?
The basic idea is that there are many truths instead of one all-encompassing truth. “One all-encompassing truth” is called a “meta-narrative”. It is the big story that makes sense of everything. For Christians, God is truth, and the big story is His story. It is everything He is, says, and does. He is, self-existent and the Creator and the Sustainer of all that exists. If the truth is found in God, His story is the one that counts. His story is told in the Bible and is Incarnated in His Son, who came to fulfill the law of God, not to destroy it.
The postmodern perspective is that there is no such thing as a meta-narrative, or one all encompassing truth. Everyone has his own story. That story is truth for him or her. The other six billion stories are irrelevant. Where the stories cross paths, the postmodern person will deconstruct the other story and take what fits into his story. He or she is not looking for any outside objective truth.
Whenever we hear someone say something like “that may be true for you, but it is not true for me” we are hearing the voice of a postmodern. As believers in Christ, we must not be taken in by the notion of multiple truths. Ravi Zacharias spoke to the United Nations International Prayer Breakfast on September 10, 2002, about the fallacy of living with no foundation of objective truth. Readers can find his address here: www.christianembassyun.org
John 18:33-38 records a remarkable interrogation of Jesus Christ by Pontius Pilate. Jesus said, “for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate responded, “What is truth?” He didn't wait for an answer. The truth was irrelevant to his concerns. He was facing a testy Jewish mob. His desire was to keep order in an unruly corner of the world. Pilate simply turned to seek the will of the mob. While proclaiming, “I find no basis for a charge against him,” he gave in to the crowd and had Jesus crucified.
Did Pilate have a point? Is there absolute truth? Does it matter?
God is the source of absolute truth, Jesus “[testified] to the truth”, and the Bible is an infallible record of all He is, says, and does. There are consequences to ignoring the truth. A person who does not accept the truth is free to believe anything.
Some people who reject the source of truth—God and His love—develop some “way out there” idea of the meaning of life that seems relatively harmless. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) The tragic case of 39 Heaven’s Gate cultists in 1997 confirms the proverb. They committed suicide in the belief that aliens were coming in the Hale-Bopp comet to take them to a higher existence.
More directly, if the truth doesn’t matter, there is no basis for right and wrong. All standards for behavior regarding marriage and family, property rights, the value and protection of life—all the rules that give human society stability—are destroyed when God’s truth is rejected.
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25) When people reject the source of truth, the King of kings, they try to “play god” by writing their own rules with tragic consequences. Pilate rejected God’s truth and brought no justice or stability to an unstable society. However, God’s justice trumps man’s injustice. Our sins were justly judged by God in Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross—in spite of Pilate’s injustice. (II Corinthians 5:21)
Brothers and sisters, our Lord did not willingly go to the cross under a delusion that there is no absolute truth. We cannot follow Him and create our own notion of the truth. Our preparation to give an answer for our hope must be founded upon a complete commitment to Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
PREPARED TO GIVE AN ANSWER : Module 2
Prepared to Give an Answer
There is a great clash in western culture today. Christians who believe in absolute truth embodied in Jesus Christ are at odds with postmodernism, which rejects the possibility of absolute truth. The Christian apologist must be absolutely convinced that his faith is founded upon absolute truth. Jesus Christ is the sole foundation upon which our faith and its defense is built. This was the theme of our last study.
Today, we will take a deeper look at the great cultural divide now facing Christians and the church.
Every human being seeks answers to four great questions: (1) Where did I come from? (2) What’s wrong with the world? (3) Is there a solution? (4) What is my purpose? The worldview of every human being is based upon the answers he or she has for these questions. The answers are critical to every decision we make, whether great or small. Charles Colson’s book "How Now Shall We Live?" demonstrates that the Christian answers to these questions are superior to all others.
1. Where did I come from?
Christians answer: God created everything, including every person who has ever lived. (Genesis 1:1ff; Genesis 1:26-27; Colossians 1:16-17) God is the source of all the reality we know. He has designed everything. Everything belongs to Him. (Psalm 50:4-15; Psalm 139) Truth for Christians is found in God alone. We will find the answers to all of our questions in knowing God through our relationship with Jesus Christ. (John 8:19)
Post-moderns answer: There is no absolute God. Religion is an individual preference. No religious belief is right for everyone. The universe is eternal and self-existent. Each person constructs his own vision of reality regarding all that exists. God and the universe are one.
Post-moderns asked this question are likely to say just about anything—except the Christian response that God is the source for our being. "The Matrix" is a postmodern film. There are hints of finding one’s own personal truth, but not ultimate truth, in Greek mythology and Platonism, in Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism, and in certain stereotypical elements of Christian teaching that are stripped of ultimate authority.
2. What’s wrong with the world?
Christians answer: Created beings chose to rebel against the design of their Creator. (Isaiah 14:12ff; Genesis 3:1ff; and Romans 1:18ff.) This rebellion is called sin. Neil Plantinga writes: “Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom . . . is the way things ought to be.” ("Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin", p. 11.) He defines sin as “culpable shalom-breaking.” (p. 14) “Shalom is God’s design for creation and redemption: sin is blamable human vandalism of these great realities and therefore an affront to their architect and builder.” (p. 16) Plantinga’s "Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be" is a must read for all Christians who desire to rightly answer this question.
Post-moderns answer: This meta-narrative, that God created all things and designed the way they were supposed to work, is what’s wrong with the world. Absolute authority constricts, restrains, hinders, and binds human beings.
“All day long I [God] have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations, a people who continually provoke me to my very face.” (Isaiah 65:2, 3 NIV) The post-modern does not see God holding out welcoming hands. He sees those hands as holding shackles and chains to bind him. He does not see reality through the eyes of the Creator. He sees reality in his own imaginings. The one true reality is rejected in favor of six billion imaginings in the postmodern perspective. In "The Matrix", humanity is plugged into the machine that determines order in the world. No human has a life independent of the will of the Matrix. The Matrix is a metaphor for Christian obedience to the absolute truth of God as the beginning and end of all reality.
3. Is there a solution?
Christians answer: The solution is redemption through Christ Jesus. There is human and angelic blame for the destruction of shalom. There must be a satisfactory resolution for their sin. The resolution for fallen angels and unredeemed humanity comes in a final judgment in which they are forever banished from the presence of God. (Revelation 20:10ff) Redemption in Christ Jesus means that the debt was paid by Christ on the cross and is sufficient for all who believe. (Romans 3:21-26; 4:4-5; 5:1-21; 8:1-4 and so on) Christians see the imaginations of our heart as the power of sin that binds us into a path of destruction. Under the power of sin we are not free to enjoy shalom because we deceive ourselves into believing that we know a better way. Christ frees us from that power.
Post-moderns answer: Human imaginations are what free us from the bondage of God’s absolute will. Redemption is found in absolute tolerance of any imaginations in absolute personal autonomy. Everyone creates his own story. There is no meta-narrative. There is no design by an absolute God that is perfect and works for everyone. We all must find our own story and sever connections to any narrative, whether Biblical or cultural, that prevent us from following our own “truth”.
In "The Matrix", Neo, the hero, is cut loose from the ordered absolute world of the machine. Neo is advised to follow the “white rabbit”, an allusion to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. In following the “white rabbit”, Neo will find the freedom to “deconstruct” all the absolutes, Biblical and cultural, that repress him so he can create his own wonderland.
4. What is my purpose?
Christians answer: We find real purpose living in obedience to the King. Obedience allows us to participate with Him in the redemption of those who remain in bondage to sin, and in restoring shalom to the world. Redemption begins with justification or release from the penalty of sin—the burden of our own guilt. The remaining years of our lives are a process of sanctification or release from power of sin to destroy shalom in our own earthly lives. We reconnect with God and with others through three essential transformations in our earthly lives. Our view of God is transformed as we see Him as He is, not as we wish Him to be. (Matthew 17:1-13). Our view of the world is transformed as our thoughts are conformed to His (Romans 12:1-2; I Corinthians 2:6-16). Our perspective on our own behavior is transformed daily as our lives are conformed into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-30; II Corinthians 3:7:18; Ephesians 4:29-5:2; Colossians 3:1-17; Colossians 1:24-29; I John 2:3-6; and I Peter 2:13-25 for example). Our earthly lives end with our eternal preservation in God’s eternal presence—free from the presence of sin.
Post-moderns answer: Purpose is found in a “Utopian earth” as human beings live in a completely self-contained world of their own design. All connections with other humans and with God are severed in favor of a new reality that is completely of one’s own choosing.
In "The Matrix", Neo’s message to the world connected to ultimate authority was: “You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this was going to end. I came here to tell you how it is going to begin. . . . I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries, a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.” Zion was an amorphous place deep in the earth in which no one was restrained by the will of an absolute truth or by others who believe in absolute truth. Purpose for the post-modern is complete disconnection from anyone outside himself into a world of his own imaginings.
"The Matrix" presented the end of postmodernism early in the film. Neo hid a computer disc in a book called "Simulacra and Simulations" at a chapter called “On Nihilism”. The postmodern view represented by that title is that ultimate authority is an insubstantial form of something (a simulacra) and is a representation of something intended to deceive (a simulation). Nihilism is the belief that traditional versions of reality are unfounded and existence is senseless and useless.
The Achilles heel of postmodernism is the postmodern answer to this final question. Many people will find sympathy with the postmodern answer to existence, to the problem of evil, and to the means of fixing the problem. But even post-moderns cannot live with the ultimate hopelessness and despair that comes from severing connections with God and with others. The lonely delusions of minds caught in their own private nightmares become unbearable. It is no accident that young people growing up in a postmodern world are committing suicide at an epidemic rate. They are living lives with no ultimate meaning. Josh McDowell, in a message called “Reaching Youth Today”, described the incomparable superiority of the Christian belief system as opposed to the postmodern belief system. The way to reach post-moderns, he says, is to reach out to them with Christ-like love. Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to read his message found here: www.leaderu.com
PREPARED TO GIVE AN ANSWER: Module 3
Prepared to Give an Answer
The Weight of Glory
It is crucial, if we are to give an answer, that we truly understand first the Christian answer to the four questions. Four weeks ago our study was on the topic, “What Is Truth?”
We must begin at the source. “God is the source of absolute truth, Jesus ‘[testified] to the truth’ (John 18:37), and the Bible is an infallible record of all He is, says, and does. . . . Our preparation to give an answer for our hope must be founded upon a complete commitment to Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
The first of our four questions is “where did I come from?” It is not enough to say we are created by God. We must understand what, exactly, God created. In Genesis 1:27, we read: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God, he created him; male and female he created them.” Today, we will begin to explore what it means to say that man is created in the image of God.
Over four decades ago, when I first met a lady named Miriam, a teacher by profession, she was just another wedding guest, a distant cousin of my bride.
Miriam, who was born in China of missionary parents in 1920 and entered the eternal presence of her Savior in 2010, seemed an unremarkable person. She was the last survivor of her immediate family, married late in life, and had no children of her own. Those who remained close to her seemed very few in number. We did not expect her funeral to be well attended.
We were mistaken. We were touched by her life and we were not alone. Many people shared our sorrow and our celebration of her life.
Psalm 14 opens with the words, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no god. . . .’ The Lord looks down from heaven . . . to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” And He saw Miriam.
Miriam lived her life before the face of God. She was created in the image of God and desired to reflect His nature and character. She walked this earth in imitation of Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Miriam was eulogized by person after person for the godly impact of her life. She challenged all to desire the presence of God in their lives, to reveal God in their lives, to live their lives in imitation of Him. Her exhortations, sometimes hard like a sculptor’s chisel on marble, sometimes gentle like a potter’s hand shaping clay into a beautiful vessel, were always filled with love. She knew God created everyone with the potential of greatness in character and deed. Pastors and children, men and women, were touched by this one “unremarkable” lady.
Miriam’s life was a lesson of one seeing all through the eyes of the Lord. Each one is remarkable. Each one is an object of His love.
C. S. Lewis preached a remarkable sermon at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, in 1942, called “The Weight of Glory.” www.verber.com He concludes the sermon this way:
“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”
How deeply do we want to give an answer? Have we yet understood our “neighbour’s glory”? Lewis speaks of the two destinations for our neighbor—to be a “god” or “goddess”, that is, one in whom is hidden the glory of God, or a “nightmare”, a perversion of God’s creation. Miriam understood and demonstrated that “all day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations”. She saw no “mere mortals” and she carried her neighbor’s glory. Our neighbor is “holy” for in him (or her) is hidden the “glorifier and the glorified”, Christ our Lord.
PREPARED TO GIVE AN ANSWER: Module 4
Prepared to Give an Answer
Several weeks ago, this series was begun with an article called: “An Introduction to Apologetics.” Five elements of our apologetics—or preparation to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ—were identified. They were:
(1) The “foundation” of our answer is our personal relationship with Christ.
(2) The “source” of our answer is a thorough understanding of the teaching of Scripture.
(3) The “strength” of our answer is a thorough understanding of the relevance of Scripture in the context of our culture.
(4) The “power” of our answer is that it is thoroughly connected with the world as we know it. It is connected with reality.
(5) The “method” of our answer is the use of prudential argument. Our arguments, sourced in Scripture, appeal to any circumspect and reasonable hearer whether or not that hearer accepts the authority of Scripture.
This article will take the introduction to apologetics one step further as we consider apologetic strategies. Christians using these strategies have a thorough understanding and respect for Scripture, understand how Scripture is relevant to the cultures of which they are a part, seek to connect their approach to giving an answer that addresses reality, and use prudential arguments. They all seek to present the Christian faith to others who may or may not know or understand the Scriptures, and who are likely to immediately reject an argument on which the sole support is a Scriptural “proof text.”
A strategy is the approach we take in order to accomplishing our purposes. Our purposes in giving an answer are both defensive and offensive. The purposes are complementary and cooperative. They are not independent of each other.
Our answers are defensive in correcting the errors others may have regarding the Christian faith. Those errors may be deliberately fallacious. More likely, they result from either incomplete information about the Christian faith or from information that is misunderstood by the hearer due to the corrupting influence of his own worldview. Misconceptions about the Christian faith present a barrier that hinders one from responding to the redemptive call of Christ.
Our answers are intended also to advance the Christian faith. A well-presented answer provides the hearer with a clear and complete understanding of the Christian faith. Often, we will focus on only a portion of the Christian faith, the problem of evil or the means of redemption, for example. A complete apologetic offers answers to the full range of Christian belief. We may also provide a comparison with other belief systems that will help our hearer understand the superiority of the Christian faith.
Our hearers need to know exactly what is rejected when he or she chooses an alternative to the Christian faith. A genuine conversion is far more likely if our answers are clear enough and complete enough so that we cannot be charged with deception. Otherwise, the one who receives our witness may be converted to a caricature of the faith rather than to a genuine redemptive faith in Christ. The consequences for that person can be dire. (See Matthew 12:22-37 for example)
Christians can adopt several strategies. The infinite character of God is revealed in the infinite variety of people He has created to reflect His character. It seems advisable that we do not consider our preferred strategy absolute. Furthermore, those to whom we witness are also created in His image. Since the people with whom we share our faith bring the infinite to our table, developing flexibility in our strategies is wise and honors both our Creator and His creation.
Ken Boa identifies four strategies ("Faith Has Its Reasons"). They are (1) a reason-based strategy, (2) a fact-based strategy, (3) a revelation-based strategy, and (4) a faith-based strategy. These strategies all rely on Scriptures and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but present their arguments in different ways. Professional apologists differ in their use of Scripture, but all Christian apologists have a high regard for Scripture. Professional apologists also differ in the ways they understand the Holy Spirit to act in our witness. But all believe that He must act through the answers we give.
There are other ways of categorizing these strategies as well. Bernard Ramm ("Varieties of Christian Apologetics: An Introduction to the Christian Philosophy of Religion") identifies three strategies. He combines reason- and fact-based strategies into a natural theology approach, the faith-based strategy focuses on experience, and the goal of a revelation-based strategy is to explain revelation, not to prove it.
Some will identify five strategies. The book, "Five Views on Apologetics" edited by Steven B. Cowan presents “Classical Apologetics”, “Evidential Apologetics”, “Cumulative Case Apologetics” “Presuppositional Apologetics”, and “Reformed Epistemology Apologetics”. The first three of these correspond to Ramm’s natural theology taxonomy. Reformed Epistemology Apologetics is combined with Presuppositional Apologetics in Boa.
This strategy, “classical apologetics”, has been the primary strategy through most of church history. It is reason-based because the strategy uses logical criteria and deductive reasoning to providing an answer. Deductive reasoning starts with a proposition and then demonstrates that the proposition is valid.
A case for belief in God is made through the classical cosmological (ultimate cause for existence), teleological (purpose or design in the universe), ontological (an argument from the concept of being) and moral (knowledge of right and wrong) arguments, for example. The classical apologist then argues that the God who is thus proven to exist has revealed Himself in Christ and the Bible. Psalm 19 is a Scriptural representation of a classical argument. R. C. Sproul and Norman L. Geisler are recent classical apologists. C. S. Lewis is usually also considered a classical apologist.
This approach is more empirical. It focuses more on what is perceived through the senses than on what is reasoned in the mind. It is also inductive in nature. After the facts are ascertained and accumulated it becomes clear that a given proposition (the resurrection of Christ, for example) has a high probability of truth. Evidentialists or fact-based apologists tend to accept scientific methodology and are very active in determining the historicity of the Christian faith. Peter gives an evidential sermon in Acts 2:14-41. See also John 14:11. John Warwick Montgomery and Clark Pinnock are evidential or fact-based apologists.
The revelation-based apologist rejects both the use of deductive reasoning and the empirical, or inductive, approach as primary strategies. Presuppositionalist apologists believe the one fundamental proposition, “God exists”, is the proper starting point for their strategy. Those who deny His existence do so by suppressing the knowledge they have (Romans 1:18-32). “By demonstrating that unbelievers cannot argue, think, or live without presupposing God, presuppositionalists [revelation-based apologists] try to show unbelievers that their own worldview is inadequate to explain their experience of the world [so that they] see that Christianity alone can make sense of their experience.” ("Five Views on Apologetics", p. 19) Paul’s Mars Hill witness (Acts 17:16-34) is a Scriptural presentation of a revelation-based strategy. Cornelius Van Til, John Frame and Francis Schaeffer are revelation-based apologists.
The faith-based strategy maintains that human knowledge of truth is a matter of the heart or the will and not a matter of the intellect. This is the most subjective approach to giving an answer. The existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard and the neo-orthodox dogmatist Karl Barth are considered by Ken Boa to be representatives of this strategy. He places the reformed epistemology apologists among the revelation-based strategists. However, it seems that the reformed epistemology strategy involves the stirring of faith in the unbeliever. For example, William James Clark writes, “One good apologetic strategy . . . is to encourage unbelievers to put themselves in situations where people are typically taken with belief in God: on a mountain, for example, or at the sea, where we see God’s majesty and creative power. . . . [One’s] judgment that God is creator more than likely wells up within [one], ineluctably, perhaps surprisingly. [One] is taken with belief in God.” ("Five Views on Apologetics", p. 279) Clark discusses faith without the need for evidence and argument, and faith that occurs with or without evidence. The Centurion’s faith (Matthew 8:5-13) provides some Scriptural justification for this strategy, as does Hebrews 11:1-3ff. Alvin Plantinga is also a reformed epistemology apologist.
In future articles, we will take a closer look at these strategies. My own personal preference is the presuppositionalist, or revelation-based strategy. The more I studied the word of God and people in general, the more convinced I became that no-one truly lives without some recognition of the Divine in his everyday life—no matter how much he denies it. My conviction was firmly established when I was introduced to Van Til in seminary. I greatly value the work of men like C. S. Lewis, R. C. Sproul, Norm Geisler, John Warwick Montgomery, William James Clark, Paul Feinberg, and many others. I am not so arrogant as to believe that they are completely misguided in their strategy for giving an answer.
PREPARED TO GIVE AN ANSWER: Module 5
Prepared to Give an Answer MODULE 5
Who moved the Stone?
On the first day of the week following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, three women went to the tomb to anoint the body. As they approached the tomb they wondered, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:2) “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.” (Mark 16:4) The grave had been unexpectedly opened!
Many doubt the resurrection of Jesus Christ today. People believe it is reasonable to consider something true if it fits the usual pattern of their experience. A corpse rising from the dead is outside normal human experience. We should not be surprised by the skepticism of unbelievers.
Christians, however, believe God performs miracles which break from normal patterns of experience. The resurrection is such a miracle. They are convinced that it is unreasonable to believe that the Creator of the universe could not intervene in normal events when He chooses.
A multitude of witnesses verified that this miracle did indeed occur. Some, such as Stephen, faced death for their testimony. (Acts 7:51-60) The Apostle Paul wrote two decades after the resurrection, “I passed on to you . . . that Christ died, . . . was buried, . . . was raised on the third day, . . . and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time.” (I Corinthians 15:3-7)
The resurrection is the central historical event in the Christian faith. Lee Strobel has edited a book, "The Case for the Resurrection: Investigating the Evidence for Belief". Strobel defends Christianity with a fact-based, or evidentialist, strategy. He accumulates the evidence and states: “It didn’t take long for me to conclude that the truth or falsity of all world religions—and the ultimate meaning of life itself—come down to just one key issue: did Jesus, or did he not, return from the dead? The answer to that one fundamental question would settle everything?”
Another older book taking the same approach is "Who Moved the Stone? A Skeptic Looks at the Death and Resurrection of Christ" by Frank Morison. Morison examines the testimony of the witnesses regarding the capture, trial, execution and resurrection of Christ.
The title for this series of studies is taken from I Peter 3:15-16. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
We might legitimately ask Peter: What is the answer for the reason for our hope? He states: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit. . . . It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (I Peter 3:18, 21b-22)
Apart from the resurrection, Christianity would not differ significantly from any other human religion. There can be no Christian witness without it, for there can be no personal relationship with God without it. No human being can stand before God with the certainty of approval apart from the redemptive work of Christ in His death, the validity of which work was confirmed by His resurrection from the dead. (I Corinthians 15; II Corinthians 5) “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (II Corinthians 5:14-15)
As dear and as important as the resurrection of Christ is to the believer, it has an even greater importance in God’s eternal plan. He has chosen to reveal His unsearchable riches both on this earth and in spiritual realms “according to his eternal purposes which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:11) I urge to reader to meditate upon the content of Ephesians 3 and I Peter 3:8-22. Charles Wesley, who penned these words must have been inspired by these passages:
‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore.
Let angel minds inquire no more.
Angels cannot know the love of God. The great sacrifice of love declares it in all the world and in the heavens. Even the firstborn seraph, cannot fathom the depths of His love. It is revealed in the great victory won through the resurrection.
No condemnation now I dread:
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head.
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Brothers and sisters, the world may doubt the resurrection of Christ. It is the foundation of our faith. It is the inspiration of Wesley’s final stanza. It is the confidence of Paul’s stirring eighth chapter to the Romans from which Wesley drew inspiration for that last stanza. Without the resurrection, there is no answer for ourselves—and we will have no answer to offer anyone else.
PREPARED TO GIVE AN ANSWER: Module 6
Prepared to Give an Answer—Module 6
Of Gods and Goddesses, by Lawrence D. Anderson
When Mervyn and I decided to initiate this series, I offered to occasionally share an apologetic conversation or experience of my own. The following experience is not without flaws. It is my prayer that it will be both encouraging and informative to the reader.
A few days ago, I was visited by a pair of Mormon missionaries. I learned a great deal of their theology when I was in the U. S. Army and was, at times, in daily contact with Mormons. That has now been over three decades ago. My contacts since then have been few in number. I confess my apologetic with Mormons is a bit rusty. A basic outline of their theology can be found on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) website: carm.org
Single young Mormon men about the age of 20 are encouraged to volunteer for a two year mission experience. About eighty per cent of Mormon missionaries are well-dressed young men around 20 years of age. Approximately 13% are single females who must be at least 21 years old. A few older couples also serve as missionaries. They all do their mission work in pairs.
I see it as an opportunity I dare not miss to share my faith when others appear at my door to proselytize me! I dropped my current preoccupations and engaged my young friends in conversation for a good portion of the afternoon. The conversation was friendly and non-combative. I do not remember most of the dialogue so the following account will primarily summarize the content of the discussion.
The young men introduced themselves to me and indicated their intention to share their faith. Mormon missionaries have specific doctrine they are to teach in their mission efforts. My friends wore name-tags that read “Elder _____”. I commented that they didn’t look over about 20 years old. We engaged in such small talk for several minutes.
My first interest in such conversations is to pursue either their understanding of God, or of Jesus Christ. After a bit of exploratory discussion on the theme, I said that I believed that God was the same yesterday, today and forever. (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8) I expected them to agree with that statement and they did. Typically, the tactic of Mormon missionaries is to avoid public disagreement with orthodox teachings.
I informed them that I was aware that their religion teaches that God was once as we are and that we will someday be as He is. I had learned this, I said, while reading "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder". That book was prepared as an outline of doctrines for missionaries. Joseph Smith wrote: "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!!! . . . We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil, so that you may see," (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). They did not deny this. Some do deny that it is Mormon teaching, however.
I said, “I don’t want a God who is like me, ever was like me, or ever will be like me. Such a God would be pathetic.” The extraordinary God who is my Lord and Savior became the theme of my side of the conversation from this point.
I am not necessarily advocating this approach. I desired to disarm the young men. It was a deliberate and successful effort to “take control of the game”. For most of the remainder of our conversation, which lasted at least another hour, my friends were cautious but they were not intimidated. The passion of my relationship with the Lord appeared to encourage them to continue the visit more than loss of control of the conversation discouraged them.
I sought information from them regarding their beliefs on a variety of subjects through a series of questions. It was an interactive conversation, with questions and answers going both ways. My goal was, as much as possible, to convey my own intimate relationship with the Lord.
I wanted to know what they believed about Jesus Christ. I wanted to know what they believed about His birth, His divinity and the Trinity, His suffering and passion, His atoning work, and so on. I also wanted to know what they believed about the nature of man, sin, justification, and so on.
During these conversations, my friends admitted that they sin, and that they continue to sin in this life. They admitted that they are on this earth to be tested. They indicated that obedience to the law was part of the test. They also claimed that Jesus' work was necessary to show them the way.
They objected to my statement that we are sinners from our birth. I shared with them my firm conviction that I have no good work I can offer the Lord that would merit salvation. My sins condemn me. I must rely upon the imputation of my sin upon the Lord and the imputation of His righteousness upon me (II Corinthians 5:21). My only hope is that my sins were truly born by Him so that His death could be a satisfactory atonement for my sins. I encouraged them to read Romans 3-8 and read portions of Romans 3 and 4 during our conversation. One of the verses I shared with them was Galatians 2:21: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”
My hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit will enlighten their eyes to these Scriptures so that they will turn from their work- centered faith to faith in the one and only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
They quoted Scriptures in which the Lord called for our obedience. I said that I have but one motivation for obedience. Through obedience, I gain no merit for salvation. My motive only, always is obedience out of love for my Lord and my God. He is worthy of my love and obedience because He is my Maker, the provider of my every spiritual and physical need, and my Savior. Without Him, I would have nothing.
Our conversation was nearing an end. I again asked of their purpose in spending time with me. They said they wanted to bring me into the restored church of Jesus Christ. We had a brief conversation about the Book of Mormon and its supposed translation by Joseph Smith. I asked them if they had the gold plates or any corroborating historical evidence that they existed. They had no answer. They indicated that they believed that its testimony was self-authenticating and that it does not contradict the Bible.
There are actually many teachings of Mormonism that contradict the Bible. A comparison of a number of them is found here: carm.org I ended the conversation by challenging them to find in Scripture any place where it teaches that we were once pre-existent spirit children of a god and a goddess and that we need to be born to be tested so that we could become gods and goddesses ourselves. This challenge brings the discussion back full circle. A Mormon core belief is that we were all spirits begotten by God and a goddess who were once as we are to be sent to earth to be tested so that we could return to become as they are now. Alluding to our earlier conversation, I indicated that they themselves had already indicated that they had failed the test by sinning. I said that I thought such a test was pointless and cruel.
Our testimony is most effective when it is based upon our own heartfelt convictions and experience with the Lord. I believe these two young men have knowledge of the truth that is corrupted by rebellion. I believe that is true of every human being. My strategy during this conversation was to identify where the uncertainties where in their belief system and to tailor my witness regarding my relationship with Christ to those uncertainties. I desired my witness to be understood in the context of and in contrast to their own belief system. The spiritual results our witness are often unknown. I am unlikely to ever see these young men again in this life. But the word sown will not return to the Lord purposeless. (Isaiah 55:11) The work of redemption is the work of the Lord. (John 6:44; 16:5-11; I Corinthians 2:6-16) My prayer is that He will accomplish His good, pleasing, and perfect will in the lives of these two young men.