Apologetics

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A•pol•o•get•ics

By Dr. Timothy Juhnke

After the service one Sunday, a brother approached me very meekly and simply asked, “What is apologetics?” I was so appreciative of that question. In a post-Christian culture, we need to be so mindful of the Christian jargon that we use almost carelessly. We regularly use terms that many people have absolutely no idea what we are talking about. The answer is NOT to quit using the terms but to explain the terms.

Apologetics is a word that comes straight from the Greek the language. It is a word that is found in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense [the word “defense” is apologia in Greek] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” The dictionary defines apologetics as “the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity.” So when a seeker or skeptic of the Bible asks you a question or challenges what you believe, apologetics is the ability to defend or answer that challenge.

Although apologetics is useful in answering the questions and challenges of skeptics and unbelievers, that is not its only function. Apologetics can be an integral part of evangelism, and it also helps believers grow and become assured in their own faith. Apologetics demonstrates that the Christian faith is not just wishful thinking or a blind faith, but rooted in historical and logical realities.

Remember: Apologetics isn’t just for pastors or seminary professors. According to the Apostle Peter, every Christian should be ready to give a defense (an apologia) for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15).

Dr. Juhnke is the senior pastor of Faith Community Church.

 

Posted in: Apologetics, Pastor Tim

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I Believe in the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has been called the central teaching of the Christian faith, the heart of the Gospel, the cornerstone of our theology, and the basis of our hope as believers. Perhaps that explains why the truth of the bodily resurrection of Christ has been under attack since the very day the tomb was discovered to be empty (Matthew 28:11-15).

Over the years, many have followed in the path of those first chief priests and elders who tried to explain away the resurrected Christ. The ancient Gnostics taught that Jesus switched places with a bystander before the crucifixion and later came out of hiding to appear to His followers. Docetists proposed the idea that Jesus only seemed to have a physical body. Enlightenment thinkers imagined that Jesus swooned at the cross and later woke up in the tomb, pushed the stone away and appeared to His disciples. In our own day, Jesus Seminar scholars marginalize the resurrection, teaching that it was only a metaphor and not an actual event. But the Apostle Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (I Corinthians 15:17 ESV). We need to have a clear understanding—just why do we believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?

* Both Jesus and the Old Testament prophets predicted the resurrection. When the Jews asked for a sign of Jesus’ authority, He said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-22). Other instances include Matthew 20:19, Mark 14:28, and Luke 9:22. Old Testament prophecies include Job 19:25-27 and Psalm 16:10 (cf. Acts 2:31).

* The detailed accounts of the resurrection found in Matthew 28:1-8, Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-18 are eyewitness records of the event. Though each author chose to include slightly different details, the four narratives stand as legitimate historical documentation. Few events in history have as precise detail from multiple witnesses as do the accounts of the resurrection found in the Gospels.

* The Roman guard that stood watch at the tomb (Matthew 27:64-66) knew that falling asleep on their watch meant certain execution. It is preposterous to believe that the same timid disciples who fled the crucifixion would so soon be willing to face the danger of the guard, move the heavy stone from in front of the tomb, steal the body, and were able to accomplish all without waking the soldiers, who were conveniently asleep on duty.

* The empty tomb and the uninhabited grave clothes were enough to convince John of the resurrection (John 20:8), along with the women’s account of angelic testimony (Matthew 28:5-7).

* Many of the details in the Gospel accounts are unlikely from the perspective of the authors and must have been bewildering to them. For example, the fact that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene instead of a man like John or Peter would have been confusing in the male-dominated culture of the day. The disciples had seen Lazarus and others raised from the dead, but never resurrection to a glorified body like Jesus experienced—thus His ability to vanish (Luke 24:31) and to appear suddenly in a locked room (John 20:19). Including these unheard of events in the narrative shows that the authors were recording history as it occurred, not inventing fiction.

* The wounds in Jesus’ hands and side are evidence that it was indeed He who suffered on the cross, not a stand-in as the Gnostics taught. The scars verified by Thomas (John 20:27-28) and the meal shared with the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:41-43) prove that the resurrection was physical, not a spiritual or solely metaphoric event. You can’t touch a spirit; you can’t have a meal with a metaphor.

* Jesus appeared to many people after His resurrection, including those who knew Him well, like Mary Magdalene (John 20:15-17) and the disciples. He also appeared to over 500 people at one time (I Corinthians 15:6). Nearly all would have been present when Peter preached about the resurrected Jesus in Acts 2:32. We have no record of any of Christ’s contemporaries objecting to Peter’s mention of the resurrection in this sermon, preached before the very people who had crucified Jesus. Many of these same witnesses would have been alive to confirm the testimony of the Gospels when they were written.

* Since the beginning, Jesus’ followers have suffered. The first-century church was brutally persecuted. Thousands of followers, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, withstood poverty, imprisonment, beatings, torture, and death for their belief. Tradition tells us that all but one of the Apostles died a martyr’s death. If they were not completely convinced of Christ’s deity and resurrection, they would not have suffered and died for those beliefs.

* Finally, the entire New Testament confirms the centrality of the resurrection. Belief in the resurrection is a requirement for salvation (Romans 10:9). Resurrection is pictured in baptism (Romans 6:4, Col. 2:12). It is the basis of hope for our own resurrection (Romans 8:11) and the resurrection of other believers who have died (I Thessalonians 4:14). It is the demonstration of God’s great power (Eph 1:19). It is why we are able to hope in God (1 Peter 1:21) and the means by which we are born again (1 Peter 3:23).

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
I Corinthians 15:20

Susan Verstraete is the church secretary at Faith Community Church.

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The Culture War Around Us (Part 3)

By Alan Hutchins

As we continue in this series of articles concerning the Evolution vs. Creation debate, it becomes clear once again how important this issue is as Presidential Candidate Dr. Ben Carson has been criticized and mocked in the news recently for believing in divine creation and not accepting that macroevolution is a proven scientific fact.  In fact, many on the other side of this debate seem amazed that a man of science would not believe in macroevolution, which they portray as proven scientific fact.  They actually seem willfully ignorant of the fact that there are scientists from every field of science who believe that the evidence in nature actually supports the account in Genesis and does not contradict it.

It is not surprising that people who believe in macroevolution would object to the premise that “science is not able to prove or disprove either side of the evolution vs. creation debate.”  This is because people often fail to realize the distinction between what might be called “operational” or “observational” science and what is “historical science.”  Even when discussing the issue with someone who is very knowledgeable on the issues at hand, they might still believe that macroevolution has been and can be scientifically proven.  They should know, however, the difference between proving something by using the scientific method of controlled and repeatable testing and that of observing the evidence of past events and making educated assumptions about the cause of that evidence.

Operational or Observational Science is the part of science that can be tested using the “scientific method” of controlled, repeatable and verifiable experiments that allow the scientist to “state, test and then accept or reject the hypothesis.”  This is sometimes also referred to as “hard science” because it allows one to make hard and fast conclusions through rigorous scientific testing.  This is much different than “historical science” where it is impossible to prove something scientifically because you are dealing with a historical event that had unknown variables and conditions that prevent the type of controlled and verifiable experiments needed to prove what happened scientifically.  This type of science is sometimes considered “soft science” because the results are based on the interpretation of historical evidence and not rigorously controlled and verifiable experiments.

As with any historical event, the presuppositions that one holds will likely strongly influence how they interpret the evidence after the fact.  This happens not only in the creation and evolution debate but was also evident during recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.  While many including the Grand Jury saw the evidence of a justifiable shooting, others looked at the same evidence and saw the murder of an innocent man.  The evidence was the same, yet the interpretation of that evidence was diametrically different.  This is why a Christian scientist can look at the same evidence that a secular scientist does, and one will see evidence of the Biblical account of creation while the other sees evidence for macroevolution. The evidence is the same, but the presuppositions/worldview that each interpret the evidence through are vastly different.

Because our presuppositions/worldview so heavily influence how we view not only this issue but other cultural and theological issues as well, we must be careful to make sure that we have a solid biblical worldview and that we carefully examine our beliefs in light of the clear teaching of Scripture.

In regards to evolution some of the basic presuppositions (whether they realize it or not) that form the basis of the evolutionist’s worldview are:

  • Uniformitarianism—or uniformity theory. This presupposition assumes that geological, meteorological and other physical processes that are observable today have remained constant throughout the earth’s history.  This is one of the primary presuppositions evolution is based on.
  • Naturalism—This presupposition assumes that the origin of the universe and the beginning of life on earth can be explained by purely natural causes with no need for a divine creator or an all-powerful God.
  • That order can come from disorder and that random mutations to DNA, when given enough time, can result in new complex information and systems being randomly developed
  • that living organisms have the ability to evolve from simple to more complex over long periods of time

In next month’s article, we will begin to look at some of these basic presuppositions that are key to the evolutionary worldview and how those unprovable assumptions make evolutionist’s interpretation of the historical evidence very weak when properly understood.

Alan Hutchins is a trustee at FCC.

Posted in: Apologetics

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