The Humanism of Evangelistic Apologetics
The Astonishing Misuse of "Apologetics"
The topic of Evangelistic Apologetics has been around a long time. It is certainly natural that Christians would want to defend their beliefs in the same way that any other scientific, technical, philosophical, medical, religious, etc. discipline wants to defend itself against misinformation and attacks. Defending one’s beliefs appears to be built into the human psyche, and Christians are no exception. In the context of biblical revelation and truth, you may legitimately argue that such a defense is, at the very least, implied.
[I don’t at this point define the nature of that defense; that will be accomplished in depth as one of the goals of this series.]
The well-known verse, 1 Pet 3.15, is claimed as the “proof text” for Evangelistic Apologetics (as the term is typically defined):
1 Pet 3.15
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
You’ll find volumes of information, books, and very many (hundreds/thousands if you spent enough time looking?) of articles and series on the web on this topic, based more-or-less on this verse. Moreover, while sometimes the term Evangelistic Apologetics is used instead of (merely) Christian Apologetics in these articles, in nearly all cases there is the implicit context that the apologetic activity is to take place for the benefit of those who are not Christians; that is, it is primarily an evangelistic activity designed to reach the lost with the gospel. Frequently, apologetics is presented as an important—typically “preparatory”—tool for “winning the lost” by means of intellectual persuasion.
My contribution to this topic is to approach it, first and foremost, from a biblical/theological perspective—something which, as you’ll see in this chapter (the formal rebuttal), is truly lacking in essentially all articles on Evangelistic Apologetics.
[The majority of the “defense” (pun intended) of Evangelistic Apologetics is the misuse and distortion of a reasonably small number of Bible verses; this, in most cases, is simply refusing to acknowledge the context of the so-called proof texts. In the more egregious cases, it is wanton, active distortion.]
I intend to pose and answer biblically such questions as:
- Is the use of Evangelistic Apologetics biblical in the first place?
- Is there some type of biblical apologetics, and If so, what are its true directives, venues and uses?
- Can/should Evangelistic Apologetics be used in evangelism as a legitimate, biblical presentation of the gospel message?
- Does Evangelistic Apologetics accurately reflect and build upon what the Bible actually teaches regarding the true nature of the lost?
- Does Evangelistic Apologetics aid or impede the message of the gospel to the lost?
These questions are not designed to be provocative or controversial (though they may be regarded by some in exactly that manner), intended to merely grab your attention for its own sake. But, I also won’t hide the fact that I believe that too much of Evangelistic Apologetics, as practiced today:
- understates the importance of the use of the Word of God in its pure form to simply preach the gospel;
- lacks a clear understanding of exactly how the lost are saved in the first place;
- completely ignores, in a practical sense, the nature of the lost as taught in 1 Cor 2, Eph 2 and Col 2;
- ignores the sovereignty of God in the salvation of the lost;
- misunderstands and distorts what the Spirit of God said in 1 Pet 3.15;
- misunderstands the simple directive to preach the gospel;
- lacks a clear definition of what evangelism is;
- misuses a common set of biblical texts related to the Greek noun ἀπολογία (G627, apologia; defense) and the Greek verb ἀπολογέομαι (G626, apologeomai; to defend oneself);
- misunderstands the legitimate use of apologetics and its venues.
To make the point: it would be a profound understatement to say that that which presents itself today as Evangelistic Apologetics is a theological mess and needs to be jettisoned with extreme prejudice.
[The last such rejection of similar scope was called the Great Reformation! Nothing short of its equivalent today would be able to correct the depth and breath of biblical error found in current "conservative, evangelical" churches.]
So, here is my spoiler alert: in this multi-chapter group of articles on Evangelistic Apologetics, I take what I will show to be the biblical approach (first!) to evangelism. The following is a summary of the implicit context, assumptions and assertions of these articles:
- God has spoken through His word, the Bible; in it He meant what he wrote and wrote what He meant; that it is sufficient in all respects, solely authoritative, and complete; it is preeminent and practical, and is available and understandable when studied properly, faithfully, and obediently. Man does not and cannot weaken the Word of God by his disobedience and unbelief nor strengthen it by his obedience and faith; the Word of God is absolutely independent.
- The Word of God is the sole source for any and all information about the Triune God, the sole Creator of all things.
- The Word of God is beyond the possibility of any “proof” in the scientific, classical sense of the term. More to the point: the Word of God has no need of any proof—which the human mind is incapable either of producing or understanding anyway. The finite can never completely understand the infinite, much less “prove” it. [Remember the Bible’s use of the analogy of the potter and the clay: Isa 45; Isa 64; Jer 18. The Lord is the Creator; we are the creation.]
And this leads to the last point:
- All technical disciplines (science, history, archaeology, medicine, engineering, math, physics, etc.) will be found to be completely compatible with the Word of God when they are understood honestly, in context and in depth. At any given time, if there is something that appears to be a contradiction between the Word of God and what is commonly termed “science”, then it is that observation, measurement, record, interpretation, etc. of that particular “science fact” that will ultimately be shown to be in error, misinterpreted, misunderstood, etc. (A good example of this type of work in action is seen in the research and articles of The Institute for Creation Research, www.ICR.org.)
I understand and concede that these statements could be vastly extended, but I believe they are adequate to make my point. I accept implicitly and absolutely the authority and sufficiency of the Scripture for all things related to a life of obedience to and faith in our Creator.
Unless you are part of a fringe element that claims that both we and/or the cosmos are not "real" (if so, these articles are definitely not for you!), we (people) recognize that both we and the cosmos exist, and as a result that “in-your-face” fact must be explained! The Bible teaches that we are made in the image of God as sentient, rational beings and are therefore able to observe, question, reason, theorize, etc. regarding the nature both of that which “is us” along with that which “is not us”.
It is also just as important to recognize that “science” has never proven that something/anything comes from nothing; moreover, it has never found, demonstrated or produced a “spontaneous anything”. All actions and objects have causes, and this leads us inexorably, inarguably and ultimately to the First Cause, the Creator. Therefore, science—relegated always to the position of observer of that which has been created—must always be subservient to the Creator.
So, this is my starting point for the series to follow.