A Reasoned Defense
1 Peter 3:15-16
May 31, 2009
· HP Sermon, 068, Leftover notes
Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:13-16
Enjoyed anniversary and Cecil’s sermon. Next week I will be at a conference, and Micah will speak (hopefully not too hopped up).
Take advantage of a great opportunity: Kyle is brilliant, yet humble. His passion is apologetics and he offered to teach a class, but I also wanted him to speak to all of you.
· We will tag team teach on apologetics: What it means, why we do it, and how we do it.
Our faith is not fantasy, but a historically grounded reality, deeply rational even as it is full of mystery. Help us be effective representatives of you.
What is apologetics?
Apologetics does not mean being sorry for being a Christian. The word “apologetics” comes straight from the Bible:
1 Peter 3:15 NIV Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
Apologia means a defense, such as a legal defense in court. Apologetics is a reasoned and prepared defense of Christianity.
From the earliest days, we’ve needed to defend our faith. It was misunderstood and feared. Apologetics served two goals:
1) defend Christianity against distortion
2) provide evidence of its credibility.
Today, it serves the same purposes and answers questions like: Is the Bible trustworthy? How can we say Jesus is the only way to God? Is Christianity more reasonable than other religions?
Now apologetics is not just for specialists, in fact, are practicing apologetics every time describe your faith or live your Christian life before a non-Christian.
· You can reach people I never can.
But we find apologetics isn’t just for the sake non-Christians but it is also very beneficial for us, which is what Kyle will speak on. But first I want him to talk a little bit about his background and why apologetics matters to him.
Kyle: His story & Apologetics
I experienced my first crisis of doubt when I was 12 years old. My grandmother became a Jehovah’s Witness, and as I learned about the differences between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Evangelical Christians, I started to question whether or not my own beliefs were true, and how I could know.
So I started reading books on theology, science, history, and philosophy; I chatted in online discussion groups with atheists and agnostics; and Cecil (my youth pastor at the time) was even gracious enough to teach me biblical Greek.
But for all of my studies in apologetics, it wasn’t enough to keep me from falling away from the faith. By the time I graduated college, I decided that I wanted to live life on my own terms, and all of the reasons for believing just didn’t matter to me anymore.
But after three years as a self-avowed agnostic, I had really made a mess of my life, and those reasons for believing started to matter. I finally did return to the church, and since that time apologetics has really given me an anchor to stand confident in my faith. That is why I am so passionate about this subject.
can’t argue someone into the kingdom
I will be sharing more about the role of apologetic for sharing our faith with non-Christians. But first I have to share a defining moment for me.
When I was 16, I was invited meet with some Mormon missionaries. So I grabbed my buddy Jay TenBrink and went to show them the error of their ways.
· After three meetings, each with higher ranking Mormon, we all agreed this was getting nowhere.
My material was sound, and I stand by it, but I learned a very important lesson: Apologetics will never force someone to believe what they don’t want to believe.
· You cannot argue anyone into the Kingdom of God.
When given all the facts, a person will believe whatever they want to believe.
· A prime example is the Pharisees wanting to kill Lazarus.
All the proof in the world can only help someone believe in Jesus if they want to believe in him.
THE HARDER YOU PUSH, THE HARDER I’LL RUN
In fact, misused apologetics can actually drive a person further from God, because no one likes to be badgered or harassed.
I once was discussing theology with another Christian and played devil’s advocate, presenting a non-Christian’s perspective. Apparently he missed the point – I found myself being attacked with all the arguments he had just learned at Bible College.
· Even though I agreed with him, I got really annoyed – No one wants to be treated as a conquest or convert.
Apologetics minus relationship often equals harassment.
helping genuine skeptics
Q If apologetics can’t “make” someone believe, why do it?
A review of “Mere Christianity” said it was the perfect book for a person who wants to become a Christian but finds his reason getting in the way. That is apologetics at its most productive, honestly answering the tough (but honest) questions.
Personally, I have no interest in arguing with an atheist for the sake of arguing, but love to answers the toughest of questions with someone who is seeking.
· Many people claim to be skeptics just to put off a decision, but God honors those genuinely seeking truth.
According our Scripture, all of us are required explain and share the Gospel with clear reasoning:
1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV Always be prepared to give an answer 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.
Notice its role even with those who aren’t genuine skeptics. Our reasoned defense combined with godly living “silences ignorant talk.” It may not convert them, but it “shuts their mouth.”
· But apologetics also helps us.
Kyle: Building our faith/Defending apologetics
I’d like to share with you a few verses from the Bible that show how apologetics is important for believers. First of all, there is Mark 12:30, which says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Christianity is supposed to engage all of our being. It is not just emotional (about how we feel), and it is not just practical (about what we do). It is also intellectual—about what we think. So by doing apologetics, we are in fact obeying God’s command to love Him with our minds.
Next, there’s James 1:6b-8, which says: “…He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” In the same way, Ephesians 4:14 says that infants in the faith are like waves tossed back and forth by every wind of doctrine and by the craftiness of deceitful men. So from these passages, we see the dangers of doubt. Doubt makes our prayers ineffective, and it makes us susceptible to false doctrine. But apologetics helps us overcome our doubts, and puts us on solid ground.
At this point, though, I need to mention that there are some Christians who actually reject the use of apologetics. They point to passages like 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, where the apostle Paul says:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
So some would take this passage to mean that we should simply proclaim the gospel, without using any persuasive arguments, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. However, I think that’s actually a misinterpretation of Paul’s words.
For one thing, we read of Paul’s ministry in Corinth in Acts 18:4, which says: “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” So how do we reconcile Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2 with Paul’s actions in Acts 18? Should we reason and persuade or not?
I think the key lies in understanding Corinthian culture. You see, in Corinth there was a particular school of Greek philosophers, known as the Sophists, who were well known for their skills in rhetoric. These guys would get paid to entertain people by making clever-sounding arguments to support bogus ideas.
By contrast, the Christian message is not based on the principles of Greek rhetoric (which can be deceptive), but on God’s truth, which needs to be presented with integrity. I think this is what Paul has in mind in 2 Corinthians 4:2, where he says: We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
Ä Finally, let’s look at how we engage in apologetics.
Peter speaks of our “good behavior” being part of our defense. The most compelling argument for (or against!) Christianity is Christians.
I spoke on this topic several years ago, and there was a huge deficiency in my message: Prayer was not mentioned once!
Through prayer God equips us beyond our ability and prepares the hearts of the listener.
Kyle: preparing mentally
One of the best ways to prepare mentally for doing apologetics is to become familiar with the arguments for and against Christianity. So I’d like to recommend to you a few Christian books that can help you defend the faith. (Show the slide of the Christian apologetics books)
When to Speak
I like that Peter says to be prepared to give to give an answer, not to give answers when no one is asking. Like what I have said about getting permission to speak into someone’s life, it is most effective to wait until someone asks you.
How to Speak
Peter says to speak with gentleness and respect, which is the opposite of a combative, in your face approach. This can be hard when we see things we so strongly disagree with.
· Remember that when Paul saw the idols in Athens, he was distressed by responded with respectful reasoning.
And all of this is why our mission is to be “a Christian community striving to glorify God and engage culture.” By engaging our culture with a reasoned and respectful defense we bring glory to God.
Q & A Session
· Resource list in the back and online.
· Kyle will be teaching a 3-week class, beginning June 14th.
· Help all of us deepen our understanding the rationality of our faith and so deepen our faith.
· Help us be effective, respectful, and godly representatives of you.
· Bless and equip Kyle.