Over the next thirteen weeks, we are going to be diving into a topic that should interest every believer and every non-believer. I am under the conviction that if God is real and if the biblical account is true, that God would not keep either Himself or the validation of His Word from the people of the earth. As we study together, my hope is that my believing friends will take advantage and will be strengthened in their faith. My hope is also that my unbelieving friends, or friends who have placed their faith in anything or anyone other than Christ, will see that faith in Christ is the most reasonable faith to hold; and I consider everyone who reads what I write to be a friend.
We, first of all, find a call in Scripture to pursue truth and goodness no matter what opposition there may be. 1 Peter 3:15-16 tells us that we ought to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have. Of course, the hope that we have as children of God is in Christ and in the eternal life that He has promised. In order to give a reason, we ought to know the reasons and those reasons ought to be truthful and good. It is amazing that a Biblical faith actually requires that we refuse to have a blind faith. We ought to know the reasons. We ought to not only know the reasons why we have the hope that we have, but we ought to be able to communicate those reasons to others, not belligerently, but with gentleness and respect. Perhaps acting and communicating with gentleness and respect is the most important concept to grasp as we consider this calling. Speaking truth means nothing if we do not do so in love. Our arguments ought to be made in peace with great love.
So, we see things that are wrong, or that we perceive to be wrong. Our first instinct, many times, is to treat others harshly or form an argument that will accomplish our will and make others out to be the “bad guy.” This accomplishes nothing even if we win the argument. Our goal is to honor Christ and to win others to Christ. Christ died for people by giving Himself. His first priority was not to make other people look bad so that he could prove that he was correct. We would do well to follow His example. The truth is, there are many times when we perceive ourselves to be correct on something and we simply are not; so we also make fools of ourselves because we have not spoken in humility and with gentleness and respect. Not only, then, do we show love by speaking in gentleness and respect, but we also safeguard our own reputation and our own relationship with Christ. Any argument we hope to have ought to be made in peace with grace, whether it is an argument for God’s existence, a dispute at work, or a disagreement in the home.
What is apologetics?
This being realized, we can consider what apologetics is. A simple definition would be this: Apologetics is a reasoned defense of a worldview. I say worldview and not religion for this reason. Religion is a set of practices. Worldview is a set of beliefs that guide our actions. Every person has a worldview because every person believes the world to operate a certain way. Every person practices religion because every person acts in the world according to his or her worldview. In our case during this discussion over the next thirteen weeks, apologetics will specifically refer to a reasoned defense of the validity of the Christian faith. Christian apologetics argues in favor of God’s existence, of Christ’s divinity, and of Scripture’s accuracy. Every argument, essentially, is geared or targeted toward these three things.
Is apologetics important?
The simple answer is, “Yes!” If I did not believe apologetics to be important, then we would not spend thirteen weeks considering it together. I would not have poured hours and hours into preparing for this discipleship series. Consider this: If God does not exist, the Christian faith is worthless. If Christ is not God, the Christian faith is a lie. If Scripture is not accurate, then it does not reveal God. If we are not sure that we can believe the validity of the Christian claim concerning these three things, then we waste our time with the Christian faith and with belief in the God of the Bible. Apologetics is important.
As we think about apologetics and as we form arguments to support the claims of Scripture, we must know that our arguments do not change the truth. No matter what arguments are made, what is true is true and what is not is not. Just because something sounds good does not make it so. These arguments, then, will serve a very specific purpose: They can help us to have more confidence in what we believe to be true and they can convince us of what may be true and certainly what I believe to be true. Furthermore, these arguments and the things that we will discover over the next thirteen weeks can also help us to know God more. While these arguments will not and cannot prove Christianity to be true, they can and will prove that the Christian faith (worldview) is a valid worldview.
There are very few things that we can know beyond the shadow of a doubt. We could do a simple thought experiment. Name anything that we believe to be true and try to create any amount of doubt concerning those things.
I believe that I inherited my wedding band from my father.
It is possible that my father broke his wedding band and got a replacement that he never wore
If my dad never wore it, it is questionable as to whether or not it actually belonged to him
Therefore, it is questionable that I actually inherited my wedding band from my father
I cannot prove that my I inherited my wedding ring from my father. Even if there were documentation, It is possible that it could have been forged. We could try another experiment:
I believe that I am preparing this material to be presented
It is possible that I am currently dreaming
If I am dreaming, then I am not actually preparing this material to be presented
Therefore, it is questionable that I am preparing this material to be presented
It is even questionable, then, that I am actually participating in the activities that I believe myself to be participating in at this moment. The same is even true for speculations like Darwinian Evolution. Species may change over time and there may be a multiplicity of species on the planet, but Darwinian Evolution is not provable. The fact of the matter is that we can doubt most things that we believe ourselves to know. If we can reasonably create any doubt about the things in our lives, then those things cannot be proven to be true. So we do not set out to prove things to be true beyond the shadow of a doubt. We set out to prove that we are rational in making certain truth claims. Here we arrive at another application for our lives. Humility is important for reasonable living. Again we arrive at the idea of interacting with all others with gentleness and respect.
Can the Christian worldview be proven?
It may surprise some that I would say that the Christian worldview cannot be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be true. This is going to be because of the nature of knowledge and the nature of worldview. A worldview is a belief system that makes certain truth claims concerning reality. It is by our worldview that we interpret reality. No one that I know of or have seen actually develops a worldview based on reality because a worldview is necessary first in order to interpret reality. So, worldview is developed first based on what we hear from others and what we philosophize for ourselves. How we define reality, then, is always an interpretation of what we see, hear, feel, smell and touch. If our worldview is wrong, then our interpretation of reality will most likely be wrong, so we should be very humble. In essence, no worldview can be proven to be true beyond the shadow of a doubt. There are facts that can be proven, more or less. These, though, are the evidences that must be interpreted in order to make arguments concerning one worldview or another. Worldview must be argued for on a more philosophically abstract level. So, if anyone ever claims that they can either prove or disprove God’s existence beyond the shadow of a doubt, they are placing God’s existence in the wrong category because God is not a physical or an empirical being. Instead, we must prove that belief in God’s existence is a valid belief to hold. This is why we needed Christ to come and reveal God to us. It is why we must rely on the Holy Spirit to travel with the words that are preached on from the church stage. It is why we need Scripture in order to know God more fully. We cannot see God and no one has ever seen God (John 1:18). So, we learn that if anyone ever claims to have seen God, he is a liar according to Scripture. We must remember that we have not seen God either. So, we speak about Him with humility (gentleness and respect).
The call in scripture
1 Peter 3:13-17 says this: “And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (HCSB).
The call in Scripture, then, is simple for us. We ought to always pursue truth and goodness no matter what. If we are not pursuing truth, we are not honoring Christ, the Messiah. If we do not pursue goodness, then we are not honoring Christ, the Messiah. This and we always ought to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have based on the truth that we have discovered. Our hope is eternal life in Christ. We are challenged not to have a blind faith. While it is possible to have faith in the right thing or person without a valid reason, the challenge, here, is for us to actually explore the reasons for the faith and know them. We should believe, yes, but we should also strive to know why that belief is valid. We should always communicate our reasons, whether those reasons are philosophical, evidential, or experiential, with gentleness and respect. According to Peter, this is how we keep our own conscience clear and how we honor God. Any argument we choose to make should be made with peace and grace.
Purpose over the next thirteen weeks
Considering the call in Scripture, we can state the purpose for this class over the course of the next thirteen weeks. First, it is to gain more or a greater understanding to strengthen the faith that we already have. Second, it is to gain a greater confidence in Christ philosophically. Third, it is to prove that a Biblical worldview is reasonable and not without merit. Fourth, to answer some of the difficulties suggested by others. Fifth, it is to gain the ability to give a reason for the hope that we have in Christ. All of the material for this course will be uploaded the week after each class for those who cannot join us in person. Please subscribe to this blog to follow along with us over the course of the next thirteen weeks. When we finish our study, all of the resources, including notes, presentations, and videos will be available for anyone to use free of charge to teach their own apologetics course on a lay level.
Next week we will discuss our first topic: Does the Bible Contradict Itself?