Is Apologetics a valid component of Christian ministry?
Yes and no. A distinction must be first made between evidentialist versus Biblical apologetics. Biblical apologetics will be discussed below.
Evidentialists (like John Montgomery*, C.S. Lewis, or Harry Rimmer, Josh McDowell, Norm Geisler, Hugh Ross, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig and many more, alas!) are those who attempt to convert people by statistics, historical references, historical precedents, etc. Though many evidentialists profess to hold the Word in high regard, they don’t seem to hold it in *highest* regard. But can evidence sway a person who is unswayed by the Word? Take a look at Luke 16:27- 31:
27. Then he [that is, the doomed rich man] said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
The rich man pleaded for an apologetics approach. But it would have been fruitless. The problem the brothers had was not a lack of information, but spiritual blindness and enmity. Only the Word of God (the same Word they despised) could have cured this evil.
It is also not a meaningless coincidence that most authors of this persuasion are avowed antagonists of Reformed Theology: The underlying foundation for these respective views are starkly opposed to each other. Reformed Theology assumes God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation. Evidentialism assumes man’s “semi-sovereignty”, (free-will, impartiality).
“Personal encounter” comes, not from the Bible, but from Barthian Neo-orthodoxy, which is neither new nor orthodox, though it has a glitter of both.
“I accepted Jesus into my heart”, or “I accepted Jesus as my Savior” likewise betray synergistic thinking. What really happened in the case of every single true conversion? God opened your heart, like Lydia’s. It was a heart operation – and you didn’t help at all. You were out, cold… until God said to you “Live” (Ezek. 16:6). Many Christians who think they were accepting Jesus, letting Him in the door (Rev. 3:20) were actually already passed the point of regeneration and were just responding obediently to the One who had already shown Himself to be Lord. They were living out (Phil. 2:12- 13), God already “[working in them] to will and do according to His good pleasure”. They were not just then accepting Jesus as Savior; they were obeying Him as Lord.
“We need to bring them to Christ”. I won’t tell you what my wife says when she hears this, you might think I am insensitive. Let’s just say that it gives the impression that Christ is immobile. Why don’t we just preach and teach the Truth and – if we are speaking to a “life unto life” hearer – Christ will move(or has already moved) toward him/her. The whole idea of “bringing someone to Christ” is that same stale synergism again.
“Inquirers” and “seekers“. There are no unsaved inquirers, only excusers (“There is none who seeks after God”. Once a person becomes an inquirer, it is because they have already had their heart opened. Their new nature makes them to seek more. The only reason some desire the “sincere milk of the Word” is because they are already “newborn babes”, and have already “tasted that the Lord is gracious”, 1st Peter 2:2- 3.
Apologetics seeks to authenticate the message. Well, good grief, God never asked us to do that. We are to announce it. The Holy Spirit will authenticate it to every one intended. It will be – to these and to these alone – “a savor of life unto life”. We are called to articulate and to demonstrate (by lives that are obedient to the message), but we do not authenticate. That is the Holy Spirit’s work.
Apologetics aims low – and still fails!
Apologetics can only – and that very imperfectly – argue for deism, that God (or “god”, or even “gods”) exist. Well, demons believe that. They are doomed deists. Christianity, on the other hand, proclaims, “Behold your God!” And those for whom the message is intended will do just that. And they will walk in the works that were prepared for them from all eternity.
“Reasons to Believe” (Hugh Ross). Well, for every reason to believe thrown to the “seeker” of God, he will find more reasons to not believe. Why? Because fallen man is, at heart, unreasonable!
He’s unreasonable because he is dead.
He is dead because of sin.
He will stay dead until he hears the Word of Life.
And then, being preordained to life, the Word faithfully announced will be his “Lazarus, come forth!” Here is the encouraging joy of Biblical evangelism, seeing the response in some of those to whom we speak.
What about the Biblical term “Apologetics”?
It does occur in the New Testament 17 times; that is, the word upon which the concept is based, “apologia” (and it’s variants). But the definition of this word is not what you might
think. Interestingly, the first two times the word occurs (Luke 12:11; 21:14) does away for the need for human apologetics ministries. Don’t take my word for it, read the passages yourself.
Lu 12:11 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
Lu 21:14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
Ac 19:33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.
Ac 22:1 Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.
Ac 24:10 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself:
Ac 25:8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.
Ac 25:16 To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.
Ac 26:2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
Ac 26:24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
Ro 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
1Co 9:3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
2Co 7:11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
2Co 12:19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.
Php 1:7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
Php 1:16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
17. But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
2Ti 4:16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
1Pe 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
These verses above beg for further comment, but this post is already getting too large. At any rate, the picture emerges here that Biblical apologetics, as far as we can make it a separate concept, is both a sword and a shield. But it is not a fisherman’s net, It certainly is not a fishing line! And that is how modern apologetics is cast. We are to speak the Truth in love, proclaim the Gospel, defend the Truth once delivered.
But we are not to go beyond this – which is actually going below it, because a changed method means a degraded Message.
Interesting footnote from Montgomery’s web page:
“My world-view was hammered out at university; there I became a Christian. . . . Like the late C. S. Lewis (one of my greatest heroes), I was literally dragged kicking and screaming into the Kingdom by the weight of evidence for Christian truth.”
But this needs to be topic by itself. It is interesting to note that almost every evidentialist claims something like this: “The evidence swayed me”. Hugh Ross claims that the astronomical and physics evidence did it for him. C.S. Lewis claimed the same along literary and philosophical grounds (see “Surprised by Joy”, “Pilgrim’s Regress”, especially his forward) .But this is all contrary to Scripture (John 3:3). Where – anywhere in Scripture – do we find someone “dragged kicking and screaming into the Kingdom by the weight of evidence for Christian truth”?