Do you have a ready answer when someone asks you why you believe in God? Listen to this lesson to hear how to defend that the Scriptures are the only truth. Learn what facts are, how they can be interpreted differently, and how we can apply logic and rationalism, which is our common ground with unbelievers. Learn what evidences are and hear four basic elements in apologetics. Do not be in a hurry but find out where people are in their thinking and take them to the next step.
Additional information on apologetics by Charlie Clough is available here:
Giving an Answer – Part 3. Knowledge; Biblical Examples
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter Lesson #085
April 6, 2017
“Father, we’re indeed grateful that we have this opportunity to come together this evening to focus upon Your Word, to be reminded that we are to be able, at any moment, any time, whatever it may be—the grocery store, or with a neighbor, or just talking to someone at work—to give an answer for the hope that is within us. That hope is always related to our blessed hope, which is the fact that we will either die and then be raptured, or we will be resurrected at the Rapture to be with the Lord in the air. That is our blessed hope.
The fact that we believe that Jesus is going to come back and that we have immediate access to Heaven when we die and we’re face-to-face with Him is the focus there. So how do we know it? How do we give an answer, outlining a rational defense of the gospel?
Father, help us to understand these things and to be prepared so that You can use us to give the gospel to those in need. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re not going to get into a Scripture per se until a little later on, but I’m going to review it just a little bit. Our topic, as we see, is continuing. It’s our third lesson on “Giving an Answer,” coming out of 1 Peter 3:15, that we are to give an answer for the hope that is in us.
That scares some people, and if it scares you, it’s because you really haven’t trained yourself to know the answers. That’s really a problem. I think I pointed this out at the very beginning, if you were a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness or some other cult, you would be well prepared by Sunday School to always know all the answers. They roleplay; they do all kinds of things. I would say most—I mean 98%, 99%— of evangelical churches don’t train people like that.
So they get caught in an elevator. You know, if you’re in any kind of sales or motivation, you always know you need to have your elevator speech—you’ve got 20 seconds to make your case. Right? Y’all have heard that? You’re in an elevator and somebody says, “Tell me why you believe in Jesus.” Most Christians are just going to stammer and stutter, and then the doors are going to open and that’s it—lost the opportunity. Because we’re really not trained. We don’t know what to say; we don’t how to say it. And that’s really both the issues involved in what is known as apologetics—what to say and how to say it.
Now, interestingly enough, there are a couple of major release films that are out there that do some of this. One that is coming out that’s opening this weekend is based on a book by Lee Strobel, who is a Christian lawyer. It’s been out for a long time. He’s written a series of books called, The Case for … You’ve got The Case for a Creator, and then he wrote one called The Case for Christ. That’s the film that’s coming out this week. I’ve heard a little bit about it. I haven’t seen it; I haven’t researched it. I have read the book, and it’s a very solid book on presenting the Christian evidence.
Now, Christian evidences, as we are going to see as we go through this, is a subcategory of apologetics. A lot of people think apologetics equal Christian evidences, but apologetics is the broad category and Christian evidences is something that is a subcategory of apologetics. There’s a lot of debate, and I hope we get to that question that we’ve been going through some time tonight.
So that’s the first one, and the other film that was shown I think a week ago. It only has two showings, and it’s put out by Samaritan’s Purse—that’s Franklin Graham’s ministry—and it’s called Facing Darkness. One time to see it—7 o’clock Monday night; so I’m not going to see it, because I’m going to be out of town Monday night.
But it is the story of the doctor in Liberia who was infected with Ebola three or four years ago when they had that massive Ebola outbreak. We were talking about it this last weekend. When I was in Tucson last week I was teaching at Tucson Bible Church, which is where Dan Hill goes when he’s in town. John Hintz is the pastor; Dan Hill goes there.
Dan and Pat were missionaries for a number of years in Liberia, and they lived down the street—four or five houses down—from this doctor who got Ebola. They were friends; they knew him personally; they knew the situation. In the Calvinist luck of circumstances, they were home on furlough that year, and so they missed all of that excitement—the infectious excitement of Ebola. That’s just a couple things to pay attention to—presenting Christianity through film. That is one way to give a defense.
I’ve been going through this and trying to methodically lay out what apologetics is all about. It seems mysterious to some people. Some people have misconceptions. I’m trying to logically lay that out.
We defined apologetics.
- What is apologetics?
- Why should we learn about apologetics?
- Why do some people object to apologetics? And we’re still answering question three.
- The Bible doesn’t use apologetics, why should we? I’ve heard that before.
- What is the difference between Apologetics and Christian evidences? I hope we will get there tonight.
- On what basis then do we defend, support, and argue that Christianity is the one and only TRUTH? That is a foundational question, as we’ll see as we go through this.
We look at what apologetics was, and it’s from the Greek word APOLOGIA, which doesn’t mean to make an apology, or to admit guilt, or something like that. It was a legal term, and it basically meant “to present a well-reasoned defense.” This is from the Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich Greek English Lexicon, and this is stated that it means:
- to make a defense or reply
- the act of making a defense
That’s the basic meaning, how it’s used, the noun or verb is used 17 times in the New Testament with either the sense of vindication or making a defense in each of its uses.
Giving an Answer was actually the second edition under that name. He wrote that—it’s about 41 pages, I think, double-spaced typed. It’s not long, but it is pretty compact, the contents pretty heavy. He wrote that in the middle to late 1970s, which was fortuitous because I got it, I think, right before I was taking a course in seminary on apologetic systems and that really helped me think things through.
He wrote a little more advanced article that appeared in a collection of works, and that article is called Theology and Apologetics. He says this, “APOLOGIA describes a carefully reasoned defense in response to a line of questioning or wrongful accusation by recognized authorities.”
Somebody’s going to ask you, “Why do you believe what you believe?” Or they’re going to say, “I can’t believe you believe that,” with a critical tone, which is automatically designed to put you on the defensive. So, immediately, you’ve got to make sure you’re walking by the Spirit and you don’t let them put you on the defensive. And we need to think about how to put them back on the defensive by responding, “And you don’t?” Things like that just to get it back on them. Don’t be put in a position where you are answering their questions; flip it back on them so they have to answer the questions from their side. That way, you’re going to find out if they’re just repeating something they’ve heard or if they actually have thought things through, and then you can go from there.
Charlie also made this observation in these couple of paragraphs. He says. “From this we see that the definition involves the knowledge of facts.” How do you know facts? How do you know it’s a fact? What’s a fact? Most of us just sort of assume that there is such a thing as what one apologist calls a “brute fact.” It is what it is, and it’s obvious what it means. But those things don’t exist. Every fact is automatically interpreted by the person who sees the fact.
For example, if you go to the Grand Canyon and you’re with an evolutionist, you’re going to see a fossil and he’s going to see a fossil, and immediately you’re going to make certain conclusions because you understand that that fossil was killed at the flood and he understands that it was laid down over millions and millions of years. The only fact there is that there are the remains of something that had died in the rock structure. It’s preserved—the outline, or form, or shape of it—not anything of the original organic material. It is shaped there, and immediately it’s interpreted. Well, anything that is immediately interpreted has been run through some sort of interpretive framework or agenda and comes out the other end with a meaning. So, to have a meaningful discussion about it, you have to think about it a little bit and ask the right questions. That’s part of apologetics.
Then I pointed out that some people say, “Why do we need to learn about apologetics?” I got a copy of Chafer’s Systematic Theology; there’s no category of apologetics there.” There is a big debate: Is apologetics something you do before theology, or is it part of systematic theology? Either way, I think that it should be part of systematic theology in some way.
But, actually, when you study any area theology, each area of theology has its own arena of giving a rational defense for it. You make a case for why we believe in a triune God. That’s usually spelled out pretty well in the chapter on the Trinity. And that is part of an apologetic; it is a rational explanation of why we believe in a triune God, giving the biblical data.
Scripture commands that we do apologetics. Titus 1:9 I mentioned.
Also, because as believers it strengthens our own faith—that we haven’t just believed something because it was something our parents told us, or because we grew up with it, or something like that. We come to understand there is a logical, rational, historical foundation for the faith, and it is credible.
Also, it will advance us spiritually. That’s 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, that we are “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” That’s part of apologetics—destroying the arguments that are set up against Christianity.
It was important for the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:7 and 1:17. He’s appointed to the defense of the gospel, and that leads to—same verses—the fifth point.
I pointed out that both thought and communication require it. So that’s why we should learn apologetics.
The third question is, “Why do some people object to apologetics?”
I pointed out several things. First of all, I think a lot of people misunderstand what apologetics is. They think it’s apologizing for Scripture or something like that. Some people get the idea that you’re trying to argue somebody into the kingdom with facts, and that’s not biblical apologetics because we recognize from the Bible that the problem isn’t a lack of knowledge—although that may be part of it. The problem isn’t a lack of intellection. The problem is ultimately one of volition, and we will see that as we look at some Scripture tonight.
Some people don’t understand what apologetics is, and so they either misunderstand the concept or they have a fallacious epistemology. By that I mean they have a mystical way of knowing, and especially the mystics who are called fideists. I’m going to explain these terms a little more tonight—they think that, “You just believe!” That’s all, “You just believe.” You don’t need a rational argument for the truth. We will talk about that as we go along.
They would say the Bible does not need to be defended. God can’t be known by human reason. Natural humanity can understand. Jesus refused to give signs for evil men. But He gave signs for others—that’s the whole Gospel of John. It’s built around seven signs plus the sign of the resurrection.
The other reason I pointed out last time is that some people object to apologetics because they argue from a false or misunderstood biblical presupposition. In other words, they’ve got some flaws in their own thinking. We’ll look at that. That’s where I ended last time.
I put this chart up, which is familiar to everybody; it is somewhat challenging, but you should be familiar with this. How do you know what you know? How the people were here for the Chafer Conference and heard David Roseland talk about Scottish Common Sense Realism? Scottish Common Sense Realism was really articulated by Thomas Reed, formally a Scottish Presbyterian pastor and then went into philosophy, and he basically is responding to David Hume and the skepticism in that stage of the Enlightenment. He is arguing, “We may not be able to articulate everything, but it’s common sense. We do know things, and we know them with conviction,” and so that’s where that came from. I think part of his answer is correct. Because, remember, he came to this from a position of being a solid biblical pastor, so his thinking was grounded in the Word, and so the Word is still his presupposition. There were also some flaws with it as well.
But, basically, there are four ways in the history of thought that people have said that we come to know things. What is your ultimate authority? When somebody says, “Well, how do you know that’s true?” How are you going to answer that? These are the answers that have been set up historically.
So, in the chart I’ve got the System, the Starting Point, and the Method. The first one is called rationalism and rationalism starts with the idea that man is created with certain innate ideas and that he has faith in human ability. Plato’s the example in the ancient world; Descartes is the example in the modern world. Descartes’s famous statement was, in Latin, cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I exist.” This is so important. He said, “How do I know I exist? Maybe I’m just a figment of God’s imagination, and God just sort of put this into my head to think that I’m feeling and I’m thinking; and I don’t even exist. How do I know I exist?” As he went through everything, he doubted everything that was around him. “I’m not sure that exists. Maybe God is just giving me a mirage, or an illusion. Finally, he said, “If I’m thinking, if I have self-consciousness, then I must exist,” and that became his starting point.
So, it is unaided human reason—that’s a starting point. I can build out a complete view of life and come to all knowledge just from that starting point. He believed in logic and reason, but it’s unaided, it’s independent of God, independent of any revelation. Rationalism always fails, because it operates within a closed system. It ignores the fact that it’s an open system—the universe and everything is an open system—because God’s out there, and God has intervened in what people perceive as a closed system. And God speaks to that closed system.
It’s what Francis Schaeffer titled his third book in his trilogy. Francis Schaeffer is someone that you should know—difficult to read. I first started reading Schaeffer’s trilogy, The God Who is There, Escape from Reason, and He is There and He is Not Silent. That was the first one I read; I read it out of order, but it made sense to me.
I started reading Escape from Reason. It started bringing in a lot of philosophy and history of ideas and everything, and it was just over my head. It is a little 90-page book. That’s where I learned that you need to read the last chapter first; when I got to the last chapter, everything else in the book made sense so I had to go back and reread it.
About that same time, Sherrill Hannish (Calvert), who comes to this church, was going to Texas Tech to Lubbock Bible Church, and she was back in town. I ran into her at the Camp Peniel headquarters, and I said, “How is Charlie doing? How is Lubbock Bible Church? Because I hadn’t heard much from Charlie since he had done his pastoral internship at Berachah in ’67, I believe. She said, “Great. I’ve got some tapes here. Why don’t you take them?” And she handed me his basics—not his first short basics, but a long basic series where he’s talking through Francis Schaeffer’s categories. And I listened to Charlie and went, “Ahh, now what I’m reading makes sense!”
When I go back now—and I’ve gone back several times the last several years to read Francis Schaeffer—I am amazed at how prescient he was. He understood that we had crossed the divide from modernism to postmodernism before anybody was even using that terminology. It is phenomenal to go back, because he is so insightful in what’s going on in our culture. But he shows that rationalism doesn’t solve the problems. Neither does empiricism.
Empiricism is based on sense perceptions. It’s a foundation of the scientific method but still faith in human ability to properly interpret the data. It, like rationalism, is an independent use of logic and reason. But then there’s the rejection of rationalism and empiricism. Rationalism and empiricism are always followed by skepticism. Nnobody can live as a genuine skeptic, so they leap into the void of faith. What they identify as faith—that’s mysticism, and it emphasizes an inner, private experience. It’s based on intuition, “I just know what I know. I don’t need logic or reason to know it’s true.” Again, it’s still faith in human ability, but now it’s based on something that’s not logical, not rational, and non-verifiable. It’s irrationalism.
We’ve been living in a world dominated by irrationalists at the academic level since the early 20th century. If you don’t understand that, you’ll never grasp what’s going on in our crazy world today. When you get up and read the paper and you say, “How in the world can these people do these things? Don’t they understand what’s going on?” No! Because at a foundational level they have rejected reason and empiricism as a means to get to an understanding of the world, and they are operating on pure irrationalism and mysticism. The only answer is revelation—God speaks into the closed system—objective revelation of God and the dependent use of logic and reason.
I go through this a lot, but I know a lot of folks just don’t have the background. Every time I do this more light bulbs go off—those LEDs get a little brighter. Okay? But each of the systems of epistemology—of knowledge—has an affinity to a school of apologetics. So, rationalism has an affinity with classical apologetics, which says that the common ground between you and the unbeliever—whether he’s an aborigine in Africa or whether he is a PhD from MIT or Harvard—is logic and reason. That’s classic apologetics.
Evidentialism is the second approach. Now these are strategies, okay? These are three different strategies up here, and then we’ll see a fourth strategy on the bottom. Evidentialism looks at the common ground as being facts—facts of history, facts of science. We can all agree that facts are true. The problem is, there is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact; interpretation is where you get into a problem.
Mysticism says you don’t need logic or reason to come to faith in God. You just need to have an existential encounter with God; you just need to have this experience.
See, a lot of this gets all muddied after Immanuel Kant. Mysticism really is existentialism. I remember when I had a blinding flash of light, about two or three weeks into my first semester in seminary, sitting around talking, and realizing that mysticism is foundational to, among other things, existentialism. And it’s, “I don’t need to have a logical explanation for anything; I just had this encounter with God.” Can you name a group of Christians that just live on that street? Anybody?
Name a group of Christians that are functional mystics, that are epistemological mystics. Don’t confuse me with what the Scripture says; I know it!” Charismatics! Pentecostals! “Don’t confuse me with reason or logic; I just know it! I’ve had this experience; I’ve had an encounter with God.” And what I’ve said for 50 years now is if you are an existential postmodern relativist Christian, and you become saved—and you may be saved—and you go into a Pentecostal, Charismatic, feel-good church, you can go from being a Christian to being a feel-good existential Christian with an encounter with God without changing your worldview. All you’ve done is you’ve added Jesus and the cross to your worldview, but you’re still a postmodern existentialist in your worldview; you’re still basing everything on having some kind of emotional encounter with what you think is truth.
It’s not just Charismatics, but you have a lot of Baptists, a lot of Bible church people, a lot of evangelicals, who are soft mystics. A soft mystic fits right into this category. The reason they are absolutely dead in Christ—and I’m not talking about spiritually dead—I mean carnally dead—they don’t have any clue as to what’s going on biblically—is because they’ve never changed their worldview.
What does Romans 12:2 say? It says we’re to have our mind renewed by transforming—not be conformed to the culture. Well, the culture’s mystical. You were born a mystic, you’ve grown up a mystic. Though many of you may be a little bit older, so you have some modernist presuppositions and ideas; you also have a lot of postmodern relativistic ideas. You can go from being a postmodern relativist that rejects Christ to a postmodern relativist that accepts Christ, and you haven’t changed your worldview. You are still conformed to the world, the zeitgeist.
What does Paul say? It comes after salvation. You are not to be conformed or pressed into the image of the—it uses AIÓNIOS, not KOSMOS, there—zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, and the spirit of the age is postmodern mysticism. That’s why you have Christians today who are violating every moral code in the book because they are postmodern—they think that it’s all relative, and they’ve abused grace.
These, though, are your three approaches to apologetics that I think are ultimately grounded in human viewpoint thinking. We will talk about that a little more, but you’ve got to understand the vocabulary here or you’ll miss 90% of what I’m going to say.
Revelation, though, gives birth to what is called the presuppositional school, which presupposes the truth of Scripture. Now I’m going to go back and review this all again in just a minute, but that gives you the one sentence flyover of each of these views.
Now, having said all of that—it took 25 minutes to review here. These two verses in Proverbs are foundational, and they may seem like there’s a contradiction here. If you’re like a lot of Christians, you’ll just read through them and go, “Hmmm. I just don’t understand that,” and keep right on going rather than thinking about it.
What does it mean? Proverbs 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.” Then verse five says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.” “Well, wait a minute. It sounds to me like that violates the law of non-contradiction.” Now, I’ll get there in a minute. The law of non-contradiction is your foundational law in logic that says something can’t be both true and not true at the same time in the same way. Okay? In other words, a house cannot be both blue and green at the same time in the same way. It’s either one or the other. You can’t contradict yourself.
But here it says, “Don’t answer a fool,” and the next verse says, “Answer a fool.”
“See, I told you the Bible has contradictions in it! How do you understand this?”
Okay, here’s how we understand it. Verse 4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly.” Don’t answer the fool. How does the Bible use the word “fool?” A fool is a person who presuppositionally rejects God. Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart,
‘There is no God.’ ” He is not a fool first and then an atheist; he is a fool because he’s an atheist. Because, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” So because he doesn’t fear God, he is automatically a fool; he is not wise.
This is his presupposition. I’m going to go back and forth up here. Here you have the believer, and he’s talking to the unbeliever over here. The unbeliever overhears an atheist. He says, “I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe there’s absolute truth. I don’t believe the Bible.” The believer is over here operating on divine viewpoint, and he’s got to figure out how to talk to this unbeliever over here. What do they have in common? What is the point of contact? If I say, “You need to believe this because it’s the truth,” he’s going to say, “How do you know it’s the truth?”
He’s going to have a system of how you would prove it, but ultimate proof for him is going to be on the foundation of human autonomous reason. And you’re over here going, “I can’t appeal to human autonomous reason because that would be answering him according to his folly.” His folly is, “There is no God.” So, reason is something that man developed and it didn’t come from God.
As a Bible-believing Christian, I must understand that logic is embedded within the Godhead, and I can’t grant his presupposition or act as if it’s true and then try to argue him into the kingdom, into salvation, at all. It just won’t work.
You can’t answer the fool according to his presuppositions. That’s why I have the diagram here. Here’s a Christian missionary. He’s trying to talk to the fool, the unbeliever, the pagan who is on human viewpoint whether he’s a pagan animist, or whether he’s a postmodern secular atheist, or whatever he is, “What is your common ground?
What are you going to appeal to for absolute truth? Is it going to be reason? That’s category one—those are the classical apologists. They’re going to say you appeal to reason—that is your common ground—you both agree as to what logic is. But that’s not true.
Or facts—that’s the empiricist. Are you going to appeal to intuition? No, that’s the mystic. You never give up your assumption of revelation. You say, “Wait a minute. That sounds circular.” We will get to that in a minute.
Now, the next verse says, “Answer a fool according to his folly.” So, the first one says, “Do not answer fool according to his folly,” don’t accept his presuppositions in the way you answer him. You can answer him in a way that undercuts your own argument. A lot of people that you talk to are not going to be sophisticated thinkers enough to understand that. And I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve gotten away with it because the person we’re talking to doesn’t have their Master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Rice, so they don’t have a problem.
But there are some people that we’re going to talk to that are a little more sophisticated. They’ve watched a lot of shows on the Discovery Channel or the History Channel, and they’re going to regurgitate some of the things that they’ve said.
So, we answer a fool according to his folly. His folly is his presuppositional framework that there is no God and everything is a product of time plus chance and that somehow brought order out of chaos. That’s his foundational assumption about reality—that it’s impersonal. So what we are going to do is we’re going to answer him, recognizing he’s got this foundation that’s a foundation of quicksand.
Remember Jesus’ story? You have two people, one builds his house on quicksand and one builds it on rock. When the storms of life come, the house that’s built on quicksand falls apart and the house that’s built on rock stands. Well, the unbeliever’s built his house. You know this! His house is built on quicksand—whether he admits it or not is irrelevant. You know he’s built his house on quicksand.
What do you want to do? You want to be like the big bad wolf and huff and puff and blow his house down. You want to answer him according to his folly, which means you want to answer in such a way that you demonstrate that he doesn’t have the right to say what he is saying based on his presuppositions. He’s presupposing there’s no God, and there is no order, and there is no prediction, and he’s going to start talking.
It’s like the joke. One my favorite jokes about creation is that you have a Cambridge scientist who comes along and says, “Oh! We have finally, finally, been able to create life in the laboratory.” And these other scientists get together and say, “We really don’t need God now—not at all.” So this scientist is all full of himself and says, “Well, I’m going to tell God that He can just go away, because we don’t need Him. We can create life.”
He goes to God and says, “We don’t need You anymore. We can create life. It just shows that You didn’t need to be around to create life to begin with, and God says, “Okay. I’ll challenge you to a little contest to see who can create life. Since I’m challenging you, I’ll let you—God’s always a gentleman—create life first. The scientist says, “Okay, I’ll show You.” He reaches down. See, God is showing the flaws of his presupposition. The guy bends over and picks up some soil, some clay, and he’s going to start making life. And God says, “No, no, no, no, no. You’ve got to make your own clay.”
See? That’s part of the problem here. When we answer them according to their folly, what we’re doing is, we’re showing the inability of their presupposition to hold what they’re trying to build on it. They built their whole life on a flaw. Now, you’re not going to do that with a one-liner or two-liner; that may take 15 years of discussion, but that’s the strategy.
What this verse means is that we’re to expose the flaws within his human viewpoint reasoning by asking questions that reveal an inability to consistently live with his foolish assumptions. That takes time to think about the questions—not just to jump in there and say, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” but to say, “Well, how did you get to that conclusion? What’s your evidence for that?”
Somebody raises a classic question, “How can you believe that there’s a good God if evil exists?” That’s a good question to ask. How do you answer it? Because they can’t answer it on their assumption. Because in his objection, he says, “How can you believe in a good God when something bad happens?” What is he assuming in that question? The existence of good and bad.
Where does that come from according to his evolutionary presupposition? He’s got an evolutionary presupposition that says that pure chance develops from the simple to the complex and it does so through a principal called the survival of the fittest. The problem is that it doesn’t explain the arrival of the fittest.
When you look at “fittest,” how do they survive? What’s going on in this contest for survival? You have a fight that goes on. Somebody weak and innocent gets totally destroyed, and something that is powerful and vicious and ferocious defeats him. It’s classic bullying. So, the survival of the fittest is just a bullying technique that Darwin came up with to demonstrate how life advances.
“So, you believe in a system of bullying that ‘good’ means violence and bullying?” “Well, wait a minute; I didn’t say that.” See, now what you’ve demonstrated is that on the basis of his assumptions, he doesn’t have the right to use vocabulary like “good” and “bad,” which he is trying to pin you on. So by asking questions, instead of jumping in there with your well-thought-out answer that you wrote down in Bible class, you’ve exposed his folly.
Clough puts it this way. In the context, “A (Any) critical question …” Anytime you are talking to somebody and they ask a critical question, any critical question comes with its own interpretation of history. Don’t answer a question too quickly, because a question is going to often have some sort of presuppositional framework attached to the question. “Have you quit beating your spouse?” You don’t want to answer that question. You want to redirect. So a question often comes with an agenda.
“A critical question comes with its own interpretation of history, of what is possible and not possible, and of what is right and what is wrong. It brings its own agenda to the table about the basic building blocks of reality. If we try to answer it without perceiving this [if you run into that trap too fast] unbiblical baggage, we may unconsciously adopt its alien viewpoint.” In other words, we are told not to answer a fool according to his folly, which means don’t inadvertently assume the accuracy of their baggage.
Charlie goes on to say, “Paul warned the church about being deceived by pagan notions of the fundamental categories of reality (Colossians 2:8).”
“These basic categories [called the elementary things] or STOICHEA in ancient times could be earth, fire, water, air, or other created things that paganism falsely interpreted as cosmic sources and sustainers.” In other words, this is what gave birth to creation—matter evolved into organized things. He says, “Over against this pagan viewpoint Paul directs us to build upon the truths revealed in Christ. Christ, says Paul, created the entire cosmos, sustains every so-called natural process, and fully reveals God’s Person (Colossians 1:15–17). Verbal revelation, not human speculation, is the key to interpreting history, what is and is not possible, and what is right or wrong. In Him ‘are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3).”
As soon as people start using terms that relate to right or wrong, or what could be, or what ought to be, you immediately can challenge, “Where did you get this idea that that’s the way things ought to be? Where did you get this idea?” “Well, everybody holds it.” “No, they don’t.”
Elements in Apologetics. Four basic things here.
1. Apologetics addresses specific issues, challenges, or misrepresentations of biblical truth.
You’re talking to somebody, and they say, “Well, we really have to make sure that we’re not emitting too much carbon-14, because that’s contributing to global warming. Wasn’t it a hot February?” Okay. So how do you address that? Because what they are bringing to the table is a whole boatload of assumptions, and apologetics would address that. Somebody holds to evolution; somebody holds to—you name it—that Jesus really isn’t God—specific issues or challenges, or someone who misrepresents biblical truth.
It came across my e-mail today. I got a text from Vida Velasco. Everybody here ought to know Vida; she is with StandWithUs. She stood up here in the pulpit on her little stool, because she’s like Arnold—she’s very, very short. She sent me an article from Christianity Today.
Christianity Today is supposed to be the standard bearer for evangelical truth. This is an article that they published, written by two Jewish rabbis, one of whom is with the Anti-Defamation League. In this article, written by two unbelievers—non-Christians—they’re basically making the point that for the last 40 or 50 years in Jewish studies in America and in many, many evangelical churches, Jews have come in and they’ve gone through Seder meals as to what happened on the Passover the night before Jesus went to the Cross—you’ve seen several here. They say, “This is totally fake.” That’s their contention. They don’t say it quite like that, but that’s what they’re saying: the Seder as we know it today isn’t what it was before AD 60 or 65. Yes, but what they don’t say is that just like the oral law in Israel, the Halakhah and the oral traditions, these were passed on from generation to generation, but they were memorized verbatim. They were codified in AD 200 by Judah HaNasi, Judah the prince, and that became known as the Mishnah.
But the Mishnah didn’t invent this stuff. It didn’t come up in the last hundred years after the destruction of the Temple; he’s recording the views of Jewish rabbis that had been developed from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, from the close of the Old Testament canon. So, even though what Jesus and His disciples did the night before He went to the Cross wasn’t exactly what happens in a Jewish household today, it was probably 90%, 95% the same. It got codified after the destruction of the Temple.
So how are you going to answer that? That’s what I was asked. So I flipped it back. I’m getting good at that. Vida’s sister is Michael Rydelnik’s secretary. I said, “Give it to Michael. Let Michael handle it! He’ll give a good response.” But I also articulated what I just said, and I said, “That’s the first point. The second point is that I quit my subscription to Christianity Today—because that’s just garbage—30 years ago.” But this is going to have some weight out there—it raises a doubt. So this is why we do apologetics—to address these things so that people are grounded that what they believe is the truth.
2. Apologetics provides a justification or vindication for believing the Bible over other beliefs.
Why the Bible and not the Bhagavad Gita? Why the Bible, not the Koran? Why the Bible and not the Book of Mormon? A thinking person is going to want to know an answer to that. Most of us don’t want to be non-thinking people. We don’t want to say, “Well, I just don’t care. I believe it; it works for me!” But there are Christians like that, “As long as it works for me, I’m happy.” That’s called pragmatism; that’s not biblical theism.
3. Apologetics helps expose the flaws in non-biblical worldviews.
It does two things. It strengthens our faith, but it exposes the weaknesses in nonbiblical worldviews. I’m telling you that what apologetics does for every believer is to teach you how to think! When I started listening to Charlie [Clough] and going through the first round of the Framework pamphlet back in the 1970s, I started discovering how to think. I was so in love and entranced by studying all this stuff about philosophy and apologetics, that in the 80s I had a chance to go back and get a second master’s degree in medieval philosophy, which I did.
4. Apologetics seeks to persuade people of the truth.
That’s what we’re trying to do. The end game isn’t to know a lot, or refute arguments, or win arguments; it’s to persuade people to believe Jesus died on the cross for their sins and answer legitimate questions.
Now, there are some people who are going to ask you a lot of illegitimate questions—or they just love the debate. I have known, personally, a couple of Jews that I can think of. One guy was a friend of a friend of mine, and every time he had a party—Christmas party, New Year’s Eve party, birthday party, promotion party, whatever it was—this guy was there. Gene knows him. Every time he came, everybody at the party witnessed to him—every single time. He loved it! Because he loved the intellectual stimulation of the discussion and the argument. But he never intended to believe in Jesus.
I know two or three other Jews that are like that. But they’ve heard the gospel. Most Jews that I know can give you the gospel better than you can! That’s why when we invite Jewish speakers here, I say, “Don’t try to nail them with the gospel on the way out the back door.” Because what you’re doing is just continuing to validate a false view of evangelicals that they have, and that is that because they’re Jewish they have a target on their back that says, “Tell me about Jesus.” They’ve been told about Jesus more than you’ve ever told anybody about Jesus. What they need to know is that you care about them as a person, whether they believe in Jesus or not.
I had one Jewish friend of mine tell me one day. I can’t quite use the vocabulary he used, but he said, basically, “If I ever thought that our friendship was because you want me to be a Christian, that’s it. I’ll never talk to you again; that’s the end of our friendship.” And every now and then he asks me some question, but I always let them initiate. Because in the Jewish community, they need to know that they’re in a secure environment and they’re not going to be hammered with the gospel, so they can come and relax and be enjoyed as someone who believes what they believe and if they are interested—if there’s a modicum of a positive volition—they will ask. I get asked in different ways by different people.
I want to use this slide again. You’re communicating to your neighbor, pagan, whomever. What’s the common ground? Is it language? Is it culture? Is it religion? If you say, “Well, have something in common: we both believe in God. What do you mean by “God?” What do they mean by “God?” What they mean by “God” is that they have a pantheon; they have 50 gods.
What do they mean by “God,” and what do you mean by “God?” Just because you use the same word doesn’t mean you’re talking about the same thing. I talk about God and Elohim, but Elohim has nothing to do with Allah. Allah, I think, is just another name for Satan, just like Baal in the Old Testament. All of these idols are energized by demons. So you have to define the terms.
Truth. What is truth? What are the values? Where do they come from? Reason—all of these things. Experience.
We are missionaries to a pagan world. How do we communicate? Do they mean the same thing? We have to answer these questions. What do they mean? That means talking to them, building a relationship, asking them questions.
What I want to do is go to this slide—back again to our Basis of Knowledge slide. We need to talk about this, and I’m already getting late. We need to talk about all these different views and how they relate. We need to come to understand what is meant by classical apologetics, evidentialism, fideism, and revelation.
The basic issues that we have in apologetics. How do we know anything? That’s why I put that slide up there, because the foundational thing is, “How do you know anything?” You tell people, “I know Jesus is the Messiah.” How you know that? How do you know it’s true? Anybody with half a brain wants that question answered. But when that question is answered, it presupposes a certain view of knowledge. What is their view of knowledge? What is your view of knowledge? What is their view of truth? What is my view of truth?
1. How do we know anything? Do we know things as they are or only as we perceive them?
We’ve been in that quagmire since Immanuel Kant at the turn of the 19th century. Before Kant you knew things as they were—people had objective knowledge. After Kant, you only knew your perception of things. You didn’t see a tree as it is; you only saw what you perceived to be the tree. So, all knowledge became subjective. They called it the Copernican Revolution in knowledge, in philosophy. Because before that, objective knowledge was out here; you could know something as it is. You could know a tree as it is, a rock as it is. You could know water as it is. You could really come to understand creation as it is.
After Kant, the shift goes from out there [points away] to in here [points to brain]. Now all you can do is know your perception of the tree, the rock, the water, the creation. In the Copernican Revolution you went from earth being the center of the solar system to the sun being the center of the solar system—you shifted the center. That’s what happened in thought with Kant. Ever since then, knowledge is relative, knowledge is subjective. You can have your truth because that’s your perception, and I can have my truth because that’s my perception. How are we going to get around that—the basic issue in apologetics.
2. Do the theistic proofs actually prove anything?
Many of us have heard the theistic proofs, and you’ve heard them presented that this actually proves God. You have the cause/effect. Because every effect has to have a cause, ultimately you have an uncaused cause—that’s the argument from cause.
You have the cosmological argument. Now you have a form of that in the intelligent design argument.
You have the teleological argument, which is everything seems to have a purpose and so that means somebody had to put that purpose into everything.
You have the moral argument, sometimes called the anthropological argument; because man has morality, nobody else does. That implies a Creator that has morals.
Do these theistic proofs actually prove anything or just get us a greater sense of probability?
3. What is the role of evidences in apologetics?
Talk to a lawyer. Ask him this question, “Does it matter how you present evidence in the courtroom?” It certainly does! How you present evidence is strategy. The evidence has to do with just your tools.
If you’re a soldier going into combat, you have a lot of different weapons. You can have grenade launcher. You can have an M-16. You can have something like an Israeli Tavor. You can have a knife. You can have a hand grenade. You’ve got a lot of different weapons. How you use those weapons, under what circumstances, is determined by strategy and tactics.
So when you first go in the military, you are going to be put in a platoon. If you’re going to go through ROTC or Officer Basic [Training], they teach you the basics of small unit tactics. That determines how you use your men and how you use your weapons. The weapons and the men stay the same. So, when we look at those different schools of thought—whether it’s classical apologetics, evidentialism, fideism, or revelation—they each use the same weapons; they each use the same evidences. It’s how they use them.
If you use them the wrong way, you’ve answered a fool according to his folly in the way that the first verse says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly.” So, you have to think through this. It may sound like I’m saying, “This is really hard.” It’s really simple, but the problem is that what you’ve been exposed to so much is what’s probably confused you as to how to use apologetics.
Because what the Bible says is that you have to just assume the truth of the Scripture. Now, that doesn’t mean you blast them with your gospel gun and just throw Bible verses at them. We will look to see how this is done in the Scripture.
You have to determine, “What’s the common ground between Christian thought and non-Christian thought?” Okay?
Classical apologetics. Now I’m going to go through the four different types. The common ground is logical criteria, logic. You’re a pagan unbeliever. “You believe in logic?” Okay, we’re going to start with logic because logic is going to give us the criteria to determine whether you’re right or I’m right. But see, the problem is that if their starting point is wrong, but everything they’ve built on it is logically consistent, then they are logically consistent with their false presupposition. You are logically consistent with a true presupposition. So, you’ve got to get down and deal with the problems. We will look at the chart on that in just a minute.
So, they believe the common ground is logic, or reason. They refute human viewpoint truth claims on the basis of logic, saying, “That’s illogical.” For example, dealing with postmodernism. Postmodernism says there are no absolutes, and their response would be, “That’s illogical.” Well, postmodernism is basically mysticism, which is irrational—they don’t care whether they’re illogical or not. So, you’re not going anywhere with that argument! Okay?
In their typical classical apologetics way, first they will build a case for theism. “This is why we need to believe in a God.” Those arguments for the existence of God don’t get you to Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because that God has specific characteristics. The God they get to is just a generic deity. But the Bible doesn’t want us to argue for a generic deity; the Bible wants us to present a case for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Who appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai.
So, I see that as their basic flaw. They first of all build a case for generic theism, then they’ll build a case that the God that is revealed in the Bible and Christ is the God that is the best theistic option. See, they get to basic probabilities. Key people include Thomas Aquinas, famous for his five ways, and Norm Geisler, who’s a Thomistic, also did his doctoral work in Thomism. There are a lot of others as well.
Classical apologetics. What is their common ground? It’s the law of non-contradiction, that something cannot be both true and not true at the same time in the same context. The problem is that they don’t deal well with the problem of the effect of sin on logic and reason. Sin affects the way you think! It affects your ideas of logic and reason.
Let’s look at an example here in terms of contradiction. Scripture says, in one gospel, that Judas hung himself and in another gospel that he fell down and his bowels were opened. Are those mutually contradictory? No. But you’ll have people who’ll attack, “See, this is a contradiction in the Bible.” No. He hung himself, the rope broke, he landed, his bowels burst open. That’s one way [to handle it]—it is not necessarily a problem.
So, the problem here is that they are assuming the self-sufficiency of human beings, that they have logic and reason which can help them correctly interpret facts apart from divine revelation. See, if you’re talking to this unbeliever and he says, “Let’s go with logic and reason,” he’s assuming that he can interpret the facts without God’s prior revelation. So, if you go with that, you’ve undercut your own argument.
Evidentialism is the second category. Common ground is empirical and historically verifiable facts. So, we are going to prove the resurrection occurred, we are going to prove there are miracles, we are going to prove creation, we are going to demonstrate this. That’s where they’re coming from.
Divine viewpoint, for them, has a high degree of probability, and something is true in the sense that scientific laws are true. Scientific laws are the result of empiricism—it’s happened 999,000 times, so we are going to make it a universal law. But what if, on the 1 billionth try, something else happens? But that’s how laws are developed. Okay? So their idea is that this is a very, very high 99.999-ad infinitum percent chance of being true.
For them, evidence is not proof. They’re not trying to prove God by evidence, but it’s sufficient to show that belief in Christianity is rational and justifiable. That’s the best they’re going to get as an evidentialist, “We believe Jesus because it’s the best option. It’s rational; it’s justifiable; nothing else is.”
Key people. In the 1700s you had Joseph Butler, arguing against the deists and then a modern version of an evidentialist would be John Warwick Montgomery.
What’s their common ground? Their common ground is historical and empirical evidence provides the highest probability of truth. Evidence for God, for inspiration of Scripture, for the deity of Christ all points to the reality of a biblical God. They say, “See, all these things are true, so therefore the God of the Bible must be true.” That’s the process of argumentation. But the problem, again, is that it’s not doing justice with the effects of sin on logic and reason.
The third view is Fideism. The common ground is intuition. This is what’s comparable to mysticism. It’s a personal existential encounter with God, which is not rational, it’s not empirical, it’s not historical, and it’s not scientific. You just believe in God or Christ apart from any reasoning or evidence. Think about that a second.
You just believe in God, apart from any reasoning or evidence. Fideism rejects apologetics; it says, “Just believe—just believe.” Key people: Lutheran pietism as a tradition; Soren Kierkegaard, father of existentialism, was a Lutheran pastor; Karl Barth; Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A lot of evangelicals are being told today that Bonhoeffer was a really neat evangelical and he resisted Hitler, but he wasn’t; he was a German romantic and mystic, he loved Kierkegaard, and he loved Bultmann’s demythologizing of the text.
This is fideism. What’s their common ground? The common ground that they seek is, “We are going to have an existential, subjective encounter with God.” It rejects any rational, empirical evidence and usually has a weak view of Scripture.
It’s Easter. Here’s a hymn. This hymn fits into which category?
“I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today.” I know—knowledge—epistemology.
“I know that He is living, whatever men may say.” Don’t confuse me with facts—my mind is made up. I know He’s living.
“I see His hand of mercy.” That’s empiricism—there is mercy in the world.
“I hear His voice of cheer.” There is joy and happiness in the world.
“And just the time I need Him He’s always near.” When I need Him? Or always?
“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.” That’s experiential.
“He lives, he lives, Salvation to impart
“You ask me how I know He lives?
“He lives within my heart.” That’s fideism—pure mysticism.
How do I know Jesus lives? “Jesus loves me this I know.” Why? “For the Bible tells me so.” How do I know Jesus lives? The Bible tells me so! We have to figure out how to change the wording so we can get that in there. I’ve always been critical of the chorus, but the rest of the words are all based on subjective experience—it’s pure fideism.
What we’re going to do next time is start here talking about the revelational approach.
The common ground is the assumption of the truth of general and special revelation. They’re going to say, “Well, isn’t that arguing in a circle?” Well he’s rejecting it, but what do you know about it? He may be rejecting the Bible, “The Bible is not true. I don’t believe it.” What does the Bible say? That he knows it’s true that God exists and he is suppressing that truth in unrighteousness.
See, you’ve got a spy in the camp and the Holy Spirit. Number one, you know that he already knows that God exists, and you know that God the Holy Spirit is in there convincing him of the truth of what you’re telling him. So, you don’t have to be able to answer every question and every objection—just help him think it through. That may take time before we ever get to the gospel. You may spend 20 years talking to somebody before you ever open a Bible! And that’s not wrong.
Remember, Paul said that some are going to plant the seed, some are going to water the seed, some are going to weed it [he didn’t say that, but we know that’s what happens], and eventually it’s going to bear fruit. A lot of people I know when they’re witnessing don’t ever take into account the fact that they may be just the seed planter or the waterer, but they’re not the one who’s going to close the deal. Every one of us seems to think that we need to be the deal closer, but God the Holy Spirit’s going to do it. So, don’t get in a hurry. Don’t put people in a corner. Don’t keep badgering them. Remember, find out where they are, ask them questions, take them to the next step.
“Father, thank You for this time to study Your Word and think through what Your Word says about these things. Help us to come to understand evidences, because we need to know evidences and we need to know how to properly use them and not improperly use them.
We don’t want to compromise the integrity of Your Word in the way we use the tools You give us. Help us to understand these things and to trust You. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”