Apologetic Methodology

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Apologetic Methodology

Apologetic faithfulness to 1 Pet. 3:15

How faithful are we to 1 Pet. 3:15 in doing our apologetics? Well that would depend on our “apologetic methodology”. I have argued that apologetics is about answering for the faith and hope that we have in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, here.

For any non believer, serious about wanting to know about Christianity, the most frequent question they will ask Christians is “why are you a Christian?” The first answers to be given should explain what Christianity is and what Christians believe, biblically. This should establish what the conversation is about and dispel any misconceptions or misunderstandings formulated by any outside source to Christianity, about it.

The Nicene Creed establishes this nicely:

I believe in one GodDeuteronomy 6:4 Exodus 20.2-3, Mark 12.29-31
the Father AlmightyRomans 8:15 Ephesians 4.6, Malachi 2.10, Genesis 35.11 Job 11:7
Maker of heaven and earth,Genesis 1:1 Isaiah 44:24
Job 38
and of all things visible and invisible.Colossians 1:16, Romans 1:20
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,John 3:16 2 Corinthians 1:3, I Thessalonians 1:1, Romans 13:14 1 John 4:9
the only-begotten Son of God,Hebrews 1:6, Matthew 14:33, Revelation 1:8
begotten of the Father before all worlds;John 1:14
Psalm 2:7
Hebrews 1:5
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God;Hebrews 1:3 John 1:1
Psalm 27:1, 1 John 1:5, John 8:12 John 20:28
John 12:41
begotten, not made,John 1:14 I John 5:20
Psalm 2:7 John 14:9
Hebrews 1:5
being of one substance with the Father,John 10:30 Isaiah 44:6, Revelation 1:8, Philippians 2:6, John 10:38, Colossians 2:9
John 17:11, 22
by whom all things were madeJohn 1:3 10,14 , I Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:15-17
Colossians 1:15-17
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven,John 17:22-24 I Thessalonians 5:9, Acts 4:12, II Timothy 3:15, John 6:51, John 6:38, Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:27,35, Philippians 2:6,7 , Romans 1:3
and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary,Luke 2:35
and was made man;Philippians 2:5-10 John 1:14
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;John 19:1-13 Acts 2:36, Matthew 27:2,26, Mark 15:15
He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;John 19:1, 16, 38-41
John 20:1-18 Matthew 16:21, Mark 15:46, Luke 24:5-7, I Corinthians 15:3-4
and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father;Acts 1:9-11 John 20:17, I Timothy 3:16, I Peter 3:21,22, Mark 16:19, Acts 2:33
and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.Acts 1:10,11, Revelation 1:7, John 5:22, Acts 10:42, Revelation 11:18
Revelation 19:11-16
Revelation 20:12-13 Luke 1:33
And I believe in the Holy Ghost,John 14:16-17
the Lord and Giver of Life;John 20:22
1 Corinthians 12:3
Ephesians 2:18-19II Corinthians 3:17, Acts 5:3,4, John 3:5, Titus 3:5
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son];John 14:16, 26
John 15:26
who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;Romans 15:16
2 Corinthians 13:14
Ephesians 4:30
who spoke by the prophets.Ephesians 3:5
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church.Ephesians 2:20 John 17:20-23, Ephesians 4:1-6, Colossians 1:18, Hebrews 12:23, Revelation 21:27, Philippians 4:3, Matthew 18:20, Philemon 1:2, Romans 16:5, I Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 2:20, Acts 2:42 Ephesians 5:22-24
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;Matthew 28:18, 19, Ephesians 4:4-6 Galatians 3:27, Matthew 26:28, Luke 24;47, Acts 2:38, I Peter 3:21, Romans 6:3,4
and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.1 Corinthians 15:12, 21, 22, 42, Revelation 20:5-6 Revelation 21-22 John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 2:9, Romans 11:36

I was hit by a “coup de foudre” on stumbling upon the book, Creedal Apologetics by Prof Dr Nancy A. Almodovar PhD. The creed mostly illustrated in her book is the Apostles’ Creed and the approach (Creedal Apologetics) elucidated a way to do Christian apologetics in a most faithful way to 1 Pet. 3:15. I was smitten by how well the scope and method of apologetics was articulated in a nutshell, in relation to the scriptural text just cited:

We are to move the individual unbeliever to the offense of the cross where the person has to face a choice between attempting to save himself or believe that Jesus died for them and paid for their sins so that they may have eternal life. It is the thrust of apologetics to get people to recognize the crossroad that is the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross and that their choice as to whether they insist on saving themselves or embracing that Christ died for them. It moves past all the other arguments and brings us to this fork in the road, namely Jesus Christ. At the end of the path of questions, we Christians, having removed all reasons to not believe, leave the unbeliever at the Door of salvation at the house of salvation. Either by the grace of God they come to faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins or they turn away to their own destruction.

Prof Dr Nancy Almodovar PhD. Creedal Apologetics1Almodovar, Nancy A.. Creedal Apologetics. N.p.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2021.

Creedal Apologetics so reminds me of and reiterates Tertullian (Tertullianus, Quintas Septimus Florens (c. 160-c. 225 A.D)) writing over circa 1750 years ago in The Prescriptions Against Heretics:2Tertullian, “Prescription against Heretics,” Chapter XIII trans. Rev. Peter Holmes, D.D., F.R.A.S. in Ante- Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff: ANF03. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian. Accessed in https://ccel.org/ccel/tertullian/heretics/anf03.v.iii.xiii.html “Now, with regard to this rule of faith3“Creed”—that we may from this point acknowledge what it is which we defend4“our apologia!”—it is, you must know, that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world,…………., after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics”.

You’ve got to love Tertullian’s chapter titles. The above quote comes from : Chapter XIII.—Summary of the Creed, or Rule of Faith. No Questions Ever Raised About It by Believers. Heretics Encourage and Perpetuate Thought Independent of Christ’s Teaching. Notice “Summary of the Creed” (a summary of what Christians believe) and notice also “or Rule of Faith” implying these two phrases mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably.The “Rule of Faith” is the “canon” by which the books are measured. These basic creeds form the theological outline for understanding what can become scripture.5James L. Kugel and Rowan A. Greer, Early Biblical Interpretation, 1st ed., Library of Early Christianity, vol. 3 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986), 111-112..

In an excursus to the post and as an indulgence to my opinion, I truly feel history has given Tertullian a “bad rap” by connecting him with Montanism.  “[W]e are left to ask whether Saint Cyprian could have regarded Tertullian as his master if Tertullian had been a notorious schismatic. Since no ancient writer was more definite (if not indeed fanatical) on this subject of schism than Saint Cyprian, the question must surely be answered in the negative.”6 “Tertullian : Douglas Powell, Tertullianists and Cataphrygians, Vigiliae Christianae 29 (1975), pp. 33–54” https://www.tertullian.org/articles/powell_tertullianists.htm. In hind site it’s easy to talk about misconceptions, misinterpretations and misrepresentations, but at that time Christianity was in its infancy and still without a completed identity. Armed with, possibly the Muratorian Canon (dated around 170 A.D.) he set about defending infant Christianity from Marcion and other heretics as best he could.

…..apologetics is a defense of the Christian faith. As a Christian defense, we should expect that the content of apologetics can substantially overlap with the content of preaching and evangelism. In whatever mode of communication, whether preaching, evangelism, or apologetics, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that has to be our focus.”

K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics,7K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics, Principles and Practice in Defense of our Faith (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2013), 88

The proper foundation for apologetics, where its focus should be concentrated upon, must be the communication of the Gospel. The goal of apologetics cannot simply be intellectual respectability by appeals using historical evidence, logic etc.. to present faith in Jesus as rational and reasonable. Neither can it be the use of secular culture to present the Gospel in order to appeal to the intellect of the modern, or post-modern person, which method is just “indefatigably foolish and imperishably woke”. Methods that do not “leave the unbeliever at the Door of salvation at the house of salvation” fail, because the communication of the message that Christianity proclaims has failed.

We cannot arrive at the truth (the Christian interpretation of which should be synonymous of reality) of Christianity by “proving”, for example the historicity of the Holy Scriptures. Even if a person where to “believe” in the singularity of the virgin birth, or that of the death, burial and resurrection of the Saviour, that does not necessarily lead to saving faith, but to the assent that these narratives are true. Tertullian again observes “Thy faith,” He says, “hath saved thee” (Luke 18:42) not observe your skill in the Scriptures.8Tertullian, “Prescription against Heretics,” Chapter XIV trans. Rev. Peter Holmes, D.D., F.R.A.S. in Ante- Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff: ANF03. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian. Accessed in https://ccel.org/ccel/tertullian/heretics/anf03.v.iii.xiv..html

[18] And certain also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, What would this babbler say? others, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. [19] And they took hold of him, and brought him unto the Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new teaching is, which is spoken by thee?………………………………………[32] Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, We will hear thee concerning this yet again. [33] Thus Paul went out from among them. [34] But certain men clave unto him, and believed: among whom also was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

(Acts 17:18-19, 32-34, [ASV])

The same reactions the Apostle Paul was confronted with in Athens almost two thousand years ago are still the same reactions apologists may expect today anywhere in the world:

  1. some mocked;
  2. but others said, We will hear thee concerning this yet again.
  3. But certain men clave unto him, and believed:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

(II Corinthians 13:14 [ASV])

Featured Image: Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Footnotes

  • 1
    Almodovar, Nancy A.. Creedal Apologetics. N.p.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2021.
  • 2
    Tertullian, “Prescription against Heretics,” Chapter XIII trans. Rev. Peter Holmes, D.D., F.R.A.S. in Ante- Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff: ANF03. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian. Accessed in https://ccel.org/ccel/tertullian/heretics/anf03.v.iii.xiii.html
  • 3
    “Creed”
  • 4
    “our apologia!”
  • 5
    James L. Kugel and Rowan A. Greer, Early Biblical Interpretation, 1st ed., Library of Early Christianity, vol. 3 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986), 111-112.
  • 6
     “Tertullian : Douglas Powell, Tertullianists and Cataphrygians, Vigiliae Christianae 29 (1975), pp. 33–54” https://www.tertullian.org/articles/powell_tertullianists.htm.
  • 7
    K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics, Principles and Practice in Defense of our Faith (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2013), 88
  • 8
    Tertullian, “Prescription against Heretics,” Chapter XIV trans. Rev. Peter Holmes, D.D., F.R.A.S. in Ante- Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff: ANF03. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian. Accessed in https://ccel.org/ccel/tertullian/heretics/anf03.v.iii.xiv..html
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