Bad Apologetics

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State of the dis(Union)

Opinion Piece

The starting point of a Christian Apologist should be the proclaiming of the Gospel

This obviously is my personal opinion. Most apologists will be stunned or even outraged. However, I shall make my “apologia” biblically, in light of what the word of God reveals.

A great problem of Apologetics can be that Apologists have lost focus on the Kerygma. Proclaiming the gospel is task set by the LORD that is non-negotiable. Christians must proclaim the Gospel because it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). The power of the Gospel lies with God. The LORD does not save his people through the utilisation of the wisdom of the world. “….[I]n the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God,…” (1 Corinthians 1:21) but by “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (I Corinthians 1:24 [KJV]). This kind of renders questionable a strategy for how Christians can guide an unbeliever to the kingdom of God, through a series of arguments or evidences that demonstrate the truth of the Christian faith.

Collecting “cute” arguments and evidences like numismatics or philately, to use as “stepping stones” to the Gospel for pitching arguments for winning a “case” is not Apologetics. It’s just aims at intellectual respectability by appeals using historical evidence, logic etc.. to present faith in Jesus as rational and reasonable and lacks a good conscience, (1 Peter 3:16) in other words it’s just prosperity apologetics. Doing apologetics necessarily requires engagement in theology.

I’ve already explained the meaning of the most authoritative passage or the classical text on apologetics 1 Peter 3:15-16: here, here and here. Summarised, the “reason for our hope” is not that some apologist agrees with me, neither is it based on some philosophical argument, but that Jesus died and rose again.1 Peter 3:15; Colossians 4:5-6.

When our Lord says:

[11] And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. [12] And when ye come into an house, salute it. [13] And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. [14] And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. [15] Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

(Matthew 10:11-15 [KJV])

The text is inferring that the disciples were only responsible for their obedience to God, not for the results of that obedience (a bit like Ezekiel’s watchman story in Ezekiel 33:1-9). That means they were not required to present a marketing strategy for the attainment of whatever goal they had imagined for themselves. They were required to avoid needless contention, insult, discrimination and to evaluate the situation they were confronted by: “enquire who in it is worthy…….whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words”. This is the same for us today. It is true that the text previously states: “[5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10:5-6 KJV) However Matthew 10:11–14 is nowhere abrogated, but is extended and reinforced in Matthew 28:18-20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…..Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” and Acts 10:42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. (Acts 10:42 [KJV]).

The Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16) and is free to everyone. (Gal 3:28, Col 3:11). This is of no minor import, hence the ministry does not have to insist in places where the gospel will not be accepted. No authority is given to change the message because an aspect of it, is not congenial to a persons “worldview” in some way. Luke in Acts writes “[32] And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. [33] So Paul departed from among them. [34] Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:32-34 [KJV]). It clearly states Paul had walked away after he preached the Gospel but certain men stuck with him. Surely it is those who “clave” and those of “We will hear you again of this matter” that would have invested time to “ask a reason” of him (Paul), for him to “…….always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (I Peter 3:15 [KJV])

By preaching the Gospel to people, the hearer is confronted with either rejecting the message of the cross or accepting it. “For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God , it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe.” (I Corinthians 1:21 [ASV] Ultimately a person will need to exercise faith to believe in Christ’s death and resurrection and receive Him by faith.1This is certainly the sense in which the apostolic writers quote the text (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38), and the sense which pistis, like pisteuom , regularly carries in the NT, where both words are used virtually as technical terms (John preferring the verb, Paul the noun) to express the complex thought of unqualified acceptance of, and exclusive dependence on, the mediation of the Son as alone securing the mercy of the Father. Both normally bear this whole weight of meaning, whether their grammatical object is God, Christ, the gospel, a truth, Faith a promise, or is not expressed at all. Both signify commitment as following from conviction, even in contexts where faith is defined in terms of the latter only (e.g., compare Heb. 11:1 with the rest of the chapter). The nature of faith, according to the NT, is to live by the truth it receives; faith, resting on God’s promise, gives thanks for God’s grace by working for God’s glory. Entry for Faith. J. I. Packer Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Editor: Walter A. Elwell (Baker Reference Library). United Kingdom: Baker Publishing Group, 2001.Thus acceptance of the message is received by faith (1 Cor. 2:4-5). I don’t understand why some apologists are trying to “promote” Christianity by rational argument if it is a question of faith. We can firstly speak the Gospel in love (leaving the choice to the listener) and once we’ve done that, our “apologia” becomes undivided. By that I mean that following the preaching of the Gospel our “reasoned defence” is neither classical, pressupositional, creedal, evidential, cumulative case or of any other apologetic “denomination”. Our position now becomes clear, not disingenuous and not deceitful, because Christianity without the Gospel is not Christianity.

A vague general theism thus, is an incoherent position to defend because there’s a quantum leap of several orders of magnitude, from theism to Christian theism. Having a coherent message contained in the law and the prophets, allows the very basis of understanding why the cross and Resurrection can bring about Redemption to be understood in, what God prefigured in the law and in the giving of these prophecies. Hence scriptures such as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 give the Old Testament basis for the explanation of these things in the New Testament. The redemptive-historic nature and foundation of Christianity obtains its validity and significance from those very texts. Scriptures shape the very basis of all Christian truth.

It is incontrovertible that God’s revelation in Scripture is cognitive and addressed to the mind. Its intent is to impart knowledge and understanding that otherwise would not be achievable. Revelation through word and speech, is propositional revelation as traditionally understood and is a logical and necessary consequence of the fact that God has spoken to mankind.

Therefore the origin and source of my apologetic conclusions are contingent upon my theological conclusions which are conditioned by my belief that scripture is inspired, inerrant and sufficient (2 Tim 3:16). These theological conclusions are derived from the actual meaning of the text, which is the discernible intention that the author intends to communicate to his audience. This is a discernible, objective, consistent reality that can be transmitted from generation to generation.

Rejection

Essentially rejection comes from the state of ones “heart”.

Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?2By this it is not meant that knowledge, for which he pays his honorarium, remains, it may be, in his head, but goes not to his heart, and thus becomes an unfruitful theory; but the heart is equivalent to the understanding, in the sense in which the heart appears as the previous condition to the attainment of wisdom (Proverbs 18:15), and as something to be gained before all (Proverbs 15:32), viz., understanding, as the fitting intellectual and practical habitus to the reception, the appropriation, and realization of wisdom, the ability rightly to comprehend the fulness of the communicated knowledge, and to adopt it as an independent possession, that which the Greek called νοῦς, as in that “golden proverb” of Democrates: πολλοὶ πολυμαθέες νοῦν οὐκ ἔχουσι, or as in Luke 24:25, where it is said that the Lord opened τὸν νοῦν of His disciples to understand the Scriptures. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78]. Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

(Proverbs 17:16 [KJV]

We know part of the definition of a fool (a moral judgment, not an intellectual one) from Psalm 14 “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. …. (Psalms 14:1 [KJV]) and also part of that of wisdom3……there is a divine wisdom, given by God, that enables humans to lead a good and true and satisfying life. Such divine wisdom keeps the commandments of God (Prov. 4:11); is characterized by prudence (Prov. 8:12), discernment (Prov. 14:8), and humility (Prov. 10:8); and is based on the fear of the Lord (Job 28:12–28). Only God, of course, possesses this wisdom in the absolute sense (Job 12:13). It cannot be derived by human intelligence (Job 28:12–13; Eccles. 7:23). The scoffer will never find it (Prov.14:6); but God, whose attribute it is (1 Kings 3:28; Dan. 2:20), freely gives it to those who seek
it (Prov. 2:6; Eccles. 2:26)………In the OT the concept of divine wisdom must not be abstracted from its practical implications for people. The truly wise person is the good person, and the truly good person is he or she who at the very beginning wisely chooses to give God his proper place in his or her life. Entry for Wisdom. K. S. Kantzer Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Editor: Walter A. Elwell (Baker Reference Library). United Kingdom: Baker Publishing Group, 2001.
by I Corinthians 1:24 “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (I Corinthians 1:24 [KJV]). But what about the heart? Lev or Lebab the Hebrew words for heart have a large semantic domain and refer to several things. Summarising: it is the place where an individual thinks and make sense of the world, the seat of the emotions and the place where choices are made. 4The “heart” is regarded as the seat of emotions: (Deut. 6:5Ex 4:141Sa 2:1). So there are “merry” hearts (Jdg. 16:25), “fearful” hearts (Isa. 35:4), and hearts that “trembled” (1Sa 4:13). The “heart” could be regarded as the seat of knowledge and wisdom and as a synonym of “mind.” This meaning often occurs when “heart” appears with the verb “to know” (Dt. 8:5;. 29:4). Solomon prayed, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart” (1Ki 3:9;. 4:29). Memory is the activity of the “heart,” as in Job 22:22. The “heart” may be the seat of conscience and moral character. How does one respond to the revelation of God and of the world around him? (Job = Job 27:6, David = 2Sa 24:10). The “heart” is the fountain of man’s deeds (Ge 20:5-6). David walked “in uprightness of heart” (1Ki 3:6) and Hezekiah “with a perfect heart” (Isa 38:3) before God. Only the man with “clean hands, and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:4) can stand in God’s presence. Leb may refer to the seat of rebellion and pride (Ge 8:21; Tyre in Ezek. 28:2). They all become like Judah, whose “sin… engraved upon the tablet of their heart.” (Jer. 17:1). God controls the “heart.” Because of his natural “heart,” man’s only hope is in the promise of God to receive a new heart (Ezek. 36:26 = New Covenant). So David the sinner prays “Create in me a clean heart (Ps. 51:10), “unite my heart [give me an undivided heart] to fear thy name” (Ps 86:11). God tries the heart (1Chr 29:17). Hence God’s people seek His approval: test “my heart” (Ps. 26:2). The “heart” stands for the inner being of man, the man himself. As such, it is the fountain of all he does (Pr 4:4). All his thoughts, desires, words, and actions flow from deep within him. Yet a man cannot understand his own “heart” (Jer. 17:9). As a man goes on in his own way, his “heart” becomes harder and harder. But God will circumcise (cut away the uncleanness of) the “heart” of His people, so that they will love and obey Him with their whole being (Dt. 30:6). https://www.preceptaustin.org/heart_leb Therefore the fool has no will to learn wisdom (of God), as he has no desire to understand it.

Pressupositional apologists (I protest my apologetic non-denominationality) will quote the book of Romans that speaks about those “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and “who exchanged the truth of God for the lie,(Romans 1:18, 25). However this also can be also be accredited to the state of moral deficiency contained in ones “heart”. A reason is given in John 3:19-20 (the Lord Jesus Christ speaking):

[19] And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. [20] For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. [21] But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

(John 3:19-21 [KJV])

We don’t want to give up our sins and/or our self-determination (which proceed from the heart) to be subjected to moral values that restrict our agency in any way, even though our actions are immoral and unethical. (“[20] And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. [21] For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” {Mark 7:20-23 [KJV]}).

God proceeds in the present to mete out judgement, by abandoning man to the things he has chosen to do. (Rom. 1:24-32) However, doing bad apologetics reminds me of the Lords admonition to the church in Ephesus in the Book of Revelation: “[2] I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: [3] And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. [4] Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. [5] Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. [6] But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation of John 2:2-6 [KJV]) Without the “Gospel” there can be nothing “true” to proclaim. Without its proclamation (kerygma) a hearer has nothing “true” to believe. There is no Apologetics without the “Gospel” and therefore Apologetics is subordinate to its proclamation:

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 A O on Unsplash

Footnotes

  • 1
    This is certainly the sense in which the apostolic writers quote the text (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38), and the sense which pistis, like pisteuom , regularly carries in the NT, where both words are used virtually as technical terms (John preferring the verb, Paul the noun) to express the complex thought of unqualified acceptance of, and exclusive dependence on, the mediation of the Son as alone securing the mercy of the Father. Both normally bear this whole weight of meaning, whether their grammatical object is God, Christ, the gospel, a truth, Faith a promise, or is not expressed at all. Both signify commitment as following from conviction, even in contexts where faith is defined in terms of the latter only (e.g., compare Heb. 11:1 with the rest of the chapter). The nature of faith, according to the NT, is to live by the truth it receives; faith, resting on God’s promise, gives thanks for God’s grace by working for God’s glory. Entry for Faith. J. I. Packer Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Editor: Walter A. Elwell (Baker Reference Library). United Kingdom: Baker Publishing Group, 2001.
  • 2
    By this it is not meant that knowledge, for which he pays his honorarium, remains, it may be, in his head, but goes not to his heart, and thus becomes an unfruitful theory; but the heart is equivalent to the understanding, in the sense in which the heart appears as the previous condition to the attainment of wisdom (Proverbs 18:15), and as something to be gained before all (Proverbs 15:32), viz., understanding, as the fitting intellectual and practical habitus to the reception, the appropriation, and realization of wisdom, the ability rightly to comprehend the fulness of the communicated knowledge, and to adopt it as an independent possession, that which the Greek called νοῦς, as in that “golden proverb” of Democrates: πολλοὶ πολυμαθέες νοῦν οὐκ ἔχουσι, or as in Luke 24:25, where it is said that the Lord opened τὸν νοῦν of His disciples to understand the Scriptures. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78]. Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.
  • 3
    ……there is a divine wisdom, given by God, that enables humans to lead a good and true and satisfying life. Such divine wisdom keeps the commandments of God (Prov. 4:11); is characterized by prudence (Prov. 8:12), discernment (Prov. 14:8), and humility (Prov. 10:8); and is based on the fear of the Lord (Job 28:12–28). Only God, of course, possesses this wisdom in the absolute sense (Job 12:13). It cannot be derived by human intelligence (Job 28:12–13; Eccles. 7:23). The scoffer will never find it (Prov.14:6); but God, whose attribute it is (1 Kings 3:28; Dan. 2:20), freely gives it to those who seek
    it (Prov. 2:6; Eccles. 2:26)………In the OT the concept of divine wisdom must not be abstracted from its practical implications for people. The truly wise person is the good person, and the truly good person is he or she who at the very beginning wisely chooses to give God his proper place in his or her life. Entry for Wisdom. K. S. Kantzer Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Editor: Walter A. Elwell (Baker Reference Library). United Kingdom: Baker Publishing Group, 2001.
  • 4
    The “heart” is regarded as the seat of emotions: (Deut. 6:5Ex 4:141Sa 2:1). So there are “merry” hearts (Jdg. 16:25), “fearful” hearts (Isa. 35:4), and hearts that “trembled” (1Sa 4:13). The “heart” could be regarded as the seat of knowledge and wisdom and as a synonym of “mind.” This meaning often occurs when “heart” appears with the verb “to know” (Dt. 8:5;. 29:4). Solomon prayed, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart” (1Ki 3:9;. 4:29). Memory is the activity of the “heart,” as in Job 22:22. The “heart” may be the seat of conscience and moral character. How does one respond to the revelation of God and of the world around him? (Job = Job 27:6, David = 2Sa 24:10). The “heart” is the fountain of man’s deeds (Ge 20:5-6). David walked “in uprightness of heart” (1Ki 3:6) and Hezekiah “with a perfect heart” (Isa 38:3) before God. Only the man with “clean hands, and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:4) can stand in God’s presence. Leb may refer to the seat of rebellion and pride (Ge 8:21; Tyre in Ezek. 28:2). They all become like Judah, whose “sin… engraved upon the tablet of their heart.” (Jer. 17:1). God controls the “heart.” Because of his natural “heart,” man’s only hope is in the promise of God to receive a new heart (Ezek. 36:26 = New Covenant). So David the sinner prays “Create in me a clean heart (Ps. 51:10), “unite my heart [give me an undivided heart] to fear thy name” (Ps 86:11). God tries the heart (1Chr 29:17). Hence God’s people seek His approval: test “my heart” (Ps. 26:2). The “heart” stands for the inner being of man, the man himself. As such, it is the fountain of all he does (Pr 4:4). All his thoughts, desires, words, and actions flow from deep within him. Yet a man cannot understand his own “heart” (Jer. 17:9). As a man goes on in his own way, his “heart” becomes harder and harder. But God will circumcise (cut away the uncleanness of) the “heart” of His people, so that they will love and obey Him with their whole being (Dt. 30:6). https://www.preceptaustin.org/heart_leb
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