Monday, January 3, 2011

Apologetics - a deeper meaning

No one debates the definition of apologetics.  Apologetics come from the Greek, apologia, meaning to give a reasoned defense for Christianity. The classic verse used in referring to apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15.  The English translation given (in the 1 Peter verse) is usually "defense" or "reason", both of which are good translations for the Greek, apologia.  If the major word that is referenced is the word defense, does this represent all we need to know concerning apologetics?  I believe that apologetics is more comprehensive than most  individuals are willing to admit.

In order to get a comprehensive view of apologetics, the classic text of Acts 17 needs to be examined.  There are three realizations to apologetics that the Church needs to grasp.  Each of these realities relates to a more robust and accurate view of what apologetics is all about.  The three realizations to apologetics that are often left out are critical for the Church to understand today.  These three include:

1.  Being able to argue in the correct manner - Most who hear the word argue instantly think of raised voices and veins popping out of the neck.  The proper way to argue in some ways has been lost.  Many, even in the Church, believe that arguing or debating is to be shunned.  Paul had a different view to arguing.  To argue means to articulate a view in order to defend or promote the worldview that an individual holds.  Paul states, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4)."  In this passage, Paul promotes arguments for truth.  In Acts 17, Paul was disturbed at all the idols of Athens and felt compelled to form an argument for truth (Acts 17:16-17).  As Paul argued, he did so in a calm manner that related the truth to those he was engaged with.  Again, referring back to 1 Peter 3:15, the way to argue is to be done in a spirit of "gentleness and respect."  Being able to argue in the correct manner is critical for the Church to understand and it is unfortunate that some in the Church don't realize the harm that can be caused by not heading the advise of Peter.

2.  Apologetics is for the entire Christian community -  What is meant by apologetics for the entire Christian community?  Unfortunately, today many in the Church view apologetics as relegated only to the scholarly.  Many feel that the Pastor or other lay leaders are to be solely responsible for articulating apologetic arguments.  This way of thinking is not what what God's word promotes.  Referring back again to 1 Peter 3:15, Peter tells all Christians to be ready to give a defense.  In some ways the Church is weak because it has not realized the importance of apologetics in today's culture.  Sure, Paul was a scholar, but Peter makes it clear that the entire Church needs to be responsible for being able to articulate the Christian worldview.  What this means is that the Church needs to take its Christian responsibilities seriously.  The prophet Hosea stated that God's people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).  If the Church continues to push its responsibility on a select few, it too will slowly be weakened due to its lack of Godly knowledge and its inability to argue for the Christian worldview.  All Christians are to be apologetic ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20)  Apologetic responsibility is for all who wear the name of Christ.

3.  Apologetics is for the promotion of Christianity - When Paul was disturbed at the number of idols in Athens, he began to relate to people the truth of idol worship.  Paul then defended and promoted the resurrected Christ.  Apologetics does not stop at defense, but it tries to convince others of the truth concerning Jesus.  Apologetics, properly understood is evangelical.  Apologetics is not just limited to defense, but it also includes going on the offense for the good news of Jesus (Acts 17:29-34).

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