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Apostolic Apologetics: An Efficient and Sufficient Warrant for Faith in Christ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apostolic Apologetics:

An Efficient and Sufficient Warrant for Faith in Christ

 

 

by

 

 

Mike Gantt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Mike Gantt, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright Notice

 

Self-published 2016.

 

I claim no copyright for this book. However, English Bibles are copyrighted – hence the notice I am required to give below. You are free to copy anything of mine you want, but you do not have the same liberty where the Bible verses are concerned.

 

Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the

New American Standard Bible®, (NASB)

Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995

by The Lockman Foundation

Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Chapter 1 – Introduction

 

Chapter 2 – What Is Apologetics?

 

Chapter 3 – A Brief History of Christian Apologetics

 

Chapter 4 – The Current Quantity of Christian Apologetic Resources

 

Chapter 5 – The Current Variety of Christian Apologetic Resources

 

Chapter 6 – The Downside of All This Abundance

 

Chapter 7 – What Is Apostolic Apologetics?

 

Chapter 8 – Defining the Apostolic Warrant for Faith

 

Chapter 9 – Approaching the Apostolic Warrant for Faith

 

Chapter 10 – Examining the Apostolic Warrant for Faith

 

Chapter 11 – The Efficiency of Apostolic Apologetics

 

Chapter 12 – The Sufficiency of Apostolic Apologetics

 

Chapter 13 – Centering on Faith in Christ

 

Chapter 14 -  Measuring Apostolic Apologetics Against the Rest

 

Chapter 15 – Dealing with Doubts

 

Chapter 16 – Conclusion

 

About Mike Gantt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication

 

This book is written for the person who wants a faith in Christ he can defend – not just to others, but to himself in the sight of God.  Christian apologetics is a burgeoning field – so much so that it can be overwhelming to survey, much less to master.  Apostolic apologetics, a simple and straightforward alternative, is a way to establish and defend your faith not on the testimony of modern experts – be they philosophers, scientists, or even biblical scholars – but rather on the testimony of the apostles themselves. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – Introduction

 

 

Can you defend your faith in Christ to others? More importantly, can you defend it to yourself…in the sight of God? This book will give you the means to answer both questions with an unequivocal and confident “Yes!”

 

 

The Problem

 

Christian apologetics, especially in America, has become a field of more and more experts and an ever-increasing supply of resources – so much so that the field has become difficult to survey, and even harder for anyone to master. There are colleges offering degrees in the subject, study Bibles dedicated to the subject, conferences being held around the country on the subject, and much, much more.

 

There is ample reason for all the interest and activity in this field. The purpose of Christian apologetics is to defend the Christian faith…and the Christian faith is being attacked in America more vigorously and from more sides than at any time in the last half century. It should surprise no one that defenses arise when attacks increase. Therefore, the tide of Christian apologetic activity has been rising because the surrounding culture has become more and more hostile to Christian culture.

 

While the ever-increasing resources of Christian apologetic material are a blessing, the sheer magnitude of them can overwhelm the individual Christian. That sense of overwhelm shows up in the questions we ask ourselves. Where do I start? Which experts do I trust? How much time can I give to apologetics and still keep up with all my other Christian responsibilities?

 

Even if Christian apologetics doesn’t overwhelm you, it can still be unnecessarily time-consuming. You may enjoy every minute that you spend in apologetic activity, but the very purpose of defending your faith is so that you can live it. Trying to make sure you have a thorough answer to every single question that some skeptic can think up is going to take a lot of time that you could spend studying other aspects of your Christian responsibility – like marriage, parenting, and so on.

 

 

The Solution

 

There is an alternative to being overwhelmed or distracted by Christian apologetics. I’m calling this alternative “Apostolic Apologetics.” It is a simple and straightforward approach to Christian apologetics. It will save you time and free you to serve Christ, rather than spend excessive amounts of time trying to justify why He deserves to be served. Apostolic apologetics is a way to establish and defend your faith, not on the testimony of modern experts – be they philosophers, scientists, or even biblical scholars – but rather on the testimony of the apostles themselves.

 

Apostolic apologetics will not answer every question that Christian apologetics seeks to answer, but it will give you peace about not having an answer to every question that Christian apologetics seeks to answer.

 

 

For Unbelievers, Too

 

I am not just writing this book for Christians. Perhaps you are not a believer, but have been wondering if the arguments you’ve heard for Christ are valid. That is, you’re wondering if this Christ you’ve been hearing so much about is worth following. I am mindful of you, too, as I write. You will find in this book a way you can come to a reasonable decision about Jesus Christ. That’s important, because if you have not fully examined the evidence for Him, you have not yet come to a reasonable decision about Him. You’re just sitting on an unreasonable decision about Him.

 

Like any other Christian apologetic method, apostolic apologetics will not just help people who want to defend their decision to follow Christ, it will also help those who want information in order to make a decision about whether to follow Him in the first place.

 

 

What We Need to Know

 

The apostle Paul gave his assistant Timothy an important charge – a charge very relevant to the focus of this book.

 

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 3:14-15

 

Note that Paul is saying that when it comes to faith in Christ (“faith which is in Christ Jesus”), it is important to know from whom we have learned that faith (“knowing from whom you have learned them”).

 

 

The Primacy of the Apostles and Their Testimony

 

Although each of us may have first learned of faith from someone different – a friend, a family member, a co-worker, even a preacher – we must ultimately learn it from the apostles. Jesus of Nazareth left no writings…except for those He left through them. Their testimony – the New Testament – gives us unique access to Christ, and every Christian apologetic method must ultimately utilize the apostles’ words. To make our apologetic method “apostolic” is simply to recognize that requirement – and act according to it from the very beginning of the methodology and throughout.

 

When it comes to faith, you want to know who you believe, what you believe, and why you believe. Apostolic apologetics will strengthen you with regard to all three. I can say this from experience because it is how my own faith in Jesus Christ has been strengthened. The apostles’ testimony – the New Testament – has been first and foremost in the establishment, growth, and, when needed, the recovery of my faith.

 

I am titling this book “Apostolic Apologetics” not because I want to trademark a term. After all, I’m not even claiming a copyright on the book. Rather, what I’m seeking to do is re-focus attention – re-focus it on Jesus our Lord, and on His apostles whom He sent to tell us about Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2 – What Is Apologetics?

 

We need to start with the basics; we need to begin with the root of the issue. Therefore, before explaining apostolic apologetics, or even Christian apologetics, let’s talk about the word “apologetics” itself.

 

I searched the Internet today for a definition of “apologetics.” Here’s what came back at the top of the page:

 

reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine. [e.g.] “free market apologetics”

 

That’s straightforward enough. Nevertheless, it’s not a word that is commonly used or understood by most people. Because of this, it is sometimes misunderstood when it is used. Therefore, we need to spend some time studying the term and its usage.

 

The Origin of the Term

 

Our English word “apologetics” can be traced back to the Greek word “apologia.” In the legal system of the ancient Greek world, the prosecution would present its case and then the defendant’s “apologia” – that is, his “defense”- would be heard. The meaning of “apologetics” therefore has its basis in responding – responding to a challenge, or even an accusation.

 

The term “apologia” secured its place in philosophical discourse when Plato wrote Apology – sometimes called Apology of Socrates – which was a portrayal of the defense Socrates offered for himself when he was tried for impiety and corruption. Greek historian Xenophon similarly wrote Apology of Socrates to the Jury. While Socrates’ defense of his life was a legal matter, it was also very much a matter of interest to philosophers who cared about Socrates and his ideas.

 

On a less somber note, Greek rhetorician and satirist Lucian wrote Apology for the “Salaried Posts in Great Houses.” Previous to this, Lucian had written an essay titled “On Salaried Posts in Great Houses,” in which he criticized other educated men who took paid employment from the wealthy. Subsequently, he himself took such a position, so he felt the need to defend himself against the charge that he was a hypocrite. Hence, he titled his defense Apology for the “Salaried Posts in Great Houses.”

 

Ancient writers, therefore, used the term “apology” when referring to the defense of a person or a point of view that that person had promoted. Such a defense could be made in a courtroom, but it did not have to be restricted to a legal context.

 

Ancient Apologies Versus Modern Apologies

 

The word “apology” has, of course, taken a different turn – a very different turn – in English. Today, if a person gives an apology, he is admitting guilt and expressing sorrow for the wrong he has done. Therefore, when you see the word “apology” you need to pay attention to who is using the word. An ancient writer will be using it to indicate the rightness of his or someone else’s cause, while a modern writer will be using it to capitulate to the accusation being made against him or someone else.

 

At his trial, Socrates was not expressing regret for the life he had lived. He was not seeking the forgiveness of those who were accusing him. He was therefore not “apologizing” in the way most modern people understand the term. However, in the sense that he, Plato, and others of the time, understood the term, Socrates was indeed “apologizing.” He was explaining why the charges against him – that he was corrupting the youth of Athens by refusing to acknowledge the gods acknowledged by the state – were false. That is, Socrates was defending his actions and explaining why they were right even though they had brought disapproval on him. When the single word “apology” can mean something so different in antiquity than it does in modernity, we have to stay aware of the potential for confusion.

 

We do well to acknowledge just how far modern usage has strayed from the ancient legal context in which the term arose. When an ancient author wrote an “apology,” it was an implicit declaration of “Not Guilty.” When a modern author writes an “apology,” it is an implicit declaration of “Guilty.” The ancient and modern meanings of that word could not diverge any more than this.

 

While which of the two meanings of “apology” can usually be determined by knowing whether the author using it is ancient or modern, the proper meaning of “apologetic” can be confusing even when you know the author is modern. Although few modern authors will use the term “apology” in the sense that the ancients understood it, the same is not true for the cognate “apologetic.” Remember “free market apologetics” in the definition above? That was a modern author using the word in the ancient sense. Therefore, if a modern author speaks of someone adopting an “apologetic” approach, he could mean anything from a “regretful and sorrowful” approach to a “defiant and unrepentant” approach…or anything in between. Even with modern authors, we have to consider the specific author and the specific context before we can be sure how we are supposed to understand “apologetic” in a sentence.

 

A related confusion is the difference in modern English between “giving a defense” and “being defensive.” The former expression is objective, carrying no connotation of good or bad; the latter, however, is pejorative, carrying a negative connotation. That is, there’s nothing inherently wrong about “giving a defense,” but “being defensive” is something people try to avoid.

 

Because of these confusions, modern people who are unfamiliar with this terminology as used in antiquity can easily assume a meaning for the word when they hear it that the speaker did not at all intend. This can breed misunderstanding about almost everything the speaker has to say. It therefore makes sense that the user of the word should make sure that he and his listeners are on the same page with regard to its meaning – which is why I’ve taken the time to write this chapter. For some of you, this is old news…but now we’re all on the same page.

 

To summarize, “apologetics,” as classically understood, has nothing to do with admitting guilt or being defensive. It has nothing to do with regretting or being ashamed of one’s position. On the contrary, it has to do with making a logical case to refute an accusation of being or doing wrong. This is the sense in which I use this term throughout this book.

 

 

Apologetics Is Explaining Yourself

 

Most modern people understand the concept of apologetics, even if they don’t understand or use the term. Even children understand the concept. One says, “You broke in line!” The other responds, “No, I was here first; the teacher saw us both.” As we get older, we become more sophisticated in such apologetics. One man says, “You are not paying your taxes!” The other responds, “Here are my audited tax returns for the last five years.” Both the accused child and the accused man are employing apologetic methods. We just aren’t hearing that vocabulary.

 

At its simplest, apologetics is a way of explaining yourself…or someone or something else. Therefore, to engage in apologetics is to give an explanation, an accounting, a justification. It is to give reasons for one’s actions. It is to give arguments for one’s position. That’s right – give arguments. This does not mean being argumentative. It means to give your opponent a rationale for changing his mind. That means supplying him with your arguments to replace the ones he has. If you give him no arguments, you provide him with little means or opportunity to accept your point of view. Therefore, good apologetics is never argumentative but it always provides arguments.

 

Apologetics is not necessary where there is no controversy or dispute. If everyone agreed, there’d be nothing for apologetics to do. Apologetics exists in the face of disagreement with the hope of resolving that disagreement – or at the very least allowing the accused to keep his head held high while others are saying he should hang it.

 

Every point of view has its apologists, even though they may not go by that name. Secularism has its apologists; multiculturalism does, too. Wherever there exists a point of view, there can be an apologist to defend it, and apologetic methods for that apologist to employ. This applies to even to the most mundane of accusations: “You should have taken out the garbage while I was gone,” is thus countered by “But the neighbor’s house caught on fire and he could not put it out by himself.” Therefore, everyone practices apologetics, even though few may call it by that name, and fewer still may formalize the activity by calling it “apologetics.”

 

So far, we’ve only talked about apologetics in a general sense – whether it’s practiced formally or informally. As for the formal practice of apologetics, there is another field of human activity, beyond law and philosophy, that has tended to formalize the use of apologetics. That field is religion – especially Christianity.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – A Brief History of Christian Apologetics

 

 

It stands to reason that “Christian apologetics” would mean applying the principles of “apologetics” to “Christianity” – that is, defending the Christian faith with reasoned arguments. That’s true enough, but there is, of course, much more that can be said.

 

Technically speaking, “Christian apologetics” is a subset of “Apologetics.” Yet, if you search the Internet for the single word “apologetics,” the vast majority of links it returns – at least as evidenced in the first few pages – are about Christian apologetics.

 

Therefore, we have a lot to cover. Let’s start with the biblical roots of Christian apologetics.

 

 

The Classic Text for Christian Apologetics

 

Perhaps the most commonly-referenced Scripture among apologetics-minded Christians today is 1 Peter 3:15. I’ve put the key phrase in bold print.

 

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; – 1 Peter 3:15

 

We’ll come back to the key phrase in a moment. First, however, let’s give the verse a little context, including the verses that come before and after. By the way, the all caps is this translation’s (i.e. the New American Standard Bible or NASB) way of telling us that the Old Testament is being quoted; in this case, Isaiah 8:12.

 

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. – 1 Peter 3:14-16

 

In this passage, the apostle Peter is exhorting believers to not be afraid when they are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, but rather to maintain hope in that situation – and to be ready to give a defense for the hope being maintained.

 

In this case, Peter was preaching what he had practiced – something he had learned the hard way. Most everyone knows Peter’s failing the night before Jesus was crucified in which he denied three times that he even knew Jesus. However, that Peter learned from his mistake was more than apparent in the days and years that followed. Most notably, in the fourth and fifth chapters in the book of Acts, Peter found himself facing the same court that had tried and condemned Jesus. Rather than denying Jesus once again, Peter gave stirring defenses for “the hope that was in him.”

 

So now back to that key phrase. Beneath the English phrase “making a defense” lies the Greek word “apologia” – the very Greek word with which we began the previous chapter, the Greek word that provides the basis for the English word “apologetics.” The NASB translators have a footnote on the word “defense” which says “or argument; or explanation.” Thus what we see in this revered verse is fully consistent with all we learned from classic literature about the term “apologetics.”

 

Peter is relating apologetics to the hope created and sustained by having faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. This is consistent with everything we will find in the field of Christian apologetics – thus justifying why 1 Peter 3:15 is so often quoted in Christian apologetic work.

 

More Occurrences of “apologia” in the New Testament

 

1 Peter 3:15 is not the only verse in the New Testament to use the Greek word “apologia.” What follows are some others, all of which show the word being used in a way consistent with what we have understood its meaning to be in ancient times. In each verse I have put in bold the word or phrase that represents the translation of “apologia” to help you focus.

 

The context of the following verse is that Paul, having arrived in Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey, has become the object of a great uproar – the Jews of that city being vehemently opposed to Paul’s faith and his work. Roman soldiers have whisked Paul to safety, but Paul successfully petitions him for a chance to speak to the hostile crowd. This is how Paul begins his speech to them.

 

“Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you.” – Acts 22:1

 

Technically, Paul is not in a courtroom. However, he is addressing his fellow Jews as the “jury” he hopes to persuade. He is therefore using “apologia” in an informal context.

 

The speaker in the following verse is the governor of a Roman province. He is trying to explain to the visiting Jewish king Herod Agrippa why Paul has been held in protective custody.

 

“I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges.” – Acts 25:16

 

In this case, Festus is speaking of the legal rights of a Roman citizen – which Paul was. Those rights include the opportunity to make a defense against any charges brought. Here, therefore, we have “apologia” being used in a formal context. Thus we have seen “apologia” used in both formal and informal contexts within the pages of the New Testament – just as it was used in both contexts throughout the Greco-Roman world.

In the following verse, Paul is speaking to the Christians in the city of Corinth about any Christians who might question his ministry or his ministry decisions.

 

My defense to those who examine me is this: – 1 Corinthians 9:3

 

In the following verse, Paul is speaking to the Christians in the city of Philippi. He is speaking in general terms about his defense of the good news (that is, gospel) about Jesus.

 

For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. – Philippians 1:7

 

Later on in his letter to the believers in Philippi, Paul has occasion to speak once again about his “apologia” of the good news.

 

Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; – Philippians 1:15-16

 

In the following verse, Paul speaks of the same sort of abandonment Jesus felt at the time of His trial.

At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. – 2 Timothy 4:16

 

In these half-dozen verses, you have seen where and how “apologia” shows up in the New Testament. We could expand our search from “apologia” (a noun) to include “apologeomai” (a verb) and list more verses, but they would only reinforce what you’ve already learned.

 

We could probably say at this point that the best single word definition for “apologetics” is “defense.” And with this, I think most practitioners of Christian apologetics would agree. Christian apologetics is, therefore, the defense of Christianity – as long as you don’t think “defense” means being defensive or that “apology” in this context means being sorry.

 

Whether in times of persecution or not, defending Christianity seems to be a natural and expected aspect of living out a faith in Christ – at least according to those who wrote the New Testament.

 

 

Christian Apologetics from Biblical Times to Modern Times

 

For the purposes of this book, we do not need to trace the history of Christian apologetics through the ages. Having established the biblical roots of the concept, we only need to mention a few examples of the apologetic activity that occurred between ancient times and modern times. While the individuals I will name are important, do not think they are the only ones that were important. I only want to mention enough examples to illustrate the general direction that Christian apologetic thought has taken in the last two thousand years.

 

The 2nd century was important because it was the time that the leadership of the churches changed from Jewish to Gentile hands. Of course, the New Testament age began and ended in the 1st century. In its very beginning, Christianity was an exclusively Jewish movement. However, within a matter of years, first Peter, and then Paul, ceremoniously opened the door to Gentiles. By the mid-1st century, Gentiles were becoming a significant part of the church. However, the leadership of the church remained Jewish for some time. Only after 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed, finally scattering the original leadership of the movement, and especially after most of the apostles gave their lives for the faith, did the leaders of Christianity become predominately Gentile.

 

The 2nd century also marked the time that Christian apologetic focus moved from defending Christianity against Jewish condemnation to defending it against Gentile condemnation. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries, great apologists for the faith rose up, including Justin Martyr whose writings include The First Apology of Justin and The Second Apology of Justin for the Christians Addressed to the Roman Senate. Of course, not all apologetic works have the word “apology” or “apologetic” in the title. Justin’s use of the term, however, caused him to be viewed as an apologist per se. Thus he established a pattern of apologetics that others would follow, irrespective of whether they carried that title. Other great apologists of this era included Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen.

 

During the 4th century, the stance of the Roman Empire toward Christianity changed completely. As the century began, the government was persecuting Christians and by the time it ended, Christianity had become the state religion. Of course, the notable turning point during this century was the conversion of the emperor Constantine in 312. This 180-degree turn by the Roman government set the stage for Augustine to write prolifically at the end of the 4th century and beginning of the 5th, in an apologetic vein, explaining the Christian faith to the many Roman citizens who were now contemplating “the official religion” of the empire. Though “defense” accurately characterizes the nature of apologetics, there are times – like these – where that defense, facing less hostility, can relax somewhat into a mode more of “explanation” and “justification.”

 

Augustine thus marked a notable point in Christian apologetics. The apologists before him referred to Greek philosophers in varying degrees – that prevailing intellectual realm being the context in which the apologists were defending Christianity. Augustine was then able to become the fully-matured model of an apologist who spoke in philosophical terms. Coming when he did, at the end of antiquity and the dawn of the Middle Ages, Augustine became the standard by which later apologists would be measured – at least for the next thousand years.

 

In this regard, notable apologists of the Middle Ages were Anselm in the 11th century and Thomas Aquinas in the 13th. Like Augustine, these men were theologians and philosophers – their apologetic work flowing from those academic orientations. Following the Middle Ages, we have, of course, the Protestant Reformation and the apologetics that arose from it – both in defense of the Reformation and, on the other hand, in defense of the Roman Catholic Church that resisted it.

 

With this very brief historical outline of Christian apologetics, we can now make several observations.

 

First, there is a difference between being known as an apologist and writing apologetically. For example, neither Clement of Alexandria, nor Augustine, nor Thomas Aquinas are known primarily as apologists – yet they are all considered great apologists. And so it is that those who have been considered great Christian apologists in church history are often better known in some other capacity: that is, as a bishop, a theologian, a philosopher, an orator, a writer, or something else. Historically speaking, therefore, Christian apologetics is less about whether a person sought to be known as an apologist and more about what that person contributed to the cause of Christian apologetics. Were we to compile a list of names according to the latter standard, it would be very long. Therefore, just because we call someone “an apologist” when studying Christian apologetics does not necessarily mean that he would have referred to himself in that way or that apologetics was his primary concern.

 

Second, in any given instance, Christian apologetics takes its shape in part from the opponent it is addressing. An apologist spoke one way to Jews and another way to Gentiles. Similarly, a Protestant apologist is going to speak one way to Roman Catholics and another way to Muslims. This is because, of course, each set of hearers has their own set of concerns. Therefore, Christian apologists are not all going to sound alike or deal with the same issues in the same way. Each apologist must be understood in the context of his times and the issues he faced. Because there is great variety in apologists, there is great variety in Christian apologetic literature. For this reason, the writings of these various apologists are not equally useful in our time. Their respective utility depends on how well they scratch where the current generation is itching. Of course, any writing from a previous age – even when it deals with timeless issues – will have to be adapted to the present age. It’s just that some writings can be adapted more easily than others.

 

Third, and finally, there is a decidedly different cast to Christian apologetics as we see it practiced in New Testament times and as we see it practiced since – that difference being the element of philosophy. We do not see the apostles quoting Plato and Aristotle in their defense of their witness to Christ and His fulfillment of what the prophets of Israel had promised. However, practically all Christian apologists since have either addressed Greek philosophy directly or, at the very least, have spoken in philosophical terms. Thus there has been a strain of philosophical content in Christian apologetics throughout post-biblical times. This emphasis on philosophy – whether occasional or continual – continues to this day and, though not every apologist majors on it, most seem compelled to at least minor in it.

 

As you have seen, Christian apologetics has existed as long as Christianity itself has existed. This stands to reason because ever since the Christian faith was introduced, it has been challenged and therefore needed to be defended. You have seen also that this defense takes different shapes depending on the characteristics of the challenges being made to it. Therefore, while every form of Christian apologetics obviously has something to say about Christian faith, it also has something to say about the age in which it exists.

 

 

The Modern Era of Christian Apologetics

 

Some people might say that the modern era of Christian apologetics began with C. S. Lewis, and, particularly, his book Mere Christianity. Lewis was an author, a professor of literature, and a literary critic. The genesis of Mere Christianity was a series of BBC radio talks Lewis was asked to give during World War II. Those talks were transcribed into three pamphlets, and the pamphlets were eventually brought together into a book – a book which the magazine Christianity Today has since called “the most important and effective defense of the Christian faith in its century.”

 

Probably the single most quoted portion of Mere Christianity is the argument Lewis makes for Jesus’ divinity. It takes the form of a trilemma – a difficult choice between three options (adapted from the word “dilemma,” which is a difficult choice between two options). Here is Lewis’ famed trilemma.

 

Christ says that He is “humble and meek” and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings. I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.

 

Though the force of his logic just fully demonstrated itself, Lewis went on in the next chapter to answer the trilemma for himself.

 

… Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.

 

Thus Lewis’ trilemma made its way into literary and Christian apologetic history.

 

In the wake of Lewis, another seminal apologetic voice arose in the person of Francis Schaeffer. An American pastor and theologian living in Switzerland, Schaeffer came to worldwide prominence in the 1980’s through his books and documentary films. Whereas Lewis spoke to issues of personal faith, Schaeffer framed his apologetic in more societal terms. He talked about the arc of decline in Western Civilization, it having been steeped for so long in Christian values but increasingly corrupted by its worldliness and willfulness.

 

Schaeffer’s cry was deeply echoed in the same time period by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Russian novelist and historian who had been imprisoned and exiled for his resistance to the Soviet government. In 1983, upon being recognized for his long and courageous stand, Solzhenitsyn explained the rise of atheistic communism in his country with these haunting words.

Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

 

I said “haunting” because Solzhenitsyn’s point in saying that “men have forgotten God,” was not merely to indict his countrymen, but as much to indict the West for its pursuit of material success instead of spiritual growth.

 

During the time of Lewis, Schaeffer, and Solzhenitsyn, not all apologists fit their mold – not by a long shot. For example, American engineer Henry M. Morris began what came to be called the “young-earth creationist” movement. He used science to justify the existence of God, and, specifically, to refute the claims for evolution as an explanation of human origins. Morris is but one example of the many shapes and sizes in which apologists come. And he is also a reminder that most Christian apologists throughout history have not presented themselves first and foremost as apologists.

 

This brings us to the present era of Christian apologetics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4 – The Current Quantity of Christian Apologetic Resources

 

 

In the previous chapter, I was not attempting to give you a definitive historical outline of the practice of Christian apologetics. I was only wanting to sample enough detail about some individual apologists to give you a sense of the history. The same is true here for the modern era, especially as I turn to current practitioners of apologetics.

 

 

The Quantity of Apologists

 

If we examine the last 50 years of Christian apologetics, the three men I have mentioned in the previous chapter made their contributions in the first half of that period. In the last half of this period, a veritable army of Christian apologists has arisen. The names include, but are by no means limited to, John Ankerberg, Brian Auten, Richard Bauckham, Craig Blomberg, Michael Brown, Paul Copan, Francis Collins, William Lane Craig, William Dembski, Dinesh D’Souza, Lenny Esposito, Craig Evans, Norman Geisler, Douglas Groothuis, Gary Habermas, Ken Ham, Hank Hanegraaff, Craig Hazen, Craig Keener, Greg Koukl, Peter Kreeft, John Lennox, Michael Licona, David Limbaugh, Paul Maier, Josh McDowell, Sean McDowell, Alister McGrath, Timothy McGrew, John Warwick Montgomery, J. P. Moreland, Jonathan Morrow, Abdu Murray, Alvin Plantinga, Nabeel Qureshi, Randal Rauser, Hugh Ross, Sam Shamoun, R. C. Sproul, Lee Strobel, Richard Swinburne, Larry Taunton, Frank Turek, Daniel Wallace, J. Warner Wallace, James White, Douglas Wilson, David Wood, and Ravi Zacharias.

 

To keep the list manageable, I have only included those individuals who are living and active in ministry as of my writing this. I have also tried to restrict the list to those who have written more than one book, or produced more than one resource, that could be described as apologetic. However long you think this list is, it is still inadequate because there are many others who deserve inclusion – and it seems more are arising with each passing year. I’ll say more about some of these individuals in the next chapter when I attempt to describe the variety of Christian apologetic methods in use today.

 

What might account for the striking increase in the number of apologists we have seen in the last 25 years? I think part of the answer can be seen by focusing on two of them: Josh and Sean McDowell.

 

 

Comparing Apologetics to Evangelism

 

Josh McDowell joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ as an evangelist in the 1960’s and has been with them ever since. During this time, however, Josh has become less known as a Christian evangelist, which is how I first became aware of him, and is now more often described as a Christian apologist. This shift has been confirmed by the career of his son Sean, who, although he essentially does the same sort of work as his father, is known as an apologist rather than as an evangelist. Thus while the father used to be known as an evangelist, both father and son are now more commonly considered apologists. This shift in focus from evangelism to apologetics can be observed as well in the fortunes of Campus Crusade for Christ as well.

 

When Josh joined Campus Crusade, it was prominent in the public mind as the leading evangelistic organization on college campuses around the world. Since that time, however, they have changed their name to Cru – which had been a nickname of the organization – and lost some of that prominence. The ostensible cause of the name change was the negative connotation carried by the word “crusade” in a post-9/11 world in which the sensitivities of Muslims, and about Muslims, were heightened. Less noticed, perhaps, was the dropping of “for Christ” as well, which indicated a less obvious but equally heightened sensitivity with respect to secularists. Consistent with these trends is the rise to prominence in recent years of a campus ministry called Ratio Christi, which describes itself as a “student apologetics alliance.” Thus the last quarter-century has seen a transition on the college campus away from evangelism to apologetics.

 

The college campus is a microcosm – and, given that it’s the place where teenagers become adults, a strategic microcosm at that – of the larger society. What’s shifted in the last fifty years is that what used to be “fields that were white for harvest” in terms of evangelism have become “killing fields” where young Christians lose their faith. A generation ago, Campus Crusade was on the leading edge of a movement to gain souls for Christ; nowadays, Ratio Christi is on the leading edge of a movement to keep souls for Christ. This is, of course, a shift from “offense” to “defense.”

 

By the way, in case anyone thinks that "killing fields" might be too strong a metaphor for the current collegiate environment and its resistance to Christian thought, consider how common it is to see it reported that between 50 and 80% of students who identify as Christian when entering college no longer identify as Christian by the time they leave it – many times abandoning their faith within the first year or two of college life. Until campus ministries start winning converts at a faster rate than they’re being lost, we’re going to continue to hear them talk about apologetics more than evangelism.

 

Evangelism and apologetics, of course, have an obvious relationship. The former is offense; the latter, defense. Both are “for Christ.” Through evangelism, Christianity seeks to increase the size of its borders; through apologetics, Christianity seeks to defend those borders. We find ourselves today in a time when the energy of Christians is increasingly being applied to defense. This is not just because the larger society has become increasingly resistant to evangelistic outreach, but because it has become overtly hostile to Christianity and taken to offense itself in advancing its own agenda.

 

I recognize that there are nuances to evangelism – and to apologetics, for that matter – which allow greater distinctions to be made between them. I further recognize that both evangelists and apologists might want to make more of those distinctions than I have. For purposes of this book, however, I am simply emphasizing their mirror-reflection similarity to each other and leaving the finer points of distinction between the two fields for others to make as they see fit. For our simpler purposes, they are two sides of the same coin.

 

 

The Increasing Hostility Toward Christianity

 

The broader society, and colleges in particular, have had to face a more aggressive strain of atheism at the dawn of the 21st century than had been seen before. Outspoken atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett have waged intellectual warfare on religious faith generally and Christian faith specifically. Their books have become best-sellers and they have enjoyed no shortage of media attention. Further, the general hostility toward Christian faith and practice has become widespread in the culture, including both the news and entertainment industries.

 

That hostility doesn’t just come in a single form or apply itself to a single aspect of the Christian faith. Christianity has had to fight an increasing number of battle fronts, while losing some ground it had previously held. There are the obvious examples like radicalization of marriage laws and bathroom practices, but there are equally drastic changes in, for example, the field of biblical scholarship. For example, Lewis’ trilemma no longer packs the same wallop it once did because, in the decades since its publication, confidence in the integrity of the biblical texts has been undermined by repeated academic attacks – many of those attacks coming through popularized treatments with sensational titles for the purpose of driving up book sales. As a result, skeptics have removed the ground on which Lewis stood when he wrote “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said…” by responding with “But the biblical texts are suspect, so who can know what Jesus really said?”

 

Obviously, the generation to which Lewis wrote was not nearly so doubtful about the textual reliability of the New Testament or else he would have adjusted his trilemma accordingly. You might wonder how only one or two generations removed from that, there could be so much doubt on the subject. The answer is found in the rampant biblical illiteracy that has come to characterize modern society. One or two generations are all it takes to lose a knowledge of, and concomitant confidence in, the Scriptures. In fact, it doesn’t take two generations; it only takes one. If the parents don’t teach the child what they know about the Scriptures, the child won’t know what the parents knew.

 

If you want a vivid illustration of how biblically illiterate society has become, try writing about any biblical subject matter with software that has a spell-checker. The spell-checker, of course, merely reflects the vocabulary of the people who wrote the software. Most of them do not recognize biblical names and terms, and are constantly suggesting alternate spellings which make no sense to the biblically literate.

 

Because biblical illiteracy is so widespread, all it takes is a media-savvy academic with a skeptical mind to convince hordes of people that the Bible they don’t read isn’t worth reading anyway because its contents are too uncertain. For this reason, a sound academic like Michael Kruger, for example, gets his work in support of New Testament reliability referenced to defend against the attacks and…voila…we have another apologist to catalog – even though, to the best of my knowledge, Kruger has never referred to himself as such.

 

This is why ranks of apologists keep rising so quickly – not only because there are more and more people choosing to become, and call themselves, apologists – but also because every time some new aspect of Christian faith is brought under attack, some scholar gets brought into the discussion. His previous work bears on what has become a pressing apologetic issue so it is enlisted in the apologetic cause. Moreover, as soon as a respected pastor and author like Tim Keller writes a book called The Reason for God, observers wonder if it will be the next Mere Christianity. And yet another book falls into the category of Christian apologetics. That I didn’t include Kruger and Keller in the long list of current apologists with which I began this chapter gives you a sense of just how many more could be added.

 

 

An Increasing Supply of Apologetic Resources

 

The increasing hostility toward the Christian faith, combined with a decreasing knowledge of Scripture among Christians, have combined to stimulate demand for apologetic resources – both people and materials. In response, the supply has continued to increase apace.

 

You can search the internet for apologists or apologetic web sites and be inundated by what you find.

 

There are apologetic conferences galore – held throughout the year. This includes apologetic conferences for youth or adults.

 

You can get a study Bible dedicated to apologetics. Oh, and if you prefer an apologetics study Bible geared to a teenager instead of an adult, you can get one of those, too.

 

If you want to read a recently-published book on apologetics, you won’t have any problem finding one. These keep adding up year after year.

 

Maybe you want an academic degree in apologetics. You can get a certificate, bachelors, masters, or doctorate degree…from an increasing number of institutions. The choice is yours.

 

The supply of apologetics resources is thus great…and increasing. Moreover, while the quality of the supply can certainly vary – some resources being much more substantive than others – there is no shortage of quality apologetic material. In fact, any honest examination of the best content provides a more than adequate defense of Christian faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5 – The Current Variety of Christian Apologetic Resources

 

 

Not only are present-day apologists and apologetic resources increasing in number, they approach the subject from a great variety of angles. As was the case with the apologists – historic and current – that I named in the previous two chapters, I will make no attempt to catalog all these apologetic angles. I just want to give you enough examples to demonstrate the breadth of the landscape.

 

I will also say at the outset that I am not presenting these categories as mutually exclusive. Some apologists employ more than one method and therefore would fall into more than one category. Likewise, some books or approaches do not fall neatly into one of these categories, but are rather a combination of one or more of them. Again, we are just trying to get a general sense of the landscape, not map it in precise detail.

 

 

Apologetics Viewed Legally

 

Given our study of the Greek word “apologia,” we should not be surprised that many popular apologetic books utilize a legal motif. That means not just references to “defense,” but also to “evidence,” “verdict,” “trial,” “case,” and related terms. Notice how legal vocabulary is used in these book titles.

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith (Josh McDowell)

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Lee Strobel)

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel (David Limbaugh)

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Gary Habermas and Michael Licona)

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels (J. Warner Wallace)

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question (John Warwick Montgomery)

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p<>{color:#000;}. Christianity on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian Faith (Mark Lanier)

 

These books not only share a common view of the issue, several of them have been among the most popular of all apologetic books. Clearly, this approach to defending Christianity speaks to many people.

 

It’s worth briefly digressing to recall the relationship between evangelism and apologetics identified in the previous chapter and note that every one of these titles works as well evangelistically as it does apologetically. That is, any of the books could lead a person to Christ as well as it could defend a person’s faith in Christ. Thus the only difference between an apologetic work and an evangelistic work might simply be the context in which the work is applied. Likewise, a preacher of Jesus Christ could be an evangelist or an apologist depending on whether the room to which he was speaking was filled either with unbelievers or believers. The essential elements of his message would not change; he’d just be informing one group and reminding the other.

 

 

Apologetics Rooted in Philosophy

 

I mentioned the emphasis on philosophy in our glance at the history of Christian apologetics. This emphasis can be currently noted in the man many consider to be the preeminent Christian apologist of our day: William Lane Craig. He has two doctorates: a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham (England) in Philosophy, and a Doctor of Theology from University of Munich (Germany) in Theology. Nevertheless, his presentations can be appreciated by people with far less education – at least to some degree. He has debated leading skeptical scholars all over the world – whether they be religious or atheistic. Videos of many of these debates have circulated on YouTube.

 

Though Craig is widely-known for his defense of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, he considers himself a philosopher by trade and has promoted a variety of traditional philosophical arguments for the existence of God. These include “the cosmological argument,” “the Kalam cosmological argument” (which is adapted from medieval Islamic scholasticism), and “the argument from the fine-tuning of the universe.” Obviously, only the most astute and educated minds can keep up with him when he makes these kinds of arguments.

 

Other apologists who use philosophy to make their case for Christ include J. P. Moreland and Alvin Plantinga – both of whom have worked with Craig. While these professionally-trained men make very sophisticated philosophical arguments, there are many apologists who make some of those same arguments in less sophisticated ways. I don’t mean that that these “less sophisticated” arguments are inferior – just that they don’t demand as much philosophical training by the person making the argument or the listeners evaluating it.

 

There are also philosophical arguments made by some apologists that fall outside the realm of the philosophical mainstream. These include presuppositional apologetics and reformed epistemology apologetics. I would explain them to you, but I would have to understand them first. I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable to explain any formal philosophical argument; I was doing well not to misspell “Kalam.”

 

For people like me, there is a “philosophy lite.” That is, at the other end of the philosophical spectrum from recondite arguments are what we could call common reasonings that don’t require formal philosophical training. Paul spoke of this kind of reasoning when he wrote to Gentiles as well as Jews in his letter to the church at Rome. Near the beginning of that letter he writes of…

 

…men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. – Romans 1:18-20

 

This approach is sometimes called “natural theology” – because it speaks of the things we can know of God through nature (as contrasted with the things we know of Him through His revelation through prophets).

 

The Kalam cosmological argument (I am told) in a nutshell is,

 

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause;

Premise 2: The universe began to exist;

Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

 

Well, you can easily picture an old farmer leaning back on a fence post, pointing to the mountain range in distance, and telling his grandchildren something like “You young’uns know those mountains didn’t get here by themselves.” And off he goes, waxing eloquent in natural theology to his progeny about how nature is “crying out” that it was created. Consider it a poor man’s Kalam cosmological argument.

 

Like Paul, and like the old farmer, many of us can reason our way to a Creator without the benefit of training in philosophy, formal logic, or rhetoric – or even specific revelation such as from the Bible. Such arguments, while not meeting the standards of a professional philosopher, can be described as philosophical in nature because they deal with the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. A well-known example of such an argument would be “the watchmaker analogy” – that as the existence of a watch implies that it had a maker, so also the existence of the universe implies that it has a maker.

 

While philosophical arguments can start us on a path toward God, they can also fail to get us all the way there. In Acts 17:15-34, for example, philosophy and revelation crash head-on when Paul visits the city of Athens, known as a center of philosophy, and brings to its philosophers the revelation that Moses and the prophets had brought to Israel – that is, that one God created everything, that He started the human race from a single man, that He was in control of the rise and fall of nations, and so on. They at least listened to Paul…until he got to the part about Paul’s fellow Jew being raised from the dead. That brought a halt to the proceedings, some of them promising to give him a further hearing at some later, unspecified date. Nevertheless, in spite of its obvious limitations, philosophy has long been a staple of many Christian apologetic efforts.

 

In summary, a philosophical approach to defending Christian faith can run the gamut from common-sense, logical arguments for the existence of God to the most abstruse arguments imaginable. Many Christian apologists fall somewhere between these two extremes. There are more arguments for God’s existence than you might think. Alvin Plantinga counts “at least a couple of dozen or so.” Some arguments are more sophisticated than others, but the effective apologists keep putting forth the best arguments – the ones that have been fruitful through the ages.

 

 

Apologetics Oriented Towards Science

 

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin was published in 1859. From that time to the present, Darwinian evolutionary theory has been leavening the educational system from one end to the other. So leavened it has become, that practically no educated human being has escaped indoctrination into the tenets and implications of this theory. Whether a human being personally accepts that training is another matter, but it is certainly the case that an easy way to be regarded as foolish by respectable society these days is to say that you don’t accept evolution as an explanation for human existence.

 

I mentioned Henry Morris’ groundbreaking work in the previous chapter. Ken Ham is one of today’s most well-known “scientific” apologists, following in Morris’ steps. Ham has built a “Creation Museum” and, more recently, a “life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark.” Like Morris, Ham is a “young-earth creationist,” believing that the “days” in Genesis 1 are 24-hour days.

 

Hugh Ross, by contrast, is an “old-earth creationist.” That is, he agrees with Ham that God created everything, but that God did so over a very long period of time. In other words, Ross believes that “day” in Genesis 1 refers to an era or extended period of time.

 

William Dembski is a proponent of Intelligent Design. This school of thought does not explicitly argue for God’s existence. Rather, it seeks to remedy what it sees as erroneous in Darwin’s theory. Specifically, it argues that the random mutation and resulting natural selection which is at the heart of Darwinian evolutionary theory must be supplemented by the insertion of information at various points – which implies design. Thus the moniker “Intelligent Design.” Proponents argue for it as scientific theory, not as a Christian apologetic methodology. Nevertheless, “ID” is frequently mentioned in apologetic materials and apologetic discussions.

 

Francis Collins, a confessing Christian who is director of the National Institutes of Health, has no argument with evolution – he just thinks that God is behind it. That is, he believes that evolution is the means by which God has created the universe.

 

Of course, each of the men I have mentioned are but examples of their respective schools of thought. There are many apologists subscribing to each of these schools. Moreover, there are probably other positions, even if just variations on these four, that I have not identified. What they all have in common is the defense of Christianity in the face of challenges that come from the field of science.

 

Beyond these “general” science-oriented apologetic methods, there are specific science-oriented apologetic defenses, too. For example, Craig Keener has ably defended miracles – documenting the evidence for them, both in ancient times and in the present day. Such an apologetic does not require taking a position one way or the other on evolution, but is dealing with scientific objections nonetheless. To be more precise, it’s naturalistic scientific objections which give rise to this apologetic – not science objections per se.

 

Science did not used to be so wedded to naturalism – the belief that only what can be physically sensed or measured is real. This explains why the antipathy – or, rather, perceived antipathy – between Christianity and science has not always been great. In fact, Isaac Newton, to give but one example from history, was a devout Christian. Since the advent of Darwin, however, many scientists have become hostile to Christian explanations of the universe’s existence. As biologist Richard Dawkins has famously said, “Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” That the Bible talks a lot about creation without talking about evolution is seen by an increasing number of scientists and educators as a discrediting factor for the Bible. Thus this field of apologetics for science is one that did not exist – nor did it need to exist – until the last 150 years. Its growth has added greatly to the quantity and variety of apologetic resources.

 

 

Apologetics Oriented Toward Other Specific Objections

 

Science is but one source of modern challenges to the Christian faith. Therefore, science is but one front on which apologetics has been applied. There are others.

 

I have mentioned the rise of challenges to the textual integrity and historical reliability of the Bible, and particularly the New Testament. I don’t mean to suggest that the New Testament is more vulnerable to such challenges than the Old Testament. Rather, it’s that the New Testament carries the explicit declarations of Jesus as the Christ resurrected from the dead that it receives these greater challenges. These sorts of challenges have brought many biblical scholars into the apologetic cause. Scholars defending the textual or historical reliability of the Scriptures include Craig Blomberg and Craig Evans (who both defend the historical reliability of the Gospels) and Daniel Wallace (who defends the textual reliability of the New Testament).

 

Another particular source of challenge to Christian faith which has provoked a new subset of apologetics is the increasing space Islam in occupying in the modern mind due to upheavals in the Middle East and terrorist attacks everywhere. The debate about whether Islam is “a religion of peace” or the religion of jihadists is impossible to ignore. For these reasons, we have seen the advent of Christian apologists focused specifically on Islam and the challenges it is currently presenting to Christianity. One of those challenges is the rise of Muslim apologists who seek to undermine the claims of these very Christian apologists – among them, Abdu Murray, Sam Shamoun, David Wood, and Nabeel Qureshi.

 

Challenges from science, from skeptical biblical scholarship, from Islam each leads to a new form of “specialty apologetics.” And with challenges coming in the form of religious liberty, modern sexual ethics, and other sources, more new forms of apologetics will continue to come. With the faith being attacked from every side, a defense seems required on every side. At some point, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to identify every form of specialty apologetics.

 

 

Apologetics Focused on Christ’s Resurrection

 

Some apologists – at least on some occasions – choose to focus laser-like on Christ’s resurrection. Of all the methods identified in this chapter, this is my favorite. It’s my favorite because it drives to the central issue: 1) Christ Himself, and 2) His resurrection from the dead. Since it’s Christ-ianity we’re defending, it’s entirely appropriate that He be the focus, and since His resurrection is the ultimate difference-maker, it’s entirely appropriate that we should focus on that event in His life. As the apostle Paul said, “[I]f Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless.” If it’s not true that Christ was raised from the dead, then we Christians are, as Paul also said, “of all men most to be pitied.” But since He was raised from the dead, everything He said is worth remembering. I’ll say more about this in the chapters on apostolic apologetics.

 

Every Christian apologist gets around to Christ’s resurrection sooner or later, but these that I am describing here make a particular focus of it. Perhaps most notable of these is Gary Habermas. Following in his shoes is Michael Licona. And I have already mentioned that William Lane Craig, in addition to his philosophical approaches, has also debated the history of Christ’s resurrection to great acclamation and appreciation all over the world. Even his opponents express respect for his prowess. There could be no better traditional apologetic approach in which to excel than Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

 

Apologetics That Catalog Orthodoxy

 

Some apologists, rather than focusing on one or two specific challenges to Christianity, have chosen to specify the set of beliefs that constitute Christian orthodoxy – “correct belief” or “right doctrine.” These apologists say to an individual Christian, “These are all the things you should believe.” Of course, the number and identity of the “things” will vary by apologist. What also will vary is the degree of liberty a Christian has on certain subjects. For example, most apologists will allow some freedom of position on baptism – whether it should be administered to infants or only to those old enough to make an informed decision about Christ. Likewise, most will offer some liberty on the issue of communion – how often it should be taken and in what manner. Other issues might be granted no liberty at all. Believe them and your orthodox; don’t believe them and your not.

 

Apologetics of this sort include defenses against the claims of, for example, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Scientologists. It also veers into defenses against Islam, which I addressed above, and defenses against certain Christian denominations, which I will address below.

 

Apologists who fit into this category of cataloging orthodoxy include John Ankerberg, Hank Hanegraaff, and R. C. Sproul. Perhaps needless to say, apologists who fit in this category are not in lock-step agreement about the exact issues that constitute orthodoxy – much less the measure of emphasis each deserves.

 

 

Apologetics Geared to Certain Christians

 

The issue of orthodoxy brings up the reality of denominational apologetics. That is, the Roman Catholics have their apologists who defend themselves against the Protestant “revolt.” Conversely, the Protestants have their defenses against the Roman Catholic “perversions of the faith.” Of course, the Eastern Orthodox Churches want to protect their flocks from poaching by the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. Even within Protestantism, there are apologists who contend with each other. During the first half of the 20th century, for example, the conservative J. Gresham Machen famously characterized liberal Christianity not as a form of Christianity but as an entirely different religion.

 

One group’s saint is another group’s heretic. Thus the continual dividing of institutional Christianity – apparently we are up to 30,000 denominations and counting – continues to add to apologetic activity and multiply apologetic resources. And to say that apologetic variety is multiplying as well might be superfluous.

 

Denominational distinctions are not the only way to segment the Christian apologetic market. In addition to standard apologetic texts which are ostensibly for adults, there are now apologetics materials for youth. I’ve already mentioned that there is an apologetics study Bible designed for youth. And, yes, there are apologetics materials – books and websites – for children. Therefore, adults, children, and those in-between (youth) are all being supplied apologetic material. As if that’s not enough, there are also apologetics materials being produced specifically for use by women. And there are probably other specialized apologetics sub-markets that I have not yet identified. What characterizes these approaches is that they are structured around constituencies to be defended, as opposed to, say, objections to be addressed.

 

 

Apologetics that are Generalist in Nature

 

Some apologists, rather than specializing, have chosen to try to cover multiple apologetic fronts. A few even try to cover them all, though none can actually achieve such a feat. Notable among the “generalist” apologists are Norm Geisler, Ravi Zacharias, and Greg Koukl. They prove the impossibility of covering the full landscape of apologetics by the fact that they each have a staff – whether permanent or ad hoc – of specialists who assist them.

 

Brian Auten hosts the Apologetics 315 web site. The name of the site is an allusion to the classic apologetic text 1 Peter 3:15. This site offers links to an encyclopedic array of today’s burgeoning supply of apologetic resources, but even Brian, diligent as he is, cannot keep up with it all.

 

 

Summary

 

The quantity of apologetic resources available to Christians today is more than abundant…and is growing. The number of methods and approaches being applied is difficult to count. And the variety of these resources is so great that it is not easy to create a system of categorization able to properly classify them all. I have simply tried to give you sampling of what’s available. The only question we’re left to ask is, “Is all this a good thing?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6 – The Downside of All This Abundance

 

 

I’ve declared and demonstrated to you the vast quantity, the high quality, and great variety of Christian apologetic resources in the present era. What could be the downside? What could go wrong when we have all these resources at our disposal?

 

 

Potential Stumbles

 

First, a Christian can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of resources and the myriad apologetic approaches employed.

 

Second, even if not overwhelmed, it can still be confusing to decide where to start. And once we do start, we’ll then have to decide when and which resource to proceed to next.

 

Third, we probably need someone to guide us through all these resources – someone who has been through them before us. Such a person is not always easy to find.

 

Fourth, as we proceed through the materials we may be confronted with questions that had never before occurred to us. Remember that this vast array of resources is the accumulation of all the responses to every challenge and doubt that has been raised to the Christian faith. Therefore, it’s like being exposed to everyone’s doubts all at once. On the one hand, you know that there are resolutions to all the doubts, but just seeing all the doubts there is one place can, at least at first, be unsettling.

 

Fifth, even if we manage to keep ourselves settled in mind and deal with one question at a time, when will we know that we have answered enough questions? Maybe we won’t feel content until we’ve mastered it all. Will 50% be enough? 66.667%?

 

Sixth, at what point do we stop using our time to digest apologetic resources and just use it to practice the faith? In other words, at what point do we stop strengthening our faith and start living by it?

 

Let me be quick to say that I do not consider any of these potential stumbles as inevitable. It is possible not to be overwhelmed, and it is possible to find a more mature Christian who can guide you through the resources, and it is possible to effectively balance your apologetic efforts with your daily Christian responsibilities, and so on. In fact, it is even possible that you could view this mass of material as a set of encyclopedias that do not need to be read completely, but merely accessed here and there as circumstances require without the benefit of someone to guide you. Possible. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if you find yourself bogged down.

 

 

A More Subtle Pitfall

 

There is a more subtle pitfall in the study of Christian apologetics, and it would be there even if the quantity of resources was less, the quality of the resources was poor, and the variety of the resources was limited. It involves thinking outward instead of inward, and thinking as a group instead of as an individual.

 

You have seen that apologetic resources are often framed as responses to this group or that. They take the shape of “Here’s how we defend our faith against fill-in-the-blank.” If not a polemic against a specific group (e.g., Muslims or Mormons), apologetic resources are still usually a polemic against unbelievers in general. This can create an us-versus-them mentality, rather than a mind that is set on Him (Isaiah 26:3 KJV). When you think outwardly instead of inwardly, you tend to be more focused on what “others” are wrong about what you and your group are right about.

 

As for the “us,” that should really start with “me.” That is, apologetics should be about defending faith in Christ-ianity, not defending faith in Christian-ity. In other words, Christianity should first and foremost be about being rightly connected to Christ our Lord – not making sure we are part of the right group.

 

What I am saying is that your use of Christian apologetics should be for the sake of your own heart. Once your own heart is strengthened in the faith, then strength can flow from you to others. You must avoid letting apologetics be about “them” and things outside of you. Rather, make it about your own personal faith. When it is, then it can flow out from you to others.

 

If, as we said in an earlier chapter, “apologetics is explaining yourself,” then what it ought to be first and foremost is “explaining yourself to yourself.” This is because the most important person you have to convince, and keep convinced, is yourself.

 

The apostle Paul wrote:

 

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God…

- Romans 14:22

 

Paul is telling us that faith is a matter between the individual and God. It’s this faith that apologetics should be defending. It must be a private matter before it is a public matter.

 

Too many people think that faith is socially held. That is, they think faith is a matter of associating with Christians. Oh, they might not phrase it that way. But if you were to examine their lives, you would find that faith is not something that lives constantly in the recesses of their heart; it’s not something that they practice when no one else is around. For them, apologetics is about having all the right opinions, all the right answers. It’s about being able to articulate those opinions and answers under fire from others. Faith becomes something they talk about rather than a way they think. This is not the kind of Christian you want to be.

 

You become a Christian by saying “yes” to the question “Should I believe?” You grow as a Christian by continuing to say “yes” to the question “Should I continue believing?” Apologetics is what helps you to keep saying “yes” no matter what circumstances you face. And it should help you say “yes” to yourself and your Lord first, foremost, and always. Thus apologetics strengthens your faith and then flows out of your strengthened faith to others day by day.

 

The subtle pitfall we face, therefore, is a misapplication of apologetic resources. Like potential stumbles, this downside, too, can be overcome. But we must guard against it as well. We cannot act as if we could never be tempted in this regard.

 

 

A Better Way

 

Beyond avoiding potential stumbles and pitfalls, is there a better way to do apologetics? Yes, and having set the table for apostolic apologetics, I am now ready to present it to you. However, just before I do, I want to make sure you understand how grateful I am for all the apologists and apologetic resources that we have.

 

I have respect for every person – past and present – who has contributed to the mountain of apologetic materials available to Christians in our age. This includes every person I have named so far in this book. It also includes every person of whom I’m aware but have not named. And it includes every person of whom I’m not aware. We are truly blessed because of their efforts. All these resources these people have produced exist for the purpose of strengthening faith in Christ. Each resource has its own target audience that it is able to help.

 

I don’t just respect apologists and appreciate their resources; I have personally benefited from many of them. They have guided me and strengthened me at critical times. Perhaps most notable among them is C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and its trilemma. In 1978, I was 27 years old; I was an agnostic with no interest in Christianity and barely any awareness of Christ Himself. A former high school chum with whom I had recently reconnected told me he had been “born again,” and he lent me some books including Mere Christianity and a couple of books by Francis Schaeffer. The Schaeffer books went over my head, but I skimmed the Lewis book and came across the trilemma passage. I did not know Mere Christianity was a famous book. I did not even know who C. S. Lewis was. And I certainly did not know that the trilemma was a well-known passage. I just knew that this was a page that had caught my attention as I flipped through the book.

 

I found the logic of Lewis’ trilemma profoundly riveting. I had been raised Roman Catholic, but I never had considered Christ in the way that Lewis was presenting him in this passage. I was struck by the common sense in Lewis’ prose. I was tickled by his British humor (“on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg”). And I knew I could never again refer to Jesus in the condescending way that had been my adult custom on those very rare occasions when His name came up once my eyes had fallen on these words:

 

…You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

 

I had always – at least always while I was a teenager and an adult – considered it an option that Jesus was just one of many aspiring human souls. Lewis made clear to me that this was not an option. At that moment, I resolved to read the Bible and make up my mind one way or the other about Jesus’ claims. Read it, I did; and persuaded, I became. No one has benefited from apologetic material more than I have.

 

(By the way, did you notice how this classic apologetic text performed a classically evangelistic function in my life? In this hope – that it will serve unbelievers as well as believers – I have written this book.)

 

Having told you all this, nothing I’m going to say in the rest of the book should be taken as critical of apologists or their work. That there is a better way does not mean that their ways are bad. They are not bad; they are good. But when God gives something better, we accept the better. And we need the better, because this is not 1978.

 

As I’ve said, Lewis’ trilemma doesn’t pack the same wallop. Today’s 27-year-olds have been pounded with the idea that the biblical texts are uncertain – that no one can know for sure what Jesus has said because people have put words in the mouth of this itinerant Jewish rabbi. That’s not to say that Lewis’ words cannot benefit someone today as they did me in the past; it’s just to say that we should, at the very least, be open to receiving something better when God is behind it. We don’t want to be “clinging to the temple” when Jesus points out that “something greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6).

 

Therefore, let all the apologetic material that exists stand. Let it help whoever it can help. But let us press on to know a better way – a way that will help even more people, and help them in greater ways. Am I another C. S. Lewis? No. But I am trying to do for someone else what he did for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7 – What Is Apostolic Apologetics?

 

 

Everything I’ve written to this point in the book has been preliminary in nature – to help you better understand and appreciate what I’m going to spend the rest of the book explaining: apostolic apologetics.

 

 

Defining Apostolic Apologetics

 

I’ve already defined both “apologetics” and “Christian apologetics” for you. Apostolic apologetics is a form of Christian apologetics that relies on apostolic testimony as the path to Christ. Thus “apostolic” simply means “having to do with the apostles and their testimony of Christ.” As with all other Christian apologetic methods, apostolic apologetics can work as well for evangelism as for apologetics.

 

 

Why Apostolic Apologetics?

 

Why do we need yet one more method of Christian apologetics – don’t we have enough already? Though no single method of Christian apologetics can make a Christian immune to doubt and unbelief, apostolic apologetics is a way to avoid the potential stumbles associated with the mass of apologetic materials that are out there. It is a more efficient way of defending your faith – and therefore defending it for others as well as for yourself. And it is entirely sufficient for your faith. It does not need to be supplemented by some other method. I will explain and justify these assertions in the remainder of the book.

 

If you have been a Christian for a while, and especially if you are familiar with Christian apologetics, you may be wondering at this point exactly how apostolic apologetics differs from existing Christian apologetic methods. In fact, you may even think that there’s nothing new here at all. It is fully understandable that you might feel this way, and I acknowledge that any difference – if recognizable at all – may seem slight to you at first. However, I promise that if you will patiently read through the rest of this book you will come to see that the difference is significant, and that the promises of efficiency and sufficiency are substantial as well. Your faith in Christ – which, after all, is the purpose for which Christian apologetics exists – will benefit.

 

 

Apologetics Based on the Apostles

 

Jesus gave us the apostles – at least that’s what the apostles told us. You see, Jesus did not leave us any writing of His own. All we have from His time are the writings of those whom He sent and named as apostles.

 

The English word “apostle” is a transliteration of the Greek word “apostolos” – which had its roots in the Greek word for “send.” In the 21st century, I’m unaware of the term “apostle” being use in any context other than that of Jesus Christ. However, in the 1st century, the century in which Christ and His apostles lived, the term was used in other contexts. That is, Jesus did not coin the job title “apostle.” Rather, He was employing a term with which His contemporaries were already familiar.

 

The general 1st-century understanding of “apostle,” was that it was a person commissioned for certain duty. To use 21st-century vocabulary, it was a person named as the “agent” of a principal. An apostle was therefore a sort of “emissary,” “ambassador,” “representative,” or “delegate.” The mission which Jesus gave to His apostles was that they should bear witness to His life – most importantly, His resurrection from the dead according to the Hebrew Scriptures – and to promulgate His teaching, which they had spent day and night for three years learning.

 

While Jesus conducted His entire earthly ministry in the region of Palestine – that is, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee – He commissioned His apostles to take His message to the entire earth. This unlimited geographic scope of their mission meant that the apostles were constantly entering some new town where they knew no one. They would make known that they were “apostles of Jesus Christ.” When they did, no one in the town wondered “What’s an apostle?” Instead, they wondered “Who’s this Jesus Christ?”

 

When the apostles said that Jesus sent them, that’s exactly what they meant. They did not send each other. They were not sent by some church council. They were sent by Jesus Himself. And it had to be that way, because otherwise how could they have given personal testimony that Jesus had been raised from the dead? A dead man can’t send anyone.

 

The apostles, therefore, were unique in the annals of Christian history. I can tell you that Jesus was raised from the dead, but my testimony is derivative. That is, it is derived from what the apostles said. In all the centuries since then, no group of men has stood up and said “Jesus sent us to tell you…” But in that generation, a group of men did just that. Therefore, they are utterly unique.

 

Because the apostles are unique, their writings are unique as well. There is only one New Testament. That is, there is only one collection of apostolic writings. There is no writing or collection of writings that falls into that same category – writings produced by people personally commissioned by Jesus of Nazareth Himself.

 

We have no other witness to what the apostles said beyond their writings. No one can say “Peter said this” or “Paul said that” except that they quote the New Testament. There is no other extant evidence for what the apostles said. Those who knew the apostles face to face and heard their words certainly heard a lot more than what is in the 27 writings we call the New Testament. But those contemporaries of the apostles are long gone – as are their children and grandchildren. Whatever oral apostolic testimony may have resided in human memory has long since evaporated from the earth – leaving the apostles’ writings as all the more unique. They are the sole custodians of apostolic thought in the modern world.

 

While not technically unique, the apostles’ willingness to sacrifice their freedom and even their very lives certainly distinguishes their testimony. They weren’t the first martyrs for Christ, nor were they the last. Yet no one can deny their devotion to Him. Moreover, in this regard, they were replicas of Him. Jesus had said,

 

A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. – Luke 6:40

 

Did not the apostles present themselves sacrificially to God just as their teacher had presented Himself sacrificially to God? To do so was not their initial or natural inclination. In fact, we have the glaring example of Peter – the most zealous and outspokenly-committed of the twelve – denying Jesus on the night before the crucifixion. Yet the New Testament writings reveal him to have matured well beyond that state in the wake of Jesus’ resurrection. We also have Paul, whose initial reaction to Jesus was to violently persecute anyone who called on His name. Paul and Peter both are said to have been killed in Rome for failing to cease preaching in that name. Neither would have been young at the time, indicating the staying power of their devotion to the one who had sent them.

 

The apostles may have begun their walk with Jesus with all the failings attendant to the state of humanity, those same failings that attend your life and mine, but, in the end, made it clear by their lives and their deaths that they had indeed become fully-trained pupils of their teacher – that is, they had become like Him.

 

Is there some better source for our faith than the apostles? They spent three years listening to His teaching. They personally experienced Him alive after He had died by crucifixion. They were personally commission by Him to testify to His resurrection and proclaim His message. They fulfilled their mission by living the same sort of sacrificial life for others that He had lived before them. Is there someone whose word about Jesus we should give more regard? No. We are all derivative witnesses. And theirs is the witness from which ours is derived.

 

 

Apologetics Based Specifically on the Apostles’ Testimony

 

We no longer have the apostles, and we no longer have the oral testimony they gave the churches in their day, but we do have their written testimony in the form of the New Testament. Therefore, it is that written testimony that we make the basis of our faith.

 

None of the three main branches of Christianity – neither the Eastern Orthodox Church, nor the Roman Catholic Church, nor the Protestant church – claim to have any apostolic writings other than what we see in the New Testament. And they all use the exact same New Testament with the exact same 27 writings in it. Therefore, we all have the same written apostolic testimony upon which to establish our faith.

 

A faith established and defended based on apostolic apologetics is not rooted in philosophy or natural theology. Instead, it is rooted in the apostles’ testimony – the ancient New Testament. When I say “the ancient New Testament” I don’t mean that it’s comprised of different writings than the New Testament we use today. In the sense of its 27 texts, the ancient New Testament and the modern one are identical. What I mean by “the ancient New Testament” therefore, is that we accept the authors of each text as they were identified in ancient times. I have to make this point because we can find modern biblical scholars who want to argue with ancient biblical scholars about authorship – at least some modern scholars want to argue about some authors. More on this to come, but, for now, just know that when I speak of “the apostles’ written testimony” or “the ancient New Testament,” I’m speaking of those writings handed down to us from antiquity as the New Testament including the named authors.

 

When I say “testimony” I simply mean what the apostles said in their writings. Using the traditional legal motif in which the Greek use of “apologia” arose, consider the ancient New Testament as the written “depositions” of the apostles. They were “witnesses” in the “case” of Jesus. They “testified” to the events they saw – most notably, His resurrection – and the teaching they learned from Him during the three years they spent with Him. In reading their “testimony,” we, like “jury” members, will each be able to reach a “verdict.”

 

Of course, I’m using the term “deposition” in a conceptual sense, not a technical one. The apostles were not sitting before a lawyer, taking an oath, and having a court reporter transcribe their words. They were, however, writing before the face of God (at least in their own minds), at the risk of their lives, and their words have been preserved for us to judge as a jury would. In a conceptual sense, therefore, it is entirely appropriate to call their writings depositions.

 

In directing us to the apostles’ written testimony, apostolic apologetics does not require us to regard those writings as the word of God. Neither does it require us to declare allegiance to one or all of the three main branches of Christendom. It does not even require us to declare allegiance to the apostles themselves. All it requires of us is to read the New Testament as we would read any ancient literature – as we would read, say, Plato or Aristotle.

 

 

A Streamlined Approach

 

By focusing on the apostles’ testimony, you don’t have to learn philosophy. You don’t have to know an apologist…or seek a college degree in apologetics. You don’t have to master the vast array of Christian apologetic materials. You don’t even have to read books or watch debate videos about the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.

 

It’s not that Jesus’ resurrection becomes unimportant; on the contrary, His resurrection is essential and central to your faith. Rather, it’s that the apostles testify of His resurrection and you can come to your verdict about His resurrection based on your assessment of their veracity.

 

You don’t even have to focus on the entire Bible – just the New Testament. It’s not that the Old Testament is unimportant; on the contrary, the New Testament makes no sense without it. Rather, it’s that the New Testament encapsulates the Old Testament and therefore provides an efficient and sufficient way to establish and defend your faith without having to engage the whole Bible from the beginning.

 

Apostolic apologetics means focusing on the New Testament, and, within that, focusing on Jesus, and, within that, focusing on His resurrection from the dead. This way of focusing avoids a lot of distractions and will enable you to grow and sustain a great faith. Apostolic apologetics is a very streamlined form of Christian apologetics.

 

I know I haven’t convinced you yet. I haven’t even explained it to you yet! I’ve only introduced the topics I’ll be explaining. So bear with me as we breakdown this apologetic method one step at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8 – Defining the Apostolic Warrant for Faith

 

 

The foundation of apostolic apologetics is accepting – rather than rejecting or ignoring – the apostles’ testimony about Jesus Christ. It’s that simple. Put another way, the apostles’ testimony is our warrant for faith in Christ.

 

 

What Is a Warrant[*?*]

 

The word “warrant” is used in a variety of specialized contexts, including a legal one. For example, everyone has heard of a search warrant. Another specialized context is corporate securities, where a warrant is the right to purchase stock under certain conditions. What all these specialized uses have in common is a right to take a specified action. Therefore, the most generic sense of “warrant” is, as Merriam-Webster says, “a reason for thinking, deciding, or doing something.”

 

 

What Is a Warrant for Faith[*?*]

 

Having defined “warrant,” a “warrant for faith” is therefore

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. a reason for faith

*
p<>{color:#000;}. a justification for the faith one has

*
p<>{color:#000;}. a right to have faith

*
p<>{color:#000;}. a basis upon which to have faith

 

Therefore, a warrant for faith is what gives us reason to believe. Such a warrant justifies the faith we have. Because we have warrant, we have the right to have faith, that warrant being the basis for our faith.

 

We’ve been using “warrant” as a noun, but think of it also as a verb – as in, “So-and-so’s action warranted a thorough response.” This adds a dimension of “deserving” to the term. We could also say “assures,” “explains,” or “accounts for.” This is reminiscent of our classic apologetic text:

 

… always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you… – 1 Peter 3:15

 

We can paraphrase Peter’s exhortation in the following ways:

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. “to give a warrant for the hope that is in you…”

*
p<>{color:#000;}. “to give an explanation for the hope that is in you…”

*
p<>{color:#000;}. “to give assurance for the hope that is in you…”

 

“Warrant” therefore works for us as a verb, just as it did as a noun.

 

Considering that “warrant” works for us both as a verb and as a noun, we can say that faith is warranted when we have adequate reason, explanation, assurance, justification, right, or basis for that faith. Alternatively, we could say those factors account for – or are the warrant for – our faith.

 

We can even meld the legal association of “warrant” with the original legal association of apologetics (that is, the Greek “apologia”) to form in our minds an even stronger connection. That is, the warrant for our faith becomes the defense of our faith – thus reinforcing also the evangelistic-apologetic connection. We do not want an unwarranted faith in Jesus Christ. That’s what skeptics accuse us of having. On the contrary, our faith in Christ is fully warranted, and that warrant is written testimony that is apostolic.

 

 

What Is Apostolic[*?*]

 

The word “apostolic,” as you might expect, means “having to do with Jesus’ apostles.” While that’s true insofar as it goes, there’s some nuance involved and this is a good place to address it.

 

When the ancient Christian congregations that were spread around the Greco-Roman world collected and passed down the New Testament writings, they did so identifying the author of each of the 27 books. There were eight authors in total, and I’ve put in parentheses the number of books for which each author was responsible: Matthew (1), Mark (1), Luke (2), John (5), Paul (14), James (1), Peter (2), and Jude (1). This raises a question, first of all, about the inclusion of Mark and Luke – because neither is called an apostle in any of the New Testament texts. Neither did the ancient Christian congregations who first received these writings consider either of these two men to be apostles. Nevertheless, neither Mark’s Gospel nor Luke’s were ever considered less apostolic than Matthew’s or John’s. The reasons for this are clear from the New Testament itself and from the writings of Christians in the first few centuries that followed. Let me explain.

 

Mark was a co-worker with Peter. (He had also been a co-worker of Paul for a time as well.) Ancient Christians understood Mark to have transcribed Peter’s recollections of Jesus. Thus people often thought of the Gospel of Mark as Peter’s Gospel even though they didn’t call it that. Because Mark was a working at the direction of the apostle Peter and because his Gospel was something of a transcription of the things Peter had taught orally, it was entirely appropriate for the ancients to think of the Gospel according to Mark as being just as apostolic as Matthew’s or John’s.

 

Luke – like Mark – was the co-worker of an apostle. Luke traveled and worked with Paul. Through these joint travels, Luke had opportunity to interact with those who had been eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life and of the early ministry of the apostles. From what he learned, Luke wrote what came to be called the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Since Luke was recording eyewitness accounts and since he was laboring under the supervision of the apostle Paul, it would have been unnatural for the ancients to think of his writings as “non-apostolic.”

 

Therefore, because Mark and Luke were contemporaries of the apostles, and working under their oversight – the oversight of two of the most well-known apostles at that – and because all were laboring together in a common cause in a common age, the writings of these two men were always part of what the ancient churches considered apostolic.

 

Likewise, James and Jude – sons of Mary and younger brothers of Jesus – also were regarded as part of the apostolic company. First, there is valid reason to call them apostles in their own right even though they were not among the original twelve and even though we don’t have a special record of their being specially called to apostleship as we do for Paul. That reason is the way in which they are described in the New Testament. Nevertheless, those references were not definitive to some, so there seems to have been a question in the minds of some of the ancients about whether or not James and Jude were, technically speaking, apostles in the same sense as, say, Peter and John. Yet even those ancients who did not consider James and Jude apostles still considered their writings apostolic because their lives and work were apostolic. They were involved in leadership, side by side with the named apostles. Like Paul, James and Jude were skeptical of Jesus’ ministry in the beginning; and, like Paul, they eventually came around – and in zealous fashion. Like Mark and Luke, they were integral parts of the apostolic company – James being leader of the “mother” church that had been established in Jerusalem from the beginning.

 

For these reasons, the writings of Mark, Luke, James, and Jude have always been considered in the same class of writings as those of Matthew, John, Paul, and Peter – that is, writings that were considered apostolic.

 

Be aware, therefore, that the terms “apostle” or “apostolic” can be used in a narrow, technical sense (which would exclude Mark and Luke, and maybe even James and Jude), but more often that are used in a general sense (which would always include the writings of these four men). Throughout this book I tend to use both terms in general sense, because that is the sense in which the ancients came up with the 27-book New Testament.

 

Further to this usage, be aware that while many people think of an individual New Testament text as something one individual sat down at a desk and wrote all by himself, that this was not always the case. For one thing, some of the letters – notably Paul’s – indicate that they are from more than one person (e.g. “Paul and Sosthenes” or “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy” or “Paul and all the brethren who are with me”). Moreover, it’s apparent that a scribe or secretary was sometimes involved as well. The apostles were known to work in groups and therefore we’d be unnecessarily restrictive to disallow the possibility of group involvement in the production of a single New Testament text just because one person bore primary responsibility for the text. The apostles worked together in a common cause.

 

Therefore, “apostolic” does indeed mean “having to do with Jesus’ apostles.” But “having to do with Jesus’ apostles” doesn’t just mean a writing for which a technically-named apostle held the stylus with his own hand the entire time from the “dear so-and-so” to the “sincerely yours.” Rather, it means those select writings that were produced under apostolic authority – those where an apostle was personally involved, in charge, and responsible for the content. Another way of describing “apostolic” is to say that it is what came from the first generation of Christian disciples, and, specifically, from the group of men, and their respective support teams, that Jesus sent to initially represent Him and His mission to the world.

 

Why Is Apostolic Important?

 

By definition, there can never be another first generation of Christianity. Because the apostles came from that generation, there can never be another group like them. Therefore, the New Testament is uniquely apostolic. Yet it is not only unique among Christian writings because it is apostolic, it is unique among all ancient writings because of its subject matter.

 

All ancient writings can be categorized by the subject addressed. Plato was an expert on philosophy. Aristotle was an expert on mathematics, and many other things. Euclid was an expert on geometry. Hippocrates was an expert on medicine. Ptolemy was an expert on astronomy. Athenaeus was an expert on the culture of his day. All these men lived in ancient times and wrote. Their respective expertise is what has caused their writings to be preserved and read, even to this day. If no one had cared about the subject matter or the author, a writing would not have been preserved.

 

The apostles were among the men who lived in ancient times and wrote. In what field did their expertise lie? They were not experts in philosophy, mathematics, geometry, medicine, astronomy, or culture. They were not even experts on religion – at least not in the minds of the leaders of the religion whose heritage they claimed. What the apostles were expert on – that is, were knowledgeable about – was a particular man named Jesus of Nazareth, and on what He taught from the Scriptures of ancient Israel. This is the reason apostles’ writings have been preserved. And they are unique among all ancient literature because we have no other writings whose subject is Jesus of Nazareth by people who knew Him personally.

 

There could be no better experts on Jesus of Nazareth. If you want to know about this Jesus, and especially if you want to know whether or not He was raised from the dead, these men called His apostles are the primary sources. No one else – and nothing else – can give the kind of testimony that they do.

 

 

What Is the Apostolic Warrant for Faith?

Having defined “warrant for faith,” the “apostolic warrant for faith” is therefore the “warrant for faith” that comes from the apostles.

 

In what form does the apostles’ “warrant for faith” come to us? Through their writings – the 27 texts we call the New Testament. The New Testament can also be called “the apostolic corpus” for it is the only body of writings that can be called “apostolic” in the sense of being personally associated with Jesus. We have no other writings from His apostles besides the New Testament. Those writings contain the entirety of the apostolic testimony about Jesus Christ. That testimony, specifically, is our warrant for faith – our “apostolic warrant for faith.”

 

Again, when I say “the New Testament” I mean the ancient New Testament – that is, the New Testament as it was handed down to us from antiquity, authors and all. It ought to be obvious that ancient scholars are better sources on the authorship of ancient documents than modern scholars, but because apostolic authorship is sometimes challenged in modern times, I will spend some time justifying this preference for the ancient view as we proceed.

 

To sum up our discussion of apostolic apologetics to this point, the apostolic warrant for faith is the New Testament – which is the testimony of the apostles about Jesus and His teaching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9 – Approaching the Apostolic Warrant for Faith

 

 

We have clearly defined the apostolic warrant for faith and it is the ancient New Testament. This apostolic warrant for faith is utterly unique. Every other warrant for faith in Christ on offer today is derivative of this warrant. The apostolic warrant itself, however, is not derivative; it is direct testimony – from people in a position to give direct testimony.

 

 

The Ancient New Testament

 

The earliest generations of Christians kept the writings of the apostles, copied and shared them with each other, and ultimately thought of them as a single collection they called the New Testament. All the copies of the New Testament were originally in Greek because it was the lingua franca of that day. Simultaneously, the ancient Christians doing the collecting began to refer to the preexisting Hebrew Scriptures, which had been preserved and handed down by the Jews, as the Old Testament. It is through this process that the apostles’ writings were preserved, combined with the Jewish Scriptures, and then handed down from one generation of Christians to the next.

 

(If you would like a thorough explanation of this process, I have written an entire book devoted to describing it in detail. Its title is The New Testament From a Distance, and you can get it wherever you got this book. What I’m going to say in this chapter about that process is just a very condensed restatement of what’s in that book.)

 

When the ancient Christians preserved this collection they called the New Testament, they did so identifying the author of each text – either in the title or by their external references to it. By “external references” I mean the letters, essays, books, and such that the ancient Christians wrote. By such external references we know, for example, that the ancients knew Luke to be the author of Acts and that the James for which the eponymous epistle is named is the brother of Jesus and son of Mary – not the James who was the son of Zebedee or the James who was the son of Alphaeus. Ancient Christians did not include in the collection any texts from anonymous authors. Neither did they include texts about whose authorship they were unsure. Every text was ascribed to a specific author – either in the title itself or in the writings of the ancients who were bearing witness to the provenance of the texts.

 

Since ancient times – more specifically, in the last couple of centuries – some biblical scholars have decided to take exception to certain authorship ascriptions that have come down to us from antiquity. For example, while ancient scholars attributed 14 of the New Testament’s letters (epistles) to Paul, many modern scholars say that Paul was only directly involved with seven of them – the other seven being forgeries or misattributions of one kind or another. This is what is meant by phrases like “the uncontested letters of Paul” or “the undisputed Paulines.” It’s how modern scholars distinguish the ancient authorship ascriptions they accept from those that they don’t. Similarly, some modern scholars will say that since the titles of the four Gospels were applied by the ancient Christians who first received them and not by the authors of the Gospels themselves that we must say that the Gospels are “formally anonymous” and that we therefore cannot claim to know who the authors actually were.

 

Therefore, while ancient Christians, including the ancient scholars among them, handed down to us a New Testament with no unknown authors, modern scholars view that same New Testament as having both known and unknown authors. And while the ancients acted by consensus in their authorship attributions to each of the 27 texts, modern scholars are by no means united in their views about the authorship of those texts. You can find modern scholars who believe that very few of the stated authors are the actual authors and you can find modern scholars who believe that all the stated authors are the actual authors…and you can find modern scholars almost everywhere between those two positions. That is, one will say that seven of the 27 authorship attributions are correct, another will say 15 are correct, yet another 19, and so on. Whereas ancient scholars were united on authorship, modern scholars are divided.

 

Because of these many differences of opinion among modern scholars, you will usually find in today’s study Bibles or Bible commentaries, a discussion at the beginning of each New Testament book about authorship. In that discussion, you will be encouraged to either accept or reject the authorship ascription of antiquity – depending on the point of view of the particular modern scholars writing the reference you are reading. Liberal or skeptical biblical scholars usually discourage you from trusting the ancient authorship attributions while conservative scholars generally encourage you to accept them. And you can expect that the degree of discouragement and encouragement will vary – whether greatly or modestly – with each reference you read.

 

Modern skeptical scholars lack the stature necessary to blot out “Peter” from the title “2 Peter,” so they just tell you, in essence, not to believe what the title says. There is one New Testament title they have managed to get changed, however, and that is the title of the book of Hebrews. The ancients handed it down as being from Paul. And even as recently as the 1611 King James Version, the title is “The Epistle of Paul, the Apostle, to the Hebrews.” King James Bibles printed today still show it this way. However, most modern English translations will read instead “The Letter to the Hebrews” or “The Epistle to the Hebrews.” This is because there are too few conservative biblical scholars who will stick up for what the ancients declared about it. This is the only exception to the rule that the New Testament, as we read it today, has the same authorship ascriptions that it had in antiquity even though many modern scholars reject the authenticity of some, or even many, of those ascriptions.

 

Again, this discrepancy between ancient scholarship and modern scholarship is what I am referring to when I talk about an “ancient New Testament” and a “modern New Testament.” There is only one New Testament; the “ancient” and “modern” modifiers are just a way of making clear that ancient scholars claimed to know the authorship of all 27 texts while many modern scholars disagree. Therefore, when I say “ancient New Testament” be sure that I simply mean accepting the New Testament as it was originally presented to us – individual titles and all (which means “known authors” and all).

 

 

The Authors of Ancient Literature

 

Why should we accept the authorship attributions of antiquity instead of those of modernity? For one thing, modernity is not of one opinion. As I’ve said, modern scholars are all over the map regarding authorship. Yes, liberal scholars tend to accept fewer of the named authors and conservative scholars tend to accept more. However, there is no unanimity on this issue even among liberal scholars, and neither is there unanimity among conservative scholars. Thus there are disputes not only between camps, but also within camps. We couldn’t agree with modern scholars about authorship if we wanted to because they don’t even agree among themselves.

 

Secondly, and more importantly, we should prefer the authorship attributions given to us by the ancients because they were in a better position to know. Who is in a better position to know the author of a writing – the author’s associates and contemporaries…or people who won’t be born until some two thousand years after the author dies?

 

We can know the identities of the authors of the New Testament texts the same way we know the authors of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, and Athenaeus. We know because the associates and contemporaries of these various individuals handed down this information, and thus it has been handed down from generation to generation ever since.

 

If a modern scholar wants to say, for example, that Plato didn’t really write The Republic, he has to have evidence stronger than the testimony of the ancients in or close to Plato’s time. Such a modern scholar also has to show how the judgment process of the ancients was flawed or else how they conspired to perpetrate a fraud on posterity. A lawyer can’t get a new trial for his client unless he can show how the original trial was procedurally flawed or how he can present new evidence that was not available at the original trial. Modern biblical scholars do not attempt to meet either of these criteria. You’ll find them saying things like “This letter cannot be Paul’s because the vocabulary and style is too different from Paul’s other letters.” Are we supposed to believe that ancient scholars were not as familiar with the vocabulary and styles of ancient Greek as modern scholars? For many of the ancient scholars, ancient Greek was their first language! And are we supposed to believe that ancient scholars weren’t as interested in exposing forgeries as modern scholars? The ancient landscape is littered with apostolic forgeries which ancient scholars rooted out! These include Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Judas, Acts of Paul, Apocalypse of Paul, Apocalypse of Peter, Acts of Peter and the Twelve and many more.

 

We are actually on more solid ground to accept the verdict of antiquity regarding the authorship of all 27 New Testament texts than we are to accept the authorship of ancients like Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, and Athenaeus. This is because we have but a few writers from antiquity testifying to the authorship of these classical writers, whereas there was confirmation from many ancient congregations of the apostles’ authorship.

 

If someone wants to say that the ancient Christians got the authors wrong he has to be able to explain how they managed to agree on all the wrong authors. There was no central controlling authority in those days that could have brought about such agreement, as is demonstrated by their disagreement on so many other issues. What are the odds that they would independently come to the exact same wrong answers?

 

You might wonder why and how it is that there is so much skepticism among modern biblical scholars about authorship of the Greek New Testament texts while there is comparatively so little skepticism about classical Greek texts. The “how” is that a double standard is being employed. Scholarship has become so specialized that scholars who work with ancient texts today usually work with either classical texts or religious texts – but not both. Thus the biblical texts tend to be viewed differently. Religious polarizations can then taint that view, and the rising tide of skepticism about religious issues over the last century or two in broader society further fuels the willing to employ a double standard. If ancient biblical texts are judged by the same standards as ancient classical texts, then there is no reason to doubt the authorship ascriptions of “the ancient New Testament.”

 

 

The Ancient Literature Itself

 

Okay, so we now know who wrote each of the 27 parts of the New Testament. How do we know that we have is what was originally written? The answer is that we can be more sure that the texts we have in the New Testament are what was originally written than we can be sure that the text we have of The Republic is what Plato originally wrote, or that the text we have of Rhetoric is what Aristotle originally wrote, and so on.

 

The reason we can be more sure has to do with the way the ancients made copies. In antiquity, all writings were produced by hand. There was no printing press until the 15th century. Therefore, all ancient texts were manuscripts – that is, script written by human hand. Likewise, of course, all copies of ancient texts were manuscripts. Because handwritten copies can, by definition, have more mistakes that a machine-produced copy, we need a way to identify mistakes in the copies if we want to be sure of what the originals said. That way is to hope for the greatest number of copies.

 

The more copies we have of an ancient text, the more comparisons we can make between them. The more comparisons we can make, the easier it is to distinguish between scribal errors and what the original text must have said. Someone will say, “Wouldn’t it be better if we had the originals?” All writing materials have a shelf life, and the shelf life of papyrus is even shorter than that of paper. Having the originals, therefore, is not an option. Even if it was an option, it wouldn’t be a desirable one. The originals would be under one person’s or one group’s control – and thus susceptible to tampering. Therefore, we are better off judging the contents of ancient text by copies – which are widely dispersed and beyond anyone’s control – than we would be by originals. Copies, by the way, are the very same way we judge modern writings. Look up any current review of a modern book and see if you can find one where the reviewer insisted only on reviewing the author’s original version. All modern book reviewers are reviewing copies of the author’s original. Notice the same thing when you go to the library or bookstore – you’re surrounded by copies, not originals.

 

When it comes to copies, we have more manuscripts for the New Testament than we do for any other ancient writing – far more. Thus we are in a much better position to distinguish copying errors from the original text when it comes to the New Testament than we are with respect to any other ancient writing.

 

It’s not just the number of copies that helps us in being sure of the original words of an ancient text; it’s also the dates that the various copies were made. The shorter the period of time between when the original was written and the copy was made, the more confident we can be that copy we’re reading reflects what the original actually said. In this respect also, the New Testament is in a superior position to all other ancient texts. The period of time between when the New Testament texts were originally written and the dates of the earliest New Testament manuscript copies we have is shorter than the period of time for any other ancient texts.

 

Therefore, by both the number and age of manuscripts, there is greater attestation to the textual reliability of the New Testament than there is for any other ancient writing. If you are going to doubt that what you’re reading in the New Testament is what the apostles actually wrote then you should doubt the text of every single writing that has come down to us from antiquity (Plato’s, Aristotle’s, Julius Caesar’s, etc.). Since no reasonable person would do the latter, no reasonable person should do the former.

 

 

The Apostolic Warrant for Faith Is Textually-Reliable Ancient Literature

 

I have shown you that – like literature from Plato, Aristotle, and the rest – the New Testament is comprised of writings whose authors are known and whose texts are reasonable replicas of what the authors originally wrote. Therefore, the apostolic warrant for faith – the New Testament – is textually reliable from a human point of view.

 

By textually reliable, I mean that when we read the New Testament we are reading what the designated author originally wrote. And we can be as sure of these things as we are of any other ancient writing – in fact, more sure. By textually reliable, I do not mean that you necessarily have to consider everything in the New Testament historically reliable before you read it any more than I would say you have to accept in advance the reliability of everything Plato, Aristotle, or the rest of antiquity’s authors wrote in their respective texts. Each ancient text – like every modern text – stands or falls on the merits of its own contents.

 

Approaching the New Testament as a set of textually-reliable ancient texts means that we are not approaching it as the word of God. Instead, we are approaching it as the word of men – specifically the eight apostolic men about whom we’ve been speaking. This means we are not approaching the texts as if they are infallible or inerrant. Of course, I am not saying that the New Testament is not the word of God – only that insofar as apostolic apologetics is concerned, we don’t approach it with that preconceived notion.

 

If we approach the New Testament as the word of God, trying to find out if Jesus really is Lord, then we’ve subjected ourselves to circular reasoning. That is, we will have assumed God is behind the New Testament (which is about Jesus) before we’ve satisfied ourselves that Jesus has come from God. If the New Testament is to be a path by which anyone can learn about Jesus, it has to be approached as nothing more than it has proven itself beyond any reasonable doubt to be – that is, a highly-reliable copy of 27 ancient texts by eight men making common claims about a 1st-century Jew they believed to be Israel’s long-promised Messiah.

 

In other words, apostolic apologetics only asks a reader to approach the New Testament as “the apostolic warrant for faith” – not as “the divine warrant for faith.” The apostolic warrant for faith is a human warrant for faith because the apostles were human and never claimed otherwise. Their claim to be representing Jesus of Nazareth was, for this reason, also a human claim. Now, to be sure, when you actually read the apostles you are going to see that they claim to be speaking on behalf of God – proclaiming Jesus’ interpretation of what Israel’s prophets had written. But that’s what you will have to decide once you’ve read them: whether you believe their claims to be speaking for God or not. You don’t have to decide this – in fact, you shouldn’t try to decide this – before you’ve given the texts a fair hearing. The words on the page are their words. Only as you read enough of them to come to a conclusion will you decide whether you think the apostles actually were speaking for God. That is, you approach the New Testament as the word of men with the intention of reading enough of it to decide whether it is also the word of God. You approach the apostolic warrant for faith with the intention of reading enough of it to decide whether it is also, as they claim, the divine warrant for faith.

 

The apostolic warrant for faith – that is, the New Testament – deserves a reading because its authenticity as an ancient text compares favorably with all other ancient texts. There is no reasonable basis for thinking that the New Testament we read today is saying something other than what those ancient men originally wrote.

 

 

The Problem with Inerrancy

 

I’ve already sufficiently emphasized that readers should approach the New Testament first as human writings, judged as reliable by the same standards as those employed for all ancient literature. Therefore, the issue of inerrancy – which has to do with anything considered as the word of God – should not even arise. However, inerrancy does so often arise in apologetic discussions about the Bible that I feel I should digress long enough to address it.

 

Inerrancy is a well-intentioned but flawed concept. It is well-intentioned because it was formulated to defend the honor of God’s communications to humanity through His chosen prophets and apostles – which is to say, through the Bible. The concept’s most formal expression came in 1978 when over 200 evangelical leaders met and published the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.” It’s a lengthy statement, but its essence is that the Bible has no errors in it because it is the word of God.

 

In making this statement, conservative Christian scholars thought they were taking a stand for the integrity of God’s word but they were, at the same time, unwittingly inviting skeptics to argue about all sorts of inconsequential details in the Bible – such as, how many donkeys were involved in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, how many women went to Jesus’ tomb, or how many angels were there waiting. Whenever the subject of inerrancy arises, the conversation veers to such immaterial issues.

 

For this reason, I don’t see how it’s ever helpful to promote inerrancy. Even after I came to the conclusion that the New Testament is the word of God, I still read it as textually-reliable writing from fellow human beings who lived a long time ago. The pages of the New Testament didn’t change color and glow because I believed it was the word of God. It couldn’t be the word of God unless it was first the word of the apostles who wrote it. And even after I realized it was indeed the word of God, it didn’t cease to be the word of the apostles. Inerrancy is a distraction; I wish people would stop talking about it.

 

 

Almost Ready to Examine the Apostle’s Testimony

 

There is one last thing we need to cover in our approach to reading the New Testament: the incidental and occasional nature of the writings therein.

 

I have said that the New Testament contains the apostles’ testimony about Jesus; I have also said that the New Testament is the apostles’ testimony about Jesus. They are not exactly the same thing, but both things are true. Let me explain, starting first with the epistles and then addressing the Gospels and Acts.

 

When I say that the New Testament contains the apostles’ testimony I mean that they were not writing to us. That is, they did not address their letters to posterity as if they were going to be placed in a time capsule to be opened and read some twenty centuries later. Rather, they wrote to this group of believers or that one. On three occasions, Paul wrote junior working associates. Each letter written by the apostles seems to have been prompted by some unique circumstance – whether it be a doctrinal controversy, an apostle’s imprisonment, or even an apostle’s impending death. Therefore, the New Testament epistles are not a systematic catechism in the faith or an FAQ written to answer the questions of every following generation. Each epistle has its own context and addresses then current issues. None of them are written “to whom it may concern,” as the Declaration of Independence was. These letters are the internal correspondence of participants in the Christian movement of the 1st century. Thus they contain the apostles’ testimony about Jesus because it is the subject to which the writings continually return.

 

Unlike the epistles, which, by virtue of their frequent references to the senders and receivers, provide clues as to the context of the communications, the Gospels tell us little about why and when and for whom specifically each was written. Luke has a preamble that addresses this and John a coda, but both those passages still leave scholars wishing for more details about what each writer meant. In any case, it’s clear that all four Gospels are accounts of the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, primarily as witnessed by His apostles during the three years of His public ministry – including His death by crucifixion and His resurrection on the third day after.

 

The Acts of the Apostles is obviously a history – some might even say a biographical portrait – of the respective apostolic ministries of Peter and Paul. Luke’s cryptic references in its beginning indicate that he considers it something of a “part two” to his Gospel account. We don’t have much more explanation than that.

 

There was no ancient New Testament editor to weave together these 27 texts for us. We must accept them as they are and understand how and where they are interrelated as best we can. Sometimes that requires a little detective work. Through it all, however, the apostles’ testimony about Jesus is present. No matter what specific issue they are caught up in writing about in any particular passage, their witness to Jesus – His person, His teaching, and His mission – is always on their minds. In this sense, therefore, the New Testament not only contains their testimony about Him – it is their testimony about Him.

 

Therefore, we are ready to begin examining the New Testament not as sacred writings but as ancient literature. We further recognize that these ancient texts were not written for the purpose of formal publication with accompanying book tours by their authors. Rather, they were written by men in the course of fulfilling a particularly demanding lifelong mission to tell the world about the man who had sent them. We shall examine in some detail just what it was that these men called apostles of Jesus Christ had to say about Him.

 

We will read their words like a person interested in philosophy would read Plato, like someone interested in mathematics would read Aristotle, like an individual interested in astronomy would read Ptolemy, and so on. We read to find out about Jesus – and whether or not it makes sense to believe what His apostles said about Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 10 – Examining the Apostolic Warrant for Faith

 

 

Like any good apologetic method, apostolic apologetics can lead a person to the path of faith as well as keep a person on the path of faith. Therefore, let me begin our examination of the New Testament with a word to those who may have never read it. I want to help you formulate a strategy for reading it – help you find an entrance ramp, so to speak. Those of you who are already familiar with the texts can skip over this first section of the chapter.

 

 

A Reading Strategy

 

You could read the New Testament from beginning to end. Be aware though that it’s almost 200,000 words, making it almost triple the size of the average non-fiction book. And with average book sizes declining in the digital age, its bulk is going to seem even more intimidating to anyone thinking about taking on the whole thing at once. Nevertheless, if you have the time and the inclination, I would never discourage you from doing this. It’s just not a practical choice for most people.

 

Alternatively, you could choose to start by reading one of the four Gospels. I think the Gospel that most people choose for this purpose is the Gospel of John. This makes sense to me because, of all the New Testament texts, it is the only one that even seems like it might be written for an outsider, a newcomer. I say this because of John’s words near the end:

 

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. – John 20:30-31

 

On the other hand, John begins his Gospel writing about Jesus in a way that could easily puzzle an uninitiated person.

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. – John 1:1-5

 

Whether you take the Gospel of John as written to introduce someone to Jesus or as intended to deepen and strengthen the faith in Jesus that someone already has, it is a wonderful text and I wouldn’t discourage you from reading it. It just wouldn’t be the first thing I’d recommend.

 

I certainly would not encourage you to start your reading of the New Testament with the book of Revelation. That book has been causing readers to stumble for millennia. In fact, let me just be direct with you and say, “Don’t start there!” Once you’ve digested the “milk” of the New Testament, you can think about moving on to the “meat.”

 

I do actually have a suggestion for you, and it is that you start with one of the letters of Paul. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, there are 14 of them so you have many from which to choose. They are all shorter than the Gospels, so it will take less time to complete a discrete text. Paul’s longest letter – Romans – is still less than half the size of the shortest Gospel (Mark). There is a considerable advantage in being able to read a text in its entirety in one sitting over against reading it in bits and pieces over several days or weeks. For one thing, it’s easier to discern the author’s context and intent this way.

 

Second, because there are 14 of Paul’s letters, you can use the familiarity you gain from one letter to better understand another. Every writer has a “voice.” Once you are familiar with that voice, you can better understand all his writing. What you learn in reading one letter, might apply immediately to the next. Yes, it’s true that there is a similarity of voice between all the New Testament writers because they’re all on the same frequency, but there’s naturally an even greater consistency that comes from one writer. With Paul, you have a mini-New Testament from one human voice.

 

Third, and most importantly, Paul was called to be “apostle to the Gentiles.” This makes his writing more accessible to more people. The New Testament is very Jewish in orientation – no less so than the Old Testament. Even Paul is very Jewish in orientation. Yet, being called to minister to Gentiles, Paul orients himself to them as well. Less than 2% of the American population is Jewish. Therefore, the vast majority of us are Gentiles. And, at least in some ways, 21 st^-century Jews can be more like 21[^st]-century Gentiles than they are like 1st-century Jews. Thus Paul’s “outward-looking” view – that is, looking outward from the Jewish center to invite in Gentiles who are on the periphery helps many of us to navigate our way through apostolic testimony.

 

You needn’t feel wedded to my suggetion. People have read the New Testament in a variety of ways that have led to good outcomes. I’ve just given you some thoughts to consider as you formulate your strategy for actually reading the New Testament. My bottom-line recommendation is: however you choose to read the New Testament, read it.

 

 

What to Look for in Your Reading

 

Whether you are just starting out in your reading of the New Testament or you’ve been reading it for many years, an apostolic apologetic approach means being alert in your reading – especially for one particular thing. That one thing is any reference to Jesus being raised from the dead according to the Scriptures.

 

You can and will, of course, learn many, many things from reading the New Testament. But of all the things you learn, nothing is more important than that Jesus was raised from the dead. This is the central point of the apostles’ testimony. As Paul himself said,

 

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

 

Paul is making clear that if Christ was not raised from the dead, nothing else about Christianity matters. Nothing else. There’s not an ounce of equivocation in Paul’s statement.

 

Upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Christian message and way of life rises or falls. There is no substitute. There is no Plan B. There is no other justification for following Jesus but that He was raised from the dead. If He’s still dead, He can’t help us. If He’s still dead, He’s just “he.”

 

Because of the supreme importance of Christ’s resurrection, you will see references to it on almost every page of the New Testament – especially in the epistles. Yet all these references will not be immediately apparent to you. Many of them are subtle. There are, however, more than enough explicit ones to reward alert readers – feeding their faith at every occurrence.

 

The resurrection of Christ alone, however, is not enough. Remember I said to look for references to His resurrection according to the Scriptures. The central message of the apostles was not merely that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but that He had been raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. This crucial qualifier is often omitted, or under-emphasized, in traditional apologetic proofs of the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. Without this qualifier, the resurrection of Jesus is just a highly unusual event…with no particular meaning for anyone else. It’s the Scriptures that give this unusual event its proper context and explain its meaning and why it’s relevant for the entire human race.

 

In the New Testament, the word “Scriptures” generally means what we call the Old Testament. There was no New Testament at the time its writings were being produced. The collection came later. Therefore, almost every single reference to “Scripture” in the New Testament is to the Old Testament. Of course, the New Testament writers never call the Old Testament “the Old Testament.” They use a variety of terms, such as “Scripture,” “Scriptures,” “the Prophets,” “Moses and the Prophets,” “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” “Moses,” “the Law,” “the Law of Moses,” and more. Such references include even references to other specific Old Testament writers like Moses – Isaiah, Jeremiah, David, and others. Therefore, as you read the apostles, be alert for references to Jesus’ resurrection as prophesied and explained by the prophets.

 

The Central Point

 

Because of its unparalleled importance, let me restate the central point of all apostolic testimony and therefore of apostolic apologetics: Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. I have shown you that there are two points to this declaration and neither should ever be divorced from the other.

 

Here is one of the most explicit declarations of apostolic testimony on this central point. It comes from Paul, in the same part of the same letter I quoted from above.

 

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. – 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

 

Please note that Paul said this matter was “of first importance.” Therefore, I am not misleading you when I emphasize it so much. Note also the twofold aspect of the declaration: “He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” – 1) “raised” and 2) “according to.”

 

This declaration was the apostles’ announcement to the world. It was their proclamation, it was the central point of their message. It was what they called over and over “the gospel.” “Gospel” means “good news,” and the central point of that good news was that Jesus had been raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. This was the core of their message. Everything else the apostles had to say flowed from this twofold declaration. Every instruction the apostles gave could be traced back to this seminal truth.

 

Further to this point, note in the passage above that Paul is explicitly defining as “the gospel” Jesus’ resurrection from the dead according to the Scriptures. This means that every occurrence of the word “gospel” in the New Testament is an implicit reference to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead according to the Scriptures. Remember that I said references to this issue were all over the New Testament but that a novice reader would not immediately recognize many of them. The word “gospel” is a case in point. Now you are sensitized to recognize what’s always being implied by the word “gospel” whenever one of the apostles uses it. Therefore, while 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 gives us a clear and emphatic position on the central importance of Jesus’ resurrection according to the Scriptures, it also sets us up to catch one of the many more subtle references to it that appears throughout the New Testament: the word “gospel.”

 

What has been considered by many as Paul’s magnum opus – his letter to the Romans – begins and ends with the explicit declaration of the central point of the apostolic warrant for faith I have been emphasizing.

 

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead… – Romans 1:1-4 [emphasis added]

 

I’ve put in bold, both in Paul’s first words of the letter above and his last words of the letter below, the two aspects of the central point.

 

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen. – Romans 16:25-27 [emphasis added]

 

Thus Paul bookends the writing to which he may have given the most thought with an explicit and emphatic statement about the importance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead according to the Scriptures.

 

Also, because of what we learned about the meaning of the word “gospel,” we can better appreciate the significance of its appearing four times in the first chapter of Paul’s treatise and once again in its last.

 

The apostles were not confused about what they considered to be the central point of their message. Neither will any attentive reader of the New Testament be left confused about it.

 

 

Another Subtle Reference to the Central Point

 

I’ve shown you a couple of the clear and emphatic references to the central point of apostolic testimony. I also explained the more subtle reference that is inherent whenever the word “gospel” appears in the New Testament – which is almost 100 times!

 

Let me give you another example of a subtle reference to Jesus’ resurrection according to the Scriptures. If in your reading of the New Testament you come across something like “Jesus was raised from the dead” you know that you have one-half of the message I’ve told you is so central. Yet if it reads the same way, except that it says “Christ” was raised instead of “Jesus” was raised then you have both halves. That’s because “Christ” means “Messiah” which is an Old Testament (“the Scriptures”) term. Therefore, to say that “Christ was raised from the dead” is to say that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah and therefore that He was raised from the dead according to the Scriptural promises made regarding Messiah. Thus you are now sensitized to the fact that saying “Jesus was raised from the dead” is saying something, but referring to the same event by saying “Christ was raised from the dead” is saying something significantly more. Specifically, it is saying that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures.

 

Let me say a just a little more about why the “according to the Scriptures” part is so important. I’ve already said that the Scriptures explain the event and give it its importance and relevance. What I need to say further is that there is a great deal to this explanation, and the apostles were clear that the explanation would continue unfolding far into the future. They themselves, for example, did not immediately understand that one implication of the gospel was that Gentiles were to receive the same full set of messianic benefits that were coming to the Jews. And it took more than a few days, a few weeks, or a few months before this great truth was brought to dawn on them. And there were many other aspects of this great event that could not all be explained at once. Thus the “according to the Scriptures” part meant, among other things, that humanity would be wise to keep going back to the Scriptures – now for us including the New Testament as well as the Old – to keep gaining understanding about just what was cosmically achieved when Jesus was raised from the dead. I have known many Christians who have dropped out of “the university of the apostles,” but I have never known one to have graduated from it.

 

Fortunately, we do not have to completely understand all the meaning of Christ’s resurrection from the dead to believe in it and to begin receiving benefit from it. But this leads me to tell you about one other subtle reference to Jesus’ resurrection according to the Scriptures. And it’s particularly important that you be sensitized to it.

 

 

The Central Point of the Central Point

 

Yes, there is a central point to the central point that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. It is that He is Lord. In case that’s not obvious, let me explain.

 

First, be aware that, in the 1st-century, the Greek word “kurios” could mean on the one hand “Sir” – that is, a simple sign of respect from one person to another. On the other, it could refer to God Himself. You have to consider the context to understand which meaning is intended.

 

On the first day of announcing the gospel after Jesus had ascended into heaven, the apostle Peter boldly proclaimed to his fellow Jews:

 

For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: “THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.” Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified. – Acts 2:34-36

 

The all caps portion is Peter quoting Psalm 110:1, which was ascribed to David.

 

1st-century Jews knew that Psalm 110:1 was a reference to their messiah, but they did not know what it meant. Their ignorance of its meaning is made clear in Matthew 22:41-46 where Jesus asks the Pharisees to explain how King David could be calling the messiah “Lord” since the messiah was to be a descendant of David. The Pharisees had no explanation for how the older could be regarding the younger as superior. The answer to the riddle was, of course, the resurrection. Messiah’s resurrection from the dead meant an alteration in the normal relationship of ancestor and descendant. But the Pharisees could not see that then. Even the apostles couldn’t see it then. It was only later – after the resurrection occurred – that the apostles could understand Jesus’ explanation of that scripture.

 

Psalm 110:1 is the most-quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament, appearing in more than twenty places. And you can see in the Acts 2:34-36 passage above that Peter considered it the basis for calling Jesus “Lord.” You can also see that “right hand of God” implied a lot more respect that simply “Sir.” It spoke of the very highest level of authority in the universe. It is obvious that Jesus could not be called “Lord” in this sense while He was still on earth – because earth is not “the right hand of God.” The only way Jesus could have gotten to the right hand of God was to have been raised there. And the only place from which He could have been raised was death – because crucifixion had killed Him. Therefore, every reference to Jesus as Lord in this exalted sense is a reference to His resurrection from the dead. And it is a simultaneous reference to “according to the Scriptures” because it was Psalm 110: that called Him “Lord” as a consequence of that resurrection.

 

Ironically, therefore, the central point of the central point is subtly, yet forthrightly, implied practically every time Jesus is called “Lord” in the New Testament – which is hundreds of times! This is yet one more reason why you can hardly turn a page in the New Testament without being reminded by the apostles that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and without being reminded that, as a result of this, He is Lord. This was uppermost on the apostles’ minds, and uppermost on the minds of those to whom they wrote. Even when it was not being explicitly discussed, it was never far from their thinking.

 

The central point of the central point of the apostolic warrant for faith is that Jesus is Lord. He can only be Lord if He is raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. These people were not radically devoted to Jesus merely because He had lived such an inspiring human life. Lots of people have lived inspiring lives. Therefore, what provoked this radical devotion was that, as a result of His inspiring life and numerous scriptural promises, He had been made Lord of heaven and earth. For all practical purposes, He had been named God.

 

 

Calling for the Question

 

In parliamentary procedure, “calling for the question” is a way of saying “We’ve debated the issue sufficiently; let’s vote on it” – that is, “let’s decide.” At some point in your reading, you will need to say to yourself “calling for the question.”

 

I’m not saying that time is now. You should count the cost before you decide to accept the apostles’ testimony about Jesus, and you certainly should read enough – and re-read enough – of the New Testament to satisfy yourself that I have not misled you in my characterization of its focus on Jesus as Lord by virtue of His resurrection according to the Scriptures.

 

If you are already a Christian, you just need to make sure that you properly appreciate the centrality of “Jesus is Lord” to the New Testament message. Every other aspect of faith is secondary to it – at most.

 

The foundation of apostolic apologetics is that the apostles’ written testimony is more important than anyone else’s testimony, and that the apostles are testifying through their writings that Jesus is Lord as a consequence of His resurrection according to scriptural prophecy. If you don’t already think this way, you will need to re-orient your apologetic focus.

 

(If you would like more help in establishing your faith with this orientation, I have written a book titled Finding Faith: The Historical Jesus in the Undisputed Paulines. It examines seven letters of Paul with just this focus and lays out “the apostolic warrant for faith in Christ” in great detail. If you find the detail in this chapter insufficient and want more, you can probably find that book wherever you found this one.)

 

If a person will only spend long enough to read the New Testament there will be no mistaking the apostles’ conviction that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. It’s clear from what they wrote in the New Testament that they knew He had actually been raised from the dead by virtue of their personal interactions with them, and they knew the resurrection was a fulfillment of the Scriptures by virtue of His having taught this to them. This twofold issue dominated all their thinking, all their work, and all the minds of the disciples who gave them proper heed.

 

It is by means of this apostolic warrant that I first came to faith in Christ in 1978 (even though I didn’t know enough to explain it this way), and it is by means of this warrant that I continue to defend and practice that faith today. I cannot commend this warrant to you highly enough. It is superior to every other basis of faith that has been presented to me, or that I have observed, over all the intervening years.

 

If you can positively answer the question “Is Jesus Lord?” then you can live with any number of unanswered questions that traditional Christian apologetics answers. On the other hand, what good is it to be able to answer question after question if you lose confidence that Jesus is Lord?

 

This chapter has described and sampled the apostolic warrant for faith in Christ that we have in the New Testament. In the next chapter I want to describe the efficiency of that warrant to believe, and, in the chapter following that, its sufficiency. Then you can fully appreciate the two primary ways in which apostolic apologetics can help you live for Christ – the Lord of heaven and earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11 – The Efficiency of Apostolic Apologetics

 

 

To be efficient is to achieve the maximum of results with the minimum of effort – certainly with no unnecessary effort. Apostolic apologetics is time-efficient and energy-efficient –meaning your time and your energy. It leads you to focus your attention regarding faith – its creation, its sustenance, and its defense – where it will do you the most good.

 

 

Getting to Jesus in One Step Instead of Two

 

Classic apologetic methods begin with establishing theism. Then, as a second step, seek to establish Christianity. Thus they get to Jesus in two steps: 1) theism is right and atheism is wrong, and 2) Christianity is right and competing forms of theism are wrong. Thus the traditional apologetic approaches deal heavily in philosophical arguments – whether formal or informal – which attempt in various ways to prove the existence of God. Thus we have the Kalam cosmological argument, the argument from the fine-tuning of the universe, Alvin Plantinga’s “couple of dozen or so” arguments for God’s existence, and so on.

 

By contrast, apostolic apologetics goes straight to Jesus, skipping the “having to prove God exists first” stage. Here’s the logic for skipping that first step. The apostolic account of Jesus and His resurrection is either true or false. If it’s true, then obviously there’s a God; if it’s not, then you can go to your general arguments about God. Apostolic apologetics is saying, in effect, that proving theism first in order to establish a basis for Christianity is unnecessary effort. Efficiency of effort means eliminating unnecessary tasks. You don’t need philosophy or natural theology to convince you there’s a God in the face of resurrection from the dead. Even the skeptics who swear by evolution as the explanation for everything that exists or can exist don’t believe it can raise the dead.

 

Efficiency in apologetics means more than just saving time and effort. It means avoiding unnecessary arguments with others. More importantly, it means avoiding unnecessary arguments within yourself.

 

 

Getting to the Bible as the Word of God in Two Steps Instead of Three

 

After traditional apologetic methods have gotten you to Jesus, usually in two steps, they then take you to “the Bible is the word of God” as a third step. Apostolic apologetics gets you to the Bible is the word of God in a second step. Specifically, its logic works like this:

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Since Jesus is Lord and He believed the Old Testament is the word of God, then it must be the word of God.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Since the apostles were sent by Jesus, and they wrote the New Testament, the New Testament must be the word of the Lord.

 

There is an additional efficiency benefit of apostolic apologetics with respect to the Bible beyond just saving a step. Remember that we approached the New Testament as ancient literature, accepting its authorship claims consistent with the standards applying to all other authorship claims in ancient literature. Therefore, we do not have to argue about whether or not, for example, Paul wrote all of the letters that bear his name. Those who follow traditional apologetic methods have to choose between liberal and conservative scholarship positions on the authorship of each and every book.

 

This additional efficiency benefit is huge. I can’t tell you how much modern ink is spilled in litigating authorship issues for New Testament books. More importantly, claims of false authorial attribution provoke doubts and can be a serious drain on your faith. It’s very taxing to have to begin each new study of a New Testament text with a study Bible introduction or commentary laying out the authorship claims and counter-claims. If we can’t know the author of the text we’re reading, how can we follow Paul’s exhortation to Timothy that we read earlier?

 

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 3:14-15 [emphasis added]

 

The ancient Christians, whether intentionally or not, enabled us to follow such an instruction by including in New Testament only those writings whose authors were known and were apostolic.

 

We who practice apostolic apologetics settle authorship issues before we begin reading the New Testament, and to let go of those authorial attributions would require us to let go of the authorial attributions to Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, Athenaeus, and all the rest of antiquity’s authors. It doesn’t make sense to ignore what antiquity has told us about antiquity’s writings…and there’s no sense making an exception where the New Testament is concerned. That would require to adopt a double standard. And a double standard, of course, is never justified. It’s worse than no standard at all.

 

 

A Tight Focus on Jesus and the Bible

 

Apostolic apologetics keeps us focused on Jesus and the Bible. That’s only two points of focus but they lead to maximum results. By contrast, pursuit of traditional apologetic methods can get you bogged down in philosophical questions, questions about what’s required for orthodoxy, and all the other directions that the great variety of apologetic methods can take you.

 

Jesus is Lord and the Bible is the word of God. Those two truths will take you farther in your Christian walk than you can imagine. Most Christians just don’t take those two truths seriously enough. Instead, they attempt to accumulate a great quantity of truths to supplement them – which is very inefficient with regards to faith.

 

That Jesus is Lord means that, for all practical purposes, He’s God. Think about it. If Jesus is Lord, then the argument between Trinitarianism and Unitarianism is, practically speaking, moot. Both Trinitarians and Unitarians would agree that Jesus is Lord and ought to be obeyed. The things they argue about are not essential to the duty owed implied by the title “Lord.” This is but one example of the kinds of things that keep apologists for orthodoxy busy, but don’t help believers in their daily walk with God.

 

As for the Bible, it’s easy to get caught up reading all sorts of books about the Bible (including books like this one) and let that crowd out time for reading the Bible itself. Books about Jesus and the Bible are fine if they are helpful, but they can never take the place of Jesus and the Bible.

 

In your Bible reading, be sure to give emphasis to the New Testament. This is not because the Old Testament is unimportant; it is equally important to the New Testament. It’s just that the Old Testament needs to be understood through the lens of the New Testament, and the New Testament needs to be understood in the context of the Old Testament. The New Testament is Jesus’ interpretation of the Old Testament. Therefore, the New Testament is the tip of the spear that is the Bible; neither the tip without the shaft, nor the shaft without the tip, can pierce anything…but bound together in proper fashion they can pierce the hardest object – even a human heart.

 

Let me say a bit more about just how tightly bound these two testaments are. The apostles were responsible for the New Testament as the prophets were responsible for the Old Testament. The central apostolic claim about Jesus actually included the prophets, for to say that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures – given that “the Scriptures” in that context mean the Old Testament and given that the Old Testament was the writings of the prophets – was to say that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the prophets. Therefore, whenever we think about the apostles, the prophets should never be far from our minds. The apostles spoke historically about Him of whom the prophets had spoken prophetically. The apostles spoke explicitly and emphatically about Him of whom the prophets had spoken prospectively and hopefully. The writings of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are thus inextricably intertwined.

 

Recall now our earlier discussion about the central point. If the central point of the apostles’ testimony was that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and if the central point of the central point is that Jesus is Lord, then the central point of the central point of the central point is…Jesus. Thus Jesus Himself is the centerpiece of our faith. And the Bible – particularly the New Testament – is the means by which we establish, sustain, and defend that faith.

 

 

The Benefit of Time

 

Don’t underestimate the benefit of time saved. Life is short. The less time you can spend investing in apologetics in order to receive the value that apologetics brings, the better off you will be. You are being shown how to spend less time on apologetics while increasing the value it brings to you. This means living as a Christian with strong faith, fully able to defend that faith against any challenge. This is the goal of all apologetics. Focusing on the apostles is the most time-efficient way to achieve that goal.

 

 

The Benefit of Simplicity

 

Even more beneficial than the time savings is the clarity of mind and purpose that apostolic apologetics offers. A clear mind of faith is able to see confusion at a distance and avoid it. The variety of all existing apologetic methods may seem appealing from a distance but can feel suffocating up close. What’s much simpler – and therefore easier to keep straight in our minds – is: Jesus sent men to testify…and we believe what those men testified.

 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me…”

- John 13:20

 

It’s simple. Not easy, but simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12 – The Sufficiency of Apostolic Apologetics

 

 

Apostolic apologetics is not just efficient, it is sufficient, too. By sufficient, I simply mean that it’s enough, it’s adequate. You don’t need any other apologetic method to find your way to Christ or to defend your faith in Christ once you get there.

 

 

You Don’t Need Any Other Path to Christ

 

It’s easier to see the efficiency of relying on the direct written testimony of the apostles than it is to believe in the sufficiency of that method. You see this mountain of Christian apologetics materials and you ask yourself, “Don’t I need that, too?” The answer is “no.” You need some assurance that this is so. I’m glad to give it to you.

 

You can put the full weight of your faith on the testimony of the apostles. That’s what every Christian church and denomination is doing. All three branches of Christianity root their claims in the New Testament. There’s only one New Testament and they all lay claim to it. When you trust the New Testament, you’re just bypassing all these middlemen.

 

You won’t need any other apologetic method to defend your faith either. Your faith is in what the apostles have written. If anyone has a challenge to make, let them take it up with the apostles. What if someone insists that miracles don’t happen? Let them take it up with the apostles. What if the challenge about miracles involves a quote from famed 18th-century philosopher David Hume? Compare David Hume’s writings to Paul’s. Who do you trust more on the subject of miracles – a man who philosophizes about their improbability or a man who swears on his life that he saw a man raised from the dead according to the Scriptures?

 

If, to have faith in Christ, we needed more than the apostles, then Christ would have sent us more than the apostles. The only sufficiency problem is that we haven’t paid sufficient to what the apostles wrote. And because we haven’t, we’ve assumed we’ve learned all we can from them. And because we’ve assumed that, we’ve turned our attention to other people and other things. As a result, we’ve cut off from ourselves all the assurance they have to give us about our Lord’s resurrection and all the wonderful things it implies. We owe the apostles our attention. And if we but give it, their words will reward our attention with much more knowledge and understanding of our Lord and His resurrection according to the Scriptures of the prophets.

 

 

Every Other Method Has to Eventually Come Here Eventually

 

Every other apologetic method – if it’s sound – has to come to 1) Jesus is Lord, and 2) the Bible is the word of God. eventually anyway. Focusing immediately and directly on the apostles just gets you to these two foundational points sooner. You don’t have to take the long way through all the philosophers. You don’t have to plumb the depths of natural theology. You don’t have to wade through all the guardians of orthodoxy. Reliance on the apostles is about taking the most direct path to Jesus. A direct path is always sufficient if it gets you to the intended destination.

 

 

This Method Will Not Answer Every Question; No Method Will

 

Apostolic apologetics will not answer every question you have about faith or apologetics. It’s not designed for that purpose. Besides, there is no apologetic method in existence that will answer all your questions. You and I were not designed for omniscience. The purpose of apostolic apologetics is to keep you majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors.

 

This apologetic method allows you to seek answers to your questions on a need-to-know and just-in-time basis. Your unanswered questions never affect your faith, because your faith is not based on having all the answers. It’s based on accepting the apostolic testimony you’ve received. Beyond that, Jesus Himself will see that you know what you need to know when you need to know it. After all, the only thing we need to know every day is how to do right – and the foundation of every righteous act is trusting the one who gave you your conscience. That is to say, the foundation of righteousness is faith. And that’s what you’re feeding every day through the testimony of the apostles. Even Jesus said He didn’t know everything when He walked the earth.

 

 

How Could an Apostle Be Insufficient?

 

If you and I lived in 1st-century Thessalonica, and were sitting in the synagogue when Paul and Silas first came and presented the gospel there, would their presentation be enough to convince us about Jesus – or would we seek corroboration from the philosophers down the road in Athens?

 

If you and I lived in 1st-century Asia Minor, and were present in one of the Christian congregations there when Peter’s first letter was read aloud, would we ask what the elders thought about Peter’s thoughts before we took what he said to heart?

 

If you and lived in 1st-century Laodicea, and were among those who heard the call to repent that was in John’s Revelation, would we await confirmation of the message from some other authority before we repented?

 

People just assume that the apostles didn’t tell us enough, but that’s because people haven’t paid enough attention to all that the apostles have spoken. It’s not the apostles’ testimony that’s insufficient; it’s our devotion to that testimony that’s been insufficient.

 

 

The Sufficiency of Texts

 

Apostolic apologetics is a text-based apologetic method. Therefore, it is rooted in reading. And because it is rooting in reading, it will work for anyone who can read. In fact, you do not even have to be able to read; someone could read the apostles’ writings to you. In fact, that’s the way most people in antiquity learned what was written in an apostle’s writing – it was read to them.

 

Literacy rates in antiquity were much lower than they are today. If modern literacy rates are in the range of 70 to 90%, ancient literacy rates were probably 5 to 20%. That’s why we hear about “scribes” when we read the Bible; they were the “translators” of texts. Jews would go to the synagogue to hear the Scriptures read. Everyone – adults and children – experienced the Scriptures this way. Because of the importance of texts, Jews were more motivated to literacy than most ancient cultures, and probably produced more readers than average, but the point I am emphasizing is that no Jew had to be literate in order to know what was in the writings of the prophets or the apostles. Neither do you have to be literate to know what’s in those writings.

 

Therefore, because apostolic apologetics is a text-based method, it is accessible to anyone who can read or who has access to someone who can read. You do not have to be a philosopher. You do not have to be a theologian. You do not have to master any other field of human endeavor in order to rely on the apostles’ testimony.

 

The apostolic texts are not esoteric; neither are they academic. Therefore, you do not need special training to understand them. Nevertheless, they are ancient documents, which means you have to make some effort to understand them beyond what you’d give to a modern writing. You do have to give them more attention that you give a newspaper article. You do have to meditate, you do need to ponder, you must give due consideration to the apostles’ words.

 

You also have to recognize that no single one of those texts was written to summarize all the others, or to stand entirely on its own. The apostles testify as a group; each one adds to what the others have said. Therefore, we understand each apostle’s writing in the context of the others. We listen to them as a group. You may start with Paul, but you don’t restrict yourself to him.

 

If you invest a reasonable effort, you will understand what the apostles wrote – one idea at a time. We grow in our understanding of what they taught. We do not “get it” all at once so that we can then walk away from it. We keep going back to them because we find more and more understanding with each visit to their words.

 

But can this text-based approach really be sufficient to defend my faith? Yes. How do I know this? I know this from my own experience of almost 40 years. More importantly, I know it from the experience of Jesus Himself. If you read the Gospels, you come to see that Jesus found the writings of the prophets sufficient for His faith. When He was tempted in the wilderness as to whether or not He actually was “the Son of God,” he did not talk about the voice from heaven that said, “This is My beloved Son.” Rather, He quoted from the Scriptures of the prophets. Throughout His ministry, Jesus was expressing and demonstrating His reliance upon what the prophets had written. And when He was raised from the dead, He chastised His disciples for being “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have said” (Luke 24:25). If what the prophets wrote was a sufficient foundation for Jesus’ faith, then what the apostles wrote can be sufficient foundation for our faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 13 – Centering on Faith in Christ

 

 

As we fix our attention on the testimony of Christ from the apostles, let us remember above all that it is the testimony of Christ. Remember: He Himself is the central point of the central point of the central point. Every other point is a subsidiary point.

 

 

The Focal Point of Faith

 

From one end of the New Testament to the other, the apostles repeatedly give us Christ as the focal point of our faith. Here is a small sample of a dozen such verses. (Emphasis added in each; the first three verses are of Jesus Himself speaking and the rest of the verses speak of Him.)

 

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” – Luke 6:46

 

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

- John 12:26

 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. – John 14:6

 

[do not be] led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

- 2 Corinthians 11:3

 

“…I live by faith in the Son of God…” – Galatians 2:20

 

…He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. – Colossians 1:18

 

…It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. – Colossians 3:24

 

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus… – Hebrews 12:2

 

and though you have not seen [Jesus Christ], you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice… – 1 Peter 1:8

 

Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. – 2 John 1:9

 

…our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. – Jude 1:4

 

Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. – Revelation 14:12

 

The totality of these verses, and the many more that are like them in the New Testament, make emphatically clear that faith cannot be impersonal. It is utterly personal…because it is directed to a person. And that person is Jesus.

 

Therefore, the focal point of your faith cannot be your local church. Yet so many people put their faith in their local church. This becomes obvious whenever the pastor falls into sin and, as a result, some of the congregation give up on their faith.

 

The focal point of your faith cannot be your denomination. There are thousands upon thousands of them. How could you ever know if yours was the “right one?” Scripture won’t tell you.

 

The focal point of your faith cannot be the historic church – regardless of the historic period you might choose. Some people put their faith in the ancient church of the post-apostolic age, believing the writings of the church fathers such as Irenaeus, Augustine, and other church fathers light the way. Some people put their faith in the Reformation church, believing that the writings of Luther, Calvin, and other reformers light the way. Still others put their faith in “the church through the ages,” believing that the lowest common denominator of its published doctrines constitutes orthodoxy. None of these idealized churches will work as the object of our faith because they are not Christ Himself.

 

The apostles do not even suggest that they or their writings should be the object of our faith. Rather, the apostles and their writings are the means to faith – the most direct means, but still only the means. The New Testament is our warrant for faith – it is not the object of our faith. Be clear: We do not worship the Bible. We worship Christ! He alone is the proper object of our faith.

 

 

The Purpose of Apologetics

 

The purpose of apologetics is to defend faith, and the faith that it should defend is faith in Christ. If you are familiar with the existing array of Christian apologetic resources, you know that much of it defends things other than Christ. Even if you’re not familiar with the vast array, you can recognize from my earlier survey of it that it often defends orthodoxy – which is always in the eye of the beholder, and not necessarily the eye of God.

 

“Orthodoxy” means “right doctrine.” Which doctrine is right is determined by which doctrine you hold. Thus Calvinism’s apologists defend Calvinism. Roman Catholic apologists defend Roman Catholicism. Unitarians defend Unitarianism. Trinitarians defend Trinitarianism. Universalists defend Universalism. And on and on and on it goes. None of this is really about defending faith, because it is about defending things other than Christ.

 

Now I fully acknowledge that there is true doctrine and there is false doctrine. I’m only saying that doctrine has to flow from faith and faith has to be in Christ – not in the doctrine. Putting faith in the doctrine – that is, in orthodoxy – depersonalizes faith.

 

The most useful apologetics materials keep centering a believer in Christ. That’s why apostolic apologetics is so reliable because the apostles’ writings never fail to center us in Christ. Yes, we could wish that we had more than 27 of these texts, but why don’t we hold off complaining about that until we’ve fully digested the 27?

 

Faith is faith in Christ and this is the faith apologetics is intended to defend. Therefore, the faith being defended should not vary by apologetic method. There is only one faith that the apostles left us…and it is in a person named Jesus Christ This faith does not require updating because it is “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3). And the people who first handed it down were His apostles.

 

 

The Essence of Faith

 

Having become forever resolved that the only faith worth having and defending is faith in Christ, let us say a word about faith itself. And I do mean just “a word,” because it would be beyond the scope of this book to fully explain something that allows for the moving of mountains by verbal command (Matthew 11:22-23).

 

Faith, belief, trust, reliance – these are synonyms. We have faith in Christ when we trust Him, when we believe Him, when we believe in Him.

 

Faith is a way of thinking. It is not a way of thinking that we only bring to bear in certain situations – though this is the way that most Christians today seem to regard it.

 

Many people today are professing Christians but practicing secularists. That is, they claim to believe in Christ, but their thought life is, for most of the working day, is just like that of the secularists around them. Secularism is the common religious outlook in America today as Christianity was the common religious outlook at the nation’s founding. Secularism says “In order to get along as a pluralistic society we have to talk as if God is not in our midst.” And because people won’t talk as if God is in their midst, they eventually stop thinking that God is in their midst – until they go to church or say a prayer or something like that. Thus God gets shoved to the perimeter of life…and faith is of no effect.

 

The essence of faith is that God is. God is invisible…but He nevertheless is.

 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

 

Since our faith is in Christ, we believe that Christ is. According to this verse, it means that we have a conviction that He is. And for this specific point, we have corroboration:

 

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God…

- Romans 14:22 [emphasis added]

 

Do you go through the day without a conscious conviction that Christ is? If so, you’re going through the day without faith. This is what I see most Christians in America today doing: going through the day without a constant conscious conviction that Christ is in our midst.

 

Am I saying this because I can see into people’s minds? No, not at all. I’m saying it because their words and behavior are evidence of it. For example, I’ve heard that pornography is a problem among a large number of Christian men, but, so far as I know, there have been no reports of large numbers of Christian men flipping through pornographic magazines during church services. Therefore, these Christian men must be exercising self-control when in the presence of other Christians, but indulging their lusts when alone. Yet if God is, isn’t He everywhere? If these men die and go to stand before Jesus will they take their illicit magazines with them? If not, why do they hold on to them now? They must not have a constant conscious conviction that Christ is. Thus they must not be living by faith.

 

The whole point of apologetics – that is, the whole point of defending faith – is so that you, and – we hope – whoever is challenging you, can live by faith. For far too many Christians, apologetics has become about defending a way of life that is only occasionally practiced. Faith won’t work when practiced part-time for the same reason that a seed won’t grow when planted part-time. A seed has to remain in the ground to produce fruit, and faith has to remain in the heart to be productive.

 

Having a faith that is productive is the only kind of faith God wants to see:

 

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

- Hebrews 11:6

 

In other words, living by faith is a rewarding life – a productive life, a fruitful life. The Christian man who lives by faith is able exercise self-control at all times, while the Christian who does not exercise self-control at all times is not living by faith. He only talks about faith. And that’s why I say that many professing Christians are practicing secularists. Faith for them is something to extol, something to talk about – not something to live by. It’s lip service.

 

The essence of faith in Christ is a constant conscious trust that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who so regard Him.

 

 

Growing Your Faith

 

Jesus made clear that we can have little faith or we can have great faith (Matthew 6:30; 8:10, 26; 14:31; 15:28; 16:8; 17:20). He also made it clear that faith gets from little to great by growing (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6). And we’ve already acknowledged that just as God will only make a seed grow while it remains planted in the ground, He will only make faith grow while it remains planted in our hearts. Too many Christians are like man who thinks he’s a farmer because he has a package of seeds in his hip pocket. Only if those seeds get planted does he ever have a hope of seeing a harvest.

 

Sure, there can be obstacles to growth, as Jesus explained to us in the parable of the sower and his seed (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). We just have to know how to identify those obstacles and avoid them. God will surely give the growth, but only if we’ve successfully dealt with the obstacles will that growth fully manifest in fruitfulness. Therefore, growing in faith is a matter of perseverance, of patience, of endurance.

 

Faith means that you never give up trying to do right for your Lord. You will surely be tempted to give up, to lose hope. For this very reason, Jesus told a particular parable.

 

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” – Luke 18:1-8

 

People lose heart to do good when they think that it’s futile to hope for justice from God. What we must be patient about, what we must persevere in believing, what we must endure all things clinging to is the conviction that – in due time – God will make right all that is wrong. Jesus uses this parable to show that even unrighteous judges can be pestered into rendering judgment – how much more then can a God who does not need such pestering be expected to render judgment.

 

This parable should be convincing enough, but, if not, consider Jesus’ own life. At the time He died on the cross it looked like God was too late, that He had delayed justice too long to deliver the righteous man hanging on that cross. There was plenty of reason for Jesus to lose heart. He was a just man who was being denied justice in an indefensible way. Where was the justice that would render Him the “not guilty” verdict He was due? Yet three days later, justice was rendered…and in an eternally satisfying manner. Jesus was raised to the highest place of authority in all creation, there to reign forever and ever and ever. Justice was done Him. And justice will be done to all the rest of us, too.

 

Whether your faith in Christ is small or great, just be sure it is growing.

 

 

Growing Your Knowledge

 

The Bible speaks of a kind of knowledge that cannot be acquired by educational attainment. First, a quote from the more well-known King James Version.

 

Be still, and know that I am God… – Psalm 46:10 KJV [emphasis added]

 

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) puts it like this:

 

Cease striving and know that I am God… – Psalm 46:10 [emphasis added]

 

To know God in this way is to be aware of Him…even to be intimately aware of Him. It is to be conscious of His presence…conscious of His omnipresence. This knowledge is more precious than any knowledge that can be found in a book. It is the knowledge that proceeds from faith. As your faith grows, this knowledge grows. It is the awareness of Him whom you trust.

 

This is the kind of knowledge that grows along with faith because it is an aspect of faith. If I trust that God is there because He told me – through the apostles – that He is there, then I know that He is there. Through faith, therefore, we can know things about which we’d otherwise be ignorant.

 

If my wife calls me and tells me she’s at the grocery store, then if someone later asks me where my wife is, I don’t say “I don’t know.” I say, “She’s at the grocery store.” Do I see her at the grocery store? No. Do make her bring me a time-stamped receipt to prove she was at the grocery store when she called me? No. What evidence do I have that she was at the grocery store? Her word. This is why I say that faith is a way of knowing, and it is just as sure as knowing by seeing with your own eyes – as long as the person who is giving you the knowledge is trustworthy. My wife is. God is, too. Only more so.

 

The apostles tell us more about Jesus than just that He is. Whatever they tell us increases our bank of knowledge about Jesus – as long as we trust them. Because they were trusted to be telling the truth that Jesus taught them, the apostle Peter could write:

 

…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

- 2 Peter 3:18 [emphasis added]

 

Therefore, as our faith grows, our knowledge grows with it.

 

We can call the kind of knowledge we’re describing “heart knowledge,” and contrast it with the kind of knowledge we can acquire from books, which we can call “head knowledge.” Head knowledge has its place in this world, and there’s all kinds of head knowledge. No kind of head knowledge, however, is a suitable substitute for the heart knowledge of God – even when it’s head knowledge about God. If head knowledge were helpful for knowing God, then Christian school valedictorians, Bible college graduates, and seminary professors would be saintliest of Christians – and the illiterate and uneducated Christians would be the most ungodly. Yet it’s obvious that formal education does not determine the degree of one’s piety.

 

We can, therefore, state the contrast this way: the heart knowledge of God versus the head knowledge people have about God. This brings us full circle back to the great quantity and quality of apologetic resources available to Christians today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 14 – Measuring Apostolic Apologetics Against the Rest

 

 

Having explained apostolic apologetics, how would I like you to view it in light of the massive heap of Christian apologetics already set before us? I want you to see apostolic apologetics as an alternative to the heap, not as just one more method to stack upon it.

 

 

The Apostolic Alternative

 

The expansive and expanding field of Christian apologetics is offering more and more answers about God. Is that what you need? More specifically, is that what your faith needs?

 

I have shown you the difference between knowing God and knowing things about God. Apostolic apologetics doesn’t offer more knowledge about God, but rather more knowing of God. It is this awareness of God and His ways that is part and parcel of the faith you hold and want to grow and therefore need to defend.

 

If I were to offer you apostolic apologetics as an additional method of apologetics for you to learn, I would only be increasing the burdens of your Christian life. But if I am offering it as a replacement for all those other methods, then I am reducing the burdens of your Christian life. I am not interested in increasing the burdens of my brothers and sisters; we are all burdened enough. But, you ask, what if some or all of those other Christian apologetic resources are necessary? Before I answer that question, let me make a distinction I have not made before this point – a distinction between Christian apologetic methods and Christian apologetic information.

 

An apologetic method – or approach – is a way of defending faith. While a method can be considered apologetic information, it can be distinguished from all other apologetic information because a method both utilizes and produces information. For example, Christian apologetic methods rooted in philosophy use information from the field of philosophy and produce philosophical explanations – that is, information. Likewise for Christian apologetic methods rooted in science. And so on.

 

I am telling you that the apostolic apologetic method replaces all other apologetic methods; you will not need any other method. However, I am not saying that this method replaces all that information. For example, if you are a science student or have a career in science, some of the information produced by scientifically-oriented Christian apologists may be useful to you. I just say that you don’t need the apologetic method that produced that information. In this way, you can access the vast array of Christian apologetic information as needed just like you would selectively access an encyclopedia as needed.

 

That you do not need any other apologetic method besides apostolic apologetics is why I made a point of stressing its sufficiency as well as its efficiency. In fact, if it were not sufficient, it could not be efficient – because it would not be saving you time. If it were insufficient by itself, then it would be increasing the demands on your time – for it would be just one more apologetic activity you’d have to undertake. Therefore, approaching the subject of apologetics with complete reliance on the apostles’ testimony does in fact mean that you can relinquish all the others.

 

Some existing Christian apologetic methods are incompatible with each other anyway – they’re mutually exclusive. For example, within the sub-field of philosophical Christian apologetic methods alone, you’d have to abandon a presuppositional approach in order to adopt any non-presuppositional approach. Therefore, even if you were to reject apostolic apologetics and embrace the existing field of Christian apologetic methods, you’d still have to make choices about which method or methods to accept and therefore which ones must, as a consequence, be rejected. In other words, every Christian has to let go of at least some apologetic methods.

 

You not only can let go of all other apologetic methods; you should. For if you don’t, your reliance on what the apostles said will not be true reliance. If I were to seek other evidence that my wife was at the grocery store, it would mean that her word was insufficient for me. It would mean that my trust in her was not complete – that I doubted her account. Jesus did not intend that we should doubt His apostles, just as He did not intend that they should doubt Him.

 

When the apostle Paul said, “when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:10), he was referencing a principle we can see at work in history of Israel as described in the Bible. For example, when the temple came, the tabernacle (tent) was no longer sought. Similarly, when the messiah came, the temple was no longer sought. When God gives something greater, it replaces and makes obsolete what He had given before. Otherwise, we should all stop what we’re doing, move to Jerusalem, and rebuild the temple so that we can worship Jesus in it – bringing along all the livestock necessary to offer the proper sacrifices. I trust that as you see the folly in this suggestion, you likewise will see folly in the suggestion of putting your faith other sources when the definitive writings of Jesus’ trusted associates is placed before you.

 

As Jesus is sufficient, so trusting the testimony of those whom He sent is sufficient. For He Himself said, “he who receives whomever I send receives Me” (John 13:20). Anticipating that we might be tempted to doubt Him on this subject, Jesus prefaced that statement with a “Truly, truly, I say to you.” It is therefore neither necessary nor desirable to consider the apostles’ testimony insufficient for our faith.

 

 

Which Experts to Trust?

 

Traditional Christian apologetics has its experts. There are experts in philosophy. Experts in science. Experts in biblical scholarship. The apostles were experts in none of those things. Rather, their expertise was in Jesus.

 

So much of today’s apologetics requires you to choose between experts. Believers trust the Christian philosophers and unbelievers trust the unbelieving philosophers. Believers trust the scientists who have faith, and unbelievers trust only the scientists who proclaim God’s irrelevance to the operation of the universe. Believers trust the conservative biblical scholars and unbelievers trust the liberal biblical scholars. Apologetics in this context becomes a matter of choosing on which side of the dueling experts you want to stand.

 

Thus we can see that much of contemporary apologetics has deteriorated into an exercise of picking which intermediaries you’re going to trust. Philosophy is complex so we need an intermediary – a priest, if you will – to sort it out. Science is also complex, so we need a priest or mediator there, too. Even biblical scholarship can be complex, so we need to pick an expert whose analysis we can trust. What all this choosing of experts obscures is the fact that Jesus gave us His apostles to mediate the important and relevant facts concerning Himself. All these competing experts have done is divert our attention. Yes, many of these experts are trusting Jesus, but then we’re just putting our faith in their faith.

 

Therefore, apostolic apologetics is a clear alternative to traditional Christian apologetics because it presents the apostles as the experts to trust…instead of presenting philosophers, scientists, biblical scholars, or some other designated domain expert. When we trust these non-apostolic domain experts, we’re reading and thinking in a language that is not our own – whether it’s the language of philosophy, science, biblical scholarship, or some other field. Because it’s a “language” in which we’re not fluent, we have to trust someone who is fluent. In the end, we have a mediated faith – a faith that’s been mediated in a language of some academic specialty. In essence, we’re putting our faith in the faith of the expert we’ve chosen.

 

This is why the expert testimony I urge you to seek above all else is the testimony of the apostles – for their testimony is that of eyewitnesses. That puts our faith in eyewitness testimony – not in someone else’s faith.

 

But, you ask, what about all the information that Christian apologetic experts have amassed – should we not avail ourselves of that?

 

 

You Don’t Need All Those Answers

 

I’ve acknowledged that you might want some of the information available in Christian apologetic materials – but not for apologetic purposes. It’s when you go to those sources for the purpose of buttressing your faith that you expose yourself to so much temptation to doubt more. I’m saying that if you doubt the apostles’ testimony and go to all the existing Christian apologetic resources you are likely to find only more things to doubt. Moreover, you may even find yourself unconsciously building your faith on a different foundation – different, that is, from the apostles’ testimony.

 

You don’t need all those answers because your faith is not based on your being omniscient. It’s not based on your being “the answer man.” It’s not based on your being an expert on every challenge ever made to Christian faith. At least, I hope it’s not based on any of those things; I hope it’s based on the apostles’ testimony about Jesus.

 

You cannot build a house on two foundations. For example, your faith can be grounded in apostolic testimony or it can be grounded in philosophy, but it cannot be grounded in both. This is not to say that philosophy is incompatible with apostolic testimony, but it is to say that only one can be primary. If philosophy is a means to get people to theism so that they can entertain the possibility of Jesus, why would someone who has already arrived at theism through his acceptance of Jesus need to adopt philosophy? If you’re interested in philosophy, by all means explore it. I’m not trying to denigrate the field; I’m only saying that it’s a distraction to defending an apostolically-oriented faith. And what’s true of philosophy is true throughout the broader field of Christian apologetics.

 

Even if you tried, you could not learn all the answers provided by the field Christian apologetics. There’s just too many of them. This is most apparent in the sub-field of orthodoxy. Besides, the finer a point some apologist attempts to put on orthodoxy, the more likely he’s going to part company with some other apologist’s view of orthodoxy. And so often, one Christian’s orthodoxy is another Christian’s heresy. Even if you could homogenize all the answers of orthodoxy, there still would be too many answers in the overall field of apologetics to ever master them all.

 

Let’s give more heed to the classic apologetic text: 1 Peter 3:15. I gave it to you before in the New American Standard Bible version. Here it is in the King James Version.

 

…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you… – 1 Peter 3:15 KJV

 

Notice that Peter says that we should be ready to given an answer for why we hope – not an answer for every question they happen to raise! It’s a lot more manageable to defend our hope than it is to defend their doubts.

 

If all a Christian is looking for is points he can argue about with others, and he doesn’t have to live by those points, then he can accumulate apologetic answers all day long. But if he’s trying every day to live by his faith, he just doesn’t have the time to be conversant in every issue that Christian apologetics is today addressing.

 

 

Focus on the Answers the Apostles Give

 

If you’ve trusted Christ through the apostles’ testimony and encounter doubts, keep going back to the apostles’ testimony – don’t go elsewhere. If you go elsewhere, you’ll only find more doubts. You’ll find more doubts because that’s what the field of Christian apologetics has become: an amassing of all the doubts ever expressed about Christianity and the answers to those doubts. Therefore, on the way to finding answers to the doubts you have, you’ll encounter more doubts. This, in and of itself, doesn’t doom your search, but it does mean that you expose yourself to many temptations unnecessarily. I’ll say more about doubts in the next chapter.

 

You’ve heard me speak positively about the abundance of Christian apologetic resources, including how I’ve personally benefited from them. By navigating through many of them, however, I have learned that 1) they are largely unnecessary in the light of apostolic apologetics, and 2) their sheer mass, and often conflicting approaches, they can be a place where temptation to doubt breeds. Therefore, I’m trying to spare you the temptation. Why trouble yourself by trying to learn all these methods? Why relinquish your faith in the apostles’ testimony by trusting these other methods instead or by, in essence, saying the apostles are insufficient witnesses?

 

To be clear, I am not saying that you would be doing anything wrong to engage with traditional Christian apologetic resources. But if you wade in those waters and find yourself being pulled by an undertow, you will now understand what is going on. The purpose of all Christian apologetics is a good onek, for you will need to defend your faith in this world; it will be attacked, both directly and subtly. I’ve just shown you that you don’t need to master that mountain of traditional materials; they are not necessary for you. Let that mountain of materials be there for those it can help, but I have shown you a better way.

 

 

The Heart of Apostolic Apologetics

 

A focus on the apostles’ testimony – the warrant for faith in Christ that is at the heart of our apologetic method – is not only based in texts, it is based in ancient texts. That makes it even more reliable. Why? Dried ink doesn’t move. Ancient texts say what they say; they don’t change over time. Thus “It is written” is a statement of finality. And, making it even more final, it was written a long, long time ago. Therefore, we have an unchanged, unchanging, and unchangeable source of information about which to make up our minds.

 

People today can change their minds about what Plato wrote…but Plato can’t. It’s too late for that; he’s dead. People today can change their minds about what Aristotle wrote…but Aristotle can’t. It’s too late for that; he’s dead. People can change their minds about what Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, and all the rest of antiquity’s authors said…but they can’t. It’s too late for that; they’re dead.

 

Thus God has provided for us the best possible evidence for Christ: ancient texts from those who knew Him face to face. Even if the apostles wanted to change their testimony about Him, they can’t. It’s too late for that; they’re dead. Plus, in their case, they were give repeated opportunities – even incentives – to change their testimony…and never did. To say that their testimony is a settled matter is an understatement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 15 – Dealing with Doubts

 

 

Before closing the book, I’ve decided to spend a chapter on the subject of doubt. After all, one of the purposes behind apologetics is to deal with doubts brought about by challenges to the faith. A proper defense of the faith should remove doubt. But is doubt all that bad? Depends on whom you ask.

 

 

Disagreement About Doubt

 

One of the trends I’ve noticed in Christian literature over recent years, if not decades, is the acceptance – and sometimes even the praise – of doubt. Christians are being told that doubts are normal, and that doubts can even be good for us. To fit with this view of doubt, certainty is portrayed as a form of arrogance – an attitude to be avoided as unbecoming to a Christian, something that makes us off-putting to others.

 

This view of doubt as something acceptable is consistent with the view of the larger society in which Christians today must live. Though Frenchman Alexis De Tocqueville may have described 19th-century America as a Christian nation, 21st-century America is obviously a pluralistic and secular society. In such a society, uncertainty about one’s own religion is considered a virtue, while certainty about it is considered ill-mannered.

 

Thus it appears to be the case that general society has subtly – and sometimes not so subtly – pressured Christians to be less confident about their truth claims. As a result, both among Christians as among citizens in general, doubt has become a sign of sophistication while certainty has become a sign of bigotry and intolerance. Ironically, it’s only the religious person’s certainty that is stigmatized. When the secularist is certain about the need for secularism, the stigma is nowhere to be seen. But I digress.

 

What’s striking about all this accommodation of doubt is how at odds it is with the New Testament view of doubt. Doubt, whenever mentioned in the New Testament, is always portrayed negatively – as a condition contrary to faith. Consider, for example, what James says.

 

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

- James 1:5-8

 

James thus leaves us with no positive impression of doubt.

 

Fitting snugly with James’ view, Peter gives a positive view of certainty, encouraging believers to pursue it.

 

Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you… – 2 Peter 1:10

 

That modern secular society should view doubt and certainty differently than the Bible does should not come as a surprise. Nevertheless, it is stunning how contrary those views are.

 

I accept the biblical view of doubt and reject the modern view. Doubt is an obstacle to your faith. It is toxic to your faith. You must guard your heart of faith…and keep doubt out!

 

 

Addressing Doubts

 

Recall from the last chapter that Peter’s seminal apologetic instruction was for us to be ready to give an answer for the hope within us – not be ready to address every possible doubt that someone might raise. The source of doubts is inexhaustible. Satan is in the business of raising doubts. It’s what gained him entrance into this world. Likewise, those who serve him seek constantly to raise doubts – about Christianity, not themselves. Therefore, we cannot possibly address all doubts.

 

There are doubts, however, that we do need to address, that we cannot ignore. These are the doubts that come against our own faith. Again, you do not need to address the doubts that come against everyone’s faith – only the doubts that come against your own faith. The first step to addressing those doubts is recognizing them for what they are when they come.

 

Doubts do not present themselves gift-wrapped with an accompanying label that says “This is a doubt.” Temptations to doubt frequently take the form of a question, as it did when Satan tempted Eve.

 

…”Indeed, has God said…?” – Genesis 3:1

 

Or the temptation to doubt can come in the form of innuendo, as it did when Satan tempted Jesus.

 

…”If you are the Son of God…” – Matthew 4:3

 

Whatever form a temptation to doubt takes, be ready to address it when it comes. It comes to weaken your faith. Don’t let it.

 

 

Keep Doubt Out of the Heart

 

Here’s a verse we have seen a couple of times, but please note the words I have emphasized this time.

 

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God

- Romans 14:22

 

When I urge you to resist doubt, I want to be sure you understand that I’m not talking just about the doubt that you might express to someone else, though that kind is definitely included. I’m talking about any doubt that arises in your own heart – even if no one but you and God know about it.

 

I say this because, in America today, Christianity has become more of a social practice than a spiritual one. That is, it’s a matter of where you go to church, as opposed to living with a consciousness of God. As a result, some people don’t realize that doubt does its primary harm in the heart long before it ever comes out of your mouth. By the time a doubt ever comes out of your mouth, it’s already done significant damage inside you.

 

The person you want to convince that you have faith in Christ is Christ Himself. Please let that sink in.

 

Therefore, the person you don’t want to know about your doubts is Christ Himself. If you conceal your doubts from everyone else but Him, what good is that? Addressing your doubts means, first and foremost, addressing the doubts that only you and He know about. It’s those doubts you need to remove so that your faith can be pure. Remove all those doubts and there won’t be any other doubts that you’ll need to address.

 

For emphasis’ sake, let me state it another way. Throughout this chapter, and even elsewhere, when I talk about your dealing with doubts, I’m talking about your private doubts. Therefore, deal with all your private doubts and you won’t have any public ones.

 

The faith which you have, have it before God. And the faith which you have before God, have it without doubting before God. This is not easy in the temptation-filled world in which we live. But this is the only kind of faith that the Bible commends.

 

Therefore, when I say “keep doubt out,” I mean keep it out of your heart. If you can keep it out of that place, it won’t show up anywhere else.

 

 

Doubts About the Apostles’ Testimony

 

I have made clear that apostolic apologetics means that you don’t have to address all the questions raised by traditional Christian apologetics. However, you must address – that is, be able to resist and reject – any doubt that arises in your own heart about the apostles’ writings that you are trusting. Since what the apostles wrote is the warrant for your faith, you must be ready to address any thought that undermines that warrant…and banish it. That warrant must be protected at all costs because of the lifeblood of faith it brings to you.

 

Doubt is a pushy visitor. If you do not invite him to your home, he will come anyway. If you give him any sort of opening, he will work his way into your house. He will plant himself in your living room and never leave voluntarily – except to go to the kitchen and help himself to whatever is in your refrigerator. The only resistance he accepts is head-on forceful rejection.

 

If you should ever become doubtful of your apostolic warrant for faith (which is the apostles’ testimony, which is the New Testament) go back to these two chapters of this book:

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. 9 – Approaching the Apostolic Warrant for Faith

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p<>{color:#000;}. 10 – Examining the Apostolic Warrant for Faith

 

These two chapters were written specifically to establish and defend faith in Christ as found in the New Testament. Remember also that I told you that behind each of these two chapters, respectively, stands an entire book I have provided in further support.

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. The New Testament From a Distance

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p<>{color:#000;}. Finding Faith: The Historical Jesus in the Undisputed Paulines

 

These two chapters (averaging about 4,000 words each) and two books (averaging about 45,000 words each) should be more than enough to help you fight off any doubts that come to your mind about the apostles’ testimony. Even more than what I have written, keep reading the New Testament writings themselves. They are their own best witness.

 

Do fight these kind of doubts that come against the veracity of the apostles’ writings. Do resist such doubts. Keep them out of your mind. You certainly do not have to resist every doubt ever raised against Christianity, but you do have to resist these. If you succeed at this, your faith will grow stronger and stronger and you will accomplish much for God.

 

 

Remember What You’re Defending

 

Never lose sight of what you are defending: your faith in Christ. If you need to review this, go back to this chapter:

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. 13 – Centering on Faith in Christ

 

And, again, keep reading the New Testament. Keep thinking about it, Keep noticing how majestic and profound are its truths, how it keeps ever-focused on Christ and the benefits of trusting Him, and how its pages come from humble servants of Jesus who followed His example by giving their lives as sacrifices for our sake.

 

It is better to know a few things about God and be sure about them than to know many things about God and be unsure about them. That is why it is better to be able to defend your faith in Christ by standing firm on the apostles’ testimony than it is to be able to recite everything that might be in an apologetics encyclopedia.

 

There is a trade-off involved if you’re going to have the confidence that qualifies as faith, and if you’re going to successfully resist the doubt that seeks to cripple your faith. That trade-off is that you have to focus on a few things instead of many. Of the few things to focus on, there’s really only one: Christ.

 

To make this point for us, Luke tells a story about Jesus, and about how two sisters had different reactions to Him.

 

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

 

What was the one thing Mary was doing? Listening to the Lord. How do we do that? Listen to the apostles whom He sent. How do we do that? Read the New Testament. When we do this, we do as Mary did…and when we do as Mary did, we experience the blessing Mary experienced. And we avoid being “worried and bothered” as Martha was.

 

To imitate Mary is to fulfill what Jude hoped to see.

 

…building yourselves up on your most holy faith… – Jude 1:20

Ask yourself: Do I want a well-informed faith in Christ…or do I want a well-informed set of opinions about Christ? There is a world of difference.

Feed your faith, fight your doubts, and let your opinions die on the vine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 16 – Conclusion

 

 

The contents of this book are summarized in its title. Apostolic apologetics is about the efficient and sufficient warrant for faith in Jesus Christ that is the New Testament.

 

In the introduction to this book, I told you that “When it comes to faith, you want to know who you believe, what you believe, and why you believe.” Who we believe is Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the apostles He sent. What we believe, first and foremost, is that He was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures to be Lord of heaven and earth. Why we believe is the ancient collection of apostolic writings called the New Testament.

 

I have shown you that the authors of the writings that comprise the New Testament are the apostles (“sent ones”) of Jesus. These writings were composed in a variety of locations, by a variety of apostolic authors, for a variety of purposes, and delivered to believers in a variety of locations, all at a variety of times during the 1st century. While none of these writings were addressed to us, they can speak to us by virtue of historical facts and timeless truths they contain. What all 27 of these writings reflect are the eyewitness testimony of the apostles and disciples who were closest to Jesus at that time, combined with the interpretation of the Scriptures that they had learned from Him.

 

I chose to title the book as I did – “Apostolic Apologetics” – because I wanted to bring together two words – “apostles” and “apologetics” – which, when spoken individually and separately, are familiar to Christians, but when brought together – “apostolic apologetics” – would call attention as if something new was being said. Yet what was being said in putting the two words together was nothing new at all, but rather what has been the truth underlying all Christian faith from the very beginning and ever since.

 

My purpose, therefore, has not been to call us to something new, but rather to call us back to something very, very old.

 

For the sake of contrasting it with apostolic apologetics, I have referred to the existing mass of Christian apologetic resources as “traditional Christian apologetics” but apostolic apologetics – reliance upon and defense of the apostles’ testimony as the basis for faith – is the oldest tradition of all. Apostolic apologetics is the original apologetic tradition. It’s just been forgotten and set aside. It’s time we get back to that tradition.

 

If not for the apostles, there would be no faith to defend. Jesus taught, but He did not write; He left that task to His apostles. The New Testament – which is the collection of genuine apostolic writings – is the only primary source we have for the life and teachings of Jesus. Every other source – every other source – is derivative, and therefore secondary at best. If there is any faith worth defending, it is the one found resident in those pages. This faith in Christ is the root of all others.

 

Our apologetics ought always to be focused on protecting the roots of apostolic testimony. If we try to guard every leaf and every branch of the tree of faith we will exhaust ourselves, and eventually lose the tree. But if we pour our energy into protecting the roots, then the tree will flourish…and new leaves and branches will replace any that fall.

 

The apostles were not primarily focused on writing. It was an ancillary activity for them. Yet they left enough writings that we can see in those writings clear indications of what the apostles’ lives were about. We can hear in those writings echoes of what the apostles spoke – even echoes of what they thought in their quietest moments of reflection. The New Testament reveals the hearts of the apostles – hearts that had been shaped by Jesus Himself.

 

In the words of the apostles, we hear the words of Jesus. And in the words of Jesus, we hear the words of God. As you and I read the New Testament, may those in heaven give thanks to God for us in just the same way that the apostle Paul gave thanks for the believers in Thessalonica when he said:

 

…we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

- 1 Thessalonians 2:13

 

When I began reading the New Testament in earnest in 1978, I did not think it was the word of God. I just thought it was ancient literature that had been preserved and praised by religious people for its religious value and by literary people for its literary value. I expected it to be filled with contradictory and confusing religious claims, but that as literature it would have some lofty and edifying passages. Thus I read it with two specific goals in mind. First, I would elevate my cultural literacy by being able to claim that I had read it. (I actually did want to improve my cultural literacy, but I also wanted to be able to brag about having done so.) Second, I would, in the process of reading, collect examples of the “contradictory and confusing religious claims” it contained so that I could refute and silence any and all religious people who tried to tell me that I needed to be “born again.” I was not prepared for what I encountered. I found the New Testament to be plausible, credible, convincing, and, ultimately, compelling.

 

Reading the New Testament for myself and by myself convinced me of Christ. And every time I have begun to doubt Him, or otherwise wandered away from Him, it has brought me back to Him. The New Testament has been my evangelist for Christ and my apologist for Christ.

 

The New Testament cannot be separated from the Old Testament for the same reason that a tree cannot be separated from its roots. The only difference between the tree above ground and the tree below ground is that the tree above ground is easier to see. The apostles proceed forth from the prophets – Messiah being the sap that flows from the tree below to the tree above and the trunk which centers the entire tree.

 

The New Testament was – and is – my doorway into the Bible. There is nothing like it in all of literature. Yet its writings are humble – the work of humble men. They were not trying to produce great writing; they were simply telling the truth in the course of an assignment they had been given by a man they had come to believe was the fulfillment of what God had been promising for a long, long time. He sent them. They were not acting on their own; they were His apostles. That was their claim. Try as I might, I could not find any honest way to ignore or deny the validity of their claims. And so it has been all these years.

 

As wonderful as the New Testament is, it is wonderful most of all because it makes accessible to us the entire Bible. And the entire Bible is wonderful because it presents to us Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Bible is not the object of our worship; it is the means by which the object of our worship is revealed to us. As Jesus Himself said,

 

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;” – John 5:39

 

Jesus was speaking here of the Old Testament; and if it’s true of the Old Testament, how much more of the New. That is, if it’s true of what the prophets wrote, how much more of what the apostles wrote.

 

If we miss Jesus in all this discussion of apologetics, we’ve missed what matters most. But I trust that, having read this far, you will always remember that He Himself is the central point of the central point of the central point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

 

See www.mikegantt.com

 

 

 

 

 


Apostolic Apologetics: An Efficient and Sufficient Warrant for Faith in Christ

This book is written for the person who wants a faith in Christ he can defend – not just to others, but to himself in the sight of God.  Christian apologetics is a burgeoning field – so much so that it can be overwhelming to survey, much less to master.  Apostolic apologetics, a simple and straightforward alternative, is a way to establish and defend your faith not on the testimony of modern experts – be they philosophers, scientists, or even biblical scholars – but rather on the testimony of the apostles themselves.  Approximately 38,000 words.  

  • Author: Mike Gantt
  • Published: 2017-05-11 21:05:15
  • Words: 38258
Apostolic Apologetics: An Efficient and Sufficient Warrant for Faith in Christ Apostolic Apologetics: An Efficient and Sufficient Warrant for Faith in Christ