Saturday, October 16, 2010

Christian Apologetics

CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS

Ed Decker

 

I want to share about Christian "Apologetics"  and embold you in your witness of the truth of the real gospel to those lost in spiritual darkness and even those mired in some of those spiritual gray areas.



As I launch forth, it is probably a good idea to let you know that this work of apologetics isn't always popular. Obviously, the cultist isn't going to be thrilled that you now know things he wishes you never did, and surprisingly, many fellow Christians will be frowning upon your new-found zeal to defend the faith once given.



In fact, you would be amazed at the number of well meaning Christians who find the defense of the faith just too embarrassing and negative for them to try out.



They say, "It's too unloving. God sees their hearts. Who are we to judge?" And they stand by and let a lie become the norm because they will not speak out with an apology or defense for the doctrines and purity of our faith. Let's take the time right up front and define the world of Christian apologetics and Polemics.



APOLOGETICS: from the Greek 'Apo' (for) and 'Logeo' (to speak): To speak for or To speak on behalf of. Webster: "Systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine). Defense of the faith."



POLEMICS: "An agressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another (as in denouncing heresy)."



The Bible tells us in Jude 3:



" Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. "



Paul tells us in Phil. 1:7:



"...It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me."



In 2 Tim. 2:15, Paul says:



" Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."



Further, he says:



"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage --with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Tim. 4:2)



With these Biblical exhortations in mind, we see that it is our Christian duty to fulfill our commission from the Lord. We become defenders of the faith. as we witness to those lost in darkness and especially to those who bring those false teachings to the world we seek for Christ.



The Bible brings us a great cloud of witnesses in all ages who have been



Defending The Faith in Isreal



In the Biblical account of Elijah's encounter with the prophets of Baal, we find that Baal worship had been introduced into Israel and Elijah stood before the people and cried out:



"How long halt you between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him."



He then challenged the prophets of Baal to call down fire from Baal upon the sacrifice that they had prepared. Although they called on Baal from morning to evening, leaping upon the altar and slashing themselves, nothing happened.



Elijah derided them, saying,



"Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awakened."



Then Elijah called down fire from God which consumed not only the sacrifice, but the altar stones and the water in the ditch around the altar.(1 Kings 18)



What Did Jesus Say?



Jesus, in Matthew 12:34, 39, spoke of the religious leaders of His day:



"O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things?...an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign,"



In Matt. 13:15, He said:



"For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them."



In Matt. 15:7 he called the scribes and Pharisees "hypocrites" and in verse 9,



"...in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."



In chapter 21, He related the parable of wicked husbandmen against the religious leaders of Israel. In Matt. 23:23-25, 27-28, 33; He says:



"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices --mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law --justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.



You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.



"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.



..."Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.



In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.



.."You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?



So many are willing to hear the words of the Jesus of peace and faith, but are reticent to hear the Jesus who upbraided those teachers who would lead their followers into darkness.(blind leaders of the blind, Matt.15:14)



The Apostles Speak Out



Next we find the defenders of the faith, the " Apostles and Disciples of Jesus who boldly rebukes the false teachers of their day. The first of these apologists," Peter in Acts 2:14-41, 3:12-26, 4:8-12; and Stephen in Acts 6:8, 10; 7:1-60 spoke forcefully against the Jews.



In Acts 13:8-12, Paul condemned sorcery and spoke against the Jewish leaders in Acts 13:16-46; 14:1-4; 17:1-4 and reasoned with them out of the scriptures in their synagogues. Also in Acts 17:16-34, Paul contended with the Jews and then against paganism with the Greeks. Then to the Galatians he defended his Apostleship and the teaching of grace against the Judaizers.



The Early Church Fathers



The strong words of correction did not end with Christ and the Apostles. After they were gone from the scene, great men of God rose up to defend the church when it was considered illegal.



First they had to defend the faith against the Jews and afterwards against paganism and later heresies. The first of these were Quadratus (Bishop of Athens) and Aristedes (Philosopher of Athens) who wrote a defense of Christianity addressed to Emperor Hadrian c. 117 A.D.



Between 117 and 138 A.D., Hegesippus wrote about the heresies of Simeon, Cleobus, Gorthoeus, Masbotheus, Menander, Marcion, Carpocrates, Valentinus, Basilides and Saturnilius and also the Jewish heresies of the Essenes, Galileans, Hemereobaptists, Samaritans, Saducees and Pharisees.



Later Justin Martyr wrote his first apology to Emperor Antonius Pius c. 138 A.D. Tatian wrote against the Greeks c.163 A.D. Justin wrote his second apology to the Emperors, his dialog with Trypho (to the Jews) and his Hortatory address to the Greeks. At about this time, Athenagoras and Tatian wrote their apologies.



Melito of Sardis wrote a discourse to Emperor Antonius around 166 A.D. During the same period, Dionysius of Corinth and Philip of Gortyna wrote against Marcion, and Theophilus of Antioch wrote against Marcion and others. Apollinaris, Bishop of Hierapolis wrote five books against the Greeks, two books against the Jews and another against the Phrygian heresy and Montanus. Musanus Modestus (disciple of Justin) wrote an elegant work to some of the brethren who had swerved from the truth to the heresy of the Encratites and Tatianus.



Irenaeus, Tertillian and Origen



Between 170 and 220, Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons wrote 'On Knowledge' against the Greeks and 'Against Heresies' or 'Overthrow of False Doctrine' in which he outlines and refutes the doctines of the Gnostics, including Simon Magus, Cerinthus, Valentinus, Marcion and others.



Approximately 180, Rhoto, a disciple of Tatian, wrote against Marcion and other false teachers. Miltiades the Historian wrote against Montanus and the Paraphrygian heresy of Montanism. Apollonius of Rome wrote against the Phrygian heresy and Montanus. Serapion, Bishop of Antioch, wrote against the Phrygians.



Around 194, Tertullian wrote his apology and in 205, Clement of Alexandria refuted the Greek Heresiarchs. Between 205-250 Origen had discourse with Beryllus, winning him back from heresy to the truth. He wrote a reply against Celsus the Epicurian, called 'The True Doctrine,' and is also credited with debating the Arabians and later the Helcisaites, leading many of these back to orthodoxy. Between 250-256, Cyprian of Carthage wrote against Novatus and Cornelius of Rome wrote against Novatus and the heresies of the Cathari.



Apologetics In The Councils



During this same period, Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, wrote against the Novatians, the Sabellians and later against the schism of Nepos. At the Council of Antioch, a former Sophist refuted Paul of Samosata. In 314 the Council of Arles was held against the Donatists, and in 325, the Council of Nicea was held to deal with the Arian heresy.



These are just some of the Church Fathers up to Nicea that defended the Faith against the Jews, paganism, and heresies. Had it not been for their polemic and apologetic works, we would know little indeed of these great men from the first four centuries of Christianity, as this sort of defense of the faith makes up the greater part of their extant writings.



God Calls The Reformers



In addition to these, a host of great men from every age like Augustine, Martin Luther and others have spoken out against heresies, excesses and misuse of power inside and outside the church.



Not a few of them died martyr's deaths to defend the faith we take for granted!



Among the tenets they so vigorously defended were

the Deity of Christ,

the Trinity,

the sovereignty of God,

the inerrancy of scripture,

the depravity of man,

the certainty of final retribution,



and against Gnosticism, a terrible heresy which is again creeping into Christian doctrine.



Apologists In Our Time



In our own age, men like Charles Finney, and Dwight L. Moody who spoke out against Freemasonry in the church and immorality, have taken a strong stand for the faith.



Today, we stand therefore with those who have gone before us and say: " Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men."--2 Cor.5:11; ....to Flee the Wrath to come!



"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Cor.6:17-18)



The Simplicity Of The Gospel



As we study the mighty manipulations of men in the things of God, we can only shake our heads and wonder what a mess some have made of the gospel. The Apostle Paul commented, "



"I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that.



I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.



But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.



For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough." (2Cor. 11: 1- 4)



The key here is The Simplicity of the Gospel. The Bible is not obtuse. It gives the reader a clear, simple picture of the truth.



The aberrant religious groups cloud the clarity of the Word and bring chaos to the soul. Let's look at the simplicity of the gospel for a moment.



Believe God's Word when He says:



1. There is only one true God. (Deut. 6:4, Isaiah 43:10-11; 1 Cor. 8:4)



2. God is a Spirit Who fills the heavens and the earth.(Jer. 23:24, John 4:24)



3. God is not a man.(Num. 23:19, Job 9:32, Hosea 11:9)



4. Jesus is Almighty God manifest in the flesh. (John 1:1-3, 14, 18; Col.1:15-17; 1 Tim. 3:16)



5. Jesus pre-existed in heaven. Man didn't. (John 8:23, 1 Cor.15:46-49, Gen.2:7, Zech.12:1)



6. We become children of God by adoption. (Rom. 8:14-16, Gal. 4:5-6, Eph. 1:5)



7. The gospel (good news) by which we are saved is that Jesus provided forgiveness of sins, resurrection and eternal life through His finished work.(1 Cor.15:1-4, Heb.1:3, John 19:30, Col.1:20-22)



8. We're saved by grace through faith unto good works as God's workmanship. (Eph.2:8-10)



9. He makes us new creatures as the Author and Finisher of our faith. (2 Cor.5:17-21, Heb.12:2)



So, what must one do to be saved?



1. Confess your sins to God and turn from them.(Rom.3:23, 1 John 1:8-9)

2. Confess with your mouth the the Lord Jesus and believe with your heart that God raised Him from the dead. (Rom.10:9)

3. Ask Jesus to come into your life and make you what He wants you to be. (Phil.2:13, 3:9; Rom.12:1-3)

2 comments:

  1. I hope this helps you understand the reason for your faith and gives you the boldness to stand up for it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am interested in the study of early christianity, especially the creation and formative years. perhaps the first 200. To show you some of the stuff I have been collecting, and trying to organize, take a look at these two pages, and see if anything interests you;

    http://webulite.dyndns.org:8080/christianity

    http://webulite.dyndns.org:8080/tag/christianity?do=showtag&tag=tag%3Achristianity

    I am interested in convos on anything in the early christianity general areas, what are you interested in at the moment?

    Cheers! RichGriese@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete