I was just thinking.
I've been reading a lot lately on Apologetics. It's an area of my Christian faith that I hope to be studying for a long time, and some of it can be challenging to digest. And I'm still in the elementary stages of it.
Maybe it would be good if I turned to you, Blogger, as a tool to record the things I'm learning. I, like most people, tend to learn things best when I am able to regurgitate what I've just taken in. Perhaps it will spur others to think on these things as well.
Sounds like a win to me. I can't take the hand cramps it would cost for me to write all this stuff down in a traditional journal anyway.
So, without any warm-fuzzy welcomes, welcome to my self-discussion. Please feel free to join in if you have something constructive or otherwise encouraging to share. Part of my problem with this particular book I'm working with (which I will share in a moment) is that there are "Talk About It" sections about which I have no one to talk to.
Oh now don't get me wrong...of course I have people in my life I can talk to about this. My husband always listens (albeit sometimes against his own will), and my sister Rachele will listen to anything I have to say. My sweet friend Ronda has a shared love and excitement for this topic, too. But at 5:30 in the morning, they simply aren't available.
So, away we go.
The book I'm using (aside from the Bible, the Word of God, of course) is called On Guard, Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision by William Lane Craig.
Craig is "Research Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology. A respected debater, prominent Internet presence (www.ReasonableFaith.org), and the author of Reasonable Faith, Dr. Craig is one of the most influential defenders of Christianity in our day."
That's taken straight off the back of the book. I'm resourceful that way.
I can tell you that Craig also has not one, but two PhDs (how do you make that plural?); one in Philosophy, the other in Theology. He has authored or edited over 30 books and has written over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology.
So I'm gonna say he's got a few credentials.
Of course, credentials don't necessarily mean that you know what you're talking about...or that you are in touch with reality for that matter. Certainly people have gone through 87 years of graduate work and emerged unable to choose an outfit for the day or cook a grilled cheese. But it helps to know that the guy has at least done some homework, and he's not some high school drop out who's still flying high on his acid trip days in the 70's and imagining all manner and sorts of convoluted rubbish.
Okay. So that's out of the way. Back to the book.
It's entitled On Guard, Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, published by David C. Cook of Colorado Springs, CO, just in case you wanna run out and getcha some.
Chapter One - What Is Apologetics?
Even though the term "apologetics" sounds like "apologize", Craig says apologetics "is not the art of telling somebody you're sorry that you're a Christian! Instead, it comes from the Greek word apologia, which means a defense, as in a court of law. Christian apologetics involves making a case for the truth of the Christian faith." (p. 13)
For those who question if this is a necessary process for a believer to undertake, he points to God's words as penned by Peter in his first letter, chapter 3 verses 15 and 16: "Always be ready to give an answer [apologia] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with courtesy and respect."
The courtesy, or gentleness, and respect parts are pretty important. Have you ever gotten into a discussion with someone who was not courteous and respectful? Didn't it shift your gears from thoughtful and rational to defensive and irrational? That's human nature; it happens to all of us when we feel we are being attacked.
Craig gives three reasons why it is important for the Church (meaning the Body of Christ: the collective group of all believers everywhere, regardless of denominational backgrounds) to be able to give a defense for what we believe:
1. Shaping Culture - we live in a culture that neither understands believers nor comprehends our beliefs. He mentions the fact that our major universities were founded on the Name of Christ centuries ago, but are now hostile toward Christianity. Why is this so? Because we have allowed the Christian foundation to erode and the sands of secularism to be washed in. We need to help unbelievers understand what we believe - and why - so that we don't lose our voice in this culture.
2. Strengthening Believers - when we learn to express why we believe what we believe, then we are more confident to help others to do the same. A believer who is confident is able to persevere in times of doubt or persecution (which do come). Craig states, "People who lack training in apologetics are often afraid to share their faith or speak out for Christ because they are afraid someone might ask them a question." (p. 19) If you have an answer (apologia), then you are a much more bold to speak up. Another reason that the Church needs this training is because without understanding why we believe, many are more apt to walk away from their beliefs after being confronted with questions and doubts they can't answer. It's the reason so many of our young people end up straying from the foundation their parents laid when they were kids. They simply aren't connected to that foundation well enough with knowledge. In fact, very little if anything has ever been built on that foundation by the time they leave for college or the real world as adults.
3. Winning Unbelievers - obviously an unbeliever is going to be more willing to listen to someone who can answer their questions and reason with them over their skepticism. Some examples are Lee Strobel and C.S. Lewis. Lee Strobel (author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith) has stated that he's lost count of how many people have come to Christ because of his apologetic arguments in his books. Strobel himself was led to faith in Christ only after a two-year investigation of the claims of Jesus using his journalism and law examination skills.
C.S. Lewis "rejected Christianity as a teenager for both personal and intellectual reasons. However, as an English professor at Oxford in his twenties and early thirties, Lewis was exposed to writers and friends who offered convincing reasons first for theism and eventually for Christianity. Lewis became a Christian and began to use his intellectual and literary talents to articulate and defend the Christian view of the world. He became one of the most influential Christian apologists of his generation." (p. 23)
While it is the Gospel which leads to salvation, it is apologetics that helps skeptical unbelievers deal with the questions of their mind, which may eventually lead them to the point of being willing to hear the Gospel with a receptive heart.
The Study Guide lists a number of statements that unbelievers might make in response to the Gospel, and it asks the reader to share or write down my response. I will choose one. Or two.
Hypothetical Statement #1:
"I used to go to church, but when I didn't get anything I prayed for, I realized that there wasn't any God listening."
That's a reason that is suitable for why a child doesn't believe in Santa Claus.
There is only one prayer that God will answer for the unbeliever: "Save me!" Only then and afterward do we have the capacity to pray with His interests in mind and not our own. This is because it is at the point of salvation, when we've submitted to His Lordship, that the relationship of Father and child begins. Prior to that, an unbeliever asking God for a new car is equivalent to somebody else's kid that you've never seen before approaching you in the church parking lot asking you to hand over the keys. Suuuuuure.
Hypothetical Statement #2:
"How can you believe that this guy that lived 2,000 years ago came back to life from the dead?! Do you expect anyone else to do that? It doesn't make any sense!"
1. The Scriptures are an historical account of those who knew Him best and their experiences with Him...including eyewitness accounts of His Resurrection. There are over 5,000 original copies of New Testament manuscripts still preserved today. There are a little over 2,000 copies of Homer's Iliad original manuscripts today and only 49 copies of all of Plato's works. Why would you accept the history of Homer and Plato to be accurate, but question the historicity of the New Testament?
2. Many hundreds of other people who are not recorded in the canon of Scripture also wrote in letters and diaries of their own eyewitness accounts of seeing Him alive after seeing Him crucified.
3. There is more documented evidence of people witnessing His Resurrection for over a month after His death than there is written evidence of Christopher Columbus' sailing the ocean blue and finding North America almost 1,500 years later.
Reasonable? I think so.