The use of apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel

I read this excellent article and I wanted to share it. It seems like many apologists online are forgetting the power of the gospel. They are excited to engage the world with apologetics but seemly minimize the gospel. Now, none of them would say so because to do that is to admit a direct dependence upon the flesh; nevertheless, these new apologist are inching away from scripture toward dependence upon intellectual acumen. This article is a blessing and I hope you find it to be a good instructive.

The use of apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel

By Dave Jenkins.

In part 1 we learned what it means to engage worldviews. In part 2 we learned about Paul’s use and methods in Apologetics, and today we conclude our series on Apologetics by learning about the use of Apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel.

I read this excellent article and I wanted to share it. It seems like many apologists online are forgetting the power of the gospel. They are excited to engage the world with apologetics but seemly minimize the gospel. Now, none of them would say so because to do that is to admit a direct dependence upon the flesh; nevertheless, these new apologist are inching away from scripture toward dependence upon intellectual acumen. This article is a blessing and I hope you find it to be a good instructive.

The use of apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel

Dr. Mohler President of The Southern Baptist Theology defines apologetics as the task of setting forth the truth claims of Christianity and arguing for the unique truthfulness of the Christian faith- must inform every preacher’s understanding of his task in a postmodern age.[i]

Acts 17:16-34 serves as a model of Great Commission proclamation matched to an apologetic argument-an argument in defense of Christian truth. In that passage Paul is standing at the center of apologetic ministry in the first century- Athens. Athens was the most intellectually sophisticated culture in the ancient world, but its glory was retreating. Even though Rome held political and military preeminence, Athens stood supreme in terms of cultural and intellectual influence. The centerpiece of Paul’s visit to Athens is his message to the court of philosophers at the Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill. Several principles as it relates to preaching and apologetics become evident in considering Acts 17:16-34.

First, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture begins in a provoked spirit (Acts 17:16). Paul observed the spiritual confusion of the Athenians and was overcome with concern. The sight of a city full of idols seized him with grief, and that grief turned to gospel proclamation. Paul records that Paul experienced paroxysmos, a paroxysm, at the sight of such spiritual confusion. Athens was intellectually sophisticated- the arena where the ancient world’s most famous philosophers had debated. This was the city of Pericles, Plato, and Socrates, but Paul was not impressed with the faded glory of this city. He saw men and women in need of a Savior.

This text reminds us that the proper view of Christian apologetics begins in spiritual concern, not in intellectual snobbery of scorn. Christians preach Christ not because Christianity is merely a superior philosophy or worldview, nor because we have been smart enough to embrace the gospel, but because we have met the Savior, we have been claimed by the gospel, and we have been transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Christians preaching is not a matter of intellectual pride but of spiritual concern. A dying world languishes in spiritual confusion.

America is a nation filled with idols of self-realization, material comfort, psychological salvation, sexual ecstasy, ambition, power and success. New Age spiritualties in a quest for personal fulfillment and self-transcendence. The ancient paganisms of nature worship have emerged once again, along with esoteric and occult practices. Journalist Walter Truett Anderson observes, Never before has any civilization made available to its populace such a smorgasbord of realities. Never before has a communications system like the contemporary mass media made information about religion-all religions-available to so many people. Never has a society allowed its people to become consumers of belief, and allowed belief-all beliefs- to become merchandise.[ii]

America has become too acculturated, too blind, and too unimpressed with the paganism and idolatries all around us. As Christians, we betray a comfort level that Paul would see as scandalous. Instead of this, Christians should be gripped by the realization that millions of men and women are slaves to the idols of our age, and learn to have the courage to confront the idols all around them.

Second, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture is focused on gospel proclamation (Acts 17:17). Moved by the city full of idols, Paul went to the synagogue and to the marketplace each day, presenting the claims of Christ and reasoning with both Jews and Gentiles. The goal of apologetic preaching is not to win an argument but to win souls to Christ. Apologetics separated from evangelism is unknown in the New Testament, and is foreign to the model offered by the apostle Paul. The great missionary Paul was about the business of preaching the gospel, presenting the claims of Christ, and calling for men and women to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

For many evangelicals the study of apologetics is reduced to philosophical structures and rational arguments. This is not Paul’s method. Paul is not merely concerned with the justification of truth claims, but for the justification of sinners. Every true theologian is an evangelist, and every true evangelist is a theologian. The Gospel possesses content and presents truth claims that demand the preachers keenest arguments and boldest proclamation. The Gospel is to be received. Paul moved by the sight of idols preached Christ and called for belief.

Third, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture assumes a context of spiritual confusion (Acts 17:18-21). Paul’s gospel proclamation brought confusion to the Athenian intellectuals. The Epicureans, the forerunners of modern secularists, and the Stoics, committed to pantheistic rationalism accused Paul of teaching nonsense.

To the Athenians- and to the modern secular America- the preaching of the authentic gospel sounds strange. The Athenians said, “You are bringing some strange thing to our ears.” The Christian preacher hears the same thing today. In postmodern American, the Christian gospel is strange in its whole and in its parts. Most Americans assume themselves to be good and decent persons, and are amused at the notions that they are sinners against God. Grace is alien concept in American culture. Sin is almost outlawed as a category, substitutionary atonement sounds unfair, and God in human flesh is too much to take. Yet that is what Christians preach.

The Athenians and their tourists loved to spend their time telling or hearing something new- but what Paul preached was too much. Americans today are just like the Athenians. Consumers of meaning just as much as they are of cars and clothing, Americans will test-drive new spiritualties and try on a whole series of lifestyles. To many, the gospel is just too strange, too countercultural, too propositional, and too exclusive. To contend for the gospel and biblical morality in this culture is to run the risk of being cited for “hate speech.” The Christian must assume a context of spiritual confusion, and this is often now a hostile confusion. The Gospel sounds not only strange but threatening to the local deities.

Fourth, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture is directed to a spiritual hunger (Acts 17:22-23). Paul’s observation convinced him that the Athenians were a religious people. A deficit of religiosity was not the problem. Judging from the statue Paul noticed, the Athenians seemed to be fearful lest they miss any new philosophy or neglect any unknown deity.

American culture is increasingly secularist. The past century has seen the agenda of secularism accomplished in the courts, in the schools, in the marketplace, and in the media. Yet Americas are among the most religious people in the world. The emptiness of the secular wasteland haunts most postmodern persons. They long for something more. Many people declare themselves to live by scientific rationality, and yet they read the astrology charts, believe in alien abductions, line up to see bleeding statues, and talk about past lives. In America, even some atheists say they believe in miracles. Sociologist Robert Wunthnow suggests that Americans are particularly fascinated with miraculous manifestations of the sacred because they are uncertain whether the sacred has really gone away.[iii]

Paul had taken account of the plentiful idols and houses of worship found in Athens. He even noted they were hedging their bets, lest they offend some deity who had not made themselves known. Paul seized the opportunity. Brought before the court at the Areopagus, he referred to the altar he had seen that was dedicated to an unknown god.

The example of Paul here ought to establish a pattern for Christian preaching in a postmodern age. Christians must seek constantly to turn spiritual hunger toward the true food of the gospel of Christ. God had placed that hunger within lost persons they might desire Christ. Christians bear the stewardship of proclaiming the gospel, and therefore we must muster the courage to confront confused postmodernists with the reality of their spiritual ignorance. Paul never allowed this ignorance to become an excuse, but there can be no doubt that it is a reality. Americans, too, are feeding on a false diet of superstition and myths. The hunger is a place to start. Our challenge is to preach Christ as the only answer to that hunger.

Fifth, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture begins with the fundamental issue of God’s nature, character, power and authority (Acts 17:24-28). Interestingly, Paul does not begin with Christ and the cross but with the knowledge of God in creation. The do who created the world is not looking for Corinthian columns and the Parthenon, Paul argued. The Lord does not dwell in temples made with human hands. The Lord is the author of life itself, and He needs nothing from us. Furthermore, The Lord had made humanity and is Lord over all nations. The Lord sovereignly determines their times and boundaries. The Athenians were partly right, said Paul, quoting their poets. All human beings are God’s children, but not in the sense the Athenians believed. In proclaiming God as the Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of all things and all peoples, Paul was making a claim that far surpassed the claims of the Hellenistic deities.

Paul established his preaching of Christ upon the larger foundation of the knowledge of the God of the Bible, Maker of heaven and earth. Every preacher of the Gospel must structure their proclamation of the gospel in this postmodern culture just as Paul did. People must first understand God the Creator before they will understand God the Redeemer.

John Calvin organized his systematic theology around what he called the duplex cognito Domini, the twofold knowledge of God. The preacher must start with the knowledge of God as Creator, but this is not sufficient to save.  John Calvin notes that it is one thing to feel that God our Maker supports us by his power, governs us by his providence, nourishes us by his goodness, and attends us with all sorts of blessings, and another thing to embrace the reconciliation offered us in Christ. Seeing people come to faith in Christ the Redeemer begins with seeing them come to grips with the fact that God is their Maker.[iv]

Sixth, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture confronts error (Acts 17:29). Preaching, apologetics, and polemics are all related. Error must be confronted, heresy must be opposed, and false teachings must be corrected. Paul was bold to correct the Athenians with a firm injunction: Preachers ought never to not think false thoughts about God. The Athenians made idols out of marble and precious metals. Paul rebuked this practice and proclaimed that the Divine Nature is not like gold or silver or stone. Furthermore, God is not “an image formed by the art and thought of man.”

False theologies abound no less in the postmodern marketplace of ideas. Americans have revived old heresies and invented new ones. Mormons believe that God is a celestial being with a sex partner. The ecological mystics believe that the world is God- the so called Gai Hypothesis. New Age devotees believe that God is infinite empowerment. Our culture is filled with images of gods formed by art and the thought of man. Our confrontation must be bold and biblical. We have no right to make God in our image.

Seventh, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture affirms the totality of God’s saving purpose (Acts 17:30-31). Paul brought his presentation of the gospel to a climatic conclusion by calling for repentance and warning of the judgment that is to come. He proclaimed Christ as the appointed Savior who will judge the world and whose identity has been clearly revealed by the fact that God has raised him from the dead.

It is not enough to preach Christ without calling for belief and repentance. It is not enough to promise the blessings of heaven without warning of the threat of hell. It is not enough to preach salvation without pointing to judgment.

Conclusion

Authentic Christian preaching both declares and defends the whole gospel. The center of the Christians proclamation is Jesus Christ the Savior, who was crucified for sinners, was raised by the power of God, is coming again in glory and in judgment, and is even now sitting and ruling at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Christians must defend the truths of Christ’s deity, the virgin birth, the historicity of the miracles, the truth of the incarnation, the reality of His substitutionary death, and the assurance of His bodily resurrection. Yet Christians dare not stop at these affirmations, for we must place the person and work of Christ within the context of God’s eternal purpose to save a people for His own glory and to exalt himself among the nations. The task of preaching in this postmodern context is comprehensive, even as it is driven by the desire to see sinners turn to Christ in faith.

The postmodern world has no need of half evangelists preaching a half gospel to the half converted, and leading a halfhearted church. What is needed is a generation of bold and courageous preacher-apologists for the twenty-first century- men who will be witnesses to the whole world of the power of the gospel and who will proclaim the whole counsel of God.

[i] R. Albert Mohler, He is not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Chicago: Moody, 2008), 123-124.

[ii] Walter Truett Anderson, Reality Isn’t What It Used to Be (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990), 188.

[iii] Robert Wuthnow: After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), 139.

[iv] John Calvin, Institutes, McNeill and Battles, vol. 1, 40.

– See more at: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/05/24/the-use-of-apologetics-in-preaching-and-teaching-the-gospel/#sthash.t4eZc5pP.8q1t0PsW.dpuf

– See more at: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/05/24/the-use-of-apologetics-in-preaching-and-teaching-the-gospel/#sthash.t4eZc5pP.dpuf

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Reasonable Doubt? Who interprets Genesis 1?

REASONABLE DOUBT? WHO INTERPRETS GENESIS 1?

Old Earth Creationism otherwise know as O.E.C exists because various Christian scholars have decided to put their faith in science as a greater authority than the bible when it comes to origins. For them to believe anything the bible says about creation they must get permission from their favorite Ph.D. So far the science dept that dates rocks with carbon 14 and radiometric dating win the day.

I personally think that the only reason, and I mean the major reason we have O.E.C. is because the pride of education in a secular world demand some appreciation for the humanistic thinking that develops the un-biblical origins. In short, their secular peers and teachers need to feel included; now, if they abandon their secular peers they have no “peers” to appreciate their writings and works; they have no peer-review and thereby kill their writings and works by a peer-ostracizing of their writings.

To me its a form of denial, a form of compromise, where the biblical authority for origins is denied and then relegated to poetry and linguistics. Of course there is really no good proof for that, but the lie/deception that Gen 1 and 2 are poetry is out there and wrapped up in the garments of scientific proof and legitimate theorizing.

But seriously, which way can our Christian scholars go if they want the approval of secular scholars? They must go in the direction of Evolution and Old earth theorizing.
Of course none of what I’ve said is provable and Ill I’ve done is make assertions. But I ask you, just what turns a man away from the historical narrative of Gen 1-3 and begin to claim its not historical narrative but a vague poetic discourse describing poetically the events of creation.

This is the real question I have for those who claim its poetry; just how do you translate the poetry back into physical creation, what hermeneutic do you use and where are the interpretations of Genesis that take the days of Genesis and show within the rest of scripture how the bible translates the poetry for us. The bible interprets the bible, I’ve not seen the interpretation of the poetry within the bible to clarify the poetic verses and bring them into human reality.

In my opinion the poetry issue is a complete fabrication and secondly let those who claim it is poetry show us how that poetry is interpreted through the rest of scripture. Show us the metamorphosis of metaphor becoming physical reality.

The Historical Grammatical hermeneutic is rejected. Good bible scholars use the historico/grammatical hermeneutic to interpret bible passages from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. But now, the case is changing. Various ones are no longer using one hermeneutic for scriptural exegesis, Now a modern science/linguistic approach is being used. The obvious question then needs to be asked; who’s science? The Evolutionist?, The Creationist? The skeptic or Atheist? From which of these people are we asking to supply the ‘science’ in which to backfill Genesis so we can understand the creation days?  The morphing of exegesis to eisogesis has many Christians confused. Instead of the scriptures declaring from a narrative the events of God’s creative works, the linguist has arrived to call it poetry and the scientist has arrived to supply the new-narrative, one that conforms to current anti-biblical evolutionary models.

So far, what Ive seen from O.E.C. Is their dependence upon science to interpret Genesis for us, they don’t use the bible to interpret the biblical account in poetic form in this case. So, the bible remains silent while Mr. Evolutionist and Old Earth theorist is asked to speak from the pulpit. This raises a serious question; for what purpose did it serve God to leave Genesis un-interpretable for 6000 years until the necessary science was developed to understand it properly? Why did God wait, and then after all that waiting, dismiss the power of the Holy Spirit to interpret scripture and reveal its truth, it seems as though God circumvented the Holy Spirit and chose to use 21’st century science to ‘tell us what Genesis really means’. Unless, God said, “wait, instead of assuming the Holy Spirit is directing you to believe that account is a biblical narrative of what I’ve done, I have a group of secular/humanist scientists that will offer you a better interpretation”. But since the average Christian doesn’t trust the secular humanist scientist, the Christian scholar who has agreed with the scientist is ready to step up and declare his findings and use a Christian mouth to spout humanist conclusions.