Apologetics, Introduction to2018-09-24T14:50:34+00:00

Introduction to Apologetics

Reasonable Religion

Redefining Faith

For as long as there has been organized religion, there has been criticism of religion. In the fifth century of ancient Greece, for instance, Diagoras of Melos openly declared that there was no God,[1] he proved by turning a statue of Herakles into a cookfire and preparing turnips over it without divine judgement cast upon him.[2] Many today ask why religion seems to be the only area in society that still holds immense prestige, while anything else strongly believed without evidence is considered a mark of madness.[3] This is because most have erringly and partially defined faith as a belief in what cannot be seen void of evidence. Even those who consider themselves spiritual or charismatic often defend their beliefs with expressions appealing to subjective proofs (i.e. experiences, esoteric or divine interpretations, emotional biases, etc.). Some even assume that since they cannot corroborate their belief intellectually, they must have faith, and that those who can reasonably defend their belief must have less, or no faith at all.

Burden of Proof

Imagine a stranger walking his dog approaches you and says that he believes that his dog can fly. Instinctively, you conclude that this is impossible, but why do you think you would disagree with his claim? To what do you appeal to deny his claim? Wouldn’t you appeal to science and the laws of physics? To what do you suppose could the stranger appeal to justify his claim? Would it be useful for him to defend his claim by saying, “I just know,” or “I have faith?” Of course not. He would not be adequately fulfilling his burden of proof.

Suppose that the same stranger approaches you and claims that he can stand on one foot while the other is stretched behind his head. Certainly, this is also a difficult claim to believe, but you rightly ask him to prove it. The stranger then begins to lift his leg up and lower himself so his leg will clear his head. He then straightens himself and holds out his arms. You are surprised, but you can’t find reason enough to disbelieve what you can see with your own eyes and you applaud him. What if the man returned a year later and made the same claim? Would you believe him, or would you be just as skeptical as before? Would you again require that he prove his assertion, or would the proof you were shown a year ago be sufficient to exhibit faith in the truthfulness to his claim?

Reasoned Faith

To the bible-believing Christian, faith “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”[4] Evidence precedes belief and follows with appropriate responses.[5] To a non-Christian, the same process is used to represent a reasonable hypothesis or theory. This is because anyone who makes a truth claim has the burden of proof to support his assertions with empirical evidence and reason.

There exist innumerous worldviews each holding to a doctrine of proposed truth claims. These claims are based not just in religion, but in science, philosophy, mathematics, economics, politics… virtually every thoughtful subject. Each assertion defends an ideal or concept as accurately lining up against reality. In other words, when one makes an assertion, he implicitly precedes the statement with “It is true that                    .” For instance, “All humans are mammals,” is translated “It is true that all humans are mammals.” This statement can, then, be rebutted as false or affirmed as true. But is it true that all humans are mammals? How do we know? Wouldn’t the speaker be required to show how he arrived at that conclusion? Doing so would be a fulfillment of his burden of proof.

Francesco Hayez (1791-1882) Ulysses at the court of Alcinous Oil on canvas, 1813-1815 381 × 535 cm Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples Italy

Apologetics: Defending Faith

In fifth century B.C. ancient Greece, the legal system included the prosecution delivering the kategoria (κατηγορία), to which the defendant would reply with a rebuttal, or apologia (ἀπολογία). In fact, the kategoria motivates a defensive response,[6] whereas the defense would attempt to vindicate the accused.

In the trial of Socrates in 399 B.C., Socrates delivered what his disciple, Plato, later published as the Apology, [7] a defense for the charges against Socrates for corrupting the city’s young men and not believing in the gods who the city worshiped.[8] Socrates delivered the apology reasonably justifying his actions.

For Christians, apologetics is best described in 1 Peter 3:15:

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

This is perhaps the key verse in understanding the basic biblical principle behind Christian Apologetics. Christian Apologetics is the science and discipline of presenting evidence for a position or doctrine in a reasonable defense of the truthfulness of the Christian Faith and the sovereignty of the Christian God. It is purposed to uphold truth through research, reason, and pure and undefiled religion. The word apologia appears seventeen times in the New Testament in both noun and verb form, each time translated “defense”, “vindication”, or similar. Paul the apologist, for instance, uses this word when defending himself against the criticisms he received to his claim of being an apostle.[9] Christian Apologetics is a subdivision in Christian Theology designed to equip believers with tools and arguments (apologetics) to defend the truthfulness of the Christian faith.

Why Apologetics?

With the advancement of postmodernism in the critical thinking and living of the western world, theology and religion have been dismissed for art, and pure science is being dismissed for social theory. We strongly believe that the forced schism between reason and religion is the biggest culprit in the plurality of our culture. When the world finds pure science against them on an issue, they reconcile by appealing to their unquantifiable imagination rewriting the laws of integral investigation in favor of more desired outcomes. Unbeknownst to them, they unintentionally create their very own religion complete with the inconsistency and hypocrisy often charged against other religions. They can even torture the scriptures of science to appeal to their desires. But, before you cast a judgmental finger, we strongly believe that it should be acknowledged that this was only encouraged by the virulence of intellectual apathy coming from the American church who continue to campaign for occult “faith” and demoralize sincere skepticism.

Today, Christians and Christianity serve as the platform for mockery and contempt among secularists and mainstream intellectuals. Now, this is hardly the persecution of the kind the apostles experienced. But much of this is unnecessary because we have evidence to our claim; most simply don’t know why what they believe is true. When objectively compared, one may say Christians give the appearance of relativism—their “faith” just as sound and valid as the “faith” of a westernized Muslim or devout Hindu. In fact, many practicing Christians don’t even know what are the tenants of Christianity and are steadily returning to worldly worldviews.

(See: American Christianity in Sharp Decline)

Postmodern philosophy has bereaved us of meaning where knowledge is no longer principle. It has imbued our culture with an absence of purpose, an erosion of thought, and has enshrined uncertainty. But what has begun to deteriorate the church’s integrity is not influences from the outside, but indifference and misplaced dogmatism from those within. When so many in the church are willing to assimilate to other worldviews contrary to Christianity, the church desperately needs to return to the rudiments of the faith and the fundamentals of truth. Once called the Pillar of Truth by Paul[10], the postmodern church has little effect on the world because the of the effect the world has had on the church. We need to relearn how to think critically and rationally about the structure of our faith if we intend to move beyond the four walls of the destined-to-fade church building.

Conclusion

The separation between reason and religion has been a hotly debated topic in recent history. But they are a misrepresented false dichotomy. Continuing to behave as if religion and reason are in opposition with one another lends deceptive credibility to criticisms against Christianity, and within the church, it advocates for esotericism, false worship, and heresies. Reason is and always has been juxtaposed with religion—just as it is with faith. Faith is reasonable; necessarily preceding belief with evidence and following that belief with appropriate responses, and it is exhibited within virtually every worldview—spiritual or irreligious. Apologetics is not only an appropriate response to faith, but that by having a structure to one’s faith strengthens belief in what cannot be naturally seen.

If we return to the language of reasoned faith, learn to train ourselves and the next generation to think critically, we may be able to alter the course of the current sharp decline of the American Church.

(See: American Christianity in Sharp Decline)


Keywords: Apologetics | Apologist | Burden of Proof | Christian Apologetics | Faith

REFERENCES

[1] Robertson, J. M. (2001). A history of Freethought: Ancient and Modern to the period of the French Revolution. Bristol, U.K.: Thoemmes Press.

[2] Schaff, Philip. (2009). Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Web: Link

[3] Harris, Sam. Letter to a Christian Nation. p. 67

[4] Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

[5] James 2:14-17

[6] Ryan, H. R. (1982). Kategoria and Apologia: On Their Rhetorical Criticism as a Speech Set. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 68(3), 254-261. Web: Link

[7] Estienne, Henri, Platonis opera quae extant omnia, Vol. 1, 1578, p. 17 Web: Link

[8] “Socrates”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 2014. Web: Link

[9] 1 Corinthians 9:3, 2 Corinthians 12:19

[10] 1 Timothy 3:15