Are modern apologetics Biblical? Do they support the premise of the Gospel? Much of what I see today in modern apologetics focuses primarily on appealing to one’s intellect-making rational arguments to debate/discuss various issues of the Bible’s validity. Is this contrary to the Gospel message? Do they go hand-in-hand? Are they required to share our faith?
This is actually a subject I have thought about often but rarely if ever have heard anyone speak about or discuss, especially in a possible negative light. My mind immediately goes to Acts 17:2-3 which says ‘and for three Sabbath days, Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving to them that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead’. Here we see what I would call a form of apologetics from the Apostle Paul. It specifically states he ‘reasoned with them’. When I hear the word ‘reasoning’ I think of logical arguments, debating ideas that man can understand with their own minds but…if we keep reading, we see what it was Paul was reasoning-what it is he was ‘explaining and proving’. Modern apologetics relies typically on man’s logic, natural history, ideas and concepts that man can understand and rational proofs for the veracity of the Bible as an ancient text. The Scriptures do not state that Paul was doing these things. They state he was making arguments from the very Scriptures themselves for the proof, not of the Bible’s veracity, but rather proof of the risen savior-that the Bible declared man’s sin and was in need for a savior. He presented the validity and veracity of the Gospel itself.
The Gospel is power. Its message is power and it holds the key to unlocking the spiritually bound and setting the sinner free. It holds the power of regeneration through the working of the Holy Spirit in a man’s dead spirit. Being born again is the only answer to man’s sinful, dead nature. Logic and rational arguments will never accomplish that. Oh they may sway a person’s mind some but ultimately man’s mind is dead in itself and completely unable to understand the true things of God. 1 Corinthians 2 fully explains this:
‘We have not received the spirit that is from the world but rather the spirit that is from God, that we may UNDERSTAND what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom (or the wisdom of this world) but in the words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him; he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.’
(1 Cor 2:12-14)
The scriptures also declare just one chapter previous:
‘The message of the cross is FOOLISHNESS to those who are perishing but the power of God to those who are being saved. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its own wisdom did not know Him and God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.’
(1 Cor 1:18-21)
Now some of the healthy applications of apologetics would definitely be in a university classroom setting and/or along the lines regarding some of the great apologists of our day-Ravi Zacharias, Josh McDowell and others but even still-the question remains: Is it a substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit convicting and leading the heart of the unregenerate unto salvation? Again, I’m not discounting the magnitude of success some of these men have had but is it necessary? Is it required? I personally love to listen to Ravi speak. The man is just absolutely phenomenal with his understanding and ability to debate and defend the Bible. But here is the thing: In many of the great revivals of the past and even in this day and age, even the most hard hearted, stoic minded, Bible-bashing intellectual can simply be broken to their knees under the anointing power of the Holy Spirit. What may take an apologist hours and hours of defending the faith with intellectual and historical arguments just to bend the mind of the unregenerate intellectual, God can do in seconds with the power of His glory present. Reason is because salvation never has its origins in the mind in the first place. It is a spiritual condition, not an intellectual condition, which keeps men (and women) out of the kingdom of God.
Many of people today who have youth ministries (or currently have them or serve in them) believe in so many different methods and applications to try and get the young people saved or interested in even attending (or even adult ministries and church services). Whether it’s lights and smoke, special presentations, extensive customized follow-up, charismatic preaching, etc., all of this (while not necessarily bad) can still end up being just a substitute for the true anointing power of God’s presence, which will convict sinners and bring forth repentance leading to salvation. I found prayer, fasting and preaching God’s truth to bring forth all that is needed to change lives. It worked 2,000 years ago. It worked a few hundred years ago during many of the great revivals and guess what? It still works today for God never changes! Glory to God!
Not really trying to discount the effectiveness of some of the apologists out there, or the systematized defense of the faith in certain settings (such as a school classroom or legal courtroom) but too many rely solely on this type of intellectual engagement to win souls to Christ when what is really needed is simply the presence of the Holy Spirit and the preaching/teaching of the Word of God. I think honestly, this is why many today-Christians-feel they need to understand every debate and Bible argument in order to witness or share their faith with someone. They don’t. That type of knowledge may help in certain conversations but really much of that knowledge isn’t for the unbeliever but rather for the believer. The unregenerate mind needs the power of the Gospel to remove the spiritual blinders that keep them from believing and truly seeing. All the details aren’t necessary and many times lead to going in circles-just dancing around the fire instead of actually stepping into it.
I used this example one time: It’s like inviting someone to your house who has never been there before. If explaining directions to them, you wouldn’t go in to detail about where the linens are, where you keep the dish soap, how you expanded the living room, why you keep the dog leash in the garage, etc. No, that is preposterous. The person has never even been to your house much less the intricate details of what’s inside. No, you would give them basic instructions simply on how to get there. The details of the what’s in the house however, you would give to those who already live there or who visit very often. It’s the same with the unregenerate soul. Why try to explain to them all the intricate details of the Word and battle them in defense of those things when in reality, they have never accepted Christ and been born again (been to the Heavenly house). We should be focusing solely on the basics of evangelism. The Word clearly tells us that the unregenerate mind cannot accept the things that come from the spirit of god yet, when we engage in apologetics to those who are unbelievers, to some degree we are trying to intellectually convince one the Bible is true.
The logical mind will never accept the things of the Spirit and the Gospel is simply that-spiritual. The carnal mind was never intended to accept the things of the Spirit. That is the beauty of the Gospel. So to answer my original question I would say this: I believe there is a place for apologetics. It can be a good platform at times to explain certain aspects of the faith and we most definitely should be studying the Word of God to build our knowledge and ‘show ourselves approved’ (2 Tim 15) but, I believe it should be based on the reasoning and proving the validity of the savior, from the Sciptural prophecies and references and from that of the testimony of a changed life-by that wonder working power of the Gospel. All other apologetics, however well intended, are simply the outpouring of one’s intellect appealing to another’s intellect. Intellect never saves. Debates may only go round and round in circles. Only the Gospel saves.
May God be always praised.