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APOLOGETICS -- What Is It?
a Short Course

[See also "the Narrow Way" (scroll down), Organizing Principles2 (for update)
Principles of Organization, & Apologetics Library.]

What is Truth?

Apologetics does not mean, "I apologize for being a Christian." Apologetics comes from the Greek 'apo' (meaning 'from') and 'logos' (meaning 'word' or 'reason'), and has come to mean the art of speaking intelligently, providing the reasonable evidence, for some particular idea or belief.

Christian apologetics is the art of showing how the Christian way, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is the only reasonable way to live one's life, i.e. to show intellectually that "Christianity is the truth", and, that practically, it "works" better than any other way to produce and enhance life.   

"Truth" is simply "what is", as in "tell it like it is".  We are born knowing intuitively that there is a truth about life, and that we ought to find it.  Since views diverge drastically (it is morally and intellectually irresponsible to say that all religions say the same thing -- because they clearly do not), we need to discover whether Hinduism, Judaism, materialism, secular humanism, Buddhism, Christianity, or some other notion really is the truth about life, then we Christians need to know that...  (just as Elijah said on Mount Carmel, Isaiah 18 -- "If Baal be God, then let's go with Baal, but if the Lord be God, then let's go with Him.").   Apologetics is presenting the available evidence for the Biblical way, and then pointing people to God Himself, who will prove His own case right in their lives. 

"Christianity" is the trusting and obeying of God as revealed in Jesus Christ through the Biblical witness, interpreted by the great creeds of the Church, i.e. the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, and as revealed through the ongoing life of the Church which so believes and practices. That is the definition of the word 'Christian' which gives the Christian faith its identity among the world-competitors for the minds and hearts of the human race.

Generic Questions and Particular Answers

In order to make helpful comparisons between religions and philosophies, we must put our questions in generic form, get out of "Christianese" and , as Paul notes (2 Corinthians 4:2), "by the open statement of truth... commend ourselves to everyman's conscience in the sight of God".   We can commend ourselves to others only if there is a "common" sense available to every person made in the Image of God.   It is the commonness of our sense of reason which makes possible people of different beliefs having intelligent discussion with each other.   Only so can human beings reasonably obey God, "Come, let us reason together...."  (Isaiah 1:18)  We share such a commonness even with God. 

So, in Christian apologetics, we raise questions that are asked, not because we are Christians, but which are asked because we are human beings, questions we are forced to answer simply because we are alive, questions which no one can avoid answering, which we are forced by the circumstances of life to answer one way or another, whether poorly or well.  Our task is to show that the Christian answers to those generic questions are the superior answers.  

The following six questions cover almost all significant areas of life, and will be answered by everyone, whether they "think" about it or not.  One can give Biblical answers, pagan answers, or secular answers to these questions: 

1. What does it mean to be a "somebody" rather than a "nobody"? 

2. Will I be a truth-seeker - at any cost to myself?

3. Is there anything on which I can depend ultimately and completely?

4. Will I take personal responsibility for my own behavior, actions, and reactions?

5. Is there an objective authority to which I should  hold myself morally accountable?

6. Will I aim primarily at "feeling good" or at "relating well", will I conduct my relationships in a self-centered or a loving manner? 

The first question is answered by our responses to the remaining five.  Our answers to these questions will build on one another, leading to (or away from) fullness of personhood.  They each have very specific and powerful Christian answers. 

These questions make an excellent common-sense discussion starter for religious and philosophical issues, and can be used to show the extraordinary reasonableness of Biblical faith.  They lead, eventually, to all the deep issues of religion and philosophy.  The book, Biblical Inner Healing, discusses these questions from the point of view of spiritual and emotional healing because the same questions also make an excellent self-diagnostic tool for spiritual and emotional self-examination.    

How Do We "Know"?

There are only a few, perhaps three, ways we come to know anything at all, no matter what the subject might be -- whether physics, religion, mathematics, gardening, or tying one's shoe.

The first way is by experience, i.e. by observation. This is what we call the "empirical" side of life.

You have to look to see what the truth of the matter is. E.g. "the sky is blue today." You can find that out only by looking at the sky or by hearing from someone who has looked.  Or, "John thinks that Mary is beautiful."  To get the truth of this statement, you have to ask John to find out what he thinks of Mary. He has to tell you. Neither of these truths (or falsehoods) can be found out by just "thinking" about them. You have to observe and experience some aspect of life to know them. You have to collect evidence which tells you one way or the other.

We have to experience life in one manner or another or we would not know what to think the truth might be. We experience life by the five senses, we experience life by intuition, by feelings, and other ways. All of those experiences are part of the empirical evidence which goes into the hopper to be sorted out and arrive at the truth, i.e., at "what is".

The second way we know things is by totally abstract reasoning.   "If all a are also b, and if c is a, then c is necessarily also b."  The "then" conclusion is logically necessary.  One does not have to look at any particular instances of a's, b's, or c's to figure it out.  

The third way we know things is by reasoning about those things which we have observed.  We observe certain things, and then we ask: "What can I conclude from those facts?"  This third way applies the second way to facts garnered in the first way. 

If one is devoid of facts as a beginning point, reasoning cannot tell us much about "what is" -- because the essential function of reason is to test for logical consistency. It does that by acknowledging the rule that a statement cannot be true if it contradicts itself (because it makes the quest for "what is" impossible by conflating it with "what is not".  So if I have two observations of an event that appear contradictory, reason tells me that I must resolve the contradiction. Either the light was red when I went through it or not. And the judge wants to know which.

The same is true in religion and philosophy. If two ways of believing about life contradict each other, one of the two must be wrong, or perhaps they are both wrong. But both of them cannot be right in the area of contradiction.

The Task

Christian apologetics, the primary mission of the ROAD to EMMAUS==>>, thus has two tasks:

First, it must show that it is logically consistent within itself, that its basic principles do not inherently contradict each other.   

Secondly, it must show that on empirical grounds, Christianity has the greatest amount of evidence in its favor, i.e. that the Christian description of life fits what we observe, and that the Christian way, when it is put honestly to work, in fact produces the results it says it will produce.  

A secondary set of tasks for the Christian apologist is to show that other religions or philosophies do not have equal empirical evidence to support them, and/or that they have internal contradictions, that their basic foundations end up contradicting themselves if they are followed to their logical conclusion.

The Mission of Emmaus

These are the tasks to which the Emmaus Ministries, and in particular, the ROAD to EMMAUS==>>, is called.

I believe (1) that the Biblical worldview is the only logically consistent worldview there is, and (2) that the empirical evidence for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is overwhelming.

In other words, when the evidence is honestly stacked up and compared, there is no contest. That will seem absurd to those who think that Biblical religion long ago lost the intellectual battle. And it will seem "cruel" to those for whom truth has been declared relative so as not to hurt anyone's feelings (everyone can have their own truth).

But facts and logic speak for themselves.

So the first issue before us all is: Are we truth seekers? Are we willing to follow the evidence where it leads?

The sad truth is that Christians for the last two centuries have not, on the whole, been willing truth-seekers. The result has been that the truth could not fight for Christians - with three tragic results:

    1. Christians gained a reputation for being more interested in their prejudices than in the truth;

    2. the reputation of God was tarnished (people thought He was like us); and

    3. Christianity was run from the public arena and therefore, to our shame, we lost the spiritual/culture war for the 20th century -- with a horrific price paid by the human race.

The main problem for God has never been the secular/pagan folks. It has always been His own people who will neither stand where He places them nor go where He sends them. It was true in the Old Testament times, and it is no less true today among Christians. God has given us a weapon (the Sword of the Spirit) and a strategy (Rev. 12:11) which are unbeatable. Christians have no excuse for consistently losing the war around us.

Christians have not been willing, like Elijah, to put our faith to an open and honest test, and let the truth decide who is right and who is wrong (see I Kings 18). The truth can fight for us if and only if we are willing to step onto that fundamental common ground into which God is calling us ("Come, let us reason together.... (Isaiah 1:18) -- the ground of truth-seeking and truth-speaking. Then and only then can both truth and the Lord of Truth fight for us.

God does not take lightly our betrayal of His reputation because His ability to draw us back to Himself out of darkness into light depends on His reputation with us. Revelation is all about God restoring His reputation in the hearts and minds of His creatures. The reputation of God as Truth-Speaker is absolutely fundamental to our salvation.

The mission of Emmaus Ministries and of the ROAD to EMMAUS==>> is helping to restore the reputation of God as THE truth speaker. The only way we can do that is, as the people of God, to put truth ahead of prejudice, to be truth-seekers before we are position-defenders. And thus to let truth and the Lord of Truth use us to defend their case -- rather than our prejudices and fears.

When we begin to take our lessons on truth-seeking from God rather than from our fears and prejudices, three things will happen: 

    1. the Christian body will begin to reunite in a substantial and powerful way. 

    2. Christians will begin to be persecuted; and

    3. Christians will begin again to win the war.  

 

Peace and blessings,

Earle Fox

[See also "the Narrow Way" entry to the Road to Emmaus==>> for more on apologetics.]

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[Copyright 2005, F. Earle Fox]