Second Century Christian Apologist


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Describe Christian apologetics in the second century

    Apologetics in the second century took place from within, as they defended their faith from Gnosticism and from without as they fought to be recognized as, not only a legitimate religion, but “…as superior to the idolatry of the pagans and the ritualistic worship of the Jews.”[1] However, I see issues of great concerns, even in some of the apologetic efforts that were taking place.

    Tatian, a student of Justin Martyr, for example, composed a harmony of the four Gospels known as the Diatessaron. For two centuries this harmonization became the standard form of the Gospel in the Syriac-speaking areas.[2] I rather we go directly into the Word of God for ourselves.

    Other issues of concerns in second-century apologetics are found in Athenagoras’ approach; even as he argued the superiority of Christianity over paganism, in his dispute concerning the resurrection he argues from the prospective of nature and reason and refuses to utilize Scripture.[3] Finally, another issue of concern was Theophilus’ approach as he speaks of Logos, but avoid speaking about Jesus and also present the narrative of the creation in Genesis as allegoric.

    I find these approaches to apologetics troubling and perhaps as original seeds from some of the theological and doctrinal mess we see in our day.

What were the accusations against Christians?

    The Bible tells us in Acts 8:1 that there was great persecution against the church. It seems like the devil did not waste any time in trying to destroy the church from the very beginning. The attack came from outside, in the form of persecution and false accusations and, from within, in the form of heresy. Persecution aroused as Christianity began to shapeup her own identity away from Judaism. There were four specific accusations against Christians; all of these accusations were grotesque misinterpretations of our faith and practices. They accused us of: 1) incest, 2) cannibalism, 3) atheism and 4) of being a subversive group.

How did apologists like Justin respond?

    Ferguson introduces Justin Martyr as arguably the most important and most influential apologist of the second century.[4] This man “fought his apologetics battles on four fronts: against pagan intellectuals, the state, the Jews, and heretics.”[5] He addressed the four accusations against Christianity head on, presenting a picture of Christian people as being indeed very moral people. Justin also utilized the prophesies in Scripture to defend his case. Justin dances very closely with philosophy and mythology in order to present Christianity to the lost. He was bold in addressing pagan practices as demonic. That boldness cost him making his last name a reality in his life. No doubts, much to admired when it comes down to Justin’s apologetics.

What apologetic principles could be used today in a modern context?

    We most remember that according to First Peter 3:15, we are called to “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” (KJV) The word “asketh” here has a very interesting definition; it comes from the Greek word, αἰτέω aitéō; fut. aitḗsō. meaning, “to ask, request, beg. The seeking by the inferior from the superior (Acts 12:20); by a beggar from the giver (Acts 3:2); by the child from the parent (Matt. 7:9); by man from God (Matt. 7:7; James 1:5; 1 John 3:22).”[6]      I can conclude by this definition that these are folks that are asking sincere questions concerning our faith. This definition is perhaps describing someone who is really interested in the reason why our hope rests in God. These are not the truth suppressors describe in Romans 1:18.[7]

    I say all this to say that we can’t leave the Word of God out; we are not defending God, He does not need any defending from us; we are defending our faith. I believe that it is vitally important to follow the example of Justin Martyr. It is obvious that this man was a student of God’s Word, an educated man, who was able to present the truth of God’s Word in an intelligent and relevant way for his time. He used philosophy and mythology, as those were important concepts of his time. However, he presented the power and accuracy of the prophesies in God’s Word.

    I believe that everything that can be use for our apologetics is useful, whether is through the knowledge of the cosmos, physic, mathematics and science in general; nevertheless we must not fall into the trap of the atheist, humanist and agnostics of our day.

    We must never shy away from utilizing God’s Word. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (KJV)

[1] Everett Ferguson, Church History, Volume One: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013), 70

[2] Ibid, 71

[3] Ibid, 71

[4] Everett Ferguson, Church History, Volume One: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation, 71

[5] Ibid, 72

[6] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[7] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (KJV)

Atheism and Us


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If you, as an atheist, tell me that you hate God and religion, I believe you. If you as an atheist blame God for all death and injustices in the world, if you don’t like how God does things, if you blame him for every rape, slavery and every evil in the world, I believe you. But if you tell me that you don’t believe that God exist, you are deceiving yourself.

         Brothers and sisters of the Christian faith, you probably have not heard these terms before, but get use to because they are defining our societies. Humanism is defined as “Any system of thought or action concerned with the interests or ideals of people … the intellectual and cultural movement … characterized by an emphasis on human interests rather than … religion.” Secular Humanism is defined as, “a comprehensive, nonreligious lifestance incorporating:

  • A naturalistic philosophy
  • A cosmic outlook rooted in science
  • A consequentialist ethical system”[1]

          Beloved, this is what is happening in our nation and this is what is happening in Europe. These folks are convinced that they are great intellectuals; however, God does not agree, in Romans 1:22 the Bible tells us, about these folks, Professing to be wise, they became fools,” (NKJV).

         They subscribe to the Advancement worldview; this is a worldview that believes that we are progressing, that we are advancing as a society, without the need for God or any supernatural intervention. In this worldview the claim is that God is not real and that if he is, he is not needed, we can progress on our own.[2] Because Satan is the god of this world[3] and because his job is to move the whole world away from God and towards him, he is accelerating the growth of this worldview.

         When the focus of life is anything but God, we serve the devil. Romans 1:21 tells us, “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…” (NKJV) This focus on us is a clear sign of the last days; the bible tells us that “…men will be lovers of themselves…”[4]

         Later, I will give you Biblical instructions on how to deal with the new atheist. But lets us take time now and look at five biblical truths that we all know, even if we refuse to recognize them.

  1. Everybody knows of God’s existence. (Romans 1:18-20)[5]
  2. Everybody knows of God’s power. (Romans 1:18-20)[6]
  3. Everybody knows that God is the ultimate authority. (Romans 1:18-20)[7]
  4. Everybody knows of God’s judgment against evil. (Romans 1:32)[8]
  5. Everybody knows of God’s law. (Romans 2:14-15)[9]

         Let me also tell you that today’s atheist are the worst; they are not seeking truth; they are passionate about destroying any form of religion around the world. It is funny to me that the late Christopher Hitchens, a self proclaim atheist would spend so much time and energy in writing a book entitle, God is not Great: How Religion Poison’s Everything. I assure you, Christopher Hitchens new that God was real; he for sure know now!

         These atheists are changing societies; they are successfully infiltrating cultures; that is, including ours. Atheism, by far, has being directly responsible for the murderess of millions, more than any ideology in the history of humanity, that is, including the Catholic Church and Radical Islam combine. Communism is a total rejection of God; atheism shines is communist governments and societies. Now lets take a look at these horrendous statistics.

“…the Soviet Union appears the greatest megamurderer of all, apparently killing near 61,000,000 people. Stalin himself is responsible for almost 43,000,000 of these. Most of the deaths, perhaps around 39,000,000 are due to lethal forced labor in gulag and transit thereto. Communist China up to 1987, but mainly from 1949 through the cultural revolution, which alone may have seen over 1,000,000 murdered, is the second worst megamurderer. Then there are the lesser megamurderers, such as North Korea and Tito’s Yugoslavia. Obviously the population that is available to kill will make a big difference in the total democide, and thus the annual percentage rate of democide is revealing. By far, the most deadly of all communist countries and, indeed, in this century by far, has been Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot and his crew likely killed some 2,000,000 Cambodians from April 1975 through December 1978 out of a population of around 7,000,000. This is an annual rate of over 8 percent of the population murdered, or odds of an average Cambodian surviving Pol Pot’s rule of slightly over just over 2 to 1. In sum the communist probably have murdered something like 110,000,000, or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments, quasi-governments, and guerrillas from 1900 to 1987. Of course, the world total itself it shocking. It is several times the 38,000,000 battle-dead that have been killed in all this century’s international and domestic wars. Yet the probable number of murders by the Soviet Union alone–one communist country– well surpasses this cost of war. And those murders of communist China almost equal it.”[10]

            I mention these facts because atheist love to blame us for religious crimes, but they may need to look at themselves. We as born again Christians are not perfect people; God is still working in us and through us, but we have never had a murderous agenda. Again, there were crimes committed by the Catholic Church that we get blame for, however one must understand that born again Christians were also getting killed during time.

         Now, todays’ atheists, in general, are not mass murderess. As a matter of fact, many of them are good people, according to normal society expectations. They are intellectuals and that, I admire about them. They criticize us for being ignorant, non-intellectuals, against science and so on. In part, they are right about some of these accusations. There is a wing of the Body of Christ that embraces ignorance. If you want to hear sermons about how to get rich and do things without effort go for the charismatic church. If you want to get into a deep theological topic about God and answer the tough questions you will have to go to the more orthodox wing of our family of believers.

         This secular humanism ought to encourage us to know our faith more, to study, to show ourselves approve, to rightly divide the Word of truth[11] and to basically know what we are made of. However, let me also say that there is a Biblical way to respond to this foolishness and that is, by not responding at all. We need to be aware of them, love them and pray for them, but if God gave them up,[12] what do you think we are going to gain by debating them?

         The Bible tells us that a fool says in his heart that there is no God.[13] In Proverbs 26:4-5 the Bible gives us specific instructions,

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,

Lest you also be like him.

Answer a fool according to his folly,

Lest he be wise in his own eyes. (NKJV)

         The word “Folly” here has a very interesting meaning in the original language. It is the word, “anoia, meaning without understanding, senselessness, it denotes violent or mad rage, “madness.”[14] When dealing with an atheist, the first thing they want to do is to take Jesus and the Word out of the equation. Some are as ignorant as to question that the historical Jesus even existed.

         When we allow these fools to take away the Bible from us, we are indeed responding to them according to their folly. The warning for us as Christians is that we can become like them. We can find ourselves thinking that we are wise in our own opinion. When we take God’s Word and our precious testimony out of the debate, we position ourselves in a place of defending God. Does God need anybody to defend Him? When we do that we, without realizing it, we also make them wise in their own eyes.

         Nobody will come to Christ via the intellect; salvation is a gift from God given to us by grace through faith; it requires no works.[15] First Peter 3:15 tells us, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” (NKJV) Notice that the Bible encourages us to be ready to make a defense; that is the word Apology, meaning verbal defense. But what is it that we are called to defend, God? Absolutely not; what we are defending is the reason for our faith to whomever takes the time to ask. The idea that we go around debating people and requesting debating this or that person is not biblical.

         You may ask, what about if they, the atheist call us for a public debate? If they ask, should we go? The question is for what? They are oppressors of God’s truth and the wrath of God is upon them; again, if God turn them over, why debate? We are dealings with debased minds.[16]

         So what do we do with these oppressors of God’s truth? We pray for them; they are objects, not of God’s love, but of God’s wrath. We pray that they may repent of their sin and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

         Lastly, I am convinced that the ministry of apologetics is biblical, is sound, and is real and necessary. This ministry defends the core values of our faith. Because of this reality I believe that we have plenty of apologetics to do from within, from within all who call themselves Christians.

         We, as Christians, are facing a greater issue amongst ourselves. An issue that is worst before the eyes of God, than the demon of secular humanism, it is call the lukewarm spirit spoken in Revelation 3:15-17,

 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— (NKJV)

          Beloved, what I see here is the prosperity gospel’s heresy that is consuming our churches. Secular humanism is a worldly thing; it is what is expected from the world, the lukewarm spirit is in our congregations, is in our pulpits, Sunday schools, etc. God is saying that He prefers that we were on fire for him, but his second option is coldness, that is what you get with these new atheists, a high level of coldness. However, it is those in the vomit zone that God despises the most; these are the ones that causes God to feel nauseated.

         I pray that we be a people on fire for God, passionate about His Word, passionate about sound doctrine, pursuing good theology, respecting our dogmas and what is unchanging… the orthodoxy of our faith. Yes, we are open for change, the change that our Lord directs; that change will never over-right God’s Word, but must, like everything else, submit to Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Council for Secular Humanism, https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/3260

[2] Russ L Bush, The Advancement: Keeping the Faith in an Evolutionary Age, Nashville, TN: B&H, 2003.

[3] 2 Corinthians 4:4

[4] 2 Timothy 3:2

[5] “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” (New King James Version)

[6] Same as above

[7] Same as above

[8] “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (New King James Version)

[9] “or when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)” (New King James Version)

[10] R. J. Rummel, How Many Did Communist Regimes Murder, https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/COM.ART.HTM

[11] 2 Timothy 2:15

[12] “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Romans 1:24-27 (NKJV)

[13] Psalm 14:1

[14] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 245.

[15] “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)

[16] Romans 1:18-32

My Favorite Christian Apologetic Method


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Three hundred years of persecution was not able to stop the spiritual and physical growth of the church. Who does not get excited when reading the book of Acts? The sound doctrine, the power, the signs, the wonders, the love and the sense of family! As a pastor I prayed many times to see these characteristics manifesting in our local churches.

         The history of the church shows us that the enemy came up with a very effective system; a system that was able to do what persecution did not. That system is the mixing of the church with secular things, concepts, philosophies, ideologies and yes apologetics.

         I believe we need Christian apologetics today like never before. Our core belief are being challenged and mocked by friendly fire; a fire from within. I believe the focus should be internal apologetics for we are consumed with much confusion. The minimizing of the authority God’s Word is rampant. It seems like we have enter the season of, what I like to call, the Hippie Gospel.

         So I look at our apologetic ministers who fearlessly and humbly defend our dogmas and I look for our pastors and teachers in our local churches to dig deep and explain those core values through the uncompromising teaching of the sound doctrine of the apostles.[1] But what do I see? Many of us, from within, have embrace the demonic trap of mixing God’s truth with the devils lies. The Babylonian system is alive and well today, but God’s cry continue to be the same, “Come out of her…”[2]

         Why should I even attempt to convince a lost soul of God’s truth through reasoning? This was the devils successful attempt to deeply affect the ministry of apologetics. This approach opened door for the era of The Enlightenment and we allow that worldview to deeply affect us. The seventh and eight century was an era of great apologetics, as explained by Beilby. However, look at the results of mixing with worldly ideas;

         “Nevertheless, this period is known as a time when the opponents of orthodox Christianity belief began to get     the upper hand on Christian apologist.”[3]

         Why was this taking place? How did the opponents of orthodox Christianity were able to start turning the tide? Beilby gave us the answer in a very clear fashion. Beilby tells us that the first thousand years apologetics was between Judaism and Islam. However, for the first time we had skeptics and freethinkers in our camp. We now have a group of very smart people who recognized the existence of God, but rejected, and continue to so today, any divine revelation. This group is known Deist.[4] These folks were and are the worst, because they openly recognize the existence of God, still rebel against Him; his plan of salvation and their conditions as sinners.

         We are lost without God; we are lost without salvation and salvation will never be achieved through reason. Salvation is not an intellectual thing. We are save by grace alone; through faith alone.[5] We are dead in our sin.[6] John Locke goes as far as stating that “reason is the sole arbiter of truth and that faith is unnecessary when rational arguments are present.”[7]

         As of this point in my life I don’t have the time nor the intelligence to go back to school and study the cosmos, physics, mathematics, philosophy, history and all of these wonderful disciplines that are able to equip us to defend the faith against the enormous wave of skepticism we have in our society today. The reality is that it will take me too many years to be able to compete with these highly educated atheist and deist. But is God requiring from every believer to be highly educated on these different fields in order to be able to fulfill First Peter 3:15? Is that is so, we are greater trouble.

         As I look at the evidentialist strategy and as it seems like C. S. Lewis is their best ambassador[8]; I am trouble by the idea that we must present a well-reasoned and well-supported response. The trouble that I have with C. S. Lewis is that after you finish being mesmerized by his great presentations and arguments and you look deeply into his theology you are left with a very disturbing theology. I believe strongly in Lewis’s contemporary theologian, Karl Barth when he states, “The best apologetics is good theology.”[9] The Scripture tells us that God’s attributes are clearly seen; God has left mankind without excuse; we all know that He exists.[10] Using evidence is a good approach, but it cannot be the main approach of my apologetics.

         I find the experientialist strategy noble, but ineffective. Our experiences with God have a place when addressing the lost and as a tool of encouragement for one another. It is a powerful tool indeed that helps us overcome the discouragement of this sinful world.[11] But as a formal strategy for apologetics it can be easily dismissed. The reality is that when faced with unbelievers in general, especially skeptics, atheist, etc., we are dealing with folks that want nothing to do with God.[12] Like us before we got saved, they need a personal encounter with Jesus.

         Does this means that I don’t believe in the ministry of apologetics? I do believe in this ministry, but I will personally embrace the presuppositionalist strategy. I strongly believe that God will confirm His Word[13], not my reasoning, my knowledge or how good of an argument I was able to present. This goes in great harmony with what Beilby states concerning the presuppositionalist strategy,

         “Consequently, the authority of Scripture and of Jesus Christ must be presupposed before sense can be made of arguments for the truthfulness of Christianity”[14]

         Some evangelists today are preaching a different Gospel; a gospel that does not require repentance or even believe. Preachers are reading one Bible verse and then go on for an hour talking about thinks that have nothing to do with Scripture. Teachers are introducing appealing teachings, making outrageous statement with no Biblical backing. The apologetic ministry is the backbone that brings us back to the core, to the center, to what sustain our belief. The apologetic ministry is not afraid of the tough questions; they study, they read and show themselves approve as they rightly divide the Word of truth[15] and, most importantly, the apologetic ministry goes the extra mile by standing strong and ready; defending the hope that is in us to whomever ask.[16]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] 2 Timothy 4:3

[2] Revelation 18:4

[3] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What it is and Why We Do it, (Downers Groove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011) 61

[4] Ibid. 62

[5] Ephesians 2:8-9

[6] Ephesians 2:5

[7] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: 88

[8] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: 96

[9] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: 76

[10] “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world           His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” Romans 1:18-20 (NKJV)

[11] Revelation 12:11

[12] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: 99

[13] Mark 16:20

[14] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: 99

[15] 2 Timothy 2:15

[16] But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 1 Peter 3:15 New King James Version (NKJV)