Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Acts 17:1-3 "Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came toThessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer andrise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”
In today's opening verses we see the Apostle Paul engaging in the practice of explaining and defending the Christian faith. Such an activity of defending and communicating the Christian faith is what we call "apologetics". The word "apologetics" derives from a Greek word ("apologia") that refers to Christians giving "a reasonable defense" or "giving an answer" as to why they have their hope in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter uses this word "apologia" (translated in most English translations by words such as "defense" or "answer") 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 for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."
The appropriateness and duty of Christian apologetics
Some Christians today will raise the question as to whether it is appropriate to do apologetics, since no one can "argue" anyone into the kingdom of God. The urgency expressed by Peter ought to put the matter to rest, since scripture asserts not only the appropriateness but duty for defending the Christian faith against doubt, opposing worldviews and hostile critics.
Certainly engaging in apologetics with "gentleness and reverence" ensures that Christians won't lose their testimony and integrity. It can be very easy to get angry against mockers who ridicule Christianity. This blogger has engaged in apologetic work for over two decades, engaging with many non-Christian belief systems from atheism to agnosticism to Islam to Mormonism and more. The temptation to be hostile can rear its ugly head (and has certainly been experienced from time to time by this writer). The reminder from 1 Peter 3:15 expresses the truth that in as much as reasons are necessary for doing apologetics, the heart and the attitude of the apologist are equally important.
Why apologetics must include conversation
When we see the Apostle Paul in Acts 17, we find that his typical strategy was to first engage the Jews in their gathering places of worship (called Synagogues) by "reasoning with them" from the scriptures. Later on in the same chapter, Paul is carrying on an apologetic conversation with the Greek Philosophers on Mars Hill. In Acts 17:17-18 "So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. 18 And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection." Paul exercised "reasoning" or quite literally "dialogue" with those who questioned and opposed the Christian faith, whether in conversation with the Jews or the Gentiles. Apologetics is not merely a one-way communique whereby one person does the talking and the other listens with no chance to raise further questions. The idea of "reasoning" carries with it a two-way exchange, a "dialogue" with an intended purpose.
Apologetics is still a worthwhile effort despite possible rejection
Both the Apostles Paul and Peter demonstrate that apologetics is appropriate in sharing the Gospel. Some today may still object in noting that very few people are won to Christ by arguments. Certainly our arguments and preaching won't win anyone on their own, since the Holy Spirit is the Agent who is responsible for bringing about the results. Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit uses "means" to achieve the conversion of sinners. We see in Acts 17 that although many people did end up mocking Paul, some did believe. We read in Acts 17:31-33 "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 33 So Paul went out of their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them."
Conclusion: Christians need to be more about the task of Christian apologetics
So may we as Christians learn apologetical arguments, read apologetics books and explore the same-said websites and podcasts. Then, let's take those opportunities that God grants to give reasons as to why we believe. A few websites will be listed to encourage the Christian reader to apply what was written in this post today: