Condensed Apologetics

Perhaps the most common apologetics question that I see: where do I start? What’s the introductory book or resource to begin learning apologetics?

Here’s a way to get started. That is, if you don’t want to tackle the massive apologetics track.

This is a condensed apologetics track. It’s complete, covering the whole apologetic approach, yet brief. This track is made up of a short book, several articles, and a film. It’s almost everything I used as curriculum to teach apologetics over a semester’s time.

Now, despite somewhat of a resurgence in apologetic interest, there is still quite a bit of anti-apologetics sentiment. If you first need help dealing with that, then read the series on objections to apologetics.

Book:

Read Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word by Voddie Baucham. It’s an excellent introduction to presuppositional, or Van Tilian, apologetics. And because it’s recently written, the application to present issues is very clear. If you want an introduction to whet your appetite for the book, watch him.

You’ll read the creeds in the book, but you should also follow his suggestion about confessions and catechisms. Get the creeds, confessions, and catechisms on mobile in the “Christian Creeds and Reformed Confessions” app for iOs and Android.

Articles:

Secondly, read several articles by Greg Bahnsen. Many of them are included in the book Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, so you’ll pretty much be reading half of that for free (provided by Covenant Media Foundation). The ones I have selected below are related to what Baucham is saying in his book, providing reinforcement.

You could finish Expository Apologetics, then read all the Bahnsen articles after, if you prefer. But I threaded them together for harmony, to be read simultaneously. Here’s the order to read the Bahnsen articles, with the corresponding Expository Apologetics chapters in parentheses:

  1. Ready to Reason” (then read the introduction and chapter 1)
  2. The Heart of the Matter: Knowing and Believing” (then read chapters 2-4)
  3. Answering Objections” and “The Encounter of Jerusalem with Athens” (then read chapters 5-8). Related to chapter 5: “Why Creeds?” You could also read “Gentleness and Respect” and “Action/Attraction Distinction
  4. Tools of Apologetics” and “Apologetics in Practice” (then read chapter 9 and the Appendix)
  5. Then, my articles “What Hath Apologetics to do with Discipleship?” and “Rules of Engagement
  6. Evidential Apologetics: the Right Way“, “The Impropriety of Evidentially Arguing for the Resurrection“, and “The Problem of Evil” (for further study on the problem of evil, see resources by John Frame).
  7. Lastly, “Presuppositional Reasoning with False Faiths

Film:

Finally, as the sweet finish, watch “How to Answer the Fool: A Presuppositional Defense of the Faith,” featuring Sye Ten Bruggencate. This will tie everything together. You’ll see what this all looks like on the street. As you watch, try to notice similarities with the reading. Recall the principles that are at work in the background. Also, give attention to the manner demonstrated.

And that’s it! Reading and watching. Do all that, and you’ll have an excellent start to vindicating the Christian worldview.

If you want to continue, check out the massive apologetics track.

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Voddie Baucham on Homosexuality and Transgenderism

First addressed are the “Jesus never talked about homosexuality” argument and the “Paul was talking about pederasty” argument.

Most of the time is spent going after the “The Pick and Choose Argument,” which he as dealt with in (and quotes) Expository Apologetics. The steps followed:

Step 1: Knock them down off their moral high-horse.

Step 2: The difference between your picking and choosing and your picking and choosing.

Step 3: Getting off our own high-horse.

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Top 10 Posts of 2016

Here are the 10 most read posts from last year, with the dates (month/day)

  1. What hath Apologetics to do with Discipleship? (2/6)
  2. The Problem of Evil with John Frame (2/17)
  3. Voddie Baucham Lectures on Apologetics at DTS (1/31)
  4. Objections to Apologetics: It’s not nice. (3/30)
  5. Another Cup of Coffee (1/20)
  6. Skills of Apologetics: Listening (4/30)
  7. Understanding Cornelius Van Til (2/13)
  8. The Bible Tells Me So (9/13)
  9. “Papa Jesus” Debate (12/26)
  10. Man Will Necessarily Have a God (5/13)
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Skills of Apologetics: Listening

From Voddie Baucham:

In my opinion, listening is the most important and least appreciated skill in apologetics. . . . Listening to people is a function of our respect for them. If we believe people have value, that their ideas matter, then we will listen to them. . . . When we are dismissive of people, or when we don’t respect them, their words mean little to us.

—Voddie Baucham, Expository Apologetics Kindle loc. 2280-93

Listening is vital to apologetics. If we are not listening, we simply don’t know what we are interacting with. We cannot give an answer, nor offer critique, if we aren’t hearing what people are saying.

Secondly, listening is respectful. If we are not listening to their questions and beliefs, we are not showing respect for our fellow image bearers. If we are not listening, then we don’t really care what someone has to say.

The goal in our listening is understanding. We don’t just want to “catch” people; we want to hear them. There’s a reason they believe what they believe, and we want to know what it is. Moreover, we want them to know that we value them. This will be abundantly clear when we show them that we’ve been paying attention to what they’ve been saying.

—Ibid., loc. 2306

What is clearly communicated when we do not listen to what people are saying? That we do not value them. We should think about that, considering how often we dismiss and discourage the exchange of ideas and asking of honest questions, from unbelievers and non-believers alike.

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Calling Someone Out

Not everyone is civil. Not every discussion proceeds according to rules of conduct. Sometimes people engage sinfully.

It’s a possibility, and I would say a certainty at some point in your life. When sinners are talking to each other, sin is not absent. It’s bound to come out in the way we talk to each other.

The question is, as Christians, how are we to deal with it? How do we respond? What are we to do when the person we are talking with is sinning against us?

The Apostle Paul responded by calling them out:

And why not say, just as some people slanderously claim we say, “Let us do what is evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!

—Romans 3:8

Voddie Baucham explains:

He is dealing with someone who is being dishonest, and he is calling him on it. This goes to the heart of our third goal. Remember, we want to be conversational, and conversations are two-way streets. In an honest conversation, it is sometimes necessary to call people out when they are being dishonest.

—Voddie Baucham, Expository Apologetics Kindle loc. 1039

He then offers his personal application of Paul’s response:

Usually, I just laugh it off, make a quick comment to let the people (and the audience) know that (1) I’m aware of what they’re trying to do, and (2) I won’t play along. However, sometimes people are either so persistent or so dishonest that I have to take a more direct approach.

I remember one instance when a man kept asking a question based on a false premise. . . . Eventually, after the third or fourth iteration of this, I simply stopped and said, “Sir, you are being dishonest. . . . Right now you are simply refusing to believe anything other than the assumption you started with and are, therefore, being completely dishonest, even slanderous.”

My goal was not to be mean; but to set the record straight and stop the advance of someone dead set on misrepresentation. This was important not only for the sake of those who were listening, but also for the sake of the man asking the question. If he was unwilling to let go of his assertion even after it was proven false, then we were not engaged in a conversation at all. This is part of the “answer a fool” strategy.

—Ibid., Kindle loc. 1040-1054

This is an extremely good pointer by Baucham, because many of us don’t want to take a direct approach. Some people are just timid and won’t oppose someone like this.

Personally, I’m inclined to just keep repeating myself, even though I’m aware they keep pushing a false idea. Voddie’s observation of Paul and his personal practice is a helpful corrective.

Sometimes, the problem is not us. It’s them. They are dead set on misrepresentation. We need to be ready for that likely occurrence, and prepared to deal with it appropriately, confident that Scripture has set precedent.

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Inferior Words

When we as believers say that God’s word is authoritative, we should mean all of it.

Yet, those who say they believe the Bible to actually be God’s Word functionally deny the authority and inspiration of the whole. Scripture, all of it, is the only infallible rule for faith and life. Sola Scriptura requires tota Scriptura.

However, the authority of all of Scripture is sometimes denied. Some believe there are different levels of authority within the Bible itself.

Ironically, it is often done out of “loyalty” to Jesus Christ.

“Red Letter Christians”

Many editions of English translations of the Bible put the words of Jesus Christ in red, as opposed to black. So, when people think the words of Jesus Christ are the most important, they get the name “red letter Christian,” because they focus on the red letters.

This is why many other Christians disagree with red letters. It may make it even easier for people to isolate the words of Jesus to the neglect (or even opposition) to the rest of the Bible. Personally, I like my red letter edition. It helps me find things, easier..

The “red letter Christian” phenomenon is just one form of denying the total authority of God’s Word, albeit more of a functional denial than theoretical one.

But, there’s a more explicit form: saying that Jesus’ words are more authoritative than the rest.

Oneness Pentecostals

Oneness Pentecostals will tell you that the words of Jesus Christ have more authority than the words of the Apostle Paul, for example. They are fine with the possibility of biblical authors disagreeing.

If you find yourself in a conversation over what the Bible teaches, and you quote Paul on something, you will (likely) receive a reply like, “but Jesus said this and I believe what Jesus says.”

Notice what is assumed in this kind of thinking: 1) Jesus’ words disagree with other Scripture and 2), have more authority than the rest of Scripture. On the flip side, what is denied is the unity and coherence of Scripture. To counter one Scripture with another in this way is to grant a genuine disagreement between biblical authors, and, consequently, a genuine disagreement between the words of God in one place and the words of God in another. Secondly, the rest of Scripture is downgraded to something less than the Word of God.

Is that a proper doctrine of Scripture? Is it consistent with what God has said about his Word? No. Those who deny the authority of Scripture all reveal that their real authority is not the Lord Jesus, contrary to their claims, but whatever principles by which they decide what words are authoritative and by which they select what teachings of Scripture they want. They pick and choose based on their tradition. Parts of Scripture are accepted because they agree with their presuppositions.

The Theology

The Triune God speaks in Scripture. Therefore, it is all equally God’s Word, all inspired, and therefore in perfect harmony (no conflict), and all equal in authority. The Bible is the Word of the Triune God.

The elevating of Christ’s words, which is actually a downgrading of the whole rest of the Bible, parades itself as loyalty to Jesus, as depending on Christ alone. But it actually is not honoring to Christ. It is not submission to the authority of Christ.

The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, are the words of the true Prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is accurate to call the Bible both the Word of God and the Word of Christ. Christ is the true Prophet and himself the fullest revelation of God, and the Spirit who inspired Scripture proceeds from both the Father and the Son, testifying of the Son. The Scriptures are about the Son (Luke 24:25-27, 44-48; John 5:39). Scripture is properly the Word of Christ. It is not inaccurate to switch back and forth between saying “Word of God”, “Word of Christ”, “self-attesting Word”, “self-attesting Christ”, and the Triune God speaking in Scripture. It’s all true, just different angles or perspectives (which the Bible provides) on the same truth.

This is just as important for “red letter Christians” as for Oneness Pentecostals and all others who don’t see the whole Scriptures as the Word of Christ.

It is doing despite, not only to the Spirit of God, but also to Jesus Himself, to regard the teaching of the Holy Spirit, given through the apostles, as at all inferior in authority to the teaching of Jesus.
—J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism Kindle loc. 987

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Why Creeds?

If you were to go, or have gone, to the Beliefs page, you may expect a quaint, short “statement of faith” that typically occupies that area on other sites. But not so, here. There are creeds. The official, historic creeds. Why are the creeds there? It’s rare for them to even appear on the website of a church. It is doubly odd for them to appear on a site that’s not for a church.

(Get the creeds on mobile: iOS and Android)

Why have the Creeds?

Since the very beginning, the ecumenical creeds have been on this website. That was an intentional move, on my part. There were reasons for this choice. Recently, I found affirmation.

First, anti-creedalism. Which really comes from a hostility to doctrine. Many an evangelical is what I call atheological. They are not without a theology, but are indifferent to it. Like alliterate in contrast to illiterate. The illiterate cannot read, the alliterate doesn’t care to. So with theology. Many don’t care to be theologically grounded. They are indifferent at best, and hostile at worst.

Naturally, then, Creeds would be out of favor. Combine that with “chronological snobbery”, a general indifference to history (which is Modernity at work), and you have an anti-creedal evangelical culture.

And yet, the indifference and ignorance does not eliminate the need and responsibility of every Christian to know what God teaches in Scripture. Creeds serve just that purpose. So, to buck the chronological snobbery and anti-creedalism within much of Christian culture, we have Creeds on this site.

There is a particular view of creeds, that must also be resisted, which sees them as just expressions of the  Christian experience, and not objective truth.

According to the Christian conception, a creed is not a mere expression of Christian experience, but on the contrary it is a setting forth of those facts upon which experience is based.

—J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism Kindle loc. 246

A second reason is I don’t like the wimpy, simplistic statements of faith that I find. The Church has done far better. Why throw away the richness of the historic creeds, especially when that hard work has already been done? The Creeds cover what is important in a far better way than little statements of faith. Confessions do that even more, but that’s for another time.

I am not interested in a “lowest common denominator Christianity.” We want distinctions. Distinctions are good. We all have them. The question is, are you self-conscious? And further, where do your distinctives come from? The Creeds are concise, memorable summaries of distinct belief.

Third, the Creeds are there to establish ourselves within Christianity, in that faith once and for all delivered to the saints. This is an apologetic reason for the Creeds, and there are two sides to it.

First, we want to clearly show that we are in continuity with Christian belief. Many vague affirmations of the Bible and Christianity leave so much open. Anyone, can say “we believe the Bible” or “we are Christian.” Many claim to believe in Jesus Christ. We must go beyond these bare affirmations and spell out exactly what that means. What does the Bible teach? What must a Christian believe? Who is Jesus Christ? Details, details. Creeds are answers, and show that we are not diverging from the Apostles and early church.

Secondly, we want to defend that historic, Christian belief. This means setting ourselves in contrast to departures from the faith.

Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.

—Jude 3-4

Here’s the major reason why the Creeds are here: the creeds clearly set us apart from those who deny the Trinity and the two natures (fully divine and fully human) of Jesus Christ.

In our context, there are an abundance of “Christians” or “believers” who deny these fundamental Christian doctrines. There are Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, and Iglesia ni Cristo. That’s quite a few. And they all claim to believe the Bible, and believe in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Because essential doctrine is far too often not the premier attraction in many Christian churches, revivals, and especially Christian television, many well-meaning Christians simply assume that anyone who declares the words “Jesus is Lord” must be Christian.

—Edward Dalcour, A Definitive Look at Oneness Theology: In the Light of Biblical Trinitarianism (4th Edition, Revised, Updated, and Expanded) pg. 7

Simply having the ecumenical creeds sets the record straight on the Trinity and who Jesus Christ is. So already, you know what we are not. Those are important issues that distinguish Christian from non-Christian. A distinctive position must be made clear up front. The Creeds prevent potential misunderstanding or confusion due to all the heretical teaching in the atmosphere, and all the false gospels available.

I recently found affirmation of this choice to have the Creeds:

CREEDS: THE EARLIEST APOLOGETICS

If apologetics is about knowing what we believe and why we believe it, then the first place to start with our preparation is with our ancient creeds and confessions of faith. Christians have always been creedal people. Ironically, there are those who object to this fact. Many of my fellow Southern Baptists, for example, are fond of sayings like, “No Creed but Christ!” and “No Creed but the Bible.” One needs only a slight grasp of logic to conclude that these are, in fact, creeds. But that never seems to stop anyone. Nor does the fact that both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses can sign on to both of those statements and remain heretical. But I digress.

Ancient creeds are the wellspring of apologetic thought for at least three reasons. First, they were and are apologetic in nature. They are statements of belief written by early believers in response to heresy and/or opposition to biblical truth. They are reasoned responses to those questioning “the hope within us.” Second, they are summaries of the gospel. They are statements designed to convey not only what the gospel is, but what the gospel is not. Third, these creeds are almost poetic in nature, and, therefore, easier to remember.

—Voddie Baucham, Expository Apologetics Kindle loc. 1271

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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