What hath Apologetics to do with Discipleship?


Yes, the play on “what hath Jerusalem to do with Athens?” is fully intentional. Much the same intention of the original is communicated by this question. What relation has “Athens” (whatever that means, usually the mind/intellect) to do with “Jerusalem” (whatever that means, typically Scripture, Christianity, and “spirituality”). In much the same way apologetics tends to be divorced from the life of discipleship to Jesus.

“What hath apologetics to do with discipleship?”

My answer: everything.

This makes sense if we understand that Christianity is a worldview. I appreciated this point of personal testimony in Jeff Durbin’s session (what he says between 4:21-6:49) from the 2015 Bahnsen Conference. When he began to read Greg Bahnsen (Always Ready), it was more than just having a philosophically consistent apologetic. It was learning to see all of life as under the Lordship of Christ. “All thinking was to be submitted to Jesus Christ as Lord.” It was more than apologetics, it was a change of life as a Christian.

I can attest to that as well. The same happened to me. I certainly was sanctified when I encountered Bahnsen’s work. When I first read Greg Bahnsen (Pushing the Antithesis), I must say I wasn’t as deeply changed by apologetics narrowly defined, but by suddenly being able to look around me and actually discern presuppositions and worldviews, and see the antithesis between Christianity and unbelief, and self-consciously ground all of life in the Christian worldview. My life was changed. I too, learned to think as a Christian. I learned more than a mere apologetic method.

You know what that was? A huge leap in our personal discipleship. It was a great moment in our lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Everything we do will have an apologetic edge to it, because we live from a Christian standpoint, whereas non-Christians do everything from the standpoint of unbelief. All creation is covenantally qualified. All is in relation to God, and with reference to him (whether acknowledged or not). Christ is the reference point, in him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and by him all things hold together (Colossians 2:3, 1:17). The question is not “do you have a personal relationship with God?” All people, by virtue of being created by God, in his image, are in relationship (covenant) with him. The question is, “what kind of personal relationship with God do you have?” A right relationship, or one of enmity? Are you in Adam, or are you in Christ? That’s covenantal language.

With this understanding, we see that everything we do is covenantal, characterized by our covenantal relationship with God. Therefore, all activity is religious activity. Both believers and unbelievers are inherently religious, they were made covenantal creatures by God. So everything we do, regardless of our worldview, we do religiously. Because of this there is no sacred-secular dualism.

What is discipleship? Jesus commanded that disciples be made of the nations, “teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Teaching and obedience. Learning sound doctrine and living it out, and making more disciples. Disciples are disciple-makers. Simply another way to describe this is learning the Christian worldview, the total perspective of Scripture, and living by it.

Discipleship can be summarized as developing, demonstrating, and defending the Christian worldview.

Understanding that all of life is under the Lordship of Christ, you are going to be doing everything, self-consciously, as a Christian. You will use your words to explain why you live the way you do. You won’t necessarily be doing anything differently than non-Christians (apart from what is explicitly sin), but your basis for doing everything, from family to employment, will be different. There’s that absolute, ethical antithesis between believer and unbeliever.

One way to understand apologetics is: the application of theology to unbelief, wherever it is found. So everything you do is potentially apologetic, as you are living according to the truth in contrast to unbelief. Worldview is the framework for discipleship, for Christianity encompasses all of life, and it is by the Scriptures that we interpret everything. Apologetics is at the level of worldview. It is fundamentally a collision of worldviews. Discipleship and apologetics go hand in hand.

What has apologetics to do with discipleship? Everything, because your personal discipleship is growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, living that out as the Holy Spirit works in you to will and to do (Philippians 2:13), and making disciples of others. So, what struggle with unbelief within you will always be confronted by the Scriptures. As you live it out, you will be confronted with the antithesis, the way of living based on unbelief (way of the wise versus the way of the fool, as in Proverbs). And, as a result, unbelievers will ask or challenge you, and you must respond at the level of their worldview. That’s apologetics.

In addition to that, every disciple is by definition a maker of disciples. How is that done? Exactly what had to happen to you. You believed in the Lord Jesus, being transferred from darkness to light, from “in Adam” to “in Christ.” You are to be proclaiming the Gospel to people. You are to engage in apologetics, confronting their unbelief. Say that God brings them to life, what then? Well, you have a baby, you’ve got to raise him. Time for that “teaching them everything” that Jesus said. Catechism and Confessions come in handy. Teach them the Word of Christ, and model for them what it means to live every day under the Lordship of Christ. This includes sitting under the preaching of the Word, taking the sacraments, and being shepherded in the covenant community of the church. Through all of that, unbelief is continually confronted by the Gospel. What remains of unbelieving thought is replaced by God’s thoughts in his Word. They are being sanctified. As they live accordingly, they understand more of what it means to demonstrate the Christian faith. And in obedience, they are training to be always ready to answer anyone who asks. They know what they believe, because they’ve developed a Christian worldview and are demonstrating it daily, and are commanded to defend it.

In addition, the aim is not merely that they would be holy and happy in their personal discipleship, but the long term goal is that they too would disciple others. The cycle begins again. Disciples are disciple-makers.

Maybe this will be a helpful way to illustrate the interdependency of apologetics and discipleship. They should never be compartmentalized in your life or in the church. Apologetics is not a separate activity. It’s more an angle, a perspective, that is either less or more emphasized or apparent. When you’re talking with an unbeliever, it’s more apparent. In a Bible study, it may be in the background. Remember: there’s one theology behind “discipleship” and “apologetics.” (Of course, if we are in the habit of making false-distinctions between preaching, evangelism, apologetics, and theology, then this will be difficult to understand.) Theology is applied to the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), which is apologetics at work, as your old pattern of thinking is challenged and replaced. You progressively think God’s thoughts after him. So apologetics (theology applied to unbelief) is happening to you in your personal development (discipleship).

Part of your personal development in godliness should be learning and employing apologetics. As far as your disciple-making, you’ll do the same thing for someone else. Toward the unbelievers, you engage in apologetics, challenging their worldview, and presenting the very worldview that you have been growing in and living by.

The transition for the newly made disciple should be smooth, since it’s the very same theology driving your apologetic that you are presenting to the unbeliever, and when God saves them, bringing them into covenant with Christ, they now stand upon (and learn) that same theology, which now drives their whole life. Presuppositional or covenantal apologetics is evidently not optional. You present the unbeliever with the absolute authority of the self-attesting Christ, not attempting neutrality, then after they are brought under that authority, they live self-consciously under that authority. You do not grant neutrality in apologetics, and they do not grant neutrality in any area of life after conversion.

Toward believers, you teach that same theology that grounds and drives apologetic methodology. Teach that pattern of sound words for their own personal growth, viewing and living all of life as a Christian, and they have a defense for anyone who asks, so they can be disciple-makers as well.

Apologetics and discipleship are interwoven and constantly overlapping. I’m not sure a chart or graph could be made to illustrate the relationship. It’s a bit tangled. But we must grasp that Christianity is a worldview. All of life is under Christ’s Lordship, and only properly understood through the lens of his Word. The biblical apologetic is a worldview apologetic, challenging the root of unbelief itself. The (worldview) teaching you are getting (should) have an apologetic edge, for your personal sanctification and also to provide something to say to others.

All believers must be discipled and equipped to make disciples. Part of that is training in apologetic methodology, specifically. The practice of apologetics is a component of complete discipleship. At the same time, apologetics will always be an application of Christian theology, no matter what activity you are doing. Whenever and wherever there is a clash of worldviews, within you or between you and others, there’s apologetics. And there is discipleship there, also! Because whoever you are interacting with is in covenantal relationship with God. If they are an unbeliever, and you are confronting their worldview and offering the hope of the Gospel, you have begun disciple-making. As Jesus said, make disciples of all nations.

If you are helping a new believer with basic doctrine, there are worldview changes taking place, as unbelieving categories and presuppositions are being replaced with ones from Scripture. The change of mind is sanctification. And you begin to train them in apologetic methodology so they are prepared to tell others about their new faith, in obedience to Christ, which is characteristic of being a disciple (1 Peter 3:15).

For the more mature believer, they may pursue more advanced training in apologetics or not. Regardless, it will always be part of their life as a disciple. We are always growing in the knowledge of Christ, and must always be ready to give a defense to anyone.

I am confident in saying that if apologetics has no place in your life, or in your disciple-making, then that discipleship is deficient. On the flip side, if discipleship is missing from the teaching of apologetics, in other words no development or demonstration of the Christian worldview, then that’s a serious deficiency. You really cannot separate the two. This is beyond the fact that apologetics is for the church, and should be developed within the local body. What I mean is that apologetics is dependent on and flows from the very “everything I commanded you.” Theology drives methodology. And do we really understand theology if we cannot offer a defense? It would be very strange if someone claimed to learn or teach apologetics and not also learn/teach sound doctrine. How could anyone learn apologetics apart from developing the very Christian worldview being defended? How could one avoid undermining or contradicting the Christian worldview by his apologetic methodology if he did not know that worldview? (a methodology that assumes neutrality, for example). If you are learning/teaching apologetics as a naked method, you’re doing it wrong.

Disciple-making is apologetic: making disciples by engaging unbelief, then simultaneously teaching the Christian worldview and how to defend it. Apologetics permeates discipleship: from the point of unbelief being challenged with the Gospel (apologetic clash of worldviews), to the moving from unbelief to belief (changing worldviews), then as one’s worldview is transformed (continuous unbelief being confronted), and for the rest of your life as a disciple of the Lord Jesus as you bear witness to him (demonstrating and defending the Christian worldview), in turn making disciples (engaging in apologetics).

It’s all very involved. Intertwined. No clean-cut, sharp distinctions here. It all may seem a little scattered and repetitive, but such is the nature of the case, I think.

By the way, if you weren’t completely convinced that a presuppositional (or covenantal) apologetics is the only way, this interdependent and overlapping relationship between theology, discipleship, and apologetics should help.

I could go on, and add a whole bunch of substantiating quotes, but this post is long enough.

Share the love

How to Develop a Christian Worldview, part 4

“You cannot have this idea that Christianity or the Word of God is for some narrow domain, some slice of life. It is for everything you do, everything that you think, everything that you say.”

-Greg Bahnsen

In one of his lectures, Greg Bahnsen provides four components for developing a Christian worldview:

1. Be self-conscious about your own presuppositions.
2. Make sure what you think is governed and corrected by the Word of God and not worldly traditions.
3. Recognize the ultimate authority of God in everything you think and do.
4. God’s Word applies to every area of life.

*Summarized from “Just the Facts,” Lesson 4 in series 1, “Weapons of Spiritual Warfare,” of the collection Defending the Christian Worldview Against All Opposition, by Greg Bahnsen.

Read parts 1, 2, and 3.

4. God’s Word applies to every area of life.

This one is difficult.

Evangelicals hold the Bible in high regard. Many denominations will affirm the Bible’s inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency. They say that the Bible is the only rule for faith and practice. God’s Word has the authority. Indeed, a key tenant of Protestantism, setting us apart from Roman Catholicism, is sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). The Bible is what we should look to for what to do. The Bible is the standard. What Christian faith should look like is found in the Bible. We should look to the Bible to determine what church structure and worship should look like. We should look to the Bible for how to pray. A characteristic of evangelicalism, in general, is Bible application. We should not just study the Bible, but apply it. Bible study is incomplete without application. The Bible itself teaches this. We are not merely to read or hear, but do what God says. James clarifies that what we do reveals whether we actually believe. As a result, evangelicals are big on personal Bible study, prayer, and evangelism.

Many evangelical pulpits will even encourage you to be like the Bereans who “examined the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:10-12), and to measure the preaching and church practices against Scripture. When asked why they teach a certain thing or why they do a certain thing, the ready response will be “because the Bible says so” or some variation of that. There’s no difficulty with the concept of applying God’s Word. No Bible-believing evangelical will question that the Bible is meant to be applied to our lives.

On top of this allegiance to the Bible is an indifference or opposition to what is not Christian or what is outside of local churches. Evangelicalism as opposed to “worldliness.” The “spiritual” as opposed to “secular.” Isn’t God spirit? He gave us His Word. The Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Bible is a “spiritual” book and teaches us “spiritual” truth, truth we could not know on our own. According to this rationale, there is a “spiritual” category that encompasses the Bible, church, prayer, worship, evangelism, and other obviously Christian activities. These “spiritual” things are taught by the Bible, the “spiritual” book that teaches “spiritual” truth. And these, obviously, are the priority for Christians. Everything else is unimportant. Temporary and physical things don’t really matter that much. God’s Word is seen as primarily dealing with “spiritual” and obviously religious teachings and practices. Hence, much of evangelicalism has subscribed to a dualistic view. Tim Keller identifies two forms this can take:

“Dualism” is a term used to describe a separating wall between the sacred and the secular. It is a direct result of a thin view of sin, common grace, and God’s providential purposes.

Dualism leads some to think that if their work is to please Christ, it must be done overtly in his name. They feel they have to write and perform art that explicitly mentions Jesus, or teach religious subjects in a Christian school; or that they must work in an organization in which all people are professing Christians. Or they must let everyone know that they lead Bible studies in the office in the morning before work hours. . . This kind of dualism comes both from a failure to see the panoramic scope of common grace and the subtle depths of human sin. People with this view cannot see that work done by non-Christians always contains some degree of God’s common grace as well as the distortions of sin. And they cannot see that work done by Christians, even if it overtly names the name of Jesus, is also significantly distorted by sin.

The opposite dualistic approach, however, is even more prevalent— and based on our experience, even more difficult to dismantle. In this approach, Christians think of themselves as Christians only within church activity. Their Christian life is what they do on Sundays and weeknights, when they engage in spiritual activities. The rest of the week they have no ability to think circumspectly about the underlying values they are consuming and living out. In their life and work “out in the world ,” they uncritically accept and reenact all of their culture’s underlying values and idolatries of self, surface appearances, technique, personal freedom, materialism, and other features of expressive individualism. While the first form of dualism fails to grasp the importance of what we have in common with the world, this form fails to grasp the importance of what is distinctive about the Christian worldview—namely, that the gospel reframes all things, not just religious things.

—Keller, Timothy (2012-11-13). Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (pp. 196-197). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

I agree that the latter form of dualism is more prevalent, and more difficult to dismantle. The Christian life is equated with “spiritual” activities. And it is these “spiritual” activities that the Bible is applied to. God’s Word is limited to the sacred slice of life. The Gospel is only thought to reframe religious things, and there are no implications for the rest of life “out in the world.” As a result, evangelicals are only living as Christians a fraction of the time. The Bible is applied on Sunday morning, for other church activities, and for personal “spiritual” disciplines. But the rest of life has been left intact. Then suddenly, “Jesus is Lord” doesn’t mean He’s Lord of everything. His will revealed in the Bible isn’t applied to all of life, just the “spiritual” things.

. . . most Christians do not mix religion and life. Religion just isn’t congenial to the marketplace or any other “secular” area of life. Belief in God does not make a significant difference other than personal piety for many Christians who would call themselves evangelicals, regular church attendees, people who read the Bible and pray. Among those who hold to a high view of Scripture, less than 10 percent know how to allow it to help them construct their world-and-life-view. Clearly, then, making disciples involves more than Bible study, prayer, or even telling about the saving work of Christ.

—Charles H. Dunahoo. Making Kingdom Disciples: A New Framework (Kindle Locations 916-919). Kindle Edition.

God’s Word does not teach this dualism. On the contrary,

since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.

—2 Corinthians 10:4-5

God’s Word is for every department of our lives. Indeed, our life is one before God. Paul does not say that only “spiritual” ideas are to be obedient to Christ, like what we think about Creation, salvation, prayer, evangelism, church. Paul says every thought. We will not have a Christian worldview that can handle and demolish every false view if we limit the application of God’s Word. Out total perspective must be taken captive to obey Christ. This is not merely a cognitive exercise. It will make a change in what we do. Christian citizens will vote based on their biblically shaped ethics. Scientists who are Christians will not only conduct study with integrity, but will also draw conclusions differently because of biblical presuppositions. Psychologists who are Christians will acknowledge the reality of sin, and trust that the Bible is sufficient even for the issues they deal with. What the Bible says about stewardship will affect how we spend our money. “The Bible speaks to an enormous range of cultural, political , economic, and ethical issues that have a marked impact on every area of life.” (Keller, Timothy. Center Church p. 214).

To have a dualistic outlook, to divide life between the sacred and the secular, is unbiblical. It is itself a failure to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ. God made man in His image as covenantal beings. We are religious by nature. We were made to be in covenant with our God. Since the fall, we suppress our knowledge of the true God and worship the creature rather than the Creator. All activity is still religious, as it is done from the standpoint of rebellion against God. But when we are saved by Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to God, made covenant keepers in Christ. And all activity is then from the standpoint of belief in Christ. All of life has “spiritual” implications, because we are covenantal creatures, living in covenant with God. We are always before His face. There is no “secular,” unreligious sector of life (even for the unbeliever!). God’s special revelation to us, the Scriptures, applies to every aspect of our lives.

we cannot have a worldview that is aligned to God’s Word and hold to a dualistic, dichotomized view of life. There is no bifurcation into the secular and sacred realms . . . A Christian world-and-life-view sees life in a holistic way; God is sovereign over all. All of our life has “sacred” connotations and denotations. It is all one. And what we need to remember as disciples of Jesus Christ is that we are to do all to the glory of God, no matter what we do.

—Charles H. Dunahoo. Making Kingdom Disciples: A New Framework (Kindle Locations 885-889). Kindle Edition.

None of our thinking is to be left as is it was before conversion. We are now to think God’s thoughts after Him. As a Christian, you are no longer to “be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Our entire outlook is to be brought into alignment with what God has revealed. God’s Word is to be applied to our entire life. We are entirely set apart by the truth, which is God’s Word. If that is true, then everything we think and do will be affected by the Word and done as unto the Lord: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Every area of our lives must be brought under God’s Word. Every thought must be taken captive in obedience to Christ. The effectiveness of our witness to the world around us is dependent on our ability to see all of life in light of God’s Word.

To be a disciple of Christ and think God’s thoughts after him, we must develop a way of looking at and interpreting the world around us that is consistent with God’s knowledge of his creation. If we are not growing in our ability to think God’s thoughts after him, then we are not growing in Christ. That is true of far too many professing Christians. Our world-and-life-view is far too often basically the same after becoming a Christian as it was prior to that point.

—Charles H. Dunahoo. Making Kingdom Disciples: A New Framework (Kindle Locations 835-837). Kindle Edition.

Have you examined yourself, every area of your life, and consciously subjected it to the rule of God’s Word? Or is Christ Lord of your “spiritual” life, only?

Share the love

Charles Dunahoo on Discipleship

To be a disciple of Christ and think God’s thoughts after him, we must develop a way of looking at and interpreting the world around us that is consistent with God’s knowledge of his creation. If we are not growing in our ability to think God’s thoughts after him, then we are not growing in Christ. That is true of far too many professing Christians. Our world-and-life-view is far too often basically the same after becoming a Christian as it was prior to that point.

Charles H. Dunahoo. Making Kingdom Disciples: A New Framework (Kindle Locations 835-837). Kindle Edition.

Share the love

Charles Dunahoo on Worldview

We cannot engage the world or make any real difference unless we understand our worldview because part of our task as Christians, beyond our own growth and development, is to challenge those to whom we witness to think through the right questions and answers about life and reality. Asking the right questions, working through to right answers, and keeping the process going are what developing a world-and-life-view is all about. From a Christian perspective we have to do a better job teaching and living out a biblical world-and-life-view. So, whether we view this as one of the components of the disciple-making process or the framework in which discipling is done, it must be present, or we will not make disciples who love the things of God and serve his purpose in all of life.

Charles H. Dunahoo. Making Kingdom Disciples: A New Framework (Kindle Locations 922-927). Kindle Edition.

Share the love