What If UR Wrong

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you rejected knowledge, I will also reject you”

Hosea 4:6

WHAT IS APOLOGETICS? 

by Mark Karapetyan

A few years ago, I was invited to speak on the topic of apologetics at a large church in the suburbs of Washington D.C.  On a very cold rainy night, halfway through my engagement, an older gentleman sitting in the very last row had been listening very carefully, suddenly, sprung to his feet and retorted: “I don’t need your fancy talk to know that my faith is true.”  Pointing to the Bible in his hand, he continued: “The Bible is enough for me.  All of your big talk and big words on logic and reasoning to defend my faith is actually pointless.  All I need is my Bible.” 

With a smirk on my face, I responded: “Do you honestly mean that?” To which he shouted: “Yes, of course I mean that and mean it a lot.”  To which I countered: “Sir, you don’t. I assure you.” 

Exasperated, he answered: “Who do you think you are to tell me what I do or don’t mean?”

“Then allow me to ask you a question” I requested.  “Do you actually realize that you are using reasoning and the laws of logic to disagree with me? Moreover; the Bible in your hand that you say is all you need; can you defend it with evidence and tell me why it is true?”

After thinking for a few moments and with a ‘deer in headlights look’ on his face, he murmured: “Oh my…I can’t defend it.  I have no clue how.”

That is precisely what apologetics is.  It comes from the Greek word ἀπολογία (pronounced apo-loge-ia) and it means “to give an answer or defense.”  1 Peter 3:15 commands all believers to give an answer for their faith when asked, but to do so with genteelness and meekness. “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.” 

 

Is Apologetics Necessary?

We live in a time when attacks on Christians and the Christian faith are coming from every angle.  The majority of teachers and professors in schools, colleges and universities are atheists and in some cases militant atheists.  They ridicule, mock and attack young Christian students for their views and beliefs, yet very few stand up and give defense or answers for what they believe.  The rest, they echo the universal maxim that they have learned and memorized from their parents “just have faith and pray about it” in hopes that such an answer is sufficient to satisfy the mocking skeptic.

To clarify, I am not saying that faith is not necessary.  In fact, without faith we can’t please God.  What I am saying is that the faith we have is not blind, but rather reasonable and logical and can be defended with plenty of evidence.  I am also not saying that apologetics is the only way to reach out to others, quite the opposite. I am saying that in today’s world, where atheism, naturalism and other peculiar false doctrines are on the rise, using apologetics, framed around valid consistent logical reasoning, can be a very effective way to dialogue with skeptics because they can relate to those ideas.  Thus, the starting point of the discussion is likely to be much more open and unchained.

As Christians, if we care and want to prevent believers especially the youth from leaving the faith and getting lost in a futile quest for answers, then we must teach them why what they believe is true and not just fictional stories written by illiterate men thousands of years ago. However; before we teach anyone, we first must learn the truth and have the knowledge ourselves otherwise it would be exactly as Jesus stated: “And the blind shall lead the blind and both shall fall in the pit.”

A general that marches his troops to war unarmed and defenseless should not be surprised when most of his soldiers don’t come back. Parents and pastors that send their Christian children to hostile colleges and universities, vulnerable and exposed, are parallel to a shepherd that sends his weak sheep unguarded and unprotected to the lion’s den to be ravaged.  Those kids will be intellectually devoured and return home skeptics, agnostics or atheists.  Studies and statistics have proven this to be true.

It is alarming that in this pluralistic secular 21st century, entertainment dominates most church liturgy, as evident from their worship. Popcorn, movies, loud music, and field trips are not enough to quench the thirsty mind of young Christians. They need truth, sound doctrine, and apologetics… and they need plenty of it!

The majority of Christians and pastors are stumped and perplexed when skeptics challenge them and ask them for even the simplest evidence in support of their faith.  Sadly, most churches today ignore and even avoid teaching apologetics on a regular basis, and instead teach the congregation to rely on their emotions and experiences as a starting point for determining truth.  Such an approach is not biblical and is very dangerous because it misleads the person into believing that they stand firmly on solid grounds when in reality, their feet are planted in mid-air with nothing to support their fall.  When the fall does inevitably come, the believer is shocked and flabbergasted; wondering why his emotions failed him. Had he rooted his views in concrete immutable reality, the fall could have been prevented.

This reminds me of an encounter I once had with a Christian pastor who was very antagonistic toward apologetics.  Eventually, I was able to convince a certain pastor at a church that I will leave unnamed, to start teaching apologetics regularly for six months.  Exactly three weeks later, he proudly announced to everyone that after viewing an hour-long apologetics movie and giving away a dozen books, the entire church was ready to take on skeptics and answer all of their questions.  (Meanwhile, in unrelated news, the skeptics have turned blue and are still waiting).

Last summer, at a friend’s birthday party, I met a youth pastor of a church nearby who was responsible for one hundred and fifty Christian teenagers.  When I asked him if he taught apologetics to his youth, his resounding “who? What is apologetics?” answer absolutely stunned me.  Can you imagine? – How tragic!

I am not fabricating stories to put pastors on the spot here. I am simply stating the truth because Biblically speaking, the ultimate priority of every pastor is to protect and feed the sheep. The wretched reality is that these averse pastors cannot fulfill such duties because they are themselves intellectually naked and hungry.

In church, apologetics is the nutritious meal served to everyone cooked with love by chef pastor.  At home, the chefs are mom and dad. 

 

Is Apologetics Biblical?

It is worthy noting that those who claim we don’t need apologetics are mostly Christians, church leaders and many pastors. I have witnessed this personally and it is heartbreaking. They oppose and refuse to even consider it because “it is not biblical” they claim.  Where do they get this idea from?  I can’t think of a single place in the bible where we are commanded to have blind faith.

In Exodus for example, when God commands Moses to go and speak to Pharaoh to free the Israelites, Moses assures God that Pharaoh isn’t going to believe him.  “Behold, they will not believe me nor listen to me.”  How does God answer Moses?  By saying “just tell Pharaoh to have faith and believe in me?” Of course not.  God gives Moses solid evidence by turning the rod in his hand into a serpent.

In the New Testament when Thomas doubts the resurrection, Jesus provides him and the others with very powerful and irrefutable evidence that instantly turns Thomas into a believer.  “My Lord, My God.”  Jesus doesn’t ask Thomas to blindly believe. “Put your finger here.  See my hands, reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.”  John 20:27

As Christians, most of us know how to love God with all of our hearts, souls and strengths.  How do we love Him with our minds?  By thinking about Him, studying His word and learning how to give answers.  Jesus clearly addresses this in Luke 10:20. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind.”

We must get rid of the “Cafeteria Christian” mentality.  Some Christians pick and choose which commands they want to follow and obey.  When it comes to apologetics, although it’s a command from God to all believers, some choose not to obey this command or follow it because they claim “it’s not for me.”  What puzzles me is this: Why are those same Christians outraged when other believers pick and choose which commands they want to follow and obey?  How absurd would it be for me say that I refuse to tithe, feed the hungry or help the poor because these commands are “not for me”?

God’s commands are absolute for everyone and for all times.  Apologetics is one that needs to be obeyed and practiced by all in its entirety.

 

The Salesman Analogy

We all know the stereotype of the dishonest manipulative, sleazy salesperson. Unfortunately, some of us have been preyed upon by them.  We hesitate to buy their products and demand evidence that we are not being lied to.  Why is it that when a salesperson knocks on our door to sell us something with which we’re completely unfamiliar with, we don’t blindly believe their claims but rather, ask them questions after questions to assure the validity of their claims? How odd would it be for us to believe a salesperson who couldn’t provide any adequate evidence to supporting their claims or showing that their product works?

Isn’t this exactly what most of us do when we tell others about our beliefs?  Remember, non-believers and skeptics don’t know us or what we are trying to sell them.  Yet when they ask us for any supporting evidences of our claims, we get emotional, smile, and say “believe me, it works – have faith.”  Then, we wonder why they don’t respond positively to our attempts.

If the validity of any belief depends on blind faith alone, then all faiths are equally valid because they are also equally blind.  What and who determines which faith is true and which is not? If all is needed is blind faith and so many different people have so many different beliefs, why can’t they all be equally valid and true since they all have faith in what they believe?                                                          All beliefs can’t be valid because faith is NOT the standard of measure, TRUTH is. 

For now, we need to remember God’s command in 2 Timothy 4:2 “to preach His word and to be prepared in season and out of season” and do it patiently and with great love without insulting anyone.   As the old saying goes: “If you cut off someone’s nose, giving them a rose to smell it afterwards won’t help.”

 

 

“There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.”

Blase’ Pascal

 

 

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Mark Karapetyan
mark@whatifurwrong.com

 

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