Why We Need Apologetics

For the longest time I used to think tracts were a horrible way of evangelizing and reaching out non-believers. To me it seemed confronting and ineffective. In fact I had never heard of a person that had come to Christ from reading a tract, I only heard stories of people being annoyed even angered by the flyers. That all changed when I was in Nepal and I met pastor Meg. Long story short, Meg was at the end of his rope and found himself digging through trash for food. He found a tract and after reading it over he dedicated his life to Christ and now is a pastor in Nepal.

The reason I start with this is I know there are a lot of people who believe that apologetics is ineffective in reaching people and perhaps even more damaging than helpful. Thinking of Meg I would first offer to say, God can work in ways that you may not think are ineffective.

Furthermore, I would challenge the belief that apologetics is ineffective. I’ve been a part of a apologetics ministry called Ratio Christi for only about six months and we have one student who has already come to the Lord from the work we are doing. Many very well known Christians have come to the Lord as the result of apologetic related conversations, C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowel, Lee Strobel, and others. Granted many of these many are champions of Apologetics so it may seem this argument is circular, but I would say they are champions of apologetics because it was the way the Lord reached them, and perhaps they would have never known the Lord otherwise.

I know many object to apologetics because they feel that it is confrontative or combative, and as a result unloving. My question ‘where does this non-confrontive, non-combative evangelism play out in the Gospels and Epistles?’ Frankly, I don’t see it. Jesus is very combative with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul also doesn’t shy away from some argument and confrontation. I know argument and debate is uncomfortable for a lot of people but just because it isn’t comfortable doesn’t mean it’s wrong. In fact some of the best and most important things in life are uncomfortable. In fact our greatest leaders are the ones that were doing apologetics for what they believed in. Martin Luther King argued and debated with others, he reasoned with them. Gandhi, William Wallace,  Winston Churchill, they all lived lives of confrontation. It was because of that confrontation that they are the leaders that we look up to now.

Think of you’re greatest heroes, where would they be without defending what they believed in? Would you really call them your hero anymore? Apologetics is the Greek word for defense. So anyone that you look up to that has defended something, verbally, physically or otherwise is an apologist. So if you have this problem with apologetics perhaps you should think over what you really have a problem with a bit more. Just a thought.

Does the Jehovah Witness’ Watchtower speak for God like a prophet?

If you have talked with Jehovah Witness’ for any period of time you know that many of their doctrines come directly from a society called The Watchtower. The society publishes all of the substantial content of Jehovah Witness’, there is no independent Jehovah Witness publications. As the authority for Jehovah Witness’ it claims to speak for God much like the prophets that we see in the Bible. So should we trust it? Well, it seems the best way to know would be testing them by the Biblical standard.

In Deuteronomy 18 we are told that if someone is a true prophet of God they will not prophecy anything that doesn’t come to pass or speak in the name of any other God. As for the second part of that test, Watchtower is on track, it claims to speak only for the God we see in the Bible. In the second part we run into a slew of problems as many of the predictions of the Watchtower have never come to pass.

Here are some predictions that the Watchtower has made in the past:

  • Christ would come back in 1874
  • The world would end in 1914
  • Old Testament Saints would come to earth in 1925
  • The world will end and Christ would come back in 1975

The Watchtower itself admits this predictions were wrong.

So, does the Watchtower stand to the test in Deuteronomy 18? Obviously not, even according to the Watchtower itself.

In fact the Watchtower even tried ‘correcting’ some of these predictions moving dates further out when they were wrong initially only to be wrong even a second time. Perhaps getting something wrong once could be a mistake of some sort, though the Biblical test says otherwise, but once it was wrong a second time we should be completely abandoning such a source as a reliable mouthpiece of God. If they made a ‘mistake’ about something as important as when Christ comes back why should we believe that they are not leading us astray in other doctrines that they teach?

pyramid_russel_gravesiteEarly Watchtower beliefs under one of the Jehovah Witness’ church fathers Charles Taze Russel actually believed the Ancient Pyramid of Egypt to be a sort of ‘Stone Bible’. It was believed measurements in the Pyramid were prophetic to the beginning of ‘the years of trouble’. The doctrine was taught to Jehovah Witness’ for fifty years from 1879-1928, after Russel was buried under a pyramid marked grave.

Russel’s successor flipped from calling the pyramid a ‘stone Bible’ to a work of the Egyptians under the influence of the Devil. Quite a flip for a group that should be speaking for God.

The Watchtower Society is very unorthodox in many beliefs. The Watchtower doesn’t believe Jesus is God, they reject the Trinity, regard blood transfusions sinful, celebrating birthdays as sinful and have changed vital words or added words to the Bible in their New World Translation. But given the obvious unreliability of Society I think we can steer clear from accepting any of these doctrines.

I can do all things through Christ. . . Another thing Christians need to stop saying.

So it’s been a while since I added to this series, but another phrase has come to mind that Christians need to stop saying. If you want to check out the other phrases I’ve written about so far check out Pray Harder,  Just have faith, and  It’s all part of God’s Plan.

I’ve heard it time and time again. When someone is going through a hard time or more often when they are trying to get something or achieve something I hear them quote Philippians  4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. Even good ole Tim Tebow said it!

Continue reading

The Danger of Overemphasizing Theology

A friend of mine recently lead an apologetics small group in which he shared a piece of defense that he knew his pastor disagreed with. In hindsight, he questioned if he should have presented the material when his pastor was in disagreement about it. I believe that this outlines one of the most dangerous things that can result from a wrong approach in both apologetics and theology. Continue reading

Two things to say to a street preacher

All of us have had experience with street preachers in one place or another. Sometimes these men or women do a good job presenting the gospel. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Many of these preachers messages are offensive, condemning, name-calling, and rarely teaches the hope of the Gospel, and therefore not a Gospel at all. If you’re like me hearing this sort of ‘preaching’ makes your blood boil. The last time I heard one of these bullhorn preachers I had a big final that I needed to study for, but I just couldn’t focus when I knew someone was out there damaging the Gospel. So instead of studying the rest of the day, I confronted the preacher and I thought you may be interested to know things that you should bring up to one of these ‘preachers’ next time you encounter one. Continue reading

Cost of Discipleship: Part 3 -Oaths

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Author of Cost of Discipleship

“Trust me”, “take my word”, “I promise”, “I swear”…

Words like these we so often here in our world today when someone is trying to emphasize their truthfulness or perhaps convince you that they are being truthful. Our court systems make you swear on a Bible to ‘tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth’ before witnessing in any case.

Oaths, as we will call them, seem like a good thing. It’s an assurance of truth. But I would beg to say, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer would agree, that there is something fundamentally wrong with the idea of oaths.

As Bonhoeffer writes “the very existence of oaths is a proof that there are such things as lies”. It’s an odd thing to think about, but the very fact that we have to say ‘I swear’ or ‘take my word’ only goes to admit that sometimes we shouldn’t take someone’s word. For “If lying were unknown, the world would have no need for oaths… But it goes further than that: for there, where alone the oath claims final truth, is space in life given to the lie, and it is granted a certain right to life.”

In other words while we say, “I swear” you are in a way also saying, that there are instances outside of this occasion, in which lying is permitted. Because by saying that in this instance you are not lying, you are admitting that your telling of the truth, is not something that should always be granted.

But “Jesus destroys the lie by forbidding oaths altogether”

“swear not by heaven or by earth…let your yes be yes and your no be no” Matthew 5:35

G_d is declaring that His followers must act in such a way as to tell the truth to the same level throughout their lives. That when you say ‘yes’ even in the most informal circumstances, that you must act as though you had sworn to it. If you cannot hold your ‘yes’ to such a standard then do not say ‘yes’ at all. Your ‘yes’ is always ‘yes’. Not just when it is convenient, not just when you desire it to be so, but in every circumstance. The same is to be said of your ‘no’.

Truthfulness is to become the norm rather then the special circumstance when accompanied by an oath. “It means that every word they utter is spoken in His presence, and not only those words which are accompanied by an oath… since they always speak a whole truth and nothing but the truth, there is no need for an oath”

This plays into the last blog which dealt with the Call of Discipleship and being real with G_d and His people. For “only those who are in a state of truthfulness through the confessions of their sin to Jesus are not ashamed to tell the truth wherever it must be told. The truthfulness which Jesus demands from His followers is the self-abnegation which does not hid sin. Nothing is then hidden, everything is brought forth to the light of day”

So we are left with a choice. Do we continue to even allow lies a breath by continuing to make oaths? Or do we decide that our lives will be run on complete and open honesty. To tell the truth, the whole truth or nothing but the truth?

It won’t be easy. It is our natural tendency not to tell the whole truth when we confess our sins, or at the very least paint the whole truth in some sort of rose colored hue. But this is not what Jesus has asked. He as commanded us to tell the whole truth… every detail. even the uncomfortable.

I know I struggle with this. I know I’ll continue to struggle with this. But I know one of my first steps will be determining that when someone asks me about something that I give them the whole story… As if I had just sworn upon a bible.

Cost of Discipleship: Part 2 – The Call

[If you have not at least read to intro to this blog series please start there]

“And as He passed by He saw Levi, the son of Alpheaus sitting at the place of toll, and He said to HIim, Follow me. And he rose and followed him.” Mark 2.14

To this day this story often baffles the minds of Christians. Jesus gives a simple call and Levi responds with immediate obedience. There is no debate, no pause, not even a few honest questions, just a simple obedient response to a simple calling. But our own Christian walks rarely resemble Levi’s example.

We have questions, we may step back in moments and re-asses, we may even stop following altogether. But Levi… Levi simply obeys. “It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, levi follows at once”.

When was the last time we acted like that with Christ? Simply obeying His call. Obeying His command the one simple reason that He commanded it.

This is one of the greatest problems in our Christian world. We still are in charge, we call ourselves Christians but often don’t feel the need to do what Christ asks of us. We don’t want to submit to his school of discipleship but desire to create our own, and still carry the name ‘christian’.

But G_d’s call is out of the known, out of the comfortable, out of the firmiliar. It is no longer our plan. No longer our comfort that is the focus. It is His way only. “No other significance is possible, since Jesus is the only significance.”

We wish to decide the parts of our lives that G_d is allowed into “but then discipleship is no longer discipleship, but a program of our own to be arranged to suit ourselves”. If we truly want to heed the call we must let him into every part of our lives, without question or delay, without excuses or justifications.

The true disciple obeys all that is commanded of him. He does not ask which commands must one obey. “The very devil lurks at this question” for the question is in dire hopes that some commands don’t pertain to us. That somehow we are given a free pass in the some area of our lives.

We have dumbed down the offensive commands of G_d to our comfort levels. We convince ourselves that when G_d tells us to “sell thy goods” He meant that we shouldn’t become attached to our possessions. But ‘the difference between us and the rich young man is that he was not allowed a solace of his regrets by saying: never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that G_D has forgiven me my sins and I can have fellowship with Christ in faith.’

The rich young man was given no opportunity for excuse. No exit which he could keep his dignity, and pride. No option to compromise.

It is time that we stop padding the power and the demand of the call to discipleship. To put it in the simple yet highly demanding words of Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls a man, He bids us to come and die”