Question

They saw Him raise people from the dead…and yet they did not believe.

I just want to make sure you took that all in. They saw Him raise people from the dead …and yet they did not believe.

So… what will you say to someone to convince them that Jesus is God? Do you have some sure fire arguments that will make them believe? Or, are you going to tell me that it doesn’t work like that, and that you are just giving them some good arguments to soften them up?

The Holy Spirit is not quite capable of breaking down someone’s defenses without a little help from us and ‘our reason’. It’s like the big guy holding another guy, so that the little guy can wallop him.   Is the Holy Spirit ‘the little guy’ ?

Day 12 Beat Up  Is the Word of God so weak and impotent that it needs help from human reason to accomplish it’s purposes?
 Does, or does not the Holy Spirit create faith in us…when and where He wills?

Some say they know of some that came to faith with the help of some apologetic prodding.
In all of the arguing for Jesus, was not the Word present there in some form? Could it have been the Word of God, the gospel promise, that brought that person to faith…if even he really did come to faith. To have one’s confession of faith is not to know one’s heart.  Jesus Himself tells us that “all men are liars.”
We cannot know for sure who the believers are. We know who the baptised are, and we give people the benefit of any doubt, and trust that their confession is true. But that is not really the point. The point is that God is the One who calls and chooses us, and that He has chosen to do that in Word and sacrament.  Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it  is the power of God for salvation…”

The Word of God vs. human reasoning. Or, the Word of God, plus a little help from human reasoning. Knowing what you know about God and how He works, which one is more plausible? Which one in more scriptural?

About these ads

34 Responses

  1. What is it Peter states…
    “You have been born again, not through something corruptible, but by the imperishable seed of the living and abiding word of God”
    (1 Peter 1:23).

    I think what is often termed ‘presuppositional apologetics’ can have a role – it can cause us to become aware of some aspect of Christ (i.e. the use of Aslan in the Narnia Chronicles), but this is wholly ‘dead’ unless the Holy Spirit animates such approaches and thereby uses them to point to the full and saving revelation of Jesus Christ. Countless people have been exposed to aspects of Apologetics or Christianity itself, but without the living Word which brings faith, were are merely the walking dead.

  2. Hello Steve,

    I wanted to let you know that I am looking for a contributor to my site called Simply Ecclesia. Specifically I am looking for somebody who wants to contribute in the area of apologetics. If this is something you think you would like to do please send me a comment at: http://simplyecclesia.com/contributors-wanted. Here you will find what kind of qualifications I am looking for. I happen to have an audience of atheists who are looking forward to whoever becomes our apologetics contributor. Also if you would like to contribute I will add your site to simply ecclesia as a link. Thank you.

    David

  3. For what it is worth, those I know who became believers in the face of apologetics, would ultimately blame the word and the Holy Spirit for their plight. However this does not exclude the usefulness of apologetics. there are those who simply do not want to believe. They won’t care what you do. Some want to believe and yet have hang ups apologetics can be good at removing these hang ups.

  4. Howard, Bror,

    Apologetics can help remove hang ups to believeing in Christ?

    I don’t see it. We all have a hang up when it comes to believing in Christ… and that is that we don’t want to.

    As dead men and women we couldn’t remove hang ups or have someone else remove them for us even if we wanted to (which we don’t) …other than the living God doing so.

    I may be wrong (what else is new), but I tend to lean wholley on the Word of God to create faith and like I said in the post, I don’t believe He needs our help to help make Himself more palatable.

    Jesus said there would be no signs given other than Jonah being spit out of the whales mouth. (or something to that effect)

    I’d like to say to you guys…’prove it’ (that apologetics is helpful for salvation) but we know that is impossible to do.

    I am familiar with Paul’s admonition to be ready to give a defense of our faith, but I’m not so sure that is directly tied to facilitating faith in others, aside from the proclamation of law and gospel.

  5. David,

    I guess I’m not the best candidate for trying to convince atheists that God exists from my good arguments.

    I’d be happy to proclaim God’s law to them and then hand over Christ to them, though.

    It might save everyone a lot time and trouble.

    Thank you, though, for the kind offer. Someone else that reads this blog might be interested. They are a whole lot sharper than I anyway.

    – Steve M.

  6. If anybody is interested in the offer let me know at the link I provided above.

  7. Hi Steve.

    Hope you and all are well and enjoyed the 4th of July.

  8. Magdalene,

    Hello there kiddo! All is well on this end. I hope you can say the same!

    We had a nice fourth of July, Magdalene, thanks for asking. But now the real fireworks will get going as we keep defending the work of Christ against all that would add something to it.

    Grace and Peace to you, Sister in Christ!

    – Steve

  9. Glad to hear you enjoyed the weekend!

    Steve, I am well (thank you for asking).

    Hearing God’s Word… the Holy Spirit brings us to faith. He does all the “work”… we do very little (but to receive a gift).

    Steve, in your last paragraph (above), I would say that God chose all of us … all the world (John 3:16). God offered His Son Jesus on the cross as a gift to all (it has already been done). I know, it gets confusing, sometimes… some people believe only a few are actually “chosen” … but, I have to believe that Jesus died for “all”.

    What are your thoughts?

    Tomorrow I hope to listen to Pastor Anderson’s sermon that you posted (thanks).

  10. Magdalene,

    I agree with you that Jesus death was for all (the scriptues tell us that).

    But the scriptures also tell us that many will be lost. The only unforgiveable sin is the sin against the Holy Spirit, or unbelief.

    Jesus tells us that many will say, Lord, Lord, we have done such and such in your name (people in churches) and Jesus says to them, “depart from me I never knew you.”

    There will be a faithful remnant. ‘Many are called, but few are chosen.”

    The scriptures are replete with this kind of language.

    St. Paul tells us, “Who are we to tell the potter how to shape the clay?”

    God will choose whom God will choose. And on that Day we hope we will be included in the elect. His promises are sure so our hope will not be in vain.

    Anyway, that’s my take on it.

    Thanks Magdalene.

    – Steve

  11. Steve,
    I think it all comes down to Revelation.
    We know that in times God spoke ‘by various and diverse means’ to people to reveal Himself, but ultimately, this was to convey or express something of the revelation of Jesus Christ. The same is true in the field of Apologetics (i.e. Paul in Romans 1 speaking of how what might be termed a ‘general’ knowledge of God is actually part of this revelation – used by Him, for example, as he employs the thinking of the Greeks at Mars Hill to introduce Christ). In truth, when God takes something – a word, a phrase, a verse of poetry, and invests this with the work of His saving grace, then Christ is revealed. Part of our calling is ‘aways be(ing) prepared to give such an answer’.

  12. I see what you mean, Howard. But the general revelation of God is not saving revelation, or the specific revelation of Christ. “How can they hear if they do not have a preacher?”

    No doubt God can use whatever means He desires to bring one to faith. I’ve always been taught that God has chosen to use His Word and sacraments for that purpose.

    I have been thinking about this apologetics question lately in terms of the theology of Glory. In that when we can come up with a good argument, or present some good information (other than Christ Himself), we might then take a little bit of the credit from God and place it into our realm.

    It seems that when scripture speaks of our nature it speaks to the whole of humanity. Therefore when they saw Jesus doing all the miracles and yet would not believe, I think Jesus wanted to make a point that no one would come to Him of their own volition. And that with our salvation, as with evertyhing else where God creates life, He has to do it all…A -Z.

    I guess my question is this, ‘does God place His saving grace in other than the person of Jesus Christ and Him crucified?’

    Thanks Howard, for stimulating this pea brain…it needs it!

    – Steve

  13. I was reading recently about the conversion of C S Lewis – he found himself being strangely moved by statements in the Norse myths about Balder and didn’t understand why – it was only later that he realized that this was a ‘seed’ used to point him to Christ. Like the altar at Mars Hill to the ‘Unknown God’ and the events which surrounded this (see ‘Eternity in their Hearts’ by Don Richardson for details), God can indeed speak to us from a quite diverse range of starting points to lead us to Christ – but that always is the goal.

    Yours in Him,

    Howard.

  14. Howard,

    Interesting story about C.S. Lewis. I think many of us could point to similar anecdotes in our personal histories where we might have felt the strange tug of God. Maybe this is because of the fact that we were chosen by Him before the foundation of the world. Who knows?
    I guess the Lord can and does use whatever He desires in His creation to effect His purposes.

    As with most things in the Christian faith, I believe it is a matter of emphasis. The subtlety and diversity ( I believe) of these devices used by God, is for Him to know and use, alone.

    For us, we are commanded to preach and teach Christ for the conversion of the sinner, and nothing else.

    Those who engage the culture (with respect to Christ) on the terms of the culture (to me anyway), show a lack of confidence in the Word, and give human reason undeserved stature in the man/God relationship.

    After all, belief is not the goal, for the Devil himself believes. Trust in ‘Someone’, not belief in ‘something’.

    Thanks very much, Howard!

    Your friend,

    – Steve

  15. “Those who engage the culture (with respect to Christ) on the terms of the culture (to me anyway), show a lack of confidence in the Word, and give human reason undeserved stature in the man/God relationship”.

    Referring back to Paul once again at Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34), he noted that the ‘culture’ (philosophy) of the Stoics and the Epecurians had made them ‘religious’, but that had merely left them in ignorance, not only of the truth, but of the very presuppositions towards Christ within their own history (hence Paul’s referral to the altar and quoting of Epimenides of Crete (if anyone isn’t familiar with this background, take a look at this page on my own web page:
    http://www.savouredfaith.co.uk/Life/life.htm ).

    Even amidst such willful ignorance, the Lord has never left Himself without witness (Acts 14:17), and this includes ‘the word of Christ’ amidst the very work of His hands (compare Romans 10:18 – the verse you refer to, with its original context – Psalm 19:1-4).

    The problem, often times in our world, is not that there has been no witness or pointer towards Christ – but that this has been ignored or ‘qualified’ by all manner of dubious equivocations.

    Abraham had faith that “God would provide himself, a lamb”.
    Epimenides knew, amidst his spiritual and poverty and ignorance, that only a spotless lamb could atone for human sin. We are saved by faith in that same Lamb of God.

    Sola Christos.

  16. Steve wrote:”Those who engage the culture (with respect to Christ) on the terms of the culture (to me anyway), show a lack of confidence in the Word, and give human reason undeserved stature in the man/God relationship”.

    Referring back to Paul once again at Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34), he noted that the ‘culture’ (philosophy) of the Stoics and the Epecurians had made them ‘religious’, but that had merely left them in ignorance, not only of the truth, but of the very presuppositions towards Christ within their own history (hence Paul’s referral to the altar and quoting of Epimenides of Crete (if anyone isn’t familiar with this background, take a look at this page on my own web page:
    http://www.savouredfaith.co.uk/Life/life.htm ).

    Even amidst such willful ignorance, the Lord has never left Himself without witness (Acts 14:17), and this includes ‘the word of Christ’ amidst the very work of His hands (compare Romans 10:18 – the verse you refer to, with its original context – Psalm 19:1-4).

    The problem, often times in our world, is not that there has been no witness or pointer towards Christ – but that this has been ignored or ‘qualified’ by all manner of dubious equivocations.

    Abraham had faith that “God would provide himself, a lamb”.
    Epimenides knew, amidst his spiritual and poverty and ignorance, that only a spotless lamb could atone for human sin. We are saved by faith in that same Lamb of God.

    Sola Christos.

  17. Steve,
    1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
    but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;

    I know apologetics has a bad taste. Much of it is awful. but the word here defense is apologia, meaning a reasoned argument. Paul engaged in the same thing. Apologetics without the word, is useless. Apologetics based on the word, and encorporating the word, is bibilical, and useful. Our faith is reasonable, therefore one can use reason in discussing Christianity.
    I think part of the problem here, though, is the disconnect as to what is meant by apologetics. most people think of Aquinas, and the 5 proofs, at best, or worse, Van Til. However, there are apologetic arguments out there that are much better, and based on the word.

  18. Bror, Howard, Magdalene, and David,

    You have managed to convince me that there is a place for apologetics in the life of the Church.

    I still don’t care for it, but then again who am I to argue with God.

    Boy… I hate it when I am wrong. (at this stage in my life I ought to be used to it by now)

    Thanks for the great discussion. I do appreciate your input.

    Now..where did I put my Shroud of Turin poster…

  19. I’ve always thought that some apologetics is a good thing. In doctrine class and in other places, however, I was always taught that apologetics don’t create faith and therefore is not useful.

    Once I told my professor that I find the cosmological argument for God cogent. He answered that’s because you believe already. — Well.

    There are two other things that confirm my initial feeling for apologetics.

    Recently, I made it through the entire Bondage of the Will.
    Luther had delayed in making his reply to Erasmus. He thought that Erasmus’s “Diatribe” was irksome and so beneath even Erasmus, that he just could not rouse himself to make reply. Anyone, who knew Luther’s teaching and the Gospel already heard enough, he figured. Why answer another attack, and one so poorly done as the Diatribe?

    This is what he writes, as to why he finally got around to his 400 page polemic:

    quote:
    My brethren in Christ press me to it, setting before me the expectation of all; seeing that the authority of Erasmus is not to be despised, and the truth of the Christian doctrine is endangered in the hearts of many.
    And indeed, I felt a persuasion in my own mind, that my silence would not be altogether right, and that I was deceived by the prudence or malice of the flesh, and not sufficiently mindful of my office, in which I am a debtor, both to the wise and to the unwise; and especially, since I was called to it by the entreaties of so many brethren.

    For although our cause is such, that it requires more than the external teacher, and, beside him that planteth and him that watereth outwardly, has need of the Spirit of God to give the increase, as a living Teacher, to teach us inwardly living things, yet, since that Spirit is free, and bloweth, not where we will, but where He willeth, it was needful to observe that rule of Paul, “Be instant in season, and out of season (2 Tim.) For we know not at what hour the Lord cometh. Be it, therefore, that those who have not yet felt the teaching of the Spirit in my writings, have been overthrown by that Diatribe–perhaps their hour was not yet come.

    And who knows but that God may even condescend to visit you, my friend Erasmus, by me His poor weak vessel; and that I may come unto you by this Book in a happy hour, and gain over a dearest brother.

    end of quote.

    Secondly, recently there was a note on the Wittenberg trail where someone wrote that we do not want to present the faith in the “burning in the bosom” fashion. (You know it’s true because you can feel it’s true). Instead, things like history need to be brought in. Christianity is true because it is true, because for example there are true times and places. A historical religion needs to deal with archeology and other things. This is also apologetics.

    So much for now, Yours, Brigitte

  20. Brigitte,

    Excellent quotes from the Bondage of the Will! I think it’s time I revisit that great work of Luther.

    I guess I ought have a more open mind concerning God’s M.O.

    As Bror said earlier there is so much bad apologetics that it can turn one off to it completely.

    My pastor says that he is not a fan of it because “it’s like chasing your tail.” But he also agrees with the majority here in that there are instances where it can be helpful.

    “And who knows but that God may even condescend to visit you, my friend Erasmus, by me His poor weak vessel; and that I may come unto you by this Book in a happy hour, and gain over a dearest brother.”

    What a bulldog Luther was!

    Thanks very much, Brigitte!

    – Steve

  21. I like the way Bror put it. Apologetics has a reasoned argument from Scripture such as the Bondage of the Will (great example Brigitte) definitely is useful, but as you said Steve not because of the quality of the argument but because the Word present in the argument.

  22. Steve,
    The Shroud of Turin poster?
    That isn’t apologetics, not at all. If and when you find it, I suggest you burn it. Now go buy some books by Montgomery.

  23. Bror,

    Good advice, I’m sure. But I think I’ll leave apologetics for those inclined that way.

    I’m going to stick to law and gospel and let the chips fall where they may. If I run into someone who the Lord decides needs some apologetic prodding, then I’m sure the Lord will handle the logistics.

    Take care, Pal

    – Steve

  24. Can we talk about what would be good apologetics?

    Though I’m for it, I don’t know much about it. :) (Like who is Montgomery? What did he write?) I went to a talk by Scott Klusendorf recently. He would say he is an apologist and he is training his sons to become apologists. (Instead of working at Safeway in the summer, he is paying them to read books.)

    I read and comment on Ben Witherington’s blog. He is Methodist and I have problems with that, but there seems to be a lot of good work there engaging the culture and bringing some real learning to attacks on Christianity.

    I am starting to think that we Lutherans should be a little more on the ball, in the way that he is. The discussions and the conversations should be had.

  25. Brigitte,

    Bror (and others here as well, Im sure) could tell yopu a bit about Montgomery. The only Montgomery I am familiar with was the great (debatable) WWII general from Englang.

    “Lutherans be a little more on the ball…” ?

    What! And give up our great Lutheran Quietism!?

    I ‘ll have to check out Monty and Klusendorf (with a name like that he ought to be a Lutheran).

    Thanks for the heads-up, Brigitte!

    – Steve

  26. That’s … ‘England’.

    I make a lot of spelling mistakes because of my two flying fingers…but I’ll always try and correct names and countries when possibul.

  27. Brigitte,
    I was speaking of John Warrick Montgomery who is a Lutheran apologist, and therefore not very popular. He isn’t popular with Lutherans because he is an apologist. (German Idealism, Kant, and the rest, gutted apologetics from the Lutheran mindset. To many Lutherans buy into this awful philosophy without knowing where the idea came from, and why it is wrong. They think Luther is on their side because he called reason the devil’s whore. They seem to forget the meaning to the first article of the Creed.) Two he is unpopular with other Christians because he is Lutheran.
    The two books I can think of off hand are “History and Christianity” and “Faith Founded on Fact.” Both are excellent little volumes.

  28. Bror,
    thank you very much for your comment. It is helpful. I am going to try and get a hold of these books. I’d also like to know more about how Idealism, Kant, etc. gutted the apologetics from the Luth. mindset. Perhaps, that’s in Montgomery’s books.

    Reading about Montgomery reminds me of Phillip Johnson who wrote: Darwin on Trial. He is a lawyer, too. (Another interesting person is Ezra Levant, a young famous Edmonton lawyer, (my city), a Jew, who was recently hauled in front of the Alberta Human Right’s commission for publishing the Mohammed cartoons in the Western Standard magazine because of a complaint by Muslims. This week he spoke to the US caucus on “soft jihad” (starting law suits for “defaming” Islam, a code for “blasphemy”).

    Ezra says: “They came for the Neo-Nazi–and I said nothing. They came for the Christian fundamentalist–and I said nothing. Now they are coming for the newspaper editor…” Our McLean’s magazine also is facing a law suit, and Ezra himself is involved in 5 law suits). Though he is a practicing Jew, he feels restrictions to freedom of speech will impact Christians more than anyone, if they are allowed to proceed. (He has an interesting blog and you can see some speeches on youtube)

    Thinking and involved people like that need to be heard and supported. We need to be able to think and speak freely. It seems like lawyers get involved at this point, rather than pastors. Of course, Luther had his own problems with free speech or lack thereof. We know the story.

    I’ve wandered off topic, a bit. I’m just noting that lawyers have a role in this, also–defending the right to defend or speak, as well as dissecting what is logical and what is not.

    The “whore of reason” comes in when reason is opposed to faith and biblical concepts. This does not make biblical concepts unreasonable. Someone else could probably explain this better, but the example that comes to my mind is again from the Bondage of the Will. At the very end, Luther, is dealing with the question whether what he said about God’s foreknowledge, etc. , makes God unjust. This is the kind of thing where he says room must be left for Faith.
    There is the light of nature, the light of the Gospel and the light of Glory. By the light of Glory we will see, in the future, that God is perfectly righteous. This is the kind of thing where reason won’t help or only lead us to utterly wrong and faithless conclusions.
    Thanks, Brigitte.

  29. To clarify: “the light of nature, the light of the Gospel and the light of Glory” are Luther’s words at the end of the Bondage of the Will.

  30. Faith & Reason.
    There’s is a really well-written piece about this on the Uncommon Descent blog today.

    See it here;
    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/faith-and-reason/#more-3478

  31. Howard,

    That was an excellent piece. Barry A. did quite a neat job of laying out how unbelievers do have faith (in somethings) and how believers have a reasoned belief.

    The reasoned part of belief, I think I understand somewhat, but the trust part of belief, to me is a bit more unreasoned.

    As when an infant is given faith in baptism, or when the Lord gives us trust in His supper.

    When John the Baptist leaped for joy (at Jesus’ presence ) while they were both still in the womb.

    While I do agree (now) that reason can and does play a role in our belief, I wonder how much of a role reason plays in out trusting in the person of Christ and how much of that trust is just given to us completely aside of anything from inside ourselves.

    Thanks Howard.

    – Steve

  32. Thanks for that link, Howard. “Uncommondescent” looks like an interesting site. Barry A. also says that he is a lawyer and uses examples from the way evidence is used.

    It looks like apologetics is a multidisciplinary approach; perhaps this is part of the reason why not every theologian is interested in it or equally capable of it, or wants to spend his time on it (like Steve). Yet, they need not denounce it but can refer to other people’s work if they themselves can’t/won’t engage in it. (You’d think they should be familiar with the basics, though.)

    Now, I want to find out about ID (intelligent design) and uncommon descent vs. Michael Behe (The Edge of Evolution) who has ID but common descent. (This is the science major in me needing to sort this out.) But every bit of biology screams “Creator!” to me.

  33. Brigitte,
    Glad to hear you found the article (and the U D site) of interest.
    The article really shows that Christianity is no where as unreasonable (in terms of rationality) as it is often caricatured via secular or atheistic opinion.
    As for Apologetics, it certainly touches on a number of areas of experience and knowledge, so it can certainly seem a little cumbersome to employ unless we have ‘fine tuned’ our study and use. A pretty good ‘rough guide’ is ‘Apologetics to the Glory of God’ by John Frame, which not only provides a general introduction on the subject, but some pretty down to earth examples on how apologetics can be used in everyday conversations.

    Regarding I D, I would recommend William Dembski’s book, ‘Intelligent Design’ (subtitle ‘the bridge between science and religion’) if you are wanting to examine the relationship between science and Christianity. Dembski and others have written several other inherently scientific guides to the issue, but this one really shows the connection to the theology of creation – I’m looking forward to reading the latest by him on the views of the early church fathers.

    Steve -
    Re: Apologetics and Faith.
    I would say all truth comes from outside of ourselves, and becomes ‘active’ when the Holy Spirit makes it so (bringing life to the dead), but the truth (as the X files used to say) is ‘out there’, and even though we are dead in sin, we cannot escape the reality of God’s presence – the ‘echo’ of eternity in our hearts – not because of some evolutionary ‘meme’, but because we were made in His image, and when we pause amidst the fury of life, we can still catch a glimpse of that profound reflection. The reality is that the ‘hand is stacked’ totally towards the over-arching truth, which is why we are all without excuse (Paul’s argument in Romans 1 & 2). When we are those who ‘speak the word’, whether in season or out, when we ‘preach Christ’, whether our motivation is good or even dubious, the Lord takes such seeds as sows them.

    Let’s keep desiring those moments when we can share something of the word of life ‘in season’ – that the truth may hit home and by His grace and the work of His Spirit, turn people to the beauty of the joy in believing.

  34. I do think its important to have the ability to defend and contend for the faith BUT in reality… it’s a heart thing. In order to really have God at work in your life, it comes to the person’s own heart which we cannot change but God can. Through prayer more things can be done than arguments and this is something I am learning. It was prayer that led me to see truth in more ways than before even though I was a ‘church going christian’ it took prayer to make me really see even down to false teaching within the church.

    A lot more can be done by prayer, I believe however we should always be ready for an answer when a door opens to bring someone to Jesus.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 59 other followers

%d bloggers like this: