“People Do Not Come to Faith by Arguments!” 4 Objections to Apologetics

Some time ago, I was in a meeting with pastors and other church leaders from various backgrounds discussing a potential ministry opportunity. I noted the importance that apologetics plays in the realm of collegiate ministries, especially with the mainstream attacks on Christianity from ultra-liberal voices. For instance, the collegiate ministry known as Ratio Christi has held a profound positive influence on the intellectual and spiritual lives of college students across the nation. To my surprise, one particular ministry leader said, “It’s my experience that people are not brought to faith by arguments.” The statement was shocking enough. However, I was even more bewildered by some who seemed to agree with him. I replied, “What do you say of Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and J. Warner Wallace who were former atheists and became believers because of the evidence for the Christian faith?” The conversation quickly moved to a different topic.

I do not tell this story to demonize or demoralize anyone. The denominational worker who voiced opposition to apologetics was a good, caring individual who loves the Lord and the people he serves. However, we must engage the question he presented. Do logic and argumentation bring people to faith or are such disciplines useless endeavors? The mission statement of Bellator Christi is that it exists to take up the sword of Christian theology and the shield of classical apologetics in order to take Christian truth into the arena of ideas. But if people are not argued into the faith, this ministry would seem a bit futile, at least in the latter portion of the mission statement. So, are apologetic argumentations necessary? This article will review 4 common objections given to apologetics by the modern church. Each objection will contain an explanation and an appropriate reply.

Objection #1: Arguments do not bring people to faith.

The ministry leader I mentioned posed the first objection against the use of Christian apologetics. This objection claims that arguments do not really bring people into faith. Faith is a matter of the heart, not of the mind.

Reply:

One could provide several replies to the first objection. To keep the post brief, I will present only two. First, objection 1 is in reality a self-defeating statement. How so? Well, the objector is presenting an argument to persuade others that arguments do not persuade. The objection is much like someone claiming to be a married bachelor or saying “I cannot speak a word of English” in English.

Second, the Bible presents several examples where people came to faith or were persuaded to faith by various argumentations. For instance, the miracles and teachings of Jesus provided a case for His claim to be Messiah. The miracles served as a sign. Why were such signs offered? Signs were provided to present an argument for the Messianic claims of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus argues that “the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me” (John 5:36). In addition, Jesus challenged His adversaries to “search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). Other examples could be offered such as Paul’s defense of the faith before various groups of people, including the Athenians. Consider Philip’s argumentation to the Ethiopian that Isaiah 53 referred to Jesus of Nazareth. All such arguments were used to bring people to faith.

Objection #2: The Holy Spirit brings people to faith, so argumentation is useless.

Some people have objected to the use of Christian intellectual arguments due to the assumption that the Holy Spirit leads people to faith. If the Holy Spirit leads people to faith, then why should one worry about intellectual argumentation.

Reply:

Let me first say, I wholeheartedly agree that the Holy Spirit leads people to faith. Jesus noted that when the Holy Spirit comes that He would “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because you do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). While the Holy Spirit convicts, we are told that we have a part to play in the evangelism process. Jesus also told the disciples before His ascension, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). One could argue; If the Holy Spirit brings people to faith, then why evangelize? Christians evangelize because God commanded us to do so. Through the preaching of the Word, people are convicted by the Holy Spirit to come to faith. The Holy Spirit uses our evangelistic efforts to save people. The same is true for apologetics. Intellectual argumentation is often used by the Holy Spirit to bring people to faith. While the majority of Athens did not follow Christ after hearing Paul’s intellectual defense of the faith, the Book of Acts states that “some men joined him and believed, among whom were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them” (Acts 17:34).

Another problem I have with this statement stems from the spirit of laziness that exists in some Christians today. I heard a person tell a pastor, “You don’t have to study to preach. Just follow the Holy Spirit.” While I wholeheartedly agree that a person should follow the Holy Spirit, I also accept that the Scripture tells us the “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). How does a person test a spirit? One tests a spirit against the Word of God. Testing spirits require study. I truly believe that it is the increased biblical illiteracy and lack of study that has led the modern church into many great heresies.

Objection #3: No one has ever come to faith through argumentation.

Anti-apologetic apologists argue that no one comes to faith through intellectual argumentation. Why bother if no one comes to faith through argumentation?

Reply:

This is an easy objection to answer. The claim is false. Many have come to faith through intellectual argumentation for the faith. Among such converts include: C. S. Lewis (famed English professor and writer), Josh McDowell (author of countless Christian books), Lee Strobel (former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, atheist turned Christian pastor and writer), Fazale Rana (Christian biologist), and J. Warner Wallace (former Los Angeles cold-case homicide detective turned Christian apologist). These individuals only scratch the surface of those who have come to Christ because of the evidence for Christianity.

Objection #4: If someone is argued into faith, then someone could be argued out of faith.

Lastly, objectors to Christian apologetics often claim that if it is by evidential argumentation that one comes to faith, then one could be easily led astray by some other persuasive argumentation.

Reply:

This objection holds two problems in my estimation. 1) The objector does not understand the power of the Holy Spirit. If Christianity is true and a person comes to faith in Christ, then the Scripture states that the Holy Spirit will abide with the repentant person (John 14:15-16). Jesus notes that the Holy Spirit would lead a believer in truth (John 15:26-27). Thus, it would appear that the objector places less value on the power of the Holy Spirit than the advocate of Christian apologetics.

2) In addition, the objector must consider the following point. If Christianity is true, then it will always remain true. The truthfulness of Christianity will never change. Truth is unchangeable. Thus, if a person is truly convicted of the claims of Christianity and truth does not change, then the person (although doubts may come) will not leave the faith due to the truth claims.

Conclusion:

While I respect the objections made and the people who make them, it cannot be said that such objections hold any merit or value. Christianity is true. Period. If Christianity is true, then it is worth defending. If Christianity is true, eternity is at stake. Some people do come to faith when they are met with the evidences for Christianity. It may be true that some people do not require the same level of evidence that other people require. But, refusing apologetics to the one who needs it is like refusing insulin to a diabetic because not everyone needs insulin. It is, to a degree, a categorical mistake. Remember, Peter tells us, as has been noted several times before, that we must “honor 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; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Check out this video by Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason as he engages this issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cS2xGUj5KQ

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

© August 30, 2016. Brian Chilton.

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Does Paul Condemn Philosophy in Colossians 2:8?

Philosophy is defined as the “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence” (Soanes and Stevenson 2004). Advocates of Christian anti-intellectualism will criticize the use of philosophy within Christian circles due to Paul’s supposed admonition against philosophy. Such individuals charge that philosophy is antagonistic to the faith due to Paul’s so-called warning against philosophy in Colossians 2:8. But what exactly does the apostle claim? In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he warns the Colossians that they should “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).[1] According to philosophical antagonists, Paul’s warning against philosophy should dissuade anyone from participating in a philosophical endeavor. However, one should ask, is Paul actually condemning the use of philosophy or is Paul using the term “philosophy” to address another issue?

A closer examination of the Colossians text affords one the opportunity to evaluate Paul’s actual intention. When one examines the text, one will find three reasons why Paul does not discredit philosophy as it is popularly understood in modern times. Rather, one will discover that Paul actually advocates the use of good philosophy.

Paul’s Intention Behind the Word “Philosophia.”

As I was preparing this article, I had the chance to discuss the issue of Colossians 2:8 with Dr. Leo Percer. Dr. Percer is a New Testament scholar who teaches Greek, Hermeneutics, and New Testament studies at Liberty University. Dr. Percer stated, “‘Philosophy’ in Colossians is probably a reference to religious ideas more than what we mean by the word today. If memory serves, Josephus uses the word to describe the various views of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and such” (Percer 2015). Is Dr. Percer correct? It appears so for two particular reasons.

First, Louw and Nida note that “φιλοσοφία (philosophia) may be rendered in some languages as ‘the way in which people are wise’ or ‘the way in which people understand things’ or ‘the manner in which people reason’” (Louw and Nida 1996, 384). Paul’s use of the term philosophia does not indicate that he is speaking of philosophy the way modern individuals understand the term. To understand what a writer is saying, one must not force the writer into one’s time-frame, but must rather examine the writer’s literary style during the period in which the author pens their work. This leads us into another defense for Percer’s claim.

Second, while looking into Percer’s claim pertaining to Josephus’ usage of the term “philosophy,” I discovered an example of what Dr. Percer was saying in Josephus’ writings. Josephus, in the first-century, writes, “The Jews had for a great while three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves; the sect of the Essenes, and the sect of the Sadducees, and the third sort of opinions was that of those called Pharisees; of which sects although I have already spoken in the second book of the Jewish War, yet will I a little touch upon them now” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.11). Note that Josephus uses the term “philosophy” to describe the religious viewpoints of three religious groups: the Essenes, Sadducees, and the Pharisees. This is not the only time Josephus uses the term “philosophia” to describe religious ideas. Josephus also writes, “But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty; and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord” (Josephus, Antiquities to the Jews 18.23). Again, Josephus uses the term “philosophia” to describe a religious viewpoint. If this is the case, could it be that Paul uses the term “philosophia” to describe religious groups and religious ideas rather than philosophical concepts? To answer such a question, one will need to consider the theme of Colossians chapter 2.

Paul’s Theme in Colossians 2.

Paul’s letter to the church of Colossae was written to combat heretical viewpoints in the area. In chapter one, Paul presents what is normally recognized as an early Christian formulation denoting the incarnation of Christ (that the divine God had took on fleshly imbodiment) in writing that Christ is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:15-18).

Paul then in Colossians 1:24-2:5 speaks of his persecutions and how through them God made his presence known to the Gentiles. In that passage, Paul writes that “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). Note that Paul indicates the importance of teaching individuals the truth with wisdom. Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom. Paul then turns his attention to the importance of one’s “knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (Colossians 2:2). Paul says that he notes this so that “no one may delude you with plausible arguments” (Colossians 2:4). How does one decipher plausible arguments from implausible arguments? It comes from knowing the truth (theology) and knowing how one can know the truth (philosophy).

It is after such a discussion that Paul then writes that the Colossians should “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Instead of warning the Colossians against philosophy, Paul is actually warning the Colossians against well-argued false doctrines. Ben Witherington argues that “In v. 8 Paul characterizes the false teaching not only as “philosophy,” which in itself would not be a problem, but as philosophy built on merely “human tradition” and on what Paul calls “empty deceit.” The verb sylalageō is rare, found only here in biblical Greek, and means “kidnap” or better “carry off as booty” (Witherington III 2007, 154). Douglas Moo would also agree as he notes that “The word ‘philosophy’ was applied to a wide range of belief systems in the ancient world, so it tells us little about the origin or nature of the teaching. It does suggest, however, that the teaching involved a somewhat coherent system” (Moo 2008, 50). Thus, Paul’s warning is not against philosophy. Rather, Paul’s warning is against cleverly argued false doctrines. Instead of negating philosophy, proper philosophy seems to be promoted by Paul due to the incredible way Paul argues in favor of the truth.

Paul’s Use of Philosophical Argumentation.

Paul was not only a master theologian; Paul was a master philosopher, as well. Paul was a master rhetorician. In fact, Douglas Moo writes, concerning Colossians 2:8 and following, that “This key paragraph begins with a warning about the false teachers (v. 8) but is then dominated by a theologically rich explanation of why the Colossians should reject this teaching (vv. 9–15)” (Moo 2008, 184). Witherington explains that

“Paul is speaking into a rhetorically and philosophically saturated environment. When someone puts those two things together and the philosophy is false, there is a grave danger to Christians who are prone to listen to such powerful persuasion and to be influenced by it. Paul therefore is in the awkward position of not being able to speak directly and in person to his audience, thus losing a good portion of the rhetorical arsenal (gestures, tone of voice, etc.). Yet still he must offer an even more powerful and philosophically substantive act of persuasion than is given by those who are beguiling the Colossians” (Witherington 2007, 154).

Thus, Paul is using philosophical methods to argue in favor of the truth despite being at a disadvantage as he is unable to physically deliver his well-argued and well-reasoned defense for the Christian faith. Paul is not dismissing philosophy. For it was Paul who was able to hold his own defending the Christian faith to the intellectuals at Athens. So what can we take from this study?

Conclusion

Does Paul condemn philosophy in Colossians 2:8? The short answer is “no.” Paul does not demerit or condemn philosophy in Colossians 2:8. Rather, Paul eloquently warns the Colossians against false philosophical and false theological concepts. Such false concepts were considered by Paul to be teachings that “have indeed an appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23). So what was the false philosophy being presented to the Colossians? It appears that the likely problem for the Colossians was a form of syncretistic doctrine, similar to the modern day New Age movement,that blended Christianity with Jewish mysticism and pagan religions into a systematized form of belief.  Instead of condemning philosophy in general, Paul instead argued that the Colossians needed a stronger Christian theological and philosophical construct to stand against the cleverly devised falsehoods being purported in their town. Such a warning needs to be heeded among modern Christians as well.

Sources Cited

Josephus, Flavius, and William Whiston. The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

Moo, Douglas J. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008.

Percer, Leo. Interviewed by Brian Chilton. (Thursday, September 10, 2015). Online Interview. Information used with permission.

Soanes, Catherine, and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007.

© September 13, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

3 Attributes Critical for Effective Persuasion

Aristotle, the famed ancient Greek philosopher, wrote On Rhetoric in the 4th century BC. Aristotle writes on how one can build a strong case that will be coherent, persuasive, and winsome. In Christian apologetics, it is imperative that one build a strong case for Christianity. Often, apologetic antagonists will claim, “No one was argued into the kingdom.” Yet, it seems that more and more people are being illuminated by the Holy Spirit through the use of arguments stemming from the apologetic renaissance. In fact, the pages of Scripture, one will find Christian case-makers arguing for the truths of Christ.

In On Rhetoric, Aristotle provides three important aspects of persuasion. These three aspects are called the ethos, pathos, and logos. Interestingly enough, Jesus himself demonstrated these attributes as he led people to faith. This article will examine Aristotle’s three attributes of persuasion and will show how Jesus used these attributes to powerfully argue for his identity as Messiah.

Ethos: Having Character Persuasion

The first attribute of persuasion is that of ethos (literally “character”); that is, the moral integrity of the speaker. English contrives its word “ethic” from the term “ethos.” Aristotle writes that the “orator persuades by moral character when his speech is delivered in such a manner as to render him worthy of confidence; for we feel confidence in a greater degree and more readily in persons of worth in regard to everything in general, but where there is no certainty and there is and there is room for doubt, our confidence is absolute” (Aristotle, On Rhetoric I.2.4).

To have value, the speaker must demonstrate authority and character. These two attributes are found in one simple term—integrity. By what authority does the speaker present his/her case? Why should I listen to such a person? Does a person live by what he/she speaks? Many a great communicator has lost value because their ethos does not support their theses. In this regard, a persuasive speaker must have authority to speak on the manner in which they address and they also must have the moral character that supports their speech. Carter and Coleman note Aristotle’s categories of ethos in that of “Phronesis—practical skills and wisdom. Arête—virtue and goodness. Eunoia—goodwill toward the audience” (Carter and Coleman 2009, 67). In this regard, the audience determines the ethos of the teacher.

In this regard, Jesus demonstrated ethos par excellence, although his adversaries chose to disregard this aspect of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus exemplified phronesis as he consistently outsmarted his opponents. Zuck writes that “Jesus knew the minds of three groups: inquirers, his disciples, and his enemies” (Zuck 1995, 51). Jesus was so good at answering his opponents that after a certain point, “no one dared to ask him any more questions” (Mark 12:34).[1] Jesus also demonstrated arête. Jesus did not provide a commandment which he did not himself keep. He told his disciples to “love their enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus exemplified this commandment as he prayed while being crucified “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus also demonstrated great eunoia by the multiple healings provided to the sick and helpless.

If one is to have an impact for God’s kingdom, then such a person will need to demonstrate a strong ethic. A person must have integrity. Without it, nothing that is said will leave an indelible mark on anyone. A great communicator without a strong ethos will fade into the shadows of failure.

Pathos: Having Connected Persuasion

The second attribute is that of pathos (literally “suffering,” “experience”); that is an emotional connection with the audience. English contrives its words “sympathy” and “empathy” from the term “pathos”. Aristotle writes, “The orator persuades by means of his hearers, when they are roused to emotion by his speech; for the judgements we deliver are not the same when we are influenced by joy or sorrow, love or hate; and it is to this alone that, as we have said, the present-day writers of treatises endeavor to devote their attention” (Aristotle, On Rhetoric I.2.5).

While it seems that many have been captivated more by emotionalism rather than intellectualism in modern times, emotionalism is still important. On a side note, let it be known that many a danger has come by speakers who manipulate the emotions without demonstrating the other two components. Hitler, Mousseline, and others have persuaded by appealing to negative emotional aspects (i.e. racism, nationalism, et. al.) without adhering to the other two cornerstones of effective persuasion. That being said, it would behoove the speaker to note the great power found in one’s emotions. If one is to connect with the audience, they must be willing to connect with the listeners emotionally.

Much could be said of Jesus’ use of pathos. However, such a treatment extends beyond the scope of this article. Nevertheless, Jesus’ use of pathos is demonstrated most clearly through his use of shared artifacts. “Jesus often made use of shared artifacts by utilizing his knowledge of Scripture, geography, and Jewish history” (Carter and Coleman 2009, 26). If the speaker is to connect with the audience, he/she must find a point of contact just as Jesus did through his parables and Paul did through his missionary ventures. If there is no connection, the most throughout intellectual treatment of a topic may fall on deafened ears. Never negate the power of a good illustration.

Logos: Having Coherent Persuasion

For the Christian who knows his or her Bible well, the third term will strike a chord, for it is the “logos” (literally “word,” or “from which a thought is expressed or delivered”). English contrives its word “logic” from “logos”. The third attribute considers the logic of an argument. Aristotle writes, “Now, since proofs are effected by these means, it is evident that, to be able to grasp them, a man must be capable of logical reasoning, of studying characters and the virtues, and thirdly the emotions—the nature and character of each, its origin, and the manner in which it is produced” (Aristotle, On Rhetoric I.2.7).

Here again, a full treatment is not possible in this article. I would suggest one interested in this topic pick up a copy of Carter and Coleman’s book which is referenced in this article. However, it should be noted that those who argue against logic will be surprised at the great use of logic used by Christ. Consider Jesus’ use of the following forms of logic:

Enthymene: an incomplete syllogism made to allow the “audience to ‘connect the dots’ and discover the insight on their own” (Carter and Coleman 2009, 49). Example found in Matthew 10:40, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me” (Matthew 10:40).

Syllogismus: “the use of a remark or an image that calls upon the audience to draw an obvious conclusion” (Carter and Coleman 2009, 52). Example found in John 3:14-18, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the only Son of God” (John 3:14-18).

A fortiori: (Latin: “to the stronger”) the use of a commonly held truth to argue for a stronger truth. Exemplified in Jesus’ defense of his healing on the Sabbath, “Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day” (Luke 13:15-16). Also exemplified in Matthew 18:12-14.

Reductio ad absurdium: “a type of logical argument where one assumes a claim for the sake of argument, derives an absurd or ridiculous outcome, and then concludes that the original assumption must have been wrong, as it led to an absurd result” (Carter and Coleman 2009, 55). Jesus’ rebuttal to his adversaries considering him demon-possessed is an example of reductio ad absurdium. Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand” (Matthew 12:25-26)?

Appeal to Evidence: noting the evidence supporting one’s claims. This is incredibly important for apologetics. Jesus used this type of logic masterfully. Jesus would say, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) then go out and raise the dead to prove his statement (as he did in the case of Lazarus). Jesus appealed to several pieces of evidence in John 5: the evidence from the Father (John 5:30-31); evidence from John the Baptist (John 5:32-35); the miracles performed by Jesus (John 5:36); God the Father’s witness (John 5:37-38); and evidence from Scripture (John 5:39-47).

As I have noted several times on this site, one must hold intellectual reasons for holding to the faith if one is to be effective in communicating the gospel. This comes by knowing WHAT one believes and knowing WHY one believes it.

Conclusion

This somewhat lengthy article has noted three important attributes that should accompany one’s presentation of the truth. One must hold a strong ethos (character), pathos (emotional connection), and logos (coherent argument). It may be possible that one can influence another without all three in place. For the one who holds character without the other two may be a beloved person whose beliefs are held because of the person’s character. Yet, such adherents will not hold a strong connection with the beliefs themselves. They simply inherited the beliefs. One may influence another by strong emotionalism to the detriment of the other two. This is most dangerous as the person may captivate a crowd by one’s charisma. Yet, the adherents will not have a defense for their position and, if the speaker is of low moral virtue, may be captivated by what could quickly escalate to dangerous cultic practices. One may also have high intellectual prowess and may convince others. Yet, without a strong ethos and pathos, the speaker may come across as cold and calloused. A blend of all three attributes is necessary if one is to be both persuasive and winsome in their approach. As noted, Jesus was a master of all three.

Sources Cited:

Aristotle. On Rhetoric. Acheron Press. Kindle.

Carter, Joe; and John Coleman. How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. Wheaton: Crossway, 2009.

Zuck, Roy B. Teaching as Jesus Taught. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1995.

© August 30, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

8 Ways that Anti-Intellectualism is Harming the Church

When asked to identify the greatest commandment in all of the Law, Jesus answered the inquiry by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command” (Matthew 22:37-38).[1] It seems that one aspect of this commandment has eluded the modern church. Yes, the church notes the great need to love the Lord with the heart, that is the will and emotions. The modern American church also focuses on the love that one must hold for God with one’s soul, that is, one’s conscious being (life). However, the third aspect of the great commandment seems to have escaped the modern American church. The Christian is also commanded to love the Lord with his or her mind. Extreme fideism (believing that the Christian life is only about faith without reason) has led the church into a state known as anti-intellectualism. Anti-intellectualism is defined as the state of “opposing or [being] hostile to intellectuals or to an intellectual view or approach” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). In this case, the intellectual approach is the intellectual approach to the Christian faith. Anti-intellectualism not only hinders one from keeping the great commandment, but such an attitude is also damaging to the church. This article will present eight ways that anti-intellectualism harms the church.

1. Anti-intellectualism harms the church theologically.

By theologically, I simply indicate how the church views God. Dr. Daniel Mitchell, one of my theology professors from Liberty University, once said, “The more you study God, the bigger God becomes.” His statement proved true. So often, anti-intellectuals limit their scope of God. Because anti-intellectuals fail to examine, research, and contemplate, they miss out on the vast nature of God. While the Christian may understand the basic fundamentals of God’s omniscience and omnipotence, one who allows oneself to contemplate and study these attributes of God will be left in great awe of the greatness of God Almighty. We love God with our minds when we study God. “Search for the LORD and for His strength; seek His face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11).

 2. Anti-intellectualism harms the church doctrinally.

By doctrinally, I simply indicate how the church views God’s interactions with humanity. How does the church view salvation? How does the church view humanity? The modern church has allowed pop culture to dictate these issues according to social fads and the like. The anti-intellectual will relish in having loads of moving music, will jump with excitement with the latest form of entertainment, but will be left with no basis for examining whether such songs and activities fit within the parameters of orthodoxy. So often, modern Christians leave their churches feeling great excitement, yet are left without any solid foundation for knowing what the church stands for and why it stands for certain things. Issues of salvation have become universalized, issues of eternity have been compromised, and issues concerning humanity have been radicalized because many modern Christians fail to love the Lord with their minds.

 3. Anti-intellectualism harms the church apologetically.

Those who know my testimony knows that I left the ministry for seven years and nearly became an agnostic. Why? My faith was shaken by the Jesus Seminar. When I asked Christian leaders why it was that I could trust the Bible, they responded by saying such things as, “Because it’s the Bible;” “the Bible says we should believe the Bible;” and “you shouldn’t ask such things!” It wasn’t until I came across the works of Christian apologists like Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, and many others that I began to realize that there were good reasons for why I should believe the Bible. Many of those evidences came from outside of the Bible (e.g. archaeology, manuscript evidence, and et. cetera). Had I been given this information earlier, I would not have left the ministry. Anti-intellectualism is killing the church today because we are left with no defense from the attacks arising from secularists and the like. We must remember that we are instructed to “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). To do otherwise is to neglect the love that we have for God with the mind.

4. Anti-intellectualism harms the church emotionally.

The fourth statement may sound counter-intuitive. Often when a case is made for intellectual Christianity, emotionalism is invalidated. However, emotions are important for human beings. Yet, emotions can lead us astray. Anti-intellectualism, such as is found in movements like the prosperity gospel and the like often lead to far more emotional damage than intellectual Christianity. A proper understanding of theodicy, suffering, and the problem of evil will help the believer in times of great distress. Proponents of anti-intellectualism are far less equipped to deal with times of tragedy than those who have a solid understanding of such topics. In fact, I have personally witnessed pastors who advocated anti-intellectualism fall into times of far greater distress and doubt when they are met with times of suffering and stress. Their doubt and stress is at a far greater degree than those who are grounded with an intellectual faith. An intellectual faith grounds the emotions and demonstrates how a person can love God with the mind.

5. Anti-intellectualism harms the church philosophically.

Philosophy and theology are intertwined to some degree. Theology is a branch of philosophy. Philosophy, simply put, is “a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology” (Merriam-Webster), or the “pursuit of wisdom” (Merriam-Webster). How do we see the world? How do we see society? What is the meaning of life? These are questions that everyone must answer. Different people come to differing conclusions. In a culture where every opinion is held to equal value, it is important that the believer understands such concepts as truth, logic, and value. Otherwise, the believer will be led by everything thrown their direction or, in contrast, oppose everything that may have some value. Some oppose philosophy because of Paul’s statement to the Colossians saying, “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition” (Colossians 2:8). A closer examination of Paul’s statement will reveal that Paul is not dismissing philosophy, but rather Paul is dismissing bad philosophy. In addition, Paul’s statement on philosophy is a philosophical statement. Thus, it would seem that quite the opposite is being promoted by Paul. One should not avoid philosophy. One should avoid bad philosophy. How does one know bad philosophy? They know bad philosophy because they know good philosophy. Possessing good philosophy is another way that the church loves God with the mind.

6. Anti-intellectualism harms the church socially.

It seems that many are led more by politics rather than their religious convictions. The opposite should surely be the case. When one allows political parties and nationalistic fervor to dictate their beliefs, one may well be found favorable among the populace while being very unpopular with God. Anti-intellectual Christians will find themselves more easily swayed by the great influence of politics. The intellectual Christian, one grounded in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, will understand the great value of all lives despite race, nationality, or gender. Intellectual faith remembers and realizes the truthfulness of Paul’s statement in that “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). When intellectual faith realizes and actualizes Paul’s statement, then one will truly love God with the mind…and will be moved to love their neighbors as themselves.

7. Anti-intellectualism harms the church evangelistically.

While in prison Paul wrote that “what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel…I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12, 16). How would Paul have been able to know how to defend the gospel if he did not know why one should believe the gospel? Many anti-intellectuals hold a limited if not unbiblical view of faith. Anti-intellectuals often consider faith to be the acceptance for which no evidence exists. Or, some may view faith as simply an emotional crutch. Faith is not demonstrated in such a way in the Bible. For instance, consider Jesus’ use of miracles. Jesus did not ask for blind faith. Jesus would back up his claims with a demonstration of power. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 9:5) and then provided the light of physical sight to the man at the pool of Siloam. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus told Mary and Martha (the sisters of Lazarus) as well as everyone else “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live” (John 11:25). Bold words to say at a man’s tomb, don’t you think? Yet, Jesus demonstrated that he was the resurrection and the life by raising Lazarus back to life. Jesus backed up his claims. It behooves the modern Christian to know the evidences for the faith. This will provide great strength to one’s evangelistic efforts. Know what you believe, know why you believe what you do, and know the One in whom you are believing, so that you can tell others about the One you serve. Doing such demonstrates a love for God with the mind.

8. Anti-intellectualism harms the church spiritually.

Finally, anti-intellectualism harms the church spiritually. How one might ask? Anti-intellectualism harms the church spiritually in many ways. I will list only two for the purpose of this article. 1) It harms one’s view of salvation. Some have added to or taken away from the gospel message because of an unexamined view of salvation from the Bible. False professions have been made without understanding the submission required for salvation, that is to say one’s submission to Christ as the Lord of one’s life. 2) It harms one’s spiritual walk. Sometimes anti-intellectuals will allow things into their lives which should not be present. When confronted, the person will say, “I have faith and that is all that matters.” Such a view stems from a bad interpretation of faith. If a person had studied their Bibles, researched passages, and held a true love of learning about God, then one would be willing to submit themselves to God fully and completely. Perhaps some of the problems of integrity in the modern church stems from the laziness which is so boldly exhibited in the anti-intellectual movement. Such can be protected at least to some degree by loving God with the mind.

Conclusion

Socrates is noted as saying that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates is right. However, one could stretch the philosopher’s statement in saying that “an unexamined faith is not worth having.” Biblical faith is enmeshed with reason. We should know why we believe in God and why we believe in Christ. If one simply accepts Christ because their family or friends did, is their faith truly legitimate? The Christian should not be afraid of loving God with the mind. One need not leave their brain at the door of faith. In fact, reason and faith are complementary because we serve a real God who provides a real trust. Anti-intellectualism is harmful for the church. It is a trend that must be reversed. Charles Bugg puts it best in saying,

“There is no excuse for preaching that requires people to leave their head outside the church. In the Great Commandment, Jesus taught His disciples to love God with all of their mind, heart, and soul. Some preachers make their living by attacking education or by riding the horse of anti-intellectualism. The result is a kind of demagoguery that creates unwarranted suspicion toward education. Ministers need to use the minds God has given them and to love God with all of that mind. Likewise, they need to call their listeners to love God with all of their minds” (Bugg 1992, 125-126).

Sources Cited:

Bugg, Charles B. Preaching from the Inside Out. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992.

Mish, Frederick C. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003.

 

© August 24, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quoted in this article comes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

The Apologetic Methodologies of Justin Martyr and Their Modern Applications

Dislaimer: The following is a paper submitted by Pastor Brian Chilton to Liberty University. This paper has been scanned and admitted through “Safe Assign” and will be detected by any and all accredited universities and colleges. No part of this paper may be copied and pasted into another paper without giving credit to the author. Failure to do so may, and most likely will, cause the student to be charged with plagiarism by his/her respected school. Charges of plagiarism can result in academic probation and/or expulsion. 

Justin Martyr1

Introduction

 Justin Martyr was a second-century Christian who was known for being a powerful apologist, or defender of the faith. Justin was “born by pagan parents in Samaria”[1] and “taught in Ephesus.”[2] Justin’s apologetic methods were important for the church in the second-century as Justin defended the Christian faith against enemy accusations. However, it must also be said that the field of apologetics is just as necessary in modern times as it was in the second-century. This paper will seek to survey the apologetic methods used by Justin Martyr. How did Justin do apologetics? The paper will first note the nature of apologetics and will then examine the four apologetic methods used by Justin Martyr: philosophical, historical, prophetic, and experiential.

 

The Nature of Apologetics

What is apologetics and why is it needed? William Lane Craig, arguably one of the greatest apologists of the modern time, defines apologetics as “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith.”[3] Said in another way, apologetics offers a defense for the truth claims of Christianity. Some would argue that apologetics is not necessary only the preaching of the gospel. However, nothing further could be the case. Justin Martyr saw the need to employ apologetics in the second-century because “reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honour and love only what is true.”[4] But is such necessary in post-modern times? Kreeft and Tacelli argue that “Western civilization is for the first time in its history in danger of dying. The reason is spiritual…The infection killing it is not multiculturalism—other faiths—but the monoculturalism of secularism—no faith, no soul.”[5] Justin Martyr met the similar problems in the second-century that the modern Christian meets in regards to secular challenges to the faith. Although the monoculturalism that Kreeft and Tacelli mention was in a different time and with different opponents, in many ways the times were strikingly similar to that of the current so-called post-modernworld. Both societies place a high value on entertainment, culture, and religious syncretism. Therefore, one might find that the approaches employed by Justin Martyr find a strikingly similar importance in the current world. William Lane Craig would seem to agree. Craig writes that apologetics serve in three different fashions, “…Shaping Culture…Strengthening believers…Evangelizing unbelievers…”[6] If Craig is correct, then apologetics can hold a spiritual and a cultural impact on a given society. Apologetics can create bolder Christians that are more prepared to evangelize and, therefore, have an impact upon the lost. So what were the methods used by Justin Martyr?

 

Justin’s Philosophical Apologetic Methodology

Justin had a profound interest in philosophy. It was through the philosopher’s attire that caused Trypho to begin to converse with the theologian. Justin records, “While I was going about one morning in the walks of Xystus, a certain man, with others in his company, having met me, and said, ‘Hail, O philosopher…I ought not to despise or treat with indifference those who array themselves in this dress.”[7] Justin would further state that “philosophy is, in fact, the greatest possession, and most honourable before God…”[8] When a person speaks of the philosophical apologetic method, one is referring to the use of reason and logic in one’s defense of the Christian faith and “emphasizes the importance of showing that the Christian worldview is reasonable.”[9] Philosophy was important for Justin Martyr. In the second and third chapters of the Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, Justin describes the importance that philosophy held to him by discussing the pathway that he took through several philosophies before conversion to Christianity.[10] Some scholars are skeptical concerning the historicity of Justin’s philosophical meanderings before his conversion. Troxel states that Justin’s “pilgrimage and conversion has been accused as being an idealization, a literary device and pure fiction.”[11] However, as Troxel later shows, Justin’s statements in his Acta Martydum are “consistent with his own account of passing gradually from ‘imperfect philosophies’ to the true and ‘perfect philosophy.’ Thus there is insufficient reason to deny the historical basis of Justin’s autobiography.”[12] This writer would agree. In addition, Justin’s astute reasoning skills and talents in rhetoric demonstrate one who was deeply intelligent and vastly educated. Although absolute certainty is impossible in this case, the evidence tends to favor the historicity of Justin’s historicity.

Justin’s apologetic use of philosophy opened the door for the Justin’s use of negative apologetics. Two forms of apologetics exist. Craig suggests that “Offensive apologetics seeks to present a positive case for Christian truth claims. Defensive apologetics seeks to nullify objections to those claims.”[13] Justin’s use of offensive apologetics will be examined later in the paper through the use of historical, prophetic, and experiential apologetic methods. For now, Justin’s use of negative apologetics will be addressed. Justin confronted other worldviews and exposed their weaknesses. In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, Justin demonstrates that Jesus is the only Savior of the world even for Jewish individuals. Justin said to Trypho,

Since I bring from the Scriptures and the facts themselves both the proofs and the inculcation of them, do not delay or hesitate to put faith in me, although I am an uncircumcised man; so short a time is left you in which to become proselytes. If Christ’s coming shall have anticipated you, in vain you will repent, in vain you will weep; for He will not hear you.[14]

Justin then used the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, to demonstrate the validity of the Christian faith. Thus, Justin would defend Christ as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. This will be examined further in the Justin’s use of prophetic apologetics.

Justin also demonstrated the inadequacies of Greek worldviews. In Justin’s Second Apology, the apologist writes,

And those of the Stoic school—since, so far as their moral teaching went, they were admirable, as were also the poets in some particulars, on account of the seed of reason [the Logos] implanted in every race of men—were, we know, hated and put to death,—Heraclitus for instance, and, among those of our own time, Musonius and others. For, as we intimated, the devils have always effected, that all those who anyhow live a reasonable and earnest life, and shun vice, be hated.[15]

In the text, Justin uses the worldview of the Greeks pertaining to Heraclitus and Musonius to demonstrate what the Greeks held as a virtuous lifestyle. Justin would show that Christians demonstrated the very virtues that the Greeks held sacred. Justin’s usages of Greek worldviews in his arguments have led some to consider that Justin was not exclusive in his views concerning salvation through Christ. Proponents of this idea hold that Justin believed that salvation came through other means than just Jesus Christ, or, as Adam Sparks would call, a “proto-inclusivist.”[16] While Justin was not as exclusive in his salvific claims as future theologians and apologists, it is agreed with Sparks that “in referring to Socrates and others as ‘atheists’ Justin was merely stating they had something significant in common with Christians.”[17] In fact, Justin would later write in the Second Apology,

And our doctrines are not shameful, according to a sober judgment, but are indeed more lofty than all human philosophy: and if not so, they are at least unlike the doctrines of the Sotadists, and Philænidians, and Dancers, and Epicureans, and such other teachings of the poets, which all are allowed to acquaint themselves with, both as acted and as written.[18]

Justin may have been vague in his claims of Christian exclusivity; however, Justin was explicit in defending the Christian faith as the most rational and reasonable of all worldviews. As a philosopher, Justin Martyr set the standard in philosophical apologetics. Perhaps it was not in Justin’s interest to promote a deep soteriological exegesis as Justin sought to find common ground with unbelievers in order to alleviate Christian suffering.

Some object to the use of philosophy in Christian apologetics for a couple of reasons. One, some reject philosophy in Christian work due to a misinterpretation of Paul’s statement that Christians should not be “taken captive through philosophy and empty deception.”[19]However, an examination of the text demonstrates that Paul was not addressing philosophy in general, but bad philosophy. For Paul goes on to address what the philosophy being addressed involved: “tradition of men…elementary principles of the world…rather than according to Christ.”[20] So, Paul is stating that one should avoid and address bad philosophical claims.

Secondly, some object to philosophy’s use in apologetics due to the belief that faith is all that is necessary and not reason. This objection to reason fails at the outset because the objector uses reason in order to object to the use of reason. Such arguments would claim that faith and reason are greatly opposed. However, faith and reason are not enemies, but companions. Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli demonstrate that,

…faith for a Christian is faith in a God who is himself love, our lover and our beloved; and the more our hearts love someone, the more our minds want to know about our beloved. Faith naturally leads to reason through the agency of love. So faith leads to reason, and reason leads to faith…Thus reason and faith are friends, companions, wedded partners, allies.[21]

Therefore, by nature, apologetics employs the use of logic and reasoning in addition to faith. The combination of faith and reason provide a catalyst for a balanced worldview. While some proclaim faith alone as necessary, and others claim that reason alone is necessary, Kreeft and Tacelli respond by offering another model in what they call,

Partial Overlapping…Most people would agree with us that the fifth position is the most reasonable and correct one. It distinguishes three different kinds of truths:

a. truths of faith and not reason,

b. truths of both faith and reason, and

c. truths of reason and not faith.

…If this is the correct position, it follows that the Christian apologist has two tasks: to prove the propositions in class b and to answer all objections to the propositions in class a.[22]

Hence, the philosophical apologist will desire to employ reason to prepare the way for faith. Justin would do exactly that as Justin defended Christianity’s faith claims against the assaults of those from the Roman Empire (First and Second Apologies) and Orthodox Judaism (Dialogue with Trypho). It is agreed that there are some things that must be taken by faith, such as the descriptions of heaven. However, many things can be known by reason (the historical claims of the faith) and some by a combination of reason and faith (existence of God). Justin would seek to prove the propositions that involved faith and reason, or reason alone, by the other methodologies addressed.

 

Justin’s Historical Apologetic Methodology

 Justin also used what is known as the historical apologetic method. This method “stresses the historical evidence as the basis for demonstrating the truth of Christianity…Historical apologists believe that the truth of Christianity, including the existence of God, can be proven from the foundation of historical evidence alone.”[23] Justin’s use of the historical apologetic method is evidenced in his use of Christ’s historical teachings and his use of evidence for the historical Jesus.

Justin sought to clear up misconceptions that the opponents of Christianity possessed pertaining to the teachings of Christ. In chapters fourteen through fifteen of the First Apology, Justin set out to “cite a few precepts given by Christ Himself. And be it yours, as powerful rulers, to inquire whether we have been taught and do teach these things truly. Brief and concise utterances fell from Him, for He was no sophist, but His word was the power of God.”[24] Justin then gave examples of Christ’s teachings from, primarily, Matthew and Luke’s Gospels. For instance; in chapter fifteen of the First Apology, Justin quoted Matthew 5 presenting Christ’s teaching on lust and divorce; then set out to show that those who practice such things are rejected, but then accepted through Christ’s grace; and quoted Luke 6 and Matthew 6 showing the importance of love for one’s enemies and Christ’s teachings on one who works for heavenly treasures (Matthew 6:19-20).[25] In the sixteenth chapter of the First Apology, Justin continues to demonstrate the historic teachings of Jesus as Justin quotes Christ’s teaching on letting one’s works shine before God as found in Luke 6:29; and then quotes the teachings of Jesus pertaining to swearing oaths before God and working for the glory of God also from Matthew and Luke’s Gospels.[26] Thus, Justin demonstrates the historical basis for the Christian’s moral code: the teachings of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and then by giving examples in how this code of conduct had shaped the early Christians’ lives.

Justin also used the historical apologetic method to demonstrate the historicity of Jesus’ identity. Searches for the historical Jesus have made headlines in modern times. Justin conducted a second-century search for the historical Jesus by presenting evidence that Jesus was a man of history and not an allegory. For instance, Justin points the readers of the “First Apology” to the fact that the teacher of the Christians was,

Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judæa, in the times of Tiberius Cæsar; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove. For they proclaim our madness to consist in this, that we give to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all; for they do not discern the mystery that is herein, to which, as we make it plain to you, we pray you to give heed.[27]

Justin directs the skeptic back to a real, historic person: Jesus of Nazareth. The faith that the Christian held was based upon a person that was the object of their faith. The Romans could easily check their records and find that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed crucified under Procurator Pontius Pilate. Furthermore, Justin would also hold that this “Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man”[28]was also the figure that appeared to many individuals at various times in the Hebrew Bible. The historical Christ was shown to be divine, and that would necessarily demonstrate the existence of God. Therefore, in contrast to the classical apologist, Justin Martyr used historical apologetics to show that Christ’s existence provides evidence for the existence of God.

 

Justin’s Prophetic Apologetic Methodology

 Justin also employed what is termed the prophetic apologetic method.  Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson describe prophetic apologetics as the quotation of “biblical prophecies as evidence of the credibility of the Christian message.”[29] Biblical prophecy is a powerful apologetic. Geisler writes that biblical prophecy is “one of the strongest evidences that the Bible is inspired by God…Unlike any other book, the Bible offers a multitude of specific predictions—some hundreds of years in advance…”[30] If the apologist can demonstrate the Bible’s predictive properties, then it can be shown to some degree that the Bible holds divine inspiration.

Justin Martyr excelled at the use of prophetic apologetics. A. Craig Troxel notes of Justin Martyr that the “form, and the content of his two Apologies, were dominated by an orientation of argumentation fitted to his audience of Jews or Greeks, stressing Old Testament fulfillment with the former, and pagan categories with the latter.”[31] In the Dialogue with Trypho, Liftin notes that Justin “offered many Christian explanations of Old Testament prophecies and defended the divinity of Christ.”[32] Justin defended well the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Jesus in the Dialogue. For instance, in chapter thirty-three, Justin identifies Psalm 110 with Jesus; and in Dialogue chapter thirty-four, Justin identifies Psalm 72 as the king in which Solomon wrote.[33] In the fiftieth chapter of the Dialogue, Justin identifies Isaiah 40, particularly where Isaiah writes “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God,”[34] with John the Baptist.[35] A great deal of time is spent by Justin in the Dialogue identifying Jesus with various prophecies.

Prophetic apologetics is important in connecting Jesus with the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible. LaHaye and Hindson rightfully state that biblical prophecies are “ultimately intended to bring us to a personal point of decision and faith as well. If the Bible predicted these things would happen and they actually did happen, then we must take Jesus’ claims about Himself seriously.”[36] This form of apologetics is especially important when trying to reach those of Jewish descent. It was for this reason that Justin Martyr employed the use of prophetic apologetics in his conversation with Trypho. Trypho was Jewish and accepted the Hebrew Bible. Therefore, Justin wisely met Trypho at a point of agreement to demonstrate the veracity of the faith. It was individuals that were familiar with the Hebrew Bible that would benefit most from Justin’s prophetic apologetics.  

 

Justin’s Experiential Apologetic Methodology

Finally, Justin exercised the experiential apologetic method.  Experiential apologetics is the evidence from one’s own personal experience. One could in a sense call it eyewitness testimony. Norman Geisler defines experiential apologetics as “the form of defending the Christian faith that appeals to Christian experience as evidence for the truth of Christianity. In its appeal to internal, as opposed to external, evidence, it contrasts sharply with other apologetic systems.”[37] Some hold issues with the use of experiential apologetics. For instance, Geisler does not think that evidential apologetics “can demonstrate the truth of Christianity.”[38] Thus the Muslim could claim an experience with God just as much as the Christian and there would exist no means to decipher between the two experiences. However, experiential apologetics can demonstrate evidence by the change in character that comes from the Christian experience. Experiential apologetics is strengthened when supplemented with other more objective forms of apologetics. Justin Martyr does just that.

As noted in the previous portions of the paper, Justin implemented a variety of apologetic methods. Justin’s use of experiential apologetics heightens the defense as one sees that Justin does not merely accept Christianity as a philosophy but as a personal, intimate experience with the Risen Jesus. For instance, Justin tells Trypho,

But straightway a flame was kindled in my soul; and a love of the prophets, and of those men who are friends of Christ, possessed me; and whilst revolving his words in my mind, I found this philosophy alone to be safe and profitable. Thus, and for this reason, I am a philosopher. Moreover, I would wish that all, making a resolution similar to my own, do not keep themselves away from the words of the Saviour…If, then, you have any concern for yourself, and if you are eagerly looking for salvation, and if you believe in God, you may—since you are not indifferent to the matter—become acquainted with the Christ of God, and, after being initiated, live a happy life.”[39]

For Justin, the happiness that was experienced by the apologist was not only a philosophical peace from the intellect; it was an intimate peace stemming from a true relationship with Christ Jesus, the object of the Christian faith. The testimony of Justin makes the defense personal to his readers.

Furthermore, Justin used an experiential apologetic to describe the actions of the apologist’s Christian colleagues. In the First Apology, Justin defends the faith of the Christians in stating that “it is in our power, when we are examined, to deny that we are Christians; but we would not live by telling a lie.”[40] The reader should note the personal pronoun used by the apologist. Justin includes himself among the Christians, the race in whom the apologist sought to defend. The apologist was writing to the Roman Empire. To call such a tactic bold is an understatement. In fact the bravery of Justin is evidenced in the fact that, as Liftin states, “there is no question Justin eventually made his way to the capital city of the empire. There he served as a Christian teacher…”[41] Justin was on the front lines with the Christians. Justin was not writing books from a faraway place unengaged in the affairs of the people. In fact, the apologist was defending Christianity while waving at Rome as if to say, “Come get me if you dare. I belong to Christ.” The bravery of Justin was an experiential apologetic in and of itself.

 

Conclusion

 This paper has evaluated the apologetic methods of Justin Martyr. First, the nature of apologetics was examined and was shown to be multifaceted in his influence. Then, the four apologetic methods used by Justin Martyr were explored. It was shown that Justin Martyr used the philosophical apologetic method. As a philosopher, Justin used philosophy to defend the propositions of faith promoted by Christianity. Also, Justin would defend the reasonability of faith by using the historical apologetic method. Justin demonstrated the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth and the teachings that had impacted the Christians of his day. Justin used the prophetic apologetic method in presenting the Old Testament prophecies that found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Finally, Justin used the experiential apologetic method in showing that Justin had an encounter with the same Jesus that was being defended. Justin also counted himself among those who were giving their lives for the faith.

The modern Christian is encouraged in this paper to employ the same methods used by Justin Martyr. The demand for apologetics is only going to increase as society becomes more and more secularized and virulent against the Christian worldview. In many ways, the modern culture greatly resembles the syncretistic culture of the Roman Empire: a culture that accepted many religions except the Christian faith. But one may ask; do Christian apologetics work? The answer is found in the final response of Trypho to Justin Martyr,

You see that it was not intentionally that we came to discuss these points. And I confess that I have been particularly pleased with the conference; and I think that these are of quite the same opinion as I myself. For we have found more than we expected, and more than it was possible to have expected. And if we could do this more frequently, we should be much helped in the searching of Scriptures themselves.[42]

It is not known whether Trypho eventually came to faith in Jesus. But, from the response given, Trypho’s life had been greatly impacted by Justin’s apologetic methods. Trypho had been searching for answers and found them in the faith of Justin Martyr. The modern Christian may find that there are Tryphos in the current culture that might be equally pleased with the information provided by the modern apologist.

  Justin_Martyr2

Note: Justin Martyr is called a “martyr” for good reason. In A.D. 165, Justin Martyr was executed by beheading in Rome. Many liturgical denominations recognize Justin Martyr on June 1st. May we all be found with the faith and reasoning capabilities of this giant of the faith: Justin Martyr.

Bibliography

 All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd Edition. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Kreeft, Peter and Ronald K. Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994.

LaHaye, Tim and Ed Hindson, “Apologetics, Prophetic.” The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Surveying the Evidence for the Truth of Christianity. Edited by Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner.  Eugene: Harvest House, 2008.

Litfin, Bryan M. Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007.

Martyr, Justin. “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Volume 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

___________. “The First Apology of Justin.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Volume 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

___________. “The Second Apology of Justin.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Volume 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

Smith, Fred. “Apologetics, Philosophical.” The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Surveying the Evidence for the Truth of Christianity. Edited by Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner. Eugene: Harvest House, 2008.

Sparks, Adam. “Was Justin Martyr a proto-inclusivist?” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 43, 4 (September 1, 2008): 495-510. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost. (Accessed April 12, 2014).

Troxel, A. Craig. “‘All Things to All People:’ Justin Martyr’s Apologetic Method.” Fides Et Historia 27, 2 (June 1, 1995): 23-43. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerial, EBSCOhost. (Accessed April 12, 2014).

 

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[1] Norman L. Geisler, “Justin Martyr,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999), 395.

[2] Ibid.

[3]William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd Edition (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 15.

[4] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe,  (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 163.

[5]Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994), 23.

[6] Craig, 16-21.

[7] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 194.

[8] Ibid, 194.

[9] Fred Smith, “Apologetics, Philosophical,” The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Surveying the Evidence for the Truth of Christianity, Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner, eds (Eugene: Harvest House, 2008), 53.

[10] See Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew,” 195-196.

[11]A. Craig Troxel, “‘All Things to All People:’ Justin Martyr’s Apologetic Method,” Fides Et Historia 27, 2 (June 1, 1995): 25.

[12]Ibid, 26.

[13] Craig, 23.

[14] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew,” 208.

[15] Justin Martyr, “The Second Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds(Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 191.

[16] Adam Sparks, “Was Justin Martyr a proto-inclusivist?” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 43, 4 (September 1, 2008): 495.

[17]Ibid, 498.

[18] Justin Martyr, “The Second Apology of Justin,” 193.

[19] Colossians 2:8.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Kreeft and Tacelli, 22.

[22] Ibid, 37.

[23] Geisler, “Historical Apologetics,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, 316.

[24] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” 167.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” 166–167.

[28] Justin Marytr, “Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew,” 264.

[29] Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, “Apologetics, Prophetic,” The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Surveying the Evidence for the Truth of Christianity, 55.

 [30] Geisler, 609.

[31] A. Craig Troxel, “‘All Things to All People:’ Justin Martyr’s Apologetic Method,” Fides Et Historia 27, 2 (June 1, 1995): 28.

[32] Liftin, Bryan M, Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007), 59.

[33] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew,” 211-212.

[34]Isaiah 40:3.

[35] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew,” 220.

[36] LaHaye and Hindson, 58.

[37] Geisler, 235.

[38] Ibid, 237.

[39] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew,” 198.

[40] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” 165.

[41] Liftin, 60.

[42] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew,” 270.

Why Does the Church Resist Apologetics?

paul-mars-hill

Christian apologetics is defined by William Lane Craig as “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith” (Craig 2008, 15).Because of the nature of apologetics defending and promoting the Christian faith, it is understandable that the practice would come under scrutiny. However, one of the greatest adversaries of Christian apologetics stems from an unlikely foe. For the secularist is not the greatest adversary to the apologetic movement and neither is the skeptic. The greatest adversary to the Christian apologetic movement is often the Christian church itself! The very church that apologists defend is the one that seems to, at least in many locations, provide the greatest resistance. But why? There are four excuses that are often given by the apologetic antagonist. In this article, we will examine these reasons and offer some suggestions as to how the budding apologist could enlighten the antagonist as to the need for apologetics IN the modern church. These responses greatly resemble Tim LaHaye’s spiritual temperaments. It could be that these responses stem from those with the temperaments listed by LaHaye.

sparky sanguine

Fear of Offense: “But, you might hurt someone’s feelings!” (Sanguine Temperamental Answer)

Tim LaHaye writes that the extroverted sanguine temperament is “warm, buoyant, lively, and fun-loving…He is receptive by nature, and external impressions easily find their way to his heart, where they readily cause an outburst of response. Feelings rather than reflective thoughts predominate to form his decisions” (LaHaye 1992, 13). When a church member holds a sanguine temperament and knows little about apologetics, her resistance may stem from fear that others will be hurt by the apologetic endeavor. Sanguines do not want to hurt anyone.

The problem is: truth supersedes feelings. When a person is sick, it matters not whether one wants to be sick or not. It matters that the sickness is diagnosed and treated. The apologist will want to approach such a critic in two ways: show the nature of truth and the importance that people know the truth. First, sanguine church members need to know that truth is not based upon feelings. Norm Geisler writes, “Truth is found in correspondence. Truth is what corresponds to its object (referent), whether this object is abstract or concrete. As applied to the world, truth is the way things really are. Truth is ‘telling it like it is'” (Geisler 2011, 84). This description would fit the definition of the biblical term “aletheia” which means “that which is accordance with reality.” “Aletheia” is translated as “truth.” Secondly, sanguine members need to know that if Jesus really is the Son of God and the pathway to heaven (John 14:6), then the most saddening thing that could happen to anyone is that the person is held from the truth…especially seeing that the truth sets one free (John 8:32). Being set free by the truth will cause greater happiness than anything on earth. Truth is far better than patronage.

Rocky Choleric

Fear of Control: “We’ve never done that before. My grandfather didn’t. Why should we?” (Choleric Temperamental Answer)

Another extroverted temperament is the choleric temperament. LaHaye describes those who hold the choleric temperament as “hot, quick, active, practical, and strong-willed…often self-sufficient and very independent…decisive and opinionated, finding it easy to make decisions for himself as well as for others” (LaHaye 1992, 16). Because of the choleric’s active tendencies, you will “rarely…find a predominant Choleric as a surgeon, dentist, philosopher, inventor, or watchmaker…they usually enjoy construction work…” (LaHaye 1992, 19). When it comes to the church, the choleric temperamental person may not see the practicality of defending the faith. He might say, “This church has been in operation for the past 100 years.” Yep, here it comes…”We’ve never done that before. Why should we now?” (Many of you in church work have probably heard that line many times before with different issues.)

When it comes to the choleric temperament, the apologist may have a more difficult time reaching him since he is so independent. A note of caution must be given concerning one with a choleric temperament. It may be that if a choleric is in leadership (which is likely since the choleric is a natural born leader), the apologist will want to ensure the choleric leader that the apologetics in no way threatens his leadership.

Also, the apologist will want to demonstrate the changes in culture. Approaches that worked in the 1950s no longer apply in the 21st century. As Paul wrote, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). By demonstrating the need, the choleric will most likely hop on board with the program. The really cagey apologist will want to make the choleric think that adding apologetics was his own idea. In such a case, the ministry would be sure to succeed.

Another note needs to be added: some entire congregations hold a choleric temperament. These churches have often become so entrenched with a particular culture that it may be impossible to infiltrate. This is true of those in ultra-fundamentalist and ultra-liberal circles. In such cases, a particular culture is promoted over the Bible. I have heard stories where church members were shown that certain church practices were unbiblical. The members responded, “We don’t care what the Bible says. This is the way we’re going to do things around here.” In such cases, the apologist would be wise to leave such a place to begin an apologetic ministry elsewhere. Unfortunately, such churches will not be able to survive outside their culture.

Martin Melancholy

Fear of Scholarship: “Reason is not necessary. Only faith is required.” (Melancholy Temperamental Answer)

The introverted melancholy temperament is one who is the “richest of all temperaments, for he is analytical, self-sacrificing, gifted, perfectionist type, with a very sensitive emotional nature” (LaHaye 1992, 22). To make matters more difficult with a melancholy apologetic antagonist is that “most of the world’s greatest composers, artists, musicians, inventors, philosophers, theoreticians, theologians, scientists, and dedicated educators have been predominantly Melancholies” (LaHaye 1992, 24). For this reason, I would dare say that most Christian melancholies would be on board with apologetics. In fact, I would not be surprised if most of those engaged in apologetics would fit the melancholic temperament. However, since melancholies tend to be perfectionists with a high-end for research, it may be that the melancholy that is antagonistic to apologetics may hold a distrust for science, philosophy, and reason itself.

The apologist would need to set forth a program showing that reason and faith are partners and not enemies. Millard Erickson provides three models concerning the relationship of faith and reason:

1. Christology from above is basically fideistic…it draws heavily upon the thought of Soren Kirkegaard. According to this position, our knowledge of Jesus’ deity is not grounded in any historically provable facts about his earthly life. It is a faith based upon the faith of the apostles as enunciated in the kerygma.

2. Conversely, Christology from below is primarily Thomistic. It attempts to demonstrate the supernatural character of Christ from historical evidences. Hence, the deity of Christ is not a presupposition but a conclusion of the process…

3. There is another possible model, namely, the Augustinian. In this model, faith precedes but does not remain permanently independent of reason. Faith provides the perspective or starting point from which reason may function, enabling one to understand what otherwise could not be understood (Erickson 1998, 690).

 

While I do not know that I agree that Thomism is a reason alone system (maybe more Aristotelian), Erickson shows that faith and reason in the Augustinian model can be partners in one’s exploration of truth. The apologist will want to share the compatability of reason and faith. In addition, the apologist will need to enlighten the melancholic antagonist to the wealth of evidence that exists for the Christian faith.

Phil Phlegmatic 

Fear of Unknown: “We already know all we need to know. No use upsetting the apple-cart.” (Phlegmatic Temperamental Answer)

Finally, there is the other introverted temperament known as the phlegmatic. The phlegmatic is one that is “calm, cool, slow, easy-going, well-balanced” (LaHaye 1992, 26). The phlegmatic is “annoyed by—and often confront—the aimless, restless enthusiasm of the Sanguine…ridicule—the gloomy moods of the Melancholy…delight in throwing ice water on the bubbling plans and ambitions of the Choleric…” (LaHaye 1992, 27). The phlegmatic antagonist is likely to say, “We already know what God wants us to know.” Or, “If people don’t want to be a Christian, you’re not going to make them one.” In other words, the phlegmatic antagonist doesn’t want to be bothered. At the root of these excuses may be a sincere problem of insecurity. Perhaps the antagonist fears that she does not possess the necessary qualifications to learn apologetics. Let’s be honest. Apologist: not everyone can go as deep in apologetics as you might be able to travel. For a person who only holds a high-school education…or one who may have even quit high-school…reading books by individuals who hold multiple doctorates like William Lane Craig and Oxford professor John Lennox would be intimidating to say the least.

The apologist would need to assure the phlegmatic that the apologist will be with them every step of the way. The apologist will be there to help them understand the difficulties that come. It may not be that everyone will be an elite apologetic Special Forces soldier. However, assure them that they at least need to be in the Christian apologetic army.

Conclusion

This article has offered four excuses that are often given by church members who are antagonistic to Christian apologetics. More excuses may be offered than just the four given. The apologist needs to understand that people in the church come from various backgrounds. Some may have faced some things that have rocked their faith. It could be that their faith is holding only by a thread. Others may have such a distrust of society that it may be difficult for them to open up to any form of scholarship. It is important for the Christian apologist to maintain patience with such individuals. Whether they know it or not…they need you. In fact…the modern church desperately needs you. That is why God called you to be a Christian apologist.

tl_why you act the way you do

Temperament pictures belong to Tim LaHaye from his book Why You Act the Way You Do. All rights reserved.

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd Edition. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

LaHaye, Tim. Spirit-Controlled Temperament. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 1992.