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Pastor's Corner

August 2018

Christian Apologetics:

Why Should We Care?

Do you know what I mean when I use the word “apologetics”? It may not be a word that we use all the time in our everyday conversations, but it has great significance for you, whether you know it or not. Apologetics is the discipline of defending the Christian faith—your Christian faith. I don’t mean “defending” in the sense of deploying armed soldiers to protect Christians from bodily harm. I mean defending the truth of Christian claims against those who deny them.

For example, atheists often argue that we Christians have as much basis for our belief in the Holy Trinity as one might have for an invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM). Who’s to say that the creator of heaven and earth is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, on the one hand, or the FSM, on the other? They’re both invisible. Both have to be accepted by faith, not reason. (By the way, there is an actual Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose adherents, called Pastafarians, enjoy official recognition in some countries. They exist simply to make the point that Christianity has no more legitimate a claim to truth then they do.) If the FSM is invisible, his existence cannot be disproved any more than the existence of the God of Christianity. So what’s the difference?

Christian apologetics proceeds from the conviction that there actually is a difference between faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ versus faith in an invisible flying spaghetti monster. There are compelling philosophical reasons for believing in the existence of an eternal, omnipotent creator, and there is compelling evidence for believing that Jesus Christ is in fact God in the flesh. Christian faith doesn’t mean believing in the absence of evidence. It means taking God at His Word and trusting Him personally. And the God who demands our trust has given us ample reason to trust Him.

Jesus was critical of the Jews of His day for demanding a sign. St. Mark the Evangelist records, “The Pharisees came and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven to test Him. And He sighed deeply in His spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation’” (Mark 8:11–12). This seems to indicate that Jesus expected His followers to trust Him blindly, without any reason for doing so. Consider also Jesus’ appearance to Thomas: “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29). Jesus implies that Thomas should have believed in His resurrection without physical evidence.

But consider how St. Matthew adds to St. Mark’s account of the Pharisees’ demand of a sign: “He answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’” (Matthew 12:39 – 40). What is the “sign of Jonah”? It’s the resurrection of Jesus on the third day! The resurrection is the sign, a reason to believe that Jesus is who He said He was. And consider what was happening when Jesus chided Thomas for needing to see to believe: Jesus was actually appearing before him in the flesh, inviting him to touch His wounds! And we believe on the basis of the Apostles’ testimony to what they saw with their own eyes. We have reasons for believing.

I would like to take the next few months to address various approaches to apologetics. We will start with some general arguments for the existence of God, then zero in on actual evidence for the resurrection and divinity of Jesus. Through it all, we should remember that it is the Holy Spirit who calls us to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, since our faith is real, it has made a real impact on the world, and there is great value in considering the signs that God has actually given us, signs that He expects us to use in defending our faith against attack. You have good reasons for being a Christian!

Amen

Pastor Neuendorf

 

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