Christianity and Apologetics
The word apologetics comes from the ancient Greek court, where defendants were given the right to answer or speak off the charge brought against them. Plato's Apology gives classic expression which the aged Socrates accused of corrupting the morals of Athens' youth saying "Never mind the manner, which may or may not be good; but think only of the truth of my words, and give heed to that: let the speaker speak truly and the judge decide justly"
Peter was perhaps thinking of such a defense when he urged Christians to "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence"
Christian apologetics is not an academic defense but the science, or art of presenting the Christian faith in a rational way. Alister McGrath (1992:9-10) said that the 'chief goal of Christian apologetics is to create an intellectual and imaginative climate conductive to the birth and nurture of faith'
Cornelius Van Til distinguished the fundamental distinction between God's knowledge and human knowledge. 'Every form of intellectual argument rests, in the last analysis, upon one or the other of two basic presuppositions. The non-christian's process of reasoning rests upon the presupposition that man is the final or ultimate reference point in human predication. The Christian's process of reasoning rests upon the presupposition that God, speaking through Christ by his Spirit in the infallible Word, is the final or ultimate reference point in human predication'. (Dyrness, p.61)
Christian apologetics is a defending the existence of God to a practical atheist (Ps14),
and recognizing general corruption of mankind ( Rom 3.23), and affirming the Omniscient, Omnipresent of God. (Acts17.24-28)
Christian apologetics is also defending of the Lordship, and Kingship, and Pristhood of Jesus Christ. 'Christ must be the ultimate authority over our philosophy, our reasoning, and our argumentation-not just at the end, but at the beginning, of the apologetic endeavor. An ultimate commitment to Christ covers the entire range of human activity, including every aspect of intellectual endeavor.' (Vantil, p.2)
Our apologetic method, not merely our apologetic conclusions, should be controlled by the word of Jesus Christ. Christian in the ancient world encountered a lot of accusations and the Christian message was a stumbling block to Jews and to Greeks. (1Cor1.23) But they were sure what they spoke while we say there is no absolute truth. "The Bible is true for me, but may not be true for you" (Vantil, p.28)
The followers of Christ in the early Church stood firm on His own categorical claim:
John14, 6; 8.31-32; 11.25; Acts 4.12. However, Christian apologetics in this modern age faced a great challenge internally by Christian theologians and externally by religious pluralism not because of the major religion's challenging but because of the unlimited tolerance of the western church toward other religions.
I think Western Christiandom has common expressions; mere Christian, canal Christian, nominal christian, institunalized church, theology without Christ,extrimist in its theology, lack of sound doctrine, lack of church discipline, lack of leadership, lost of the primecy mission work, and materialism, modernization, post-modernism, philosophical streams, social changes, secularlism ets.
Stepping into twenty century, Christianity has being challenged of its prevailing cultures in Europe, and, now this new millennium it challenging not only the Christian religion but even the uniqueness of the founder of the religion is being tasted.
If it was a moral, social challenge in the twenty-century, now in this new millennium, the uniqueness of the person of Jesus Christ in the stage of testing. I think, first, the Christianity in Europe was tasted by State Church, and secondly by it's subordinated people (so called western's mission field), and thirdly Christian itself.
I met one young zealous Swiss Christian in 1998 before the “Seoul Olympic Game”.
I have been accompanying him unto various church meetings in Korea. He was requesting to Korean Christians to send missionary to Europe. I told him not to lying because we all know Europe is Christian continent. Not only reformation took place in Europe but all the famous music, paintings, architectures and sculptures found by European Christian. Cultural life means was being European. Even Christian mission originated by William Carry, Hudson Taylor and C.T Stud. However he took a great deal of labor to convincing me saying it has been true in the past but not now.
One year later I start to recognize my friend’s illustration was true. Most great cathedral church became cultural or tourist center, Christian culture has changed unto secular culture and most Christians became nominal. Christian moral life has torn down by divorce, broken family, drug addict, free sex and abortion.
Many Europeans don’t know the Christ even they describe themselves as Christian.
They don’t go to church either because they don’t want to go or because no need to go to church because it has no program. Go to church three times in a life was common joke.
Of course they do not know the Bible, and their view on God is distorted, they think they are Christian because they were born in Basel or any other cities of Europe, baptized, paying tax and they will be buried by church funeral.
Many European recognize that the State Church drove out people to other religions or secular life not to preaching the gospel or teach wrong theology by well-paid pastors and well-educated theologians. Robison saying the effect of strong State Churches in the most dominant protestant countries have been to disguise the separation between faith and culture.
People seem to feel that the payment of the church tax guarantee the services of the church when they are needed for such matters as weddings and funerals, without anyone actually having to attend…It is as if the church in these situations has baptized the new culture of the West in a way that fails to recognize that the new culture can no longer be identified with the Christian faith. To be baptized in such a manner says more about being a citizen of a particular country than it does about person’s actual beliefs.’
The system of State churches created a huge nominal Christian society. People have no daily personal commitment to Christian teaching and religious faith became a highly personal mater. Nominal Christianity rejects personal morality. People no longer live by moral standard but live by how they feel. ‘Something is true if it feels right. If it feels right, we should believe and act on it-choices-the will-follow emotion’ (Phil Hill, p.4)
‘With the growth of a multi-cultural society the Bible is no longer taught in schools. With the collapse of traditional morality people no longer agree what is right or wrong’
(Ibid, p. 11)
Many new free churches are planting in Europe now, but the passionate proclamation of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord are missing. People attempt to cure the broken people by psychological treatment or counseling but message of repent should be preached because main problem is not mental but sin in human life.
An old couple came to me when I was in North Carolina Presbyterian Church saying;
“ I never seen the non-western missionary even I heard a lot”. It is still true the Western church is acting in Christian mission, but I see their role of mission is changing. Traditional way of mission, evangelizing, preaching and church planting have changing into English teaching, agriculture or social works. Even the boundary which the Western mission have long roots are limiting to the western missionary.
Strong nationalism in Asia and Africa are hostile to Western people, even ecclesiastical models are replaced by indigenous way.
‘Nationalism basically a reaction against the West, against foreign and colonial dominance, and therefore- in a measure, and in certain cases-against that religion which came in with the West and was regarded by some as one of those destroying acids that corrupted the substance of national life and character’ (Neill, p. 417)
‘Western churches have often been rather paternalistic in their attitudes toward the churches in Asia and Africa, and bear the stamp of “ecclesiastical colonialism”’.
After the second World War Christian West lost its predominant Christian witness in many parts of the world. People in India, Africa recognized that the West was both deliverer and destroyer; therefore white man was both friend and foe. This created nationalism in Asia and Africa. They don’t see the West and its religion anymore ideological or superior to learn and follow, rather started to see their religion’s values, which have more long historical tradition. Now they built their own cultural religious tradition into the heart of “Christendom”
When I was in Cambridge last summer I was able to stay student’s dormitory. There were number of students from Asia and Africa. They were all cook by themselves. Most of them were young clever students for Ph. D course. Kitchen was open to everybody. I saw one couple from Bangladeshi was eating with their fingers. I heard but never seen. I was astonished to see such a couple in twenty first century using their primitive (we thought) way in the heart of British cultural and educational center without adjusting modern culture. I asked how could you eat by fingers in the Cambridge. Don’t you like to learn Western modern culture which we all Asian are following? He was telling me” we heard a lot of good Christian culture in Europe but when we came here we saw same problems of moral civil life and nobody forcing us to follow British way. We are absolutely free. We don’t see anything better than our Hindu culture. However the warden was a PhD students to go to missionary and it was not allow to have official prayer meeting there while other African and Japanese Christian asked to me to have.
Nationalism caused to bring pluralism when its make friendship with secularism.
According to Stephen Neill “the real enemy is secularism”. The American Laymen’s Foreign Mission Enquiry, entitled “Rethinking Mission” influenced by the chairman the eminent philosopher W.E. Hocking brought a new view about the other religions. The function of a missionary is to help the adherents of those religions to discover their traditions and bring social reform and religious expression. This view expressed in the word “tolerance” and it became popular among religious world.
‘Tolerance was coming to the most popular of all virtues, and conversion to be regarded as but one phenomenon of religious experience’ (Neill, p. 419)
There is no more absolute truth, every truth is relative, and it is impolite to bring religion among common conversation. It is intolerance to try proselyte, minorities culture and religion and language must protected actually its attracted by European because Christian religion has failed to show its superior over moral and spiritual life therefore European must go out religion hunting. Someone said “ other’s cake looks bigger than mine” or “neighbor’s grass always green than ours”. Western people must know they have solemn truth and it should not, and can't, exchange with other religions.
A Pluralist View
John Hick, even he was grown up mostly conservative circle as well as powerful conversion experience, he became a pluralist through his circumstance and experience with other religious people.
His doubt come first during the World War II like most European not seeing the Soverienty of God or His providence upon Israel but misunderstanding of God's love.
'The teaching of Jesus were utterly incompatible with the mass violence of war'
And then, 1) doubting God's supernatural power over creatures (Joshua 10.13)
2) Continued the Incarnation of Jesus Christ through Virgin Birth
3) The authority of Scripture doubting how the collection of documents written during a period of about a thousand years by different people in different historical and cultural situations
4) Limiting God's activity in the Old Testament among Israel. Religious faith is distingush by religious experience
5) Doubting even the New Testament, four Gospel, and other intentionaly developed by Christian community after Jesus death.
6) Generalling "Son of God" title of Messiah
7) Then he became pluralist during his time at Birmingham. Through his experience with other religious group, he denounced the "Uniqueness of Christ" rather took the view a religious point of view basically the same thing is going on in all of them, namely, human beings coming together within the frame work of open their hearts and minds to God, whom they believe makes a total claim on their lives and demands of them, in the words of one of the prophets. (Mic 6.8)
8) Doubting the Christian moral superiority over other religion, mixed same;;; moral life in all the religious based upon civilizations.
9) Finaly generalized the salvation. 'it seems clear that salvation is taking place within all of the world religions' (p.43)
Hindusim is a religion of varity of beliefs among the Indian peoples. K S Sen in his book, Hindusim, say: 'the number of paths to the One Infinite is nececessarily infinite… there is in it monism, dualism, monothesim, polytheism, pantheism'. (Goldsmith, p.65)
In Hinduism there is no absolute or exclusive truth. Therefore they are very tolerant of people who have different approaches to religion but intolerant of the people of any belief in an absolute truth. Western thinking has been much influenced by these beliefs, and rejects any absolute claims to truth. 'Tolerance is more important than truth' (Goldsmith, p.65)
Raymond Hammer described Hinduism as: 'Hinduism has no founder and no prophet. It has no particular ecclesiastical or institutional structure nor set creed. The emphasis is on the way of living rather than on a way of thought. Hindism is more a culture than a creed. (Burnett, p. 71)
'It is a vast jungle of religious cults, sects, institutions and tendencies, including every possible variation of human religious expression.'( Kraemer, p. 159)
The obstacles to evangelism
a) Became Christian means becoming Western who invaded, conquered and colonised them.
b) Jesus is a reincarnation of Vishnu, the Hindu god who is the sustainer and preserver of all things
c) They believe all ways eventually lead to God, so no need to turn to Christ from Hinduism.
d) A life of genuine sacrifice and service is more than 'a thousand words of preaching'
The dominent conception of religion in Hinduism is the social one, and they are defending of traditional culture and religion, not because they are truth, but because they are the natonal heritage. It is important to explain to Hindu how the Church - the body of Christin – unitedly functioning without the neglecting of the dividual's gift. Conception of the body of Christ is more wider than Hindu's social religious group solidarity.
The most challengable religion to Christianity and one of rapid growing religion worldwidely. Allah and Islam for Europe is their goal. The mosques are everywhere in Europe. European are tolerate to Islam in their continent but Islam are intolerate in their teritories. Make Islam the religion of the world is their mission from God while the Christian are neglecting the supreme command of our Lord Jesus Christ to preach the gospel to the whole world. Mt 28
Their origin back to Abraham and Ishmael, and honor Hagar(Gen 21.9-21; 21.14)
Central to Islam is its founder, Mohammed who was born in AD 570 in Mecca and his teachings spread out beginning around AD 622. The Arabs were mainly animists until Mohammed's superfical teaching about Old Testament has changed them
Mohammed spent a lot of time in meditation, fasting and prayer. It is said that the Angel Gabriel visited him in a cave in Mount Hera and there called and commissioned him to worn the people about the judgement of God. He was known as the prophet of God as well as political leader, but he did not accept the death of Christ and the resurrection of Jesus. Through his preaching, his political influence and the might of his army, Islam spread throught the region and became one of the greatest religion in he world.
The Koran which followers claim given to them directed by God is the holy book. They deny the Trinity and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They reject the Sonship of Jesus.They believe that the Koran was the final revelation from God to humanity and do not see Jesus as the fulfilment of law and the prophets.
The five pillars of the Muslims
Prayer and devotion
Recite 'there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His Apostle'
Fasting in the month of Ramadan
Haj or pilgrimage to Mecca
To help Muslims, to cultivate a genuine friendship is important and gradually show the God's love rather than judgemnt. It is also important to show them the root of Human problem is sin, and Christ is the mediator( 1Tim 2.5)
Buddhism shares many basic ideas with Hinduism because it emerged in India from the same roots. They share the doctrines of karma and of reincarnation. In Hinduism it is the self which is reincarnated, while in Buddhism it is our karma which goes on from life to life; it is our good or bad works which have eternal consequences. In Buddhism Nirvana is the indescribable state of neither being nor non-being.
To witness to Buddhist, it is important to explain that we are created by God's image and called to live together with other human in relational rather than to escape from the society to achive salvation. Principle of the kingdom of God in the teaching of Jesus Christ implicated social relationship and Jesus himself taught and left examples.
Christianity is not the religion of isolation but it is religion of social which is the principle of God's creation. Nature is not the subject we respect but object we can subdue.
To make effective Christian apologetics, I think, the apologist must know the audience and have a clear conversion experience with right attitute, and know the Saviour and His work. It is not easy to find out the common ground in this diverse cultural societiesc therefore apologist should have proper attitute to know his audience. To know the audience sitting, listening, asking, understanding, reading and answering is important.
Without one's clear conversion experience apologetics can be only rhetorical speech and the apologist may not have right attitute of gentleness, integrity, humility and affirmation.
Christian apologetics, more than anything else, Christ shoud be a centre of conversation from the beginning and till the end. Amen
Greg L Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic, 1998, Publishing
Phil Hill, The Church of the third Millennium, 1999, Patermoster Press, Great Britain
Philip, Mohabir, Worlds within Reach-cross cultural witness, 1992, Great Britain, Hodder and Stoughton
William Dyrness, Christian Apologetucs in a World community, 1973, USA, IVP