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January 2010

Apologetics : Why your church needs it

A Just Thinking Article from J.M. Njoroge on the role of apologetics in the local church. Here are a few excerpts:

"Even among those who do understand what apologetics is and why it is important, there are some who suspect that it is reserved for a select minority among the elect—perhaps just for those with a questioning mind, or for an intellectual elite. Tertullian’s famous question, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” echoes loudly in the hearts and minds of many a follower of Jesus in our time, with the resounding answer being “nothing.” The explosion of knowledge has made it possible for different people legitimately to focus on specific areas at the exclusion of others. This has complicated the process of cooperation among experts in different fields of study, the result being that often the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Thus, for example, it is possible for a local church to function without apologetics."

"For example, within the context of apologetics, Paul’s practice of reasoning from the Scriptures when in discussion with Jews about the identity of Jesus is well known. But as we see in Acts 17, Paul was willing to depart from this practice when he debated the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens: he started from where they were in order to introduce the Gospel to them. He could not reason from the Scriptures with them since they, unlike the Jews, did not accept the authority of the Scriptures."

"The fact that the mind is an intensely active spiritual battlefield is seen in the large number of young people whose faith is shaken when they encounter ideas that challenge the truth of God’s Word. This is a familiar story on many university campuses. Biblical thinking can only regain the respectability it once had by making its case in the marketplace of ideas. When reasoned discourse takes a backseat in any culture (and reasoned discourse in turn is only possible in the context of a shared assumption that truth exists and can be discerned), the only alternative is the exercise of raw power. This is clearly seen in the priority given to court cases in the so-called culture wars without an equal emphasis on shaping public opinion through a reasoned defense of biblically sound positions."

"It is often said that ideas have consequences. Such a maxim can only benefit us as we determine not to allow it to degenerate into a meaningless cliché. If we lose the next generation to secularism, other religions, and paganism, it is not going to be because we fought and lost the battle, but because we never entered the battlefield in the first place. God has given us all we need in order to serve Him effectively in this world, and our minds are an integral part of the process."

"In a different context, Richard Mouw uses the metaphor of the hospital emergency room to make a similar point. The emergency room is a place of much activity and haste. The moment the ambulance pulls in, life decisions have to be made, with no time to waste. But the only reason why the medical experts succeed in saving lives in the midst of the haste and urgency is because medical researchers have already spent countless hours in the labs, conferences, lecture halls, and the library.

Unfortunately, Africa is like an emergency room with a real need for hasty action and urgent care. But there is very little research at the ideological level to back up the ambulance drivers. Physical and medical needs cannot be denied, but until we recognize that the application of God’s Word to all areas of life is still the final answer to the human predicament this side of the grave, the solution to Africa’s problems will continue to elude us. The Word of God is still the answer, but it must be understood at the worldview level if we are to break down the structures of mental slavery that have oppressed so many for so long."

Foundations of Apologetics Curriculum