doctrine

Apologetics inside the church

Kim Dale is a Pressy minister in Queensland, he does a fair bit of thinking on apologetics, and in particular the issue of worldviews. He was essentially converted through apologetic dialogue with a Christian. He’s our guest lecturer today. These are my notes – unless indicated they are rough or direct quotes from Kim.

Apologetics: The written and spoken defense of the Gospel where there is opposition, and it’s done in love.

This definition prevents apologetics just being “argument” for argument’s sake. There may be times when it might seem like that.

On Walk Up Evangelism: One of the drawbacks is that you don’t actually want to get engaged for a long time – we need to think about the relationship between apologetics and evangelism. There’s an organic relationship between apologetics and evangelism.

We have to be ready and prepared to give answers – but we need to be doing that in a loving way.

Francis Schaeffer, in The Mark of the Christian calls love “the final apologetic” – if we aren’t demonstrating love then we may get really frustrated in the attempt of sharing the Gospel. Schaeffer says we need to be able to give the message of the gospel and be prepared to actually give it when the situation arrives. Schaeffer uses John 17.

Apologetics needs to take place, where possible, in a community of Christians – there needs to be some exposure to the nature of Christian relationships and Christian people in order to see the genuineness of Christian love. That’s part of the deal of apologetics. Sometimes it may seem artificial to get people involved. Even if it seems that way at first they need to see the genuine love of God – which is often beyond us as individuals.

There can be situations where we don’t want to bring anybody to our churches – because of the presence of hypocrisy – where all our arguments will, as a general rule, fail on the basis of love.

There might be times where what you’re going to do, so far as apologetics is concerned, is just show love. Rather than rehashing old arguments. Getting to know people and where they’re coming from is a good move. We can get overly defensive or offensive when it comes to the gospel.

Where do we do it?

Normally we would think of apologetics as something we do outside the church, with non-believers. But we have to defend the gospel in the church. It has an important place inside the church. The overwhelming amount of information available in modern culture can be overpowering. We have to expose ourselves to this information, and it can be enjoyable. But we have to be prepared to take a break.

The religious and philosophical scheme is so diverse that it’s inevitable that the church is effected on the inside by what is happening on the outside. We need to defend the faith from the pulpit – people within the life of the church will doubtless call on you to make such a defense.

We’re to be “on guard,” but it’s not just defense – we need to be prepared to correct or destroy ideas (in love) to dismantle and break down harmful ideas both within and without. There’s “knowledge” that sets itself up against God. And that has to be dealt with. Sometimes these moves should be in public (and we see books published addressing anti-God arguments). There is an offensive strategy that we need to embrace.

Part of apologetics is clarifying other people’s thinking for them – asking “how can you make the judgment?” and “on what basis?” Get people to question basic assumptions.

Areas where having thought about apologetics have helped Kim.

  1. Going through the membership vows – and the person says “I believe that, but I also believe in reincarnation”… where do you go from there?
  2. Some people wanting to become members said “we used to belong to the Presbyterian Church, my wife taught Sunday School”… and in going through things like the divinity of Christ and they say “yes, in the same way that I’m divine too, as a son of God.” Where do you go if they’re not going to change on those positions. You explain the faith, and you deal with the consequences.
  3. When receiving an email after a sermon that said “when you were preaching there was a halo around you and three angels standing behind you” and then went on with a bunch of numerology stuff…
  4. God can’t act until we pray” said from the pulpit when doing prayer in the morning.

What if he’d said “yes” to all of those – you need to make sense and be doctrinally consistent. That’s the necessity of apologetics inside the church. We need to have some interactions with the other ideas that are out there.

How do you deal with people when you know they have odd ideas?

Try to get to know them, outside of the Sunday morning context, get them in a situation where they’re learning (eg a Growth Group), it can, for individuals, take a tragedy or difficulty and you being there pastorally.

Theological Smackdown: The end is the beginning is the end

The last few weeks of Westminster Confession of Faith classes (WCFC) left me feeling a little bit like Hulk Hogan at a press conference…

We’ve changed the order somewhat due to the absence of our venerated leader, who for some reason decided that stuff about end times would be less controversial than stuff about the sacraments.

He was wrong. The chapters on the state of men after death and the resurrection and the one on the Last Judgment ended up being pretty heated.

The judgment study got bogged down in the question of whether Christians go through the process of judgment to be found innocent – or if we skip the process altogether.

It was a case of the one proof text verse the many proof texts – and both sides of the debate walked away thinking they’d won and the other side were idiots.

Our group features some John Macarthur fanboys (surely a breed as rabid as my posse of Mark Driscoll fanboys), who are very rigidly stuck on the idea that dispensational premillennialism is the only way to understand end times.

I’m not one of them. They told me I don’t understand Revelation. Or the Bible. I told them that Calvin was an amillenialist. It got a little ugly.

For some reason they also hold Revelation to be the most important book of the Bible. It’s like a trump card that can be played to render all perspicuous passages of Scripture relating to the same topic unclear at the sake of a fringe interpretation of a complex book.

The millennium sure is a curious little issue to think about – but at the end of the day it’s not a salvation issue. And we have freedom to disagree.

I think it matters though – because it’s the vocal fringe that brand Christianity as a bunch of crazies – and if you have a look at Christian cults – you’ll find that most of them subscribe to a premillennial eschatology. This may or may not be a strawman.

I just think they’re wrong. My thinking, like Dave’s about Christianity, comes from my parents. Check out dad’s most excellent sermon series on Revelation to see what I think about the millennium and the book of Revelation spelled out…

I think we get into trouble when we disregard the style a book is written in when we’re looking to it for meaning. That’s part of looking at context.

I got angry when I read this list of reasons Superman is better than Jesus because the guy took a verse (Luke 19:27) from a parable about a king out of context and applied it to Jesus.

Revelation 1 – “Witness Protection”MP3

Revelation 2-3 – “To Him Who Overcomes”MP3

Revelation 4-5 – “Who is Worthy?”MP3

Revelation 6-7 – “When are we going to get there?”MP3

Revelation 12 – “Defeating the Accuser”MP3

Revelation 13-14 – “The Power – or the Passion?”MP3

Revelation 15-16 – “Exodus Again”MP3

Revelation 17-18 – “The End of the Scarlet Harlot”MP3

Revelation 19 – “Onward Christian Soldiers?”MP3

Revelation 20 – “Pit Stop”MP3

Revelation 21-22 “Coming Home”MP3

One of the things that Willows Pressy doesn’t do that MPC does really nicely is the sermon outline and pithy title. I like the structure a sermon outline provides for my listening – even if it’s just so I know how long the guy up the front will keep talking for – I assume listeners to my sermons feel the same way…

It’s all Greek to me

Robyn and I are taking on a few “extra curricular” activities this year. We’ve stepped back from leading Adventure Club – the Friday night kid’s club we ran with a great team last year, and our church activities are largely focused on preparation for bible college at some stage in the not too distant future.

We’re using this year to get a competitive advantage on people we’re studying with. That’s what bible college is all about…

On top of the regular preaching gig at church that I think I already mentioned (I’m preaching this Sunday morning) we’re also trying to learn some New Testament Greek – also known as Koine Greek – and we’re looking at one of the Presbyterian Church’s fundamental doctrinal statements (what the Presbyterian Church believes) – the Westminster Confession of Faith (that’s a link to the Confession of Faith itself). Last night was our first bite of the Westminster Confession cherry.

Here’s a snippet from the Wikipedia entry on the Westminster Confession of Faith

“The Church of Scotland had recently overthrown its bishops and adopted presbyterianism (see Bishops’ Wars). For this reason, as a condition for entering into the alliance with England, the Scottish Parliament formed the Solemn League and Covenant with the English Parliament, which meant that the Church of England would abandon episcopalianism and consistently adhere to Calvinistic standards of doctrine and worship. The Confession and Catechisms were produced in order to secure the help of the Scots against the king.”

We’ve also had our first little Greek lesson from Dave Walker – so far I’ve learned the alphabet and Robyn is on to more advanced learning of words and stuff. She’s a pretty dilligent little worker. Here’s what I know so far…

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