by Rev. Ian Pacey
Going to college this year? How is your Christian apology? In daily conversation, the word apology almost always means an expression of regret for some misdeed. However, the term as used in Holy Scripture means to provide an answer, a reasoned response, or a defense. The intent here is to provide the briefest of overviews. The Higher Things Magazine spring 2012 issue will be featuring an entire array of articles on the subject of apologetics and it will be there that we delve into more specifics.
The best known use of apology comes to us in 1 Peter 3:15 which reads, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense [an “apology”] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”
In these words, God calls Christians to be prepared to make an apology or defense whenever the appropriate circumstances arise. So how is this done? It is one thing to know what we have been called to do. It is another to know how to do it.
The Best Response: the Gospel
The best response to the question concerning the hope we Christians have is nothing less than the Biblically revealed truth concerning human sin (the Law) and the forgiveness of sin for Jesus’ sake (the Gospel). It really is that simple. Why do Christians have hope? Christians have hope because Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has atoned for the sins of the world!
As we all know, not everybody who hears the Law and the Gospel believes immediately or ever, for that matter. Fundamentally, all unbelief is the result of human sin. In practice, the reason for unbelief is as different as the people who do not believe. Some may not believe because they have been taught some falsehood. Others may not believe because they have personally created falsehoods to distance themselves from God. In both cases, the only way to help the unbeliever dig out the error is to dialogue with them; to be willing to answer and ask questions of those who reject Christian truth claims.
Questions for Christians
Most questions for Christians from unbelievers fall into three major categories:
Questions for Unbelievers
At this point, in addition to responding to questions, Christians need to be able to ask serious, probing questions of the unbeliever. For example, in response to the question of God’s existence, Christians might bring up the question of why anything exists. In some cases, people believe the universe sprang up from nothing (practically a miracle). In other cases, people suggest an eternally existing universe (so the issue is not eternal existence, but what or who exists eternally). There are many important questions to be asked in the area of ethics. Most people believe in the existence of good. How do we know what is good (or evil) without God? The number of questions can make your head spin.
Putting it all together
A full apologetic for the truthfulness of the Christian Faith, in support of the Gospel, needs to have both questions and answers at work. In both the answering and asking of questions (as Law), the power of false belief is undermined. We know that the Law does not bring anyone to the Faith. Nevertheless, the work of the Law is the divinely created forerunner to hearing and believing the Good News of forgiveness in Jesus Christ which, in the end, is the goal of all of our apologies.
Rev. Ian Stewart Pacey was born and raised in Orange County, California. He holds degrees from U.C.L.A. (B.A.), Concordia Theological Seminary (M. Div.), and Drew University (M. Phil.). Rev. Pacey serves as campus pastor at the University of Arizona, Tucson Arizona.