Several days ago, I received a very interesting transcript of a class that a dear friend of mine taught. Joe is a wonderful man – witty, intellectual, kind and very engaged in matters of faith. He is a great teacher and each time I head east to the Williamsburg area, he and I try to connect over a cup of coffee and solve the problems of the world, so to speak… he is a historian as well, being well read and very involved with the Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg.
The class that Joe was teaching had to do with the theological discipline of apologetics. Technically, this is the area of theology that has to do with the defense of the Christian faith. Now when I was in seminary, and here is the interesting part, I took many different classes having to do with the study of the Scripture. Trinitarianism, Ecclesiology (the study of the church), the study of Angels and Demons, Biblical theology, Soteriology (salvation doctrine), Christology (study of Jesus) and a host of other areas of theological study were all required courses.
But one class that I never took was Apologetics, the study of defending the faith. In fact, I couldn’t take the class because it wasn’t offered. I attended a very conservative seminary and the general thinking was that God can defend Himself and it was presumptuous for any of us to think that we could speak on behalf of God. But most seminaries think that to study the defense of the faith is very important and there have been many books written on the subject. I admit that I have glanced at a few but never purchased one!
Joe’s class was interesting in that it used logic and went through some very interesting points about the study of God. One of the things that he mentioned was something I have thought about for years, but have never heard anyone else bring it up. That is the fact that our country was founded on Christian principles and the idea that America was to be a land where people had a freedom “OF” religion. But this did not mean that we were a haven for freedom “FROM” religion.
At the founding of our country, almost all people were believers in Jesus. So apologetics really wasn’t needed. But now, 350 years later, we are in a much more liberal world. Self professed non-believers now constitute the largest group of people in the country. Of course, I think this is a travesty.
These numbers have continued to climb since I was in seminary more than 20 years ago. And I can see how the study of apologetics could be helpful in today’s world. I have never really thought about changing my position until I read Joe’s lesson. While I may not fully subscribe to this line of education and awareness (I really do believe that God can represent Himself), I admit it is something that I really have to consider and brush up on my studies – just in case.
The verse for tonight highlights the fact that the Bible has something to say on the topic of apologetics and answering for the faith. The apostle Peter, in his first epistle, tells us, in 1 Peter 3:15-16, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
In other words, as Peter tells us, we are to be ready to answer questions about our faith and that means a defense of our position on God including why we are dedicated to Him. My encouragement this evening is that God has made us aware that now, more than ever, it is important to stand up for our faith and be able to articulate our decision to follow Christ. My prayer is that God will grant us the thoughts and words to make others aware of the joy and peace that comes from a life fully devoted to Christ. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…