I Peter 3:13–18a. Be Able to Make a Defense to Anyone
Who Calls You to Account.
Key Notes: Apologetics is not an apology; it nainly benefits the Christian. Hard work and a clear connscience precede words. Seven questions.The six basic topics in Scripture. Nature, revelation and experience. What not to defend--the five paradoxes.
This passage contains a verse widely quoted, about making a defense. It is worth memorizing, and worth an hour of our time to think about it.
3:13 Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? But if you do suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but reverence Christ as Lord.
Comment: Our work is our first defense. It is surprising how far one can go with a zeal for doing right. It is going the second mile, making it better, offering creative solutions, helping people outside of work, being honest, doing the difficult job that no one else wants to do--"the Protestant work ethic". It was so called by Max Weber ("The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism". Scribners;’30). It makes Christians attractive. They are preferred for responsible jobs in government because they do not drink, or smoke; they have no police record, gambling debt or bankruptcy; they are married and have a steady work record. Our vocation is our first defense.
3:15•"Always be prepared": we are to be ready any time.
•"to make a defense": not a counter-attack, nor an evangelistic appeal, although we hope that will come, but response to a rebuke, an insult or question.
•"...to anyone who calls you to account" in the peer group. The court-room challenge is a different story. (Matt.13:11).
•"...for the hope that is in you": our hope should always be on the tip of our tongue. We are not expected to know everything. It does not require special training to say what you hope for.
•"...yet do it with meekness and fear". We are not to fear the questioner, but the Lord. We respond with meekness and fear because we must not mislead or do harm. Making a defense will vary with each person we meet and must depend on the Holy Spirit's leading.
3:16 "Keep your conscience clear, so that when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that is God's will, than for doing wrong. Christ also died for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous...."
Making a defense (Gr. apologia) gives us the formal word apologetics. It is not an apology ("I'm sorry"), but a defense of our faith. Apologetics is one of the major disciplines of the Christian life. It has a long tradition going back to the time of Christ, who had to defend himself often: "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" (Matt.21:23). Peter and John, Stephen, Paul have their defenses recorded for us in Acts.
We also have defenses written by the early Church fathers against the Romans, Augustine's "City of God", Aquinas' massive medieval works, Luther and Calvin, etc. We can read these defenses and learn how they responded to critics and antagonists in their times. But reading their thoughts is different from responding to our own generation. And you do not learn how to play the violin by watching Heifitz.
Here is an approach to becoming be a good apologist:
a. collect the basic questions that people ask.
b. know the outline of what the Bible teaches.
c. be familiar with several basic approaches.
d. know what and what not to say.
Remember, the person who most benefits from learning to defend the faith is yourself. If you are not strong, arguments can break your confidence and leave you weaker. If you are strong, arguments when you can hold your own make you stronger. Baptists become persuaded by Mormonism at the rate of 200/day (it is said) because they do not know enough to defend themselves from a seductive non-Christian religion. Muslims, on the other hand, are intensively trained to resist Christ.
There are some questions that come up repeatedly that we need to know how to answer. Here are seven, answered in "How to Give Away your Faith" .(Paul Little; IVP,’66):
•What about the heathen who never heard?
•Is Christ the only way to God?
•Why do the innocent suffer?
•How can miracles be possible?
•Isn't the Bible full of errors?
•Isn't Christian experience only psychological?
•Won't a good moral life get me to Heaven?
More recent questions and issues are:
•Does God exist? How can God be good and evil exist?
•Christ is the son of God in the way that we are all sons of God.
•Jesus is not the Son of God. God has no partners. (Muslim)
•Jesus was a fine moral teacher, nothing more.
•The universe is all there is and all there ever will be.
•Evolution proves that life exists by chance.
•If it feels good, it is good. There is no moral law.
•All religions teach the same things.
Next, we need to know the six principal subjects that the Bible deals with and their contents (to be found, for example, in Milne's "Know the Truth". IVP,’82).
•How do you know what you know? How was the Bible was compiled? What does it teach about itself? How we know it is true? We cite archaeology, prophecy fulfilled,and personal experience.
•Who is God? The doctrine of God. The Trinity, the attributes of God, the work of God in creating and preserving the world.
•What is man? The highest of God's creations, beast-like and god-like; a body and a soul.
•What is the problem? Human sin and its consequences: rebellion, guilt and punishment.
•What is the solution? Christ and the Atonement. The Cross. The grace of God. How faith operates and people change.
•How do people behave when the problem of sin has been resolved? The Church, God's people in community.
•What is the future? Death, resurrection and eternal life; heaven and hell.
There are three general topics for argument: nature, revelation and personal experience. Choose according to the case and your aptitudes.
1. Nature. Biology and the argument for design are wonderful cases for God's creative hand. We can argue from astronomy and astrophysics: "The Heavens declare the glory of God". The universe is mathematical; much of what we know in physics can be explained in mathematical terms. The "Big Bang" theory of the origin of the universe supports a basically Christian view of creation.
But young earth and seven twenty-four hour Creation Days get us nowhere in apologetics even if true.
2. Revelation. We can tell the stories of the Ethiopian Eunuch, Cornelius, Nicodemus, and the Woman at the Well to illustrate God's life-changing power. We can argue, as Augustine did, against pagan religion and show how Christ answers human need. There are good books on Christian responses to Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Animism and Marxism, as well as New Age philosophies.
3. Personal Experience. Our own stories of God's work. Charles Colson, Jimmy Carter, Millard Fuller (Habitat for Humanity), Mother Theresa, etc. give us examples to supplement.
There are five paradoxes that we cannot explain and are better off not trying to defend.
•God is One yet Three.
•Christ is true God and true man.
•God is all good; the world is full of evil.
•Christians are predestined yet the appeal to chose Him is given to all.
•Scripture is divinely inspired, but humanly written, and authoritative.
For example, the Scripture is the sword of the Spirit, but we need not say so. It is useless to try to explain the Trinity to anyone else. We know the solution to the problem of evil even if we do not know its origin. Shrug these problems off in argument. Go to the applications instead.
Things not to do:
•Don't say "It's true for me. It may not be true for you." That is not true.
•If you don't know, don't fabricate. False information is bad. Say you don’t know.
•Don't spend more than an hour in argument. Your opponent will lose the ability to think clearly.
•Don't attack people. They need help. We are not called to inflict pain on outsiders even if they intend to inflict pain on us.
Things to do:
•Draw the aggressive person out. The Russians defeated Napoleon's armies by stringing them out through a long winter. Challenge the person's assumptions (e.g. there is no truth) and let the inconsistencies come out. "Do you really think we came from the apes?" "Do you really think that everything is relative?"
•Be a listener long, a speaker short. Listen and pray. Let the person tell you what hurts. Let God work.
•Try to pull the person around to look at things your way: "Suppose, for a moment, that God exists; if you bet against Him, you lose everything for all eternity. If He does not exist, and you become a Christian, you lose a little. Why risk eternal loss?" (Pascal's wager.")
•Read! R.C. Sproul, Josh McDowell, J.H. Gerstner, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Francis Schaeffer, Os Guinness, Dorothy Sayers, Malcolm Muggeridge, Peter Kreeft, Hugh Ross, James Sires. Try Alexander Solzhenitsen, Dosteoevsky, and Pascal. Learn! Grow!
God bless you in the process.