Today's Broadcast

Why Apologetics?

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Is it necessary to defend your faith? First Peter 3:15 tells us that it is. But is defending the faith a matter of giving historical and archaeological evidences for the dependability of the Bible, or giving rational arguments using the tools of philosophy? Supposing you had all of your evidences and arguments prepared, are they really going to work on the unbeliever? Dr. Sproul looks at Christian apologetics as he helps us understand how to fulfill the mandate in first Peter.

From the series: Defending Your Faith

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Contend for the Faith

  2. article

    Does the Center Hold?

  3. article

    Be Prepared

Contend for the Faith

With our study of Jude now complete, we have also reached the end of our study of the General Epistles. We hope our look at these different apostolic letters has encouraged you, and we pray you will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) as you study His Word.

The warnings and exhortations Jude gives to us provide a fitting capstone for our study. His warnings regarding false teachers and their appointed end (vv. 5–16) are pertinent in our day as the assaults of Satan against the church continue. Unless we are well-grounded in our faith, we will not be able to recognize false doctrine and help rescue those who have fallen prey to it (vv. 17–23).

Jude recognizes all children of God are kept by His power and will not finally fall away (vv. 1–2; 24–25). But he does not let this precious truth lead us into passivity. He reminds us that believers must contend for the faith once delivered to the saints because of the goats who set themselves up as teachers of the sheep (vv. 3–4). Yet this call to fight actively for the faith is not limited to Jude alone; it is one theme uniting all of the General Epistles.

Each battle to defend the apostolic faith will be slightly different.

Sometimes we will have to confront those who deny specific doctrines, like Peter and John did when they confronted those who denied the second coming (2 Peter 3:8–10) and the incarnation (1 John 4:1–6). In other instances we will have to reassert the active nature of faith, like James did when he called us to love God in word and deed (2:14–26). Resisting the influence of false teachers may be more indirect at times, such as when we withhold support from those who pervert doctrine (2 John) or show hospitality to ministers (3 John). Nevertheless, we must always defend the Gospel with gentleness and respect, even if it brings suffering (1 Peter 3:15–16).

As we contend for the faith, let us always love those who disagree with us on negotiable matters (James 1:19–21; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 4:7–8). However, let us always love others in the truth and contend for the faith delivered to the saints as we serve the living God.

Does the Center Hold?

Keith Mathison

If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “A Calvinist evangelist? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Calvinism undermines evangelism.” This accusation has been repeated so many times that few make the effort to argue it. Instead, it is simply assumed. Never mind that some of the church’s greatest evangelists have been Calvinists. One need only be reminded of men such as George Whitefield, David Brainerd, or “the father of modern missions,” William Carey. “Yes,” we are told, “these men were great evangelists and Calvinists, but that is because they were inconsistent.” But is this true?

The fact of the matter is that Calvinism is not inconsistent with evangelism; it is only inconsistent with certain evangelistic methods. It is inconsistent, for example, with the emotionally manipulative methods created by revivalists such as Charles Finney. But these manipulative methods are themselves inconsistent with Scripture, so it is no fault to reject them. In order for evangelism to be pleasing to God, it must be consistent with the whole system of biblical teaching. But what does such evangelism look like?

A classic answer to that question is found in R.B. Kuiper’s little book God-Centred Evangelism (Banner of Truth). This book surveys the entire biblical scope of teaching on the subject of evangelism. Kuiper defines evangelism quite simply as “the promulgation of the evangel.” It is, in other words, the proclamation of the gospel. Kuiper explains that his book “is a plea for God–centered, in contradistinction to man-centered, evangelism.” The book, then, presents a theology of evangelism.

The first chapters set forth some of the essential theological presuppositions for God-centered evangelism. Kuiper explains that God Himself is the author of evangelism, in that before the foundation of the world, He planned the salvation of sinners. This leads directly into chapter-length discussions of God’s love, His election of sinners, and His covenant. After setting forth these basic theological foundations, Kuiper then deals with various biblical aspects of evangelism, beginning with the sovereignty of God and the Great Commission.

In the Great Commission, Jesus commands His followers to make disciples of “all nations.” The scope of evangelism, then, is universal. The gospel is to be proclaimed to all. If we truly believe what Scripture tells us about the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation, then the urgency of evangelism will become evident. A number of heterodox theologies undermine the urgency of evangelism by teaching that unbelievers will get a “second chance” after death. There is, however, no biblical warrant for such teaching, and to assert it is pure presumption.

Our primary motivation for evangelism should be love of God and love of neighbor. Those who love God will joyfully obey His commission to evangelize and disciple. Those who love their neighbor will desire nothing greater for them than eternal life. Their aim will be to see God glorified through the salvation of sinners like themselves in order that the church would grow.

The God-ordained means of evangelism is His own Word. It is through the proclamation of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit effectually works faith in men’s hearts. The specific message of evangelism is the gospel. Paul summarizes this message in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” When those who hear the gospel ask what they must do to be saved, Scripture tells us that the answer is: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

In the final chapters of his book, Kuiper surveys issues such as zeal for evangelism, the biblical method of evangelism, cooperation in evangelism, resistance to evangelism, and the triumph of evangelism. He reminds us that we can proclaim the gospel with great hope, looking forward to seeing the fruits of our evangelism, a time when “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will stand before the throne of the Lamb, clothed in white and crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9–10). 

For too long, the church has attempted to achieve a worthy goal through worldly means. Let us heed Kuiper’s plea and leave man-centered Madison Avenue methods behind. May we fulfill the Great Commission in a God-glorifying manner.

Be Prepared

R.C. Sproul

Never argue with the man with the microphone. On several occasions, I've been invited to appear on radio or television programs for interviews by controversial hosts. For the most part, I have declined these interviews because of the format in which they are structured. Though they promise the opportunity for open debate, such debate is rarely forthcoming. There are certain hosts who are ruthless in their treatment of their guests and get away with it because of the power of the microphone. Whoever controls the microphone controls the game. If the host makes a particular statement, the guest must rely on the mercy of the person with the microphone in order to offer a rebuttal to the host. At any time in the course of such discussions, the comments of the guest can be silenced.

I use this illustration frequently in talking with students who encounter hostile professors in college or in seminary. In their efforts to defend the truth claims of Christianity, students often valiantly charge in where angels fear to tread and are attacked viciously by the professor. I try to communicate to them that, as valiant as their attempts may be, they are in most cases exercises in futility because the professor controls the discussion. The classroom is not a place where open debate is usually encouraged. To the contrary, on the campuses of many universities and even seminaries, open season has been declared on Christian students. For some reason, it seems that professors in such settings take delight in trying to undermine the faith of their students. This is one reason why the New Testament warns us that not many should become teachers, for with teaching comes a greater judgment.

At the same time, our Lord Himself warned against those who bring harm to one of His little ones. In most cases, it is easy for a man or woman with a doctorate and years of experience in higher education to humiliate a student, no matter how strong the student's faith is or how articulate the student may be. It's a mismatch, and it's a mismatch that unscrupulous teachers greedily seize upon.

These teachers explain their tactics by saying they're simply trying to open the closed minds of the students or to bring them to deliverance from their slavery to outmoded ideas. The excuses are as endless as they are mindless. In the first week of my first year attending seminary, a professor was sharply critical of a student for coming to the seminary with too many preconceived ideas. The idea the seminary student brought with him that the professor described as an unwarranted preconception was his belief in the deity of Christ. I was shocked when I saw a student being humiliated for having the audacity to come to seminary with the idea already formed in his mind that Christ is the incarnate Son of God. The real question, however, was this one: Why was the professor, who was supposedly committed to the creedal statements of the seminary, denying the deity of Christ in such a situation? But this type of thing happens far more regularly than many people realize.

When I was on the faculty of a Christian college many years ago, I had a constant stream of students come to me with questions about the relationship between the truths affirmed in the New Testament about Christ and similar mythological affirmations found in the famous work Metamorphosis by the poet Ovid. It became clear that it was the delight of the english professor in his humanities class, which included a study of Ovid, to draw parallels between the New Testament teachings about Jesus and the myths presented in Metamorphosis.

I had the opportunity to meet in a friendly atmosphere with this professor over coffee in the student union, and I began asking him questions about his knowledge of the biblical worldview compared to the worldview of Ovid. I pointed out the remarkable number of differences between Ovid's worldview and that of the New Testament, which the professor acknowledged existed, and I said: "It's just simply not good teaching to point out similarities between different positions without at the same time acknowledging the signifi cant differences between them. In your critique of Christianity, you have failed to mention these differences, which is not a sound approach to the matter." He was contrite and committed not to do that anymore. But again, that was one incident out of literally tens of thousands that take place every year on campuses, not only at secular universities, but at church-related colleges and even in theological seminaries, as I've already mentioned.

One of the problems we have here is the criteria we use when choosing colleges or universities to attend in the first place. So often parents are impressed by the beauty of the campus of the particular institution or by their own remembrance of the commitment of the institution a generation ago, overlooking the reality that the approach to Christianity changes in various institutions as the faculty changes. The most significant barometer for choosing any kind of institution of higher learning is not the beauty of its campus but its faculty.

If you're looking to send your children to an institution that has a Christian history or a Christian relationship, do not assume that the current faculty is fully persuaded of the truth claims of Christianity. You may indeed be throwing your children into the fi re of a crucible they are not expecting and are not really prepared to withstand. I am not for educating people in a sheltered environment where there is no interaction with the secular mindset and with pagan worldviews, but we need to be fully prepared to understand when and where those worldviews come into collision with Christianity and how to avoid collisions that may be disastrous.

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