Christian Apologetics Free Course 01, Lesson 03

Christian Apologetics Free Course 01, Lesson 03

Introduction To Integrated Apologetics, Lesson 03

History Of Christian Apologetics

Many people have this misunderstanding that Christian Apologetics and Polemics are subjects of recent origin. Nothing could be farther from truth. Biblical Apologetics and Polemics are as old as the Bible itself is. Both the Old as well as the New Testament give us ample evidence of this. 

APOLOGETICS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: Attacks against the Word of God started as early as in the Old Testament period. Within the Old Testament record we can see many people who questioned whether the God of the Israelites is the true God, and we notice that in many cases God provided them suitable answers and demonstrations. Some of these proofs have been mentioned on the previous pages of this book, thus a repetition is not needed. 

It must be added, however, that the listing from the Old Testament given above is only a sample. The actual number of apologetic passages and incidents in the Old Testament is too numerous to be listed here in this book. 

APOLOGETICS AMONG JEWISH FATHERS: The Jewish Fathers and Leaders had to face much opposition from the pagans because the Bible emphasizes many things which are resented by the Pagans. For example, right from Genesis, the Bible teaches that man is a sinner, totally depraved, and unable to save himself. Grace is the only means available for salvation. This irritated and irked the pagans who had a Universalist theology.

Universalism teaches the salvation of everyone in the world irrespective of his religion. No exclusiveness of doctrines and practices is accepted by them. Thus it was natural for the Universalist pagans in Old Testament times to attack the Bible. 

Though writing materials were not in abundance at that time, many of these critics of the Bible produced large numbers of books to attack the Old Testament. History is our witness that people who attacked the Bible always got great reception from people, and consequently these critics were able to spread their messages very wide. Many of the Jewish Rabbis and scholars wrote countless volumes to counter the charges brought by these critics. One of the best known Jewish apologetic works is Contra Apion, written by the first century Army officer and historian Flavious Josephus. This book is easily available today in many Seminary libraries as part of the Complete Works Of Josephus. Archaeologists have discovered numerous other Jewish apologetic works also. 

APOLOGETICS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT: With the establishment of the New Testament Church came a new breed of heretics and critics. This was partially because of the extended influence of pagan philosophies coupled with easy availability of writing materials. The rise of professionals called “scribes” also made it possible for writings to be copied rapidly and economically. Thus these heretics were able to make their voice heard widely. 

Another reason for the rise of critics, heretics and heretical movements was the New Testament itself. Till the book of Malachi, doctrinal subject were taught indirectly and often in a veiled manner. However, in New Testament doctrines related to man’s sin, total depravity, salvation by grace alone and faith alone, etc. were proclaimed more clearly. All the unique Biblical doctrines received clearer explanation and exposition in the New Testament. This made a lot of people uncomfortable. 

As long as the divine message was partially veiled, these critics did not worry much. But clear proclamation to the Biblical message exposed their errors, biases, and prejudices clearly. No longer could they maintain their Universalism, Humanism, Accommodationsim, etc. No longer could they maintain their brand of theology, seeing that now the fundamental tenets of biblical theology were spelled out clearly. 

There were a large number of people who wanted to be called Christians, but who did not want to accept these biblical doctrines. Many of them were converts from various kinds of heathen faiths. They did not want to abandon their loyalty to the philosophies and theologies which they had believed before coming to the Church. Further, many of them loved the freedom for sensuality that was offered by their previously believed pagan philosophies. Thus using all their literary and theological skill they tried to popularize their varieties of perverted teachings. The main aim was self-justification. 

Thus there were Judizers who created problems in Galatia and other places. The Epistle To Galatians is an refutation of their teachings. There were Gnostics who tried to synthesize Christian theology with occult philosophies. The Epistle To Colossians is an apologetic against them. The Epistle To Hebrews is an apologetic against another heresy. Jude had to remind his readers to contend for the faith against those who would like to distort the Christian message. Peter had to warn his readers against those who mocked at statements in portions of the New Testament, and so on. Thus throughout the New Testament documents we notice the opposition of scornful people and heretics at distorting biblical truths. Instead of ignoring them, the New Testament writers wrote extensively to expose error, to condemn it, and also to establish truth. 

APOLOGETICS AMONG CHURCH FATHERS: The availability of New Testament documents irritated Christians not only in the first century, but also in the centuries that followed. Wanting to hold on simultaneously to both the Bible and their own pagan philosophies, many of them spread heretical doctrines using all means available to them. We have already mentioned the name of Gnostics, Nestorians, Ebionites, Montanists, Pelegains, Arians, and many others. Several Church councils gathered together to condemn these heresies, and that is one way in which these false teachings could be suppressed. 

Many of the heretics were dedicated writers, and they produced a large number of voluminous books to spread their ideas. Consequently, the Church Fathers of the same period were also forced to write lengthy books to refute these errors. A large amount of these heretical writings and apologetic refutations have been discovered by archaeologists. 

The availability of the New Testament documents irked not only the rebel Christians, but irritated many non Christian writers. Most of these writers were inclined to atheism, universalism, humanism, hedonism, or narcissism. Since the New Testament documents are totally contrary to these philosophies, they found it necessary (as self-justification) to attack the Bible. 

Further, the Bible is the only religious book in the world that insists that every human is a born sinner, totally depraved, and unable to anything at all for his own salvation. This, coupled with the New Testament insistence of Bible Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, and Faith Alone, also irritated many of them. Further, the fast spread of the Christian faith, and the deep commitment of these new converts also overwhelmed many of these non Christian critics. Fearing that this spread of gospel would soon convert the whole world into the Christian faith they launched out their tirades against the Bible, Jesus Christ, and Christianity. 

A notable example is the rationalist writer Porphyry. Living in Sicily in the third century, he wrote a work entitled “Against Christianity”. What is surprising is the size of this work which occupied a solid FIFTEEN volumes !! Obviously, such prolific writers were able to influence a large number of people. But here again the Church Fathers did not sit silent. Rather, they courageously combated Porphyry and similar rationalists and produced hundreds of volumes of Christian Apologetics and Polemics. Were it not for the warrior mentality of these Fathers, a lot more of damage could have been done by these rationalists. 

MODERN CREATIONISM AND APOLOGETICS: Though Christian Apologetics and Polemics was strong in the first five centuries of Church, it became somewhat dormant for almost a thousand years. This was the time when the Roman Catholic Church ruled the Christian world with an iron rod. Rather than reasoning and arguing with the dissenters, the Church found it easier and better just to kill them. Opposing voices were not heard much in public because of this life-threatening atmosphere. 

Today very few people know that from about middle of the fourth century to the middle of the fourteenth century, the Roman Catholic church indulged in a great struggle for ecclesiastical as well as temporal power. In this struggle they silenced, tortured, and killed millions of dissenting people. A revolt brewed in the hearts of people, specially of the thinkers in Europe. However, the dictatorial rule of the Church prevented them from expressing themselves. Thus when the Reformation gave them the freedom coveted by all thinkers, they came out in torrents against the Church. 

Since most bitter people did not understand the difference between the Roman Catholic church, the true church of Christ, and the Christ of the Bible, they opposed and rejected all of these things simultaneously. It was a case of throwing away the baby with the bath-water. This rejection of Christianity was coupled with the rise of a host of anti-Christian thinkers, philosophies, and movements. By the time the nineteenth century arrived, the number of such anti-Christian people and movements became simply mind boggling. What united them all was their opposition to the Bible and Christianity. 

However, since the idea of creation was widely accepted by the masses (including most of the educated people), it was difficult for them to overthrow the authority of the Bible. They were convinced that only a rejection of the Bible would solve the problem. By the middle of the nineteenth century there was a preparation of hearts and an expectation in the air that Christianity can now be challenged. But the crucial factor which could do this was nowhere in sight. 

The Theory Of Evolution was there already, but it was there only in philosophical form. The rise of modern science had convinced them that even the best philosophical speculation has no feet to stand upon till it is given a scientific basis. It was just this time when Charles Darwin proposed his Theory Of Evolution. For the first time someone was able to propose this hypothesis in the form of a theory of SCIENCE ! That was the reason why all of these dissenting movements eagerly and immediately swallowed Darwin’s theory and he became a hero overnight. 

Things changed rapidly and this theory took theology also into its influence by the close of the nineteenth century. The same was the period when infidels with degrees in theology were coming into positions of power in German universities. Some of these European and American evolutionists soon persuaded some theologians, specially in Germany, that evolution is a fact. A few of these theologians then began persuading other theologians and seminary teachers that now Christians must now accept evolution as a fact. The bolder theologians among them even started teaching that portions of the Bible that deal with this record of creation should be abandoned altogether. Germany provided an ideal ground for breeding these thinkers because German theological institutes are controlled and funded by government money. Government is interested only in academic degrees, not in whether a person is born again and committed to the Bible. 

Uncommitted radical German theologians had plenty of degrees, but not Christ in their hearts. Thus they began to act as mercenaries, destroying belief in the Bible. Having a clear agenda to destroy belief in the Bible, they aimed at destroying the foundations of Christianity first. Further, since Government funding was liberal, they had the financial muscle-power to print and spread their ideas worldwide. This is how the German atheists (though they called themselves Christians) were able to influence all the world through their theology. 

However, not everyone was willing to write off the Bible completely. Many were interested more in keeping both the beliefs together. Acceptance of evolution would make them respectable in the eyes of theological infidels, but at the same time acceptance of creation would keep them in the confines of evangelical Christianity. Thus began an era of compromises. This is the era when compromise interpretations of Genesis came into vogue. Many of these interpretations became widespread, partially through the influence of Scofield, and partially through the influence of compromising seminaries. 

Compromise is never good for truth, because it is truth that suffers most when it is mixed with falsehood. Thus this mingling of evolution with creation eventually destroyed the Biblical foundations to such a level that radicals, humanists, evolutionists, rationalists, and atheists had a field day attacking Christians. Things came to such alarming state that in the first half of the twentieth century it was difficult to find qualified theologians in USA or Europe who would openly defend the Biblical story of creation. Since the Indian evangelical theology was mostly a copy of the Western theology, the Indian theologians also avoided defending the Biblical doctrine of Creation. 

A few American Seventh Day Adventists were the only people who were willing to defend the idea of creation during this period. However, there was a small remnant in some conservative churches in USA who were willing to take a strong stand. In the first decade of the twentieth century they produced 12 volumes of books known as “The Fundamentals”. While only a minority of scholars at that time identified themselves with the stand taken in these books, their influence eventually helped to turn the tide in favour of the Bible. 

American evangelical Christians have began to notice in the fifties that compromise is a slow poison that ultimately destroys respect for truth. Some of them came together and started writing aggressively on themes defending the historical and scientific reliability of the Bible. This gave birth to the modern interest in Apologetics and Creationism. At the dawn of the twenty-first century the influence of this revival has spread all over the world, and today more than one hundred and fifty organizations function around the world, devoted solely to apologetics. Their influence has be so strong that a large number of Seminaries all around the world have begun assert the historical and scientific reliability of the Bible. 

 

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1 comment for “Christian Apologetics Free Course 01, Lesson 03

  1. Solomon Thomas
    April 1, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Lesson Three of the course module ‘Christian Apologetics’ has opened up my mind to broader thought experience about the knowledge of Apologetics. I can now approach the subject with greater confidence, being more informed and more satisfied about the foundational aspects of the subject.
    It has been very enlightening to study and understand, being a born again Christian, that attacks against the Old Testament were evidently numerous, and that God provided numerous answers and demonstrations to many.
    Just recently, I was reading the book of numbers where Balak, King of Moab, sought the help of Prophet Balaam, son of Peor, to curse the Israelites; an act the God himself had condemned.
    Defending the bible is not an easy task although the bible itself provides examples of apologetic passages which stand as a defense for the people of God who finds it necessary to defend their faith.
    The book of Job, Psalms 14, 15, and the book of proverbs are excellent examples of the wisdom of apologetics. There are evidently numerous examples.
    It is my understanding also, that apologetics existed for a very long time. This is contrary to the belief that Apologetics and Polemics are of recent origin.
    The Jewish Fathers of the Old Testament faced opposition from pagan nations that opposed their faith. One of the fundamentals of the biblical faith teaches is that man is sinful and unable to save himself from eternal separation from God. And, grace is the only means available for salvation.
    Interestingly, one of the best recognized and known apologetic works ‘Contra Apion,’ was written by a first century Jewish Army Officer and Historian, Flavious Josephus. The lesson teaches that archeologists have also discovered other Jewish apologetic works as well. I am interested in learning more about them and their works.
    New Testament Apologists defended the faith because of the new breed of critics and heretics whose main objective was to influence pagan philosophy. Accordingly, the rise of professionals called “scribes” made it possible for scriptural and philosophical writings to be copied rapidly and economically, thus making the voices of those who criticized the doctrine of Christianity and the teaching of Jesus, more easily accessible and more readily heard.
    Evidently, there were people who wanted to be called Christians, but, who did not want to accept biblical doctrine. Given examples of these are the Judizers, the Galatians, the Colossians, and the Hebrews. The Judizers created problems in Galatia and other places. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians to refute their erroneous teachings. The Epistle of Paul to the Colossians is an Apologetic against them. Also, there were the Gnostics who tried to synthesize Christian theology with occult philosophy. This apparently is a contradiction to the inspired word of God. Distorting the truth of God’s word has many consequences.
    In the early church, writings flourished, and the availability of New Testament documents irritated Christians, not only in the first century, but also in the centuries that followed. This, statement however, is a very confusing reading, since it should be understood that the word ‘Christian’ should mean “follower of Christ.” However, the lesson is showing that many Christians were so-called, because they wanted to hold on simultaneously to the bible and to their own pagan beliefs. Some of these are identified as the Gnostics, Nestorians, Ebionites, Montanists, Pelegains, and, Arians. I managed to find some insightful information about the Arians, which sheds light on their culture.
    The worldview and dogma of some unbelievers is enormous. One alleged rationalist writer living in Sicily in the third century wrote “Against Christianity” – this work occupied fifteen volumes.
    This work had the ability to influence many of its hearers, and it did. Again, the church fathers did not stay silent but rebuffed the tactics of these heretics by producing numerous apologetics of their own.
    At this point in my summary, it makes interesting reading to learn and understand about the spiritual and intellectual conflicsts which existed and which evolved from the times of the early church until now.

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