Faith and Reason

1.                 What is apologetics? What are the proper attitudes of defence?

a.   Apologetics is the clarification and defence of biblical Christianity. The goal of apologetics is not victory but truth. “Apologetics” comes from two Greek words in the Bible: apologia and apologeomai.

b.   apologia (meaning defence)

(1)        2Ti 4:16  apologia here means “defence” NOT apologetic (acknowledgment of fault) or apologize (to admit wrong)

(2)        1Pe 3:15  apologia here means “answer” characterized by:

          (a)                   being ready (at any time)

          (b)                   preparation: knowledge of position defended and attacks brought against it

          (c)                   gentleness (patience, not emotional)

          (d)                   respect (not with pride, arrogance or self-sufficiency; not an aggressive attack on the other person’s will or prejudice, but a logical account or reasoned explanation of our hope)

(3)        Ac 22:1ff  manifested (a) an attitude of dignity, and (b) a forthright response to the issues

(4)        Php 1:7,16  closely linked to the gospel

c.   apologeomai (meaning defence in response to charges)

Ac 24:10  Paul’s defence before Felix resulted from charges in v.5-6; it includes the word gladly (in good spirit).

d.   From how the 2 Greek words were used, we should realize that the defender’s tone, sincerity, care, concern, listening, and respect are as important as the logic used.

e.   Defending our faith seldom leads people to Christ. But it would at least dispel unfounded prejudice against Christianity and later may lead to faith. Questions of honest inquiry should be answered. However, we are not required to answer against hostile attack as John Stott says: “We cannot pander to a man’s intellectual arrogance, but we must cater to his intellectual integrity.” (Mt 7:6)

2.                 What are the uses of apologetics?

a.   In church:

(1)        to know the rationality of our faith and to stand firm in faith (Col 2:8, Eph 4:14)

(2)        to correct mistaken views and impressions of someone leaning toward apostasy (Jude 3,22-23)

(3)        to silence non-Christian positions in church by responding to false ideas and clarifying true position, including refutation and encouragement (Tit 1:9-11)

b.   Outside church (facing non-believers):

(4)        to defend in response to charges (Ac 26:1-2, 2Co 10:3-5)

(5)        to witness (1Pe 3:15)

(6)        to evangelize (Ac 17:17-18)

3.                 Faith is subjective. The use of reason is contrary to the principle of faith. Why should we learn to use reasoning to defend our faith?

a.   Faith is the confidence or belief in the truthfulness of the Christian position. Reason is the process of logical analysis. Faith is itself subjective but is based on objective reasons.

b.   Some people use Col 2:8 to prove that Christianity does not need to be rational.

c.   But the Bible encourages us to use our minds and our reasoning: [John Stott: Your Mind Matters]

(1)        Creation: God created us to think and understand; the Bible asks us to reason (Is 1:18, Lk 12:54-57)

(2)        Revelation: God’s revealation is rational, both in general revelation in nature, and special revelation in the Scripture and in Christ (Ro 1:18-21)

(3)        Redemption: God’s plan of salvation is given for us to understand (Col 3:10, 1Co 10:15)

(4)        Judgment: Our final judgment will be based on our knowledge and our response to His revelation (Jn 12:48)

d.   There are examples in the early church defending the faith:

        the resurrection of Jesus (Ac 4:33, 1Co 15:1-8)

        the work of God in nature (Ac 14:15-17, Ro 1:20)

        the witness of changed lives (Ac 26:9-22, 1Ti 1:12-16).

e.   The Bible emphasizes knowledge, wisdom, discernment, and understanding in our growth to spiritual maturity (Eph 1:17-19, 3:14-19, Php 1:9-11, Col 1:9-10, 2Pe 1:5) because Christian faith is grounded on truth and on fact. We are not required to believe blindly. Faith and reason are allies.

f.    Faith involves 3 facets. It is more than subjective belief (emotional element). It involves also objective understanding (rational or intellectual element) and a will to live what we believe (volitional element) (Dt 6:5, Mk12:30). Further, subjective belief may fail resulting in a fall from faith if our faith cannot stand up to challenges from non-believers or from self-doubt. Clark Pinnock says: “The heart cannot delight in what the mind rejects as false.”

4.                 What are the techniques when defending our faith?

a.   Principles (4 C’s found in Col 2:20-3:4):

(1)        Contrast (2:20-22, exposure of false ideas in light of truth)

(2)        Comprehension (2:23, of the false system)

(3)        Clarification (3:3-4, explanation of Christian truth)

(4)        Confirmation (3:1-2, encouragement of believers in truth)

b.   Use common ground and the Bible:

(1)        Common ground -- common understanding that a Christian and a non-Christian have about truth and life including general revelation (facts in the natural world), laws of logic, rules of procedure in science, historical facts

(2)        the Bible (special revelation, the Word of God)

c.   Recognize and dispel presuppositions:

        Sometimes, an argument that is in itself perfectly rational and valid will often fall on ears deafened because of presuppositions originated from prejudice, ignorance, misunderstanding, incomprehension, or ideology. These invalid presuppositions need to be pointed out and dispelled. One such example is the rejection of supernatural occurrences by non-Christians.

5.                 What are the major types of approaches when defending Christianity?

        Illustration: defending the reality of Christian re-birth

a.   Subjective approach: stressing the uniqueness of subjective Christian experience. By my inner experience, I know rebirth is real. [faith without reason]

b.   Objective approach: stressing rational powers of the mind to find the truth about religion. Visible evidences of changed lives of Christians shows that rebirth is real. [reasons precedes faith]

c.   Revelational approach: stressing divine revelation. The Bible teaches about the reality and necessity of rebirth in John 3. [faith precedes reason]

d.   Verification approach: synthesis of the best features of the above 3 approaches: to show how real-life facts, experiences, and the Bible provide evidences supporting Christianity, to use logical analysis as well as the Bible. [reason supporting faith]

6.                 Where does the Bible encourage Christians to use our minds in matters of faith?

        Based on John Stott (1972): Your mind matters.

        In general, the Bible emphasizes the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom, examples: the prophets (Hos 4:6; Is 5:13), wisdom literature (Pr 1:22; 3:13–15), Peter (2Pe 1:5), and Paul (Eph 1:17–19; 3:14–19; Php 1:9–11; Col 1:9–10).

a.   In major doctrines: the Bible implies that man has an inescapable duty both to think and to act upon what he thinks and knows.

(1)        Creation: God created man in His image which includes his capacity to think (Ps 32:9). When man became rebellious, God asked them to think (Is 1:18; Lk 12:57).

(2)        Revelation: God’s revelation is rational revelation. God’s general revelation (through His created order) requires man to think (Ro 1:18–21). God’s special revelation (His Word) requires man to read and understand. Christian doctrines are based on knowledge and understanding.

(3)        Redemption: Redemption comes with the renewal of the divine image of knowledge in man, which was distorted by the Fall (Col 3:10; Eph 4:23; 1Co 10:15).

(4)        Last Judgment: God will judge man by his knowledge and his response to His revelation (Jn 12:48).

b.   In Christian life, the Bible emphasizes that the use of the mind is essential.

(1)        Worship: The only worship acceptable to God is intelligent worship (Jn 4:24; Lk 10:27).

(2)        Faith: True faith is essentially reasonable because it trusts in the character and the promises of God. Faith is primarily thinking (Mt 6:30).

(3)        Holiness: It is by Christ’s truth that He liberates us from the bondage of sin (Jn 8:32). It is by renewal of our mind that our character and behaviour become transformed (Ro 12:2). This involves mental discipline (Php 4:8; Col 3:1–2; Ro 8:5–6), and knowledge (Ro 6:3,16; 1Co 3:16; 5:6; 6:2–3,9,15–16,19).

(4)        Guidance: Christians are to understand the will of God (Eph 5:17; Col 4:12), involving the use of the mind (Ps 32:8–9).

(5)        Evangelism: Paul’s evangelistic ministry—to argue, to explain, to prove, to proclaim, and to persuade—involves the mind (2Co 5:11; Ac 17:2–4). Evangelism is a reasoned presentation of the gospel.

(6)        Ministry: We have to use our mind in all ministries, particularly teaching ministry (Col 1:28; Titus 1:9).