Practical Apologetics

These are obviously not definitive answers but simply suggestions of  comments that Christians might make in response to  questions faced during street/ campus evangelism.  Our interest in theology must not divorce us from the main task in hand – the sharing of the good news of salvation in Christ. 

Questions & Answers

Questions about God:-

1. Why does God not stop the suffering and evil in the world?

  God in the Bible makes it clear that:-

(a) Suffering and evil have not always been part of this world -Genesis 1:31

(b) Suffering and evil will not always be part of this world - Romans 8:18-25

(c) God himself has known suffering in the person of God incarnate - Jesus Christ.

.holy One in a fallen world

.as truly man faced temptation  - Hebrews 4:14-16

.as our sinbearer was cursed by God  - Galatians 3:10-13

(d) The person who trusts in God through Jesus Christ can know real help and comfort in the face of suffering and evil - 1 Peter 1:3-9.

2. Why should a person bother about God?

Two reasons why a person should bother about God -

(a) because God has bothered about us

  This creation  bears testimony to Him - Psalm 19:1-4; Rom. 1:20

  The Bible is God’s “love letter” to us - Psalm 19: 7-11; 2 Timothy 3: 15-17

   Jesus Christ reveals God and His love to us - John 1:14,18; 3:16

 (b) because God cannot be ignored for ever

  John 3:16 is followed by 17-21.  John probably wrote the last book of the Bible and in Revelation 20:11-15 he describes an event at the end of time as we know it. I cannot choose to delight in John 3:16 and ignore the other things John writes.

Questions about Jesus Christ:-

1. Who was Jesus?

(a) An historical person - his having lived is not denied by any objective historian - In the early centuries AD none of the enemies of Christianity claimed that Jesus had never lived and died in Palestine. Early rabbinical writings mention him as a transgressor in Israel, practiser of magic, a false teacher leading people astray, one who claimed to add to the Law, was hanged on Passover Eve and whose disciples claimed healed the sick.  

(b) Human and Divine  - that Jesus was truly human is clearly seen in his babyhood and normal growth Lk.2:51-52; sleeping Mk.4:38; thirsty John 4: 7 and yet divine. Some of the miracles or signs he did while on earth show this - the stilling of the storm on Galilee Mark 4:35-41; the raising of Lazurus John 11:35 & 38-45.

(c) Saviour and Lord  - the resurrection is the proof of this - Romans 1:3-4. He lived a perfect life for our sakes - Hebrews 4:14-16; died in our place on the cross -

Gal. 3:10-14; rose again to put us right with God - Romans 4:25.

Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate - and if not then the vitality of Christianity is gone. We will be left with a religious tale but certainly not with life challenging and life changing truth. A Jesus Christ who is man but less than God cannot be the Saviour of man unreconciled to God; a Jesus Christ who is God but not truly man cannot satisfy for us the demands of a holy God in regard to our breaking of his law.

2. Why is Christianity so concerned with the death of Jesus?

 Notice three things about the Cross :-

(a) it was a painful way to die - the crucified person suffered dislocation of bones, massive trauma, stress on the heart, a slow painful certain death  BUT  that was not what made it significant

(b) it was a shameful way to die - reserved for criminals and rebels  BUT  that was not what made it significant

(c) it was an accursed death - Christ the Son of God was abandoned by the Father for my sake. That is what makes the Cross significant for me 1 Corinthians 1:17-25.

3. Did Jesus really rise from the dead ?

Yes he had a unique resurrection from the dead - raised never to die again.  This of course has been fiercely disputed. But each of the alternatives are answerable.

. Grief induced theories - wrong tomb visited by the grieving women; hallucination.

All of the people involved could not have been affected in such a manner. Someone would have produced the right tomb; the women went to anoint a dead body and were not expecting a resurrection. Thomas was clearly no hallucinator!

.Swoon theory

There is little comparison between a faint and collapse after flogging, crucifixion and resultant blood loss. Medical evidence knows that if a person on fainting is kept upright, there is real danger of  permanent brain damage or death.  Death would definitely ensue if one was forcibly held upright for more than ten minutes.

Even if we supposed that Jesus swooned rather than died: he would have had to survive the hours on the cross; the spear wound; tightly wrapped grave clothes, entombment for two days. Then revived, was able to extricate himself from those clothes, push open the stone door, walk into Jerusalem, and finally convince the disciples that he, a broken, dreadfully weakened figure had risen victoriously over death .

.Stolen body theory

The religious rulers or the Roman authorities could easily have produced a body.

.Symbolic meaning  -  disciples confused generally held resurrection beliefs with desire to see Jesus again.

However the generally held beliefs about resurrection were vastly different from what is claimed in the Gospels. The Sadducees did not believe in bodily resurrection. The Pharisees and most religious Jews believed in such as a general resurrection on the last day. The disciples declaration was unthinkable unless it happened.

.Mythology theories

It has been suggested that the resurrection of Jesus is based on pagan myths of dying and rising gods. The Gospels carefully date and locate the rising of Jesus. Several of the witnesses are named. No pagan myths even try to do this.

.Implausibility of resurrection

Dead men don’t rise therefore Jesus didn’t rise.  However Christianity claims that Christ’s resurrection is a unique event.

“If people were raised from the dead on a regular basis, there would be no difficulty in accepting that Jesus had been thus raised. But it would not stand out. It would not be different. It would not say anything, either about the identity of Jesus himself, or about the God who chose to raise him in this way.” Alister McGrath “Bridge Building” IVP 1996 p164

Notice also how much rides on the fact of his resurrection  -

. Sonship affirmed

. Atonement accepted

. Justification for sinners a reality

. Death defeated; bodily resurrection  on last day;  

. Friendship with Jesus a present reality

. The presence of the Church in the world today

Questions about the world:-

1. Did God make the world or has it evolved in some way?

Immediately one calls God “Creator” howls of protest arise from those who would label such an affirmation “unscientific”. 

I usually tell my questioner that I don’t intend to discuss the conflicting theories of Science nor enter the debate on Science and Scripture. Firstly I’m no expert on scientific matters; secondly there are many excellent books written to address such issues, which they can read. I do point out the fact that Science can never tell us the origin of things. Science is itself a creature and a product of time.  It takes its position on the basis of things as they are made and assumes the existence of things it investigates. Science cannot go back to the moment when things were not yet; cannot penetrate to the time when they were given reality.

Likewise Philosophy can reflect on the world, making suggestions as to its origin and development, speculating but never dogmatising. Both science and philosophy need revelation if the truth is to be arrived at. The Bible claims to be that “revelation” and yet itself does not give us the “how” of creation - if so and in scientific terms, few of us could read it. The Bible rather emphasises the “who” and the “why” of creation. Scripture takes its standpoint not from the world but from God who created it. What it does tell about the creation, sustaining and ending of the world is not offered as the results of scientific investigation nor philosophical speculation, but in order that we might come to have fellowship with the Creator.

On the EVOLUTIONARY THEORY :- five important points to be borne in mind in  your own personal study of such matters:-

(i) we do not need to know the "How" of creation in order for our faith to be vital.

(ii) the historicity of Adam and Eve is accepted by our Lord Jesus in Matt.19:4-6; cf.   Paul’s  argument in Rom.5:12-31.

(iii) both the evolutionary view and creationist view are theories - neither are capable of scientific authentication.

(iv) any professing Christians who attempt to hold creationism with aspects of evolution i.e. theistic evolution,  must repudiate the philosophical stance of the evolutionist.  The assumption that this world began in chaos and is evolving toward perfection flies in the face of the Bible. The Bible contends earnestly that God chose to create, did so in such a manner as to declare all "good". Sin has entered by deliberate choice, firstly on the part of Satan, then by Adam and Eve. This world is now in a fallen state needing God's redemption programme.

(v) our view of this world as created by the Living God with purpose and design; his providence and redemptive purposes should cause us to be true ecologists. Christians should be concerned as to the exploitation of earth's resources. Gen 1:28 is no mandate for abuse rather for wise caring stewardship.

Emerging Church Economics

There are too many errors in this book for unsophisticated readers. McLaren’s book has value only to readers who recognize the mistakes but are willing to learn about a position that springs from ideology and a theological framework. For me, the emerging church movement is enough to consider by itself without flawed economics intertwined

Mordecai Kaplan: Rethinking Judaism for the New World

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