At the beginning of this course, we examined Peter’s appeal to all believers to be ready and able to give a reason for the hope they have in Christ. We also examined other verses that support the call to defend the Christian faith along with a few New Testament examples of people engaged in this practice. Defending what we believe as Christians is a very practical aspect of our walk with God. It not only reinforces why we believe what we believe but offers testimony as to why what we believe is in fact true.
According to James D. Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, the world is much indebted to the Christian faith for many of the institutions and realities that can easily be taken for granted. In their book What If Jesus Had Never Been Born, the authors state, “Despite its humble origins, the Church has made more changes on earth for the good than any other movement or force in history.” They go on to list several positive contributions Christianity has made since its inception. These include hospitals and universities as they exist in Western culture, literacy and education for the masses, developments in science, the elevation of women and the common person, a high regard for human life, the codifying of many world languages into writing, and a multitude of transformed individuals who also share the hope of eternal life. Given the impact the church has had on the world, it is important that its message be continually shared with others and defended at all costs.
Over the progression of this course we’ve discovered that in order to fulfill Peter’s call to give an answer for what we believe, we must be able to discuss several big topics, some regarding the Christian faith itself and others related to one’s worldview.
The first topic we examined concerned God’s existence, which is the most fundamental question a person can ask in life. The question of whether God does or does not exist has profound effects on how a person chooses to live and how they choose to treat others. We investigated several arguments for God’s existence and challenged the theories made by atheism.
The second topic dealt with the reliability of the Bible as a historical source of truth. Can we trust what the Bible says, and is it historically accurate? In this lesson we saw that the text of the Bible is confirmed through archaeological finds, the textual transmission of individual books that make up the Old and New Testaments, and the fulfillment of prophecy.
The third topic regarded the historical accuracy of the resurrection itself. Did it really happen? In this lesson we examined several theories that seek to disprove the resurrection and how each one failed to do so. In return, we presented multiple lines of evidence that the resurrection happened as recorded in the Gospels and how the resurrection account was already being circulated widely only a few years after its occurrence.
The fourth topic we examined was hypocrisy in the church. When Christians act contrary to what they say they believe, it can be used as a common opposition to the faith. In this lesson we saw the need to live righteous lives that represent what the Bible teaches and learned that hypocrisy is not something that only exists in the church. Everyone displays some hypocrisy in their lives.
The fifth topic explored the fine-tuning of the universe that points to the existence of a Creator.
While science and faith seem to be at odds with one another, many in the scientific community acknowledge that the natural world around us exists within very specific parameters that if changed, even slightly, would cause life to cease to exist as we know it.
The sixth and final topic addressed the question of why an all-good and all-powerful God would allow evil and suffering to exist in the world. Though suffering is a constant daily experience, where did it come from, and why is it allowed to continue? In this lesson we divided evil into two categories—moral and natural evil—and discovered that both are the result of the rebellion of humanity against God. Moral evil represents the actions of people against other people, whereas natural evil (events in nature) are the result of a fallen world waiting to be set right.
Moving beyond these six important topics, it is said that for a belief system to be valid it must answer five great philosophical questions of life: origin, meaning, condition, salvation, and destiny. Only the Christian faith answers these questions both individually and coherently. We find answers to each question in Paul’s encounter with the leaders of Athens in Acts 17 where he introduces them to the Unknown God. Let’s look at each of these questions and compare them to Paul’s answers.
Origin asks the question, “Where did everything come from?” When we think about the world we live in and the fine-tuned precision that allows life to exist in our world, we may ask how it came to be. It didn’t just happen, nor could it have always been here. Paul answers this question in Act 17:24 by saying that it is God who made the world and all things in it. In Colossians 1:17, Paul goes so far as to say that Jesus holds all things together, from the macro to the micro levels of life. And as we have seen, the psalmist declares that the creation itself testifies to God’s handiwork.
Meaning asks the questions, “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose in life?” These are among the great questions all people eventually get around to asking themselves. Paul responds by saying that humanity’s ultimate purpose in life is to seek after God, to know Him. In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul noted that he had given up everything to know and follow Christ. The greatest pursuit an individual can undertake is to know God in the fullest sense; because as we do, everything else will take care of itself.
Condition asks the questions, “Why is the world messed up the way it is?” and “Why am I the way I am?” The fact that humanity, apart from Christ, exists in a fallen state is one of the most obvious realities of life. For many, the question of humanity’s condition is one of the more pertinent questions a person can ask about the world around them and their own state of being. According to Socrates, an unexamined life is not worth living. In the first few words of Acts 17:30, Paul describes the time in which we live as a time of ignorance, that is, a state of being in which humanity doesn’t know God. This perfectly describes the human condition throughout history: people acting according to their own nature and agenda because they don’t know or understand God’s nature and agenda. To change our fallen condition, we must move to the next question regarding salvation.
Salvation means to be delivered, either from another situation or some state of being. As such, the question of salvation asks, “How can the world be changed, and how can I be changed? Again, Paul has an answer. In the second part of Acts 17:30, Paul says that God commands that all people repent. Repentance means a change of mind that results in a change of direction. In the New Testament, repentance is an essential part of salvation, for in salvation we turn from the world to God. We turn from our will and seek to follow His will. Salvation is not a point in time but a point of beginning that we experience from the time we are spiritually born to the time we physically die.
Finally, destiny asks the question, “Where is it all going? or “How will everything end?” While there is much debate within the church about the exact order of end-time events, Paul informs those in Athens that God has fixed a day when he will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). The Bible refers to this day as the day of the Lord, a future point in time when Christ will return and set right the wrongs that have been done.
Only the Christian faith answers the above questions consistently and comprehensively. The Bible has answers to humanity’s questions about life; and it is the believer’s responsibility to bring those answers to the people who are asking the questions.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what Christian apologetics is and what the Bible says about it, you are ready to move forward in your studies. I recommend either continuing to broaden and deepen your understanding of Christian apologetics in general by reading other surveys on the topic or digging deeper into one of the topics addressed in the earlier lessons.
To help you in your future learning endeavors, a bibliography has been included with this course to aid you in choosing your next path of study. Books are listed by topic with most available for purchase online or through a local book dealer. Those that are out-of-print can be found at most libraries.
As you continue to study and learn to give a defense for the hope you have in Christ, I wish you God’s blessings.