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Apologetics: Confronting unbelief with power

Always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15).

What would you say if someone questioned your faith?  How do you react when you encounter someone who might be called a religious skeptic?  When unbelief rears its ugly head, do you run for cover or do you storm the battle line?

No doubt we would wish we could be that valiant soldier who vindicates the honor of Christ.  However, if we are like most Christians, we would likely choke on our tongues because we have not planned or been trained for the moment.  

That is why this issue of the Providence Newsletter is dedicated to the topic of apologetics.  Christian apologetics is "that branch of Christianity that deals with answering any and all critics who oppose or question the revelation of God in Christ and the Bible" (Matt Slick, An Introduction to Apologetics).  

We can think of apologetics as the fraternal twin or soul mate to that of evangelism.  In evangelism one seeks to commend the faith, in apologetics one seeks to defend the faith. 

We might also say that the ultimate goal of apologetics is that of opening the door for evangelism.  Apologetics seeks to be the avenue for evangelism in that it shuts the mouth of the unbeliever and puts him in a position where he is ready to listen to the gospel.  

In the Scripture quoted above, we find that it is our duty to "be ready to give a defense to anyone for the hope that is within us."  That means that every given moment we need to be prepared to speak and vindicate the honor of Christ and His Truth.  

Our aim below is to give you a brief introduction to the practice of apologetics so that you may be equipped with the knowledge you need to eloquently address that inevitable opportunity.  

[photo by Horia Varlan]

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Exposing the Fool's Folly

The best defense is a good offense

When I played basketball as a kid my coach always said, “The best offense is a good defense.”  We emphasized defense, because, if the other team couldn’t score, we would win. 

When it comes to apologetics we say just the opposite.  Our motto is that “The best defense is a good offense.”  Yet, while our mottos might be reversed, the implications are the same:  If the other team (i.e. the unbeliever) cannot score, we win!

The task of Christian apologetics is to defend the faith by going on the offense.  This is what is meant in Proverbs 26:5 when it says, “Rebuke a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”  Our job as Christians is to rebuke the unbeliever by means of exposing the foolery of his own worldview. 

How do we do this?  We expose his foolishness by entering into their system of thought in order to critique it.  What we want to do is push his/her beliefs to its logical conclusion and so reveal how completely absurd it is. 

The unbeliever is called a fool because he rejects the word of God, which is the basis for true knowledge.  He "exchanges the truth of God for a lie."  And like a faulty foundation to a house, cannot give a coherent and true system of belief. 

In sum, we defend the faith by demolishing unbelief.

Here’s another way to think about what we are doing in the task of apologetics: 

When I was younger, I used to play a game called “King of the Mountain.”  We would begin by having everyone stand at the bottom of a large snow pile.  When we said go, we would all scramble to the top as fast as we could.  When we got there, we would begin to push and shove one another. 

The goal of the game was to be the only one who stands a-top of the snow pile (i.e. the “king”).  But that meant that the king had to knock everyone else down off the hill when they charged.  The king, then, was the one who was able to defend his territory by attacking the attackers.  His kingship was due to his ability to disable his opponents and reveal their complete weakness and inability to stand.

In the same way, we defend the faith by showing the inability of other faiths to stand.  We defend the legitimacy of the Christian faith by showing that it is the only belief system that is logically coherent.  In sum, we reveal Christ to be the King of the Mountain by attacking the false faiths, exposing how they are foolish and have no ground upon which to stand.


I Pitty the Fool!

A Practical Example of Exposing Foolery

The Bible says that the one who builds his house upon the rock (i.e. the word of God) will not be moved.  However, the one who builds his house on the sand (foolish unbelief) will find that his system comes crashing down.

As we said above, part of our duty is to push the unbeliever's worldview and show how it falls into shambles.  Let's take a moment and talk about how we just might do this given a certain objection to the faith.

Suppose you are talking with someone and they say, “I don’t believe God exists.”  You might ask them why they believe this.  He may answer, “Because there is no evidence for God.”   How do we address this situation?  

It would be easy as saying this,

“How do you know there is no evidence for God?  Have you searched the entire universe?  There very well may be evidence that you simply have not found.”

In saying this we have just exposed the weakness of his argument.  He has made a categorically absolute statement that there is no proof.  However, he cannot be sure because he has not examined all possible means of gaining evidence.  There very well may be proof that he does not know of and simply has not found.  If he wishes to be “scientific” he must abide by the rules of his method!

We can now begin to press his worldview to expose how it cannot even account for the rationality he claims.  We may say something like this,

“You are assuming that everything has to be proven by means of scientific investigation (i.e. by your ability to see, taste, touch, smell).  Can you prove the scientific method by means of the scientific method? 

The answer is obviously no.  His basis for life (the scientific method) has no authoritative grounding.  If the truth were told there are in fact many other things that cannot be proven by sensory experience, such as laws of logic, thoughts, dreams, etc.

You can continue to press his worldview and expose its folly.

“You are also assuming your senses of sight, taste, & touch are reliable.  But it must be asked, ‘How do you know that they are reliable?’  How can you be sure that what you see is actually there and not a figment of your imagination?  Just because I think I am holding a pencil, doesn’t mean that it could not really be a knife.  Just because I don’t see any blood, doesn’t mean there isn’t any.  My sense of perception may not be accurate.

"As a matter of fact, I could be dreaming this whole conversation!

“The fact of the matter is, sensory perception cannot be trusted in and of itself.  There has to be a God who has made the eye, the hand, and the nose to validate the authenticity of sensory experience. 

“So, in the end, the very thing you claim (i.e. There is no evidence for God) is not only untrue (there may very well may be evidence that you do not know of), but the possibility of using our senses to verify evidence proves that God must exist.  The very claim you make necessarily implies the very God you deny.”

We’ve now disarmed our proud fool, stripped him of his ability to argue, and given him reason to consider the need for the Christian faith.  Or, to put it another way, Christ remains king of the mountain and the unbeliever’s worldview has been cast down and dashed to pieces.

It is admitted that the unbeliever may still wish to remain in his unbelief.  Just because we have exposed his folly, doesn’t mean he will automatically leave it. 

However, we have properly defended the faith to this point.  We have cast down every lofty thing exalted against Christ and, theoretically speaking, kept the fool from being wise in his own eyes.


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Providence church meets for divine worship at 10:30 each Sunday in the Mifflin Community Center, located just across from the Trading Post at 55 Maine Street.

Providence is a family integrated church that holds to the Reformed faith as summarized in Westminster and London Confessions.  

You may find out more by visiting

Balloonfest Evangelism!

A couple of guys have recently begun meeting for the purpose of making some concerted efforts to do evangelism. Their goal is to help the congregation advance Christ's kingdom.

There are a number of plans being made, including some evangelism training classes.  One item on the agenda involves distributing some gospel literature at the Ashland Balloonfest (June 27-29).  

More information will be coming out over the next few weeks as to a specific date & time.  Right now though, the plans are to meet at Matt Timmons' house (located just down the street from the Balloonfest venue) to pray and get organized.  

The group will walk down and begin to hand out some gospel oriented materials that have been prepared.  

It shouldn't take long, as our materials are limited at this time.   So, after our distribution, we can have some fun together enjoying the Balloonfest activities.

Anyone may participate in this event, and we would love to have you and your family join in the outing. You can just send us an email to let us know that you want to be kept informed of the details as they develop.

This Sunday we are Camping!  
Check our website for details on
Sunday Worship

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Speaking of Evangelism!

Some of us already hit the streets in order to start spreading the gospel.  Just over 200 gospel tracts and sermon CD's were passed out at the Memorial Day Parade in Ashland (view the pics!  Better yet, read the tract!)

Pray that these seeds would take root and that the Lord would bless future evangelistic opportunities!

Have you heard the news?

We've mentioned before that we would be dusting off our old listenings and bringing them into the 21st century.  Now they've arrived!

Our first installment brings you two CD series that will help you redeem the time as you commute to and from work.  

R.C. Sproul's series Dust to Glory will walk you through the New Testament and introduce you to things like the miracles of Jesus, the expansion of the church, and the book of Revelation

We've also put Doug Wilson's Introduction to Church History on the fast track.  We at Providence Church think it is important to consider what God has done in and through His church over its history.  We've noted elsewhere that this historical heritage is one of the distinct features of our church.  

These 6 lectures will give you a helicopter's view of what has happened since the time of the apostles.  You will learn the significance of the early church councils, meet the men of the Reformation, and see how the church developed on the shores of America.  

You will be sure to gain much as you look at the church's battles, growth, and challenges.

All Truth is God's

Taking back what the unbeliever steals.

We may even take our apologetics one step further.  We do not have to wait for anyone to object to our faith to engage in apologetics.  When we understand what we do in apologetics, we will understand that we can engage the unbeliever at any time. 

Indeed, we may press the gospel by actively opening the door for it by engaging the unbeliever and calling him to account for his worldview.

Think of it this way:  The Bible says that “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3).  In other words, our God is the author of all creation and the fountain of truth.  Therefore it is legitimate to say that “All truth is God’s truth.”  More specifically, anyone who has truth, must take it from this God!

Since the unbeliever lives in this world he must hold to God’s truth to some degree in order to operate in this world.  The unbeliever, then, is guilty of “stealing” truth.  He takes from the Christian worldview the truth that he has.  Though he uses this truth, his worldview cannot account for that truth because it is not built on the revelation of God in Scripture.

So, wherever he makes use of truth, we may engage in presuppositional apologetics to expose how he does not have any grounds for making these claims to truth.

Here’s a concrete example: I was once talking with my neighbor about the girls my wife and I have adopted.  As a man who travels to some rundown neighborhoods, he confessed to me that he is so glad that we have adopted and given these girls good homes.  He went on and on about how “good” it was. 

We agree that adoption is good.  That is to say, adoption has a moral dimension, and it is a “good” and “decent” thing to give a child a good home.  It is “not good” to be in a broken home.  Yet how can he, and unbeliever, account for these moral claims?  Morality demands an absolute standard by which to judge good and evil.  What standard does he have by which to measure “goodness”?  We might ask him, “How do you know that adoption is good?”  His response would be something to the effect of “because I think it is.”  We might then ask, “How do you know you are right?  What makes your personal inclination a valid measurement of what is good?”

If he is honest (and it is likely that he won’t be), he will have to admit that his standard for judging morality is invalid.  We could just as easily say, “Adoption is evil” if it is up to our personal inclination.  We know that adoption is good though.  But why?  It is because God has given us a standard for measuring what is good.

We have now just broken down my neighbor’s worldview, shown it to be absurd, and opened a door for the gospel.  In just a matter of minutes we have shown him how his own worldview cannot account for morality (and is therefore absurd), and provided him a reason to acknowledge Christ as Lord.

All this is to say that it is only the Christian presuppositions that are able to give a coherent basis for reality, knowledge, and morality.  Truth is God’s, and the unbeliever has no right to it apart from Christ.

Clarification:  Do not misunderstand this:  I am not saying that unbelievers do not have truth or morals.  They most certainly do.  It is part of the common grace that God grants them.  All unbelievers have some degree of truth.  What we want to do is show them that it is impossible to account for that truth in their system.  In other words, we want them to confess the Source of that truth and acknowledge His standard for truth.

I once had a woman make this mistake.  She said that we Christians don’t think atheists have morals.  I corrected her by saying that such wasn’t true in the least.  We do believe atheists have morals.  However, we don’t believe that they could account for those morals according to their system of unbelief. 

The conversation involved discussion of her love to celebrate Christmas, despite her confessing being an atheist.  I then explained that, if we are nothing more than cosmic dust (i.e. chance products of evolutionary change) it doesn't matter whether we eat the ham or the neighbor's child for Christmas dinner. If we are consistent atheists, one act is just as moral as the other.

How can I say this?  It is because evolution does not give an absolute standard for morality.  A child or a pig are essentially the same in that they are both chance products of evolution.  No authoritative lawgiver has said that eating one or the other is wrong.  Neither have they been endowed with any sort of dignity that would necessarily make such an act wrong. 

The atheistic and evolutionary worldview, when critiqued by its own system, is not able to say that cannibalism is wrong.  (If your life’s maxim is “survival of the fittest, one might make the case that cannibalism ought be endorsed!”)

To be sure, eating the neighbor kid should sound repulsive.  It would be terrible if someone thought this was an okay thing to do.  But how is it that this atheist could be repulsed by the thought of chewing on little Jenny from next door?  It is because she steals from the Christian worldview.  God has endowed man with a special dignity by creating man in His image.  Cannibalism is forbidden (and reprehensible!) because it violates this basic glory given to man.

Again, all this is to say that all people have truth.  Our question instead, revolves around how they account for that truth.

As Christians, it is our duty to "let God be true and every man a liar."  So this tactic of vindicating God's truth is a wonderful means of accomplishing that very thing.

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