In July of this year I am attending (Lord willing!) the RZIM Oxford Summer School for Christian Apologetics. You should check out what these folks are all about HERE (Summer school), HERE (the OCCA) and HERE (RZIM). As you might be able to infer from this website, I am pretty stoked about this! However, at this point in the game I am not exactly an expert in the discipline of Christian Apologetics. In order to get in “game shape” so to speak, I have been working on some assignments from my dad (an author, family therapist, and pastor since the late 70’s). The first assignment was to read the book Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock and to write a 1-2 page response to each of the chapters. It might be a little hard to follow what’s going on without reading the chapters for yourself, but I wanted to share the work I did on these anyway. So, that being said, here is paper #1…
Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock
Chapter 1: The Legitimacy of Christian Apologetics
Pinnock opened my eyes and won me over immediately when he wrote the following in chapter one: “Faith is not the opposite of knowledge. The scandal of the gospel is not its alleged immunity from proof. The gospel makes sense, not non-sense. Its offense lies in its moral unmasking of the sinner, not in its supposed uncertain truthfulness.” The author states that in our worldly context what we need now is MORE apologetics, not less, and he also suggests two antagonists ready to oppose the cause of apologetics: rationalism and mysticism.
Rationalism, according to Pinnock, has no time for “supernatural revelation and miraculous Incarnation;” mysticism, on the other hand, considers the practice of apologetics wholly unnecessary, choosing instead to center itself on feeling-driven experiences rather than to root itself in some degree of dogma.
The beauty of Christianity is that, though it does require the follower to live a life of faith in the unseen and the sensorially inexperienced, that initial leap of faith can be taken confidently. The leaper can be assured that what he believes in can be corroborated historically and that the text detailing the principles of his faith makes coherent sense; or, as Pinnock states, “…it (the Gospel) is perfectly intelligible, consistent, and satisfying.” Our Gospel may seem foolish to those who are exposed to it, but that is because it requires us to surrender our pride, not our reason.
The high calling of apologetics requires us to work in lock-step with the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us in John 16:8 that the Holy Spirit works to convict the world of their sin; however, the Great Commission commands us as believers to deliver the Gospel to every corner of the globe. A sound grasp of Christian doctrine allows us to use apologetics as the evangelical tool by which we can expose skeptic unbelievers to the saving work of the Holy Spirit. As our culture grows more and more secular we must ensure that our counter-arguments continue to evolve to address new crops of challenges to our faith while at the same time refusing to waver on the absolute truths and pillars of Christianity.
I suppose in some ways it is difficult for us to see other periods of history in which we did not live as they really were; at least, something must be said for the fact that you have no first-hand knowledge. I remember the first time I heard The Beatles for example, but in some ways this can never compare to the experience of those who were there for the real thing. I mention this because I have to wonder how desperately the world must need apologetics today if Pinnock was convinced of the great need when his book was published in the late 1960’s. I do truly believe that we live in a profane and secular generation, but I have to consider that maybe the situation is graver than I imagine. I also have to believe that, in addition to the foes of rationalism and mysticism that Pinnock identified in his day, we must be ready to fight against a culture that espouses moral relativism and believes it is an absolute insensitive “sin” to claim that your truth is the Truth. I think it is against this group that we must form our defense so that we can successfully give account “for the hope that is in us” when the opportunities present themselves.
Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Ruth