R.C. Sproul: The Task of Apologetics

R.C. Sproul: The Task of Apologetics

Let’s begin this session with prayer shall
we? Our Father and our God, you have set before us in the life of the church so many tasks
which in and of ourselves we are not at all able to perform. You know our feet that they
are of clay, our frames are of dust, and what treasure we carry; we carry in earthen vessels.
You’ve called us to proclaim your word. You’ve called us to demonstrate your love. You’ve
called us to ministries of mercy to those who suffer, to those who are widowed and orphaned
or imprisoned. But you’ve also called us to this task not only of teaching but of defending
your truth and giving a reason for the hope that is within us. None of these tasks could
be performed at all without the presence and the power of your Holy Spirit. And so we beseech
you tonight, not only for this message, but for the entire time together, that you would
flood this place with that Spirit of Holiness who is also the Spirit of Truth. For we ask
it in Jesus’ name, and for His sake. Amen The first address of this conference apart
from the pre-conference is entitled “The Task of Apologetics.” And before I address that
task I would like to read a brief portion of the Old Testament. And let me say in advance
Steve and John that this will be a lecture tonight and night, not an exposition of scripture.
So that’s the first surprise. Chapter four of Exodus begins with these words “Then Moses
answered and said “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice. Suppose
they say “The Lord has not appeared to you.” And so the Lord said to him “What is that
in your hand?” He said “A rod.” And He said “Cast it on the ground.” And so he cast it
on the ground and it became a serpent. And Moses fled from it. And then the Lord said
to Moses “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” And he reached out his hand
and caught it. And it became a rod in his hand, “That they may believe that the Lord
God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has
appeared to you.” Further more the Lord said to him “Now put your hand in you bosom.” And
he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out behold his hand was leprous like
snow. And He said “Put your hand in your bosom again.” And so he put his hand in his bosom
again. And he drew it out of his bosom and behold it was restored like his other flesh.
“Then it will be if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign that
they believe the message of the latter sign. And if it shall be that if even they do not
believe these two signs or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the
river and pour it on the dry land, and the water which you take from the river will become
blood on the dry land.” And then Moses said to the Lord “Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent,
neither before nor since you have spoken to your servant. But I am slow of speech and
slow of tongue.” So the Lord said to him “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes the mute,
the deaf, the seeing or the blind? Have not I the Lord? Now therefore go and I will be
with your mouth teach you what you shall say.”” You notice that this text that I have just
read follows immediately upon the dramatic encounter that Moses in the midianite wilderness
with God when Moses noticed this bush that was burning but was not being consumed. So
he turned aside to give attention to it. Then out of that bush the voice spoke to Moses
saying “Moses, Moses take off thy shoes from off they feet for the ground where on thou
standest is holy ground.” Now that was a watershed moment in redemptive history for a couple
of reasons. First of all, it was in that encounter that God revealed His name to Moses that would
be His memorial name for all generations. The name of the tetragramaton Yahweh in which
God identified himself as simply “I AM who I AM.” And after this moment of revelation,
God gave a task to Moses. And his task was two-fold, on the one hand God sent him to
the palace of Pharaoh the king of the Egyptians with this message from God in which he was
to announce to Pharaoh that the Lord God had heard the groans of His people. And God now
says to Pharaoh “Let my people go!” And then the other task was to address those who were
enslaved by Pharaoh, his kinsmen according to the flesh, the Israelites. And he was to
command the Israelites in the name of God to be engaged in the largest wildcat strike
in the history of the world. They were to in absolute defiance to the power and authority
of Pharaoh, to leave their country that they were to go out into the dessert and worship
God at His mountain. And these events ended in the Exodus. But think of this task. Talk
about an apologetic task. Moses is supposed to go to Pharaoh. He is an old man. That is
Moses is. He’s scraggly. He’s been out tending sheep in the wilderness all these years. He’s
supposed to go up and somehow get an appointment with Pharaoh. I can hear the guards standing
there saying “who are you?” And he says “my name is Moses I used to live here a long time
ago. I’ve been exiled for many, many years. But I need to speak to Pharaoh.” To whom he
says “Well I was talking to this bush out in the wilderness.” I wonder how he ever got
into see Pharaoh. But it was even worse to go to the people and say “Never mind the chariots
of Egypt. Never mind the armies of Pharaoh. Follow me and I will lead you to the Promised
Land.” What slave in his right mind would Moses at his word? And that is the problem
that is addressed here in chapter four of Exodus where Moses says to God “With all due
respect, suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice. Suppose they say “The
Lord has not appeared to you.”” Now there are a couple things I want you to notice here.
Moses is raising the question of apologetics. How can I convince these people of the truth
of this mandate and that it has come from God. A parenthesis, so often in Christian
apologetics we point to the miracles of the Bible as evidence to prove the existence of
God. But beloved, it is just the opposite in the scripture. Miracles don’t prove the
existence of God. Rather miracles are God’s proof authenticating His agents of revelation.
Nicodemus had it right when he came to Jesus at night and said “Teacher we know that thou
art a teacher sent from God or you would not be able to do the things that you do.” Jesus
said “Believe me from what I say or from what my works say,” because these miracles were
evidence of things only God can do to authenticate an agent or messenger sent from God. But before
a miracle has any evidential value to authenticate an agent of revelation, it must first be established
that there is a God. Now again, on this question that Moses is raising here in chapter four,
he is not talking about “how am I going to persuade Pharaoh to listen to me at this moment?”
But “How am I going to convince your people that you have spoken?” It was an in-house
problem. And his apologetic task here was to persuade the church, not the world of the
word of God. “Suppose they will not believe me? Suppose they will not listen to my voice?
Let’s just suppose they say “The Lord has not appeared to you.”” Here’s how God answered
him. Notice that God was also Jewish, because He answers a question with a question. That’s
how we know. Do you know why Jewish people answer questions with questions? Why not answer
a question with a question? So the Lord said to him, that is Moses “What’s that in your
hand?” Moses said “A rod.” God said “Cast it on the ground.” So, he casts it on the
ground and it became a serpent and Moses is terrified. He flees from it. Now the Lord
said to Moses “You go catch that snake. Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” Now
I don’t know which scared Moses more at this point, that serpent wiggling in the dirt or
the God telling him to grab the tail? I would want to make sure that it was God telling
me to do that before I grabbed hold of a snake like that. So he reached out his hand, and
he caught it and it says that as soon as he caught it, it became a rod in his hand. So
you go and you say you want to know how they are going to believe that I sent you? I’m
going to authenticate you as my agent of revelation by this sign. “That they may believe that
the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,
has appeared to you.” Notice again this is for the benefit of the household of faith.
Furthermore the Lord said to him “Now, put your hand in your bosom.” He put his hand
in his bosom. When he took it out his hand was filled with leprosy. Astonishing and terrifying
Moses again. God said “Okay, now put it back in your shirt.” He puts it back in his shirt,
brings it out and it is completely whole once more. And so he arms Moses, His servant, with
these two signs to prove his case to the people. And he says, if the first one doesn’t do it,
then give them the second one. And if the second one doesn’t do it, then take some
water it and pour it on the dry land and it will become blood. Sooner or later they’re
going to get the message. And after God empowers Moses, for this task, you would think he would
say “That’s great. Give me the rod and the staff. Give me the leprous hand that becomes
clean. Give me the water that turns into blood, and I will do your biding.” But now he starts
complaining all the more and he says “But Lord, I’m not eloquent, neither before nor
since you have spoken to your servant.” I’ve never eloquent. “I’m slow of speech, and I’m
slow of tongue.” Oh? Is that right? I didn’t realize that. But Moses I have another question
for you. Who is it that made your mouth? Who is it that made your tongue? You take my word
to the people and I’ll take care of its efficacy. I made your mouth. I made your tongue. And
here is my word. You use your mouth and you use your tongue and I’ll take care of the
rest. So what is the task of apologetics? In the first place it is not to tell the world
that we are sorry that we are Christians. We don’t apologize for being believers in
Christ. The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia; which means literally
“to give a reply.” And its function in the early church was various. In the first instance
we see the pattern of the preaching and teaching of the apostle Paul and the other apostles
in the books of Acts. It was Paul’s custom into every village that he went to go first
to the synagogue and be involved in dialogue or reasoning and then to the Agora – the marketplace.
If you have ever been to Athens, and have gone to the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and
you stand there on the steps and if you look right across the way you see the remains of
the Areopagus, Mars Hill. That small mesa as it was right across from the Parthenon.
And you look at that and you can imagine the apostle Paul preaching there to the Epicureans
and to the Stoics. But if your eye just goes to the right, this vast plain that is also
nearby where the Greek Agora was in Athens. It was the marketplace. And so the apostle
would go where the philosophers would gather or he would just go to the marketplace and
reason and debate and preach publicly there in the city that was the monument to the high
culture of the ancient world. A city that had been heralded as the citadel of truth,
the fine arts, philosophy, literature, sculpture, art, and drama. At city that when the apostle
saw it, his soul was vexed and deeply troubled because what he saw was a city that had been
given over to idolatry. And so he went and he replied to the false philosophies of his
day, proclaiming the truth of Christianity, and answering the questions and the protests
that were thrown his way. Well, at the end of the apostolic age, the intellectuals of
the early Christian church continued this ministry of apologia – of apologetics to their
generation. In the second century we think of Justin Martyr who wrote his famous apologia
and addressed it to Emperor Antonios Pious. And there were a couple of tasks that were
being performed by the early apologists and Justin Martyr. And the first task was this,
was to clarify what was really being proclaimed by the Christian church and to clarify it
in light of the false conceptions that were rumored and spread abroad. It was commonly
said at the beginning of the second century that the Christians were a seditious group
that were trying to upset the authority of the Roman Empire. That they also were atheists
because they didn’t worship the Roman gods or the emperor, and also that they were cannibals
because it was rumored that they would meet in secret every week and devour somebody’s
body and blood. And so it was necessary for the church to answer these false charges against
it. As Justin Martyr attempted to do in his essay address to Antonios Pious. He said “Look,
we are not atheists. We believe in God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the one
true God. So, he first of all defended Christian theism. Secondly he said “We are not out to
overthrow the political structures of this day. In fact, it is part of our religion to
pray for the kings, to give honor to kings, to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.
And if you look at our lives you will see that we are model citizens of civil obedience.
We pay our taxes. We drive our chariots with in the speed limit. You don’t have to be worried
about us committing crimes of murder and theft. It is true however that we will not recite
the loyalty oath Kaiser Kurios – Caesar is Lord, because whatever else Caesar has, he
is not Kurios. He is not Lord. Our confession of faith is simple. Jesus oh Kurios. Jesus
is Lord.” But in addition to answering these false charges, the apologists of that period
and ever since also had to engage the pagan intellectuals of the day. Again following
the example of Paul at Mars Hill where he engaged the Stoic and the Epicureans so Justin
Martyr had to deal with that remaining following of classical Platonists just as Augustine
later on had to answer the philosophy of neo-Platonism and Plotlines. And as later on in church history
Thomas Aquinas had to defend the truth claims of Christianity against the Muslims philosophers
who espoused a theory called “integral aristotiliansim”, and their double truth theory. I mention that
only in passing because it is so contemporary. The double truth theory of the integral Aristotelians
among the Muslim philosophers was this: that what was true in faith could be false in reason.
What was true in religion at the same time could be false in science. You could put it
in the twenty-first century categories like this; that you would believe on Sunday that
man was created in the image of God, but with equal fervor you would affirm on Monday, Tuesday,
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday that we are cosmic accidents who have emerged
fortuitously from the slime. And the problem is both of these truths could at the same
time and in the same relationship be equally true. In other words, what the integral Aristotelians
did was dispense with rationality and with the test of the law of non-contradiction of
which those of you who were earlier in the day have heard much about from Ravi and the
other speakers. And so, Thomas Aquinas following Augustine had to argue in his day that all
truth is God’s truth. And that anything that is true in this sphere must also be true over
here or we are kidding ourselves. There is an internal coherency, consistency, and unity
of all truth. What God reveals in the Bible will never ultimately contradict what God
reveals of Himself in nature. So far from dividing nature and grace, Thomas Aquinas’
task was to find its unity against those who would divide nature and grace. But anyway
through out all Christian history in every generation there is a new philosophical movement
that attacks Christian faith and truth claims. And so in every generation the faith must
be defended. And we are called to give an intellectual apologia – a reply to those alternate
life views that assail the Christian faith. Now, in the sixteenth century, with the water
shed movement of the reformation and the rediscovery of the gospel in the doctrine of justification
by faith alone, a question that the reformers had to answer and make a reply was this question:
What is the nature of saving faith? You say you are justified by faith alone. And yet
the Bible says that you believe in God, why even the demons believe and tremble. As Jim
Kennedy used to say, “If you have an intellectual assent to the existence of God, all that does
so far is to qualify you to be a demon.” But in any case this was the question that Luther
and Calvin felt the weight to answer because people were saying “oh this is an easy believe-ism.
You just say you believe in Jesus and you can continue to sin. You don’t have to be
sanctified and you will still get into the kingdom of God. What is this anti-noemian
doctrine of justification by faith alone?” So the question was: What makes up saving
faith? Now, here is where apologetics comes in and where it doesn’t. As the reformers
tried to answer the question: What are the constituent elements of saving faith? They
gave various and different answers, but the prevailing answer to the question of what
makes of saving faith was the answer that said that there are three basic elements for
saving faith. Element number one was what they called the notae or sometimes called
the notitia. Now, if you can’t see this up there it’s because you don’t have x-ray vision.
Number one is notea or notitia. It sounds like a radio soap opera. Notitia faces life
or something like that. Oh no, that was Porsche. The second element of saving faith was called
assensus. And the third, an indispensable element of saving faith, was fiducia. Let
me just take a moment to explain the difference among these three concepts. The first concept,
the notea or the notitia, has to do with the data of Christianity – the content of Christian
faith. You’ve heard in our culture the adage “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long
as you believe as long as you are sincere.” Well, remember dear friend that there people
who sincerely believe in and worship Satan to their everlasting doom. And the Bible would
say that it matters eternally what it is we believe. For we are not just justified by
faith in anything; there is a content to that faith. And the first task of apologetics is
linked with the task of preaching to give a clear presentation of the data, or the content
of the gospel. If you look carefully at the sermons recorded for us in the book of Acts,
you will see what scholars have extrapolated from those sermons that they call the kerygma
– or the preaching or the proclamation. It has to do with an outline of the basic assertions
that were made by the apostles in the early church. That Jesus was born of a virgin according
to the scriptures, that he lived a life of obedience, that he suffered on the cross an
atoning death. He was raised for our justification. He ascended into heaven. He was seated at
the right hand of God, and so on. These are all part of the content of what it is we believe.
Somebody asked me this morning in the Q & A with the tape of the month partners: Can a
person who is has never heard of the resurrection to be saved? You may be surprised to hear
my answer. I said yes if all that the gospel that the person has heard is that Jesus died
on the cross an atoning death, whose death covers the sin of all who repent and embraced
him, without hearing of the resurrection, I would say I believe that the substance of
the gospel is there sufficiently to bring a person into a state of grace. However if
somebody does know of the resurrection, claims to be a Christian but denies the resurrection,
then I would give a different answer to that question; and say, no that person is not in
a state of grace. But again when we say that we are justified by faith, we have to talk
about faith in what? What is it that we believe? And so the first part of that answer has to
do with the information, or the data that is proclaimed. The second part of saving faith
is what the reformers called assensus or intellectual assent. If I said to you “Do you believe that
George Washington was the first president of the United States?” And you say to me “Yes
I believe.” I don’t take that to be a confession of faith in the saving efficacy of the father
of our nation. I take that to mean that yes you understand by the phrase “George Washington
was the first president of the United States”, that I am referring to some intellectual content
that has an objective reference in reality to a person that lived in the eighteenth century
and so on. And when I say “Do you believe that?” And you say “Yes.” What you are saying
is “I am giving my intellectual assent to the truth of the proposition that George Washington
was the first president of the United States. That is was assensus is. It is saying “yes
I affirm the reality or the truth of that proposition.” We have to labor this sort of
thing today, as we’ve already heard that people are so viciously attacking the whole concept
of propositional truth that in some churches today propositional truth is denied, and there
is a hostile attitude towards it. But again, how can you call upon him in whom you have
not believed? This is the question that the apostle asked to the Romans. You have to believe
that Jesus is able to save you before you can ever embrace Him as a savior. And that
is an intellectual assent. Again – parentheses, Saint Augustine in his age made a very important
distinction between faith and credulity. Credulity is trusting in the irrational. Credulity is
trusting in that which is non-sensical. There is no virtue in trusting in the absurd. That’s
not faith. That is credulity. But true faith and saving faith has to do with an intellectual
assent to certain data and propositions. Now also another aside. David Hume in his philosophical
inquiries, I think at one point at least, did a service to us when he analyzed critically
the nature of belief. And he talked about belief as intellectual assent, among other
things. And he said that belief or faith can never be a matter of the will. Let me stop
for a minute. Because that seems to be on a collision course with how we respond in
evangelical circles isn’t it? We say to people when we preach the gospel “You need to make
a choice. You need to choose to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Well, if you are talking
about choosing to have faith in the sense of assensus, how in the world through an act
of the will can you say “I’m going to choose to believe something that is utterly abhorrent
and repugnant to my mind.” We say people will take a leap of faith. Close your eyes take
a deep breath and jump into the abyss as you leap and pray that Jesus will catch you. This
is the word of faith movement. Name it and claim it. Put your hands on a blind man’s
head and say “You are healed. Do you believe it?” The man opens his eyes and he can’t see
a thing. But he is told to choose to believe that he can see when he can’t see. That’s
not faith. That’s credulity. That is nonsense. That has nothing to do with the Biblical idea
of faith. You can not screw up your jaw and choose to believe something that in fact you
don’t believe. You are lying to yourself. And you are on the way to schizophrenia when
you play that game. But that is what we ask people to do. We ask people to park their
brains in the parking lot, come in here, and believe the absurd as if there is some kind
of virtue in that. No. For the reformers, saving faith involves real assensus where
the mind is convinced of the truth of the proposition. Again, going back to James, remember
that there are no creatures under heaven, more convinced of the data and of the truth
of the data than the demons. Satan never goes through any periods of doubt and uncertainty
of the identity of Jesus. He knows very well who Jesus is. And he has that intellectual
assent to the proposition that Jesus is the Son of God. His problem is that he hates that
proposition with all of his being. Now the third and indispensable aspect of saving faith
is fiducia, which is translated usually “by trust.” You may say you’ve heard the gospel.
You may say you believe in Jesus Christ, but are you trusting your eternal soul to His
finished work or are you trusting someone else? Jim Kennedy used to use the illustration
of a chair. And as he talked to that person he’d say “Do you see that object there. Do
you believe that that is a chair?” The fellow would say “Yes, I see that that is a chair.
I believe that it is a chair.” Do you believe that that chair will support your weight if
you sit in it?” And the person examines the chair and says “Yes, I believe that that chair
will support my weight if I sit in it.” Then Jim would say “Well, is it supporting you
right now?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because I’m not sitting in it.” And that is the idea of
fiducia. I may say that I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I may say that I believe
that He can save me. But I am not saved until I’m trusting in that, and not only trusting
it, but loving it. Here is where the element of religious affection is absolutely essential
to salvation. I had a friend ask me once “How can I know if I am saved?” And instead of
going a lengthy theological explanation of the assurance of salvation, I asked him a
couple of questions. I said “Do you love Jesus perfectly?” And he said “No.” I said “Do you
love Jesus as much as you ought to love him?” Well, if he says no to the first questions,
he has to say no to the second questions because he ought to love Him perfectly. He says “No,
I don’t love Him as much as I should.” I said “Do you love Him at all? And what I’m asking
you about here is the Biblical Jesus. Do you have any affection for the Biblical Jesus?”
He says “Well Yes.” Then I said “Well, the only way that I know of, that you can have
any affection for the Biblical Christ is if God the Holy the Spirit has changed your heart
of stone and given you that affection for Him. And if that is the case, then you are
in a state of grace.” Now, why am I going over this business about the elements of justification?
Because I am talking about the task of apologetics. Understand that within the reformed community,
there are different schools of thought with respect to the science of apologetics. Christian
leaders within the reformed camp don’t agree with each other always about what is the best,
and truest and most sound, and most biblical approach to apologetics. But one thing all
thinkers in the reformed camp agree on is that apologetics can never get you to step
three. Apologetics can explain the data. Apologetics can give you the rational defense of the truth
claims of Christianity. And we are called to do that, to give the reason for the hope
that is with in us. And we are to work to persuade men. However, the best arguments
that we ever offer, however convincing they may be, can never change the human heart that
by nature is hostile towards God, at enmity to God and dead to the spiritual things of
God. Apologetics can never prove the sweetness of Christ to a pagan. Now does that mean therefore
lets not be involved in apologetics? No. What we ought to do what we can do. And what we
can do is what I call pre-evangelism. That we can clarify the data, and give the arguments
for the rational consent and assent to it. And then get out of the way as the Holy Spirit
then works from that point on. Let me show you how Calvin did that, with respect to his
defense of sacred scripture. Calvin made a very important distinction in his theology,
between two categories which I will write down; proof and persuasion. Proof is something
that is objective, where you lay out the case, you marshal the evidence, and you try to give
compelling reasons for the some assertion or proposition. Persuasion is more subjective.
When a person says “Ah, yes I am changing my conviction. I am being moved to respond
in a certain way.” We think of the tragic and hollow response of King Agrippa to Paul
when Agrippa said “Paul, almost thou persuadeth me to be a Christian.” There is probably no
more tragic word in the English language than the word “almost.” Almost but not quite. I’ve
listened your arguments. I am impressed by them. You almost have me there. And Paul stood
before him in chains as a prisoner saying “I would that thou were not almost but altogether
just as I am saved for these chains.” Persuasion is more subjective. What Calvin meant with
this distinction was this; you can give an argument that is compelling that gives objective
proof of the truth of a proposition and still have people who are not persuaded by it, because
at this point the biases are so intense and so strong. Remember that in our natural condition
we do not want to have God in our thinking. The natural mind is hostile towards God. So
even if the evidence is objective and clear as it was in the ministry of Jesus. The more
proof that He gave of who He was, the more intensely they hated Him, and would not surrender
to the truth. When Calvin talked about the truth of scripture being the word of God,
which Dr. Mohler will deal with tomorrow, Calvin marshaled a list of what he called
indicia – indications or evidences, objective evidences, for the Bible’s being the inspired
word of God. That is the consistency of its parts, the heavenliness of the matter, the
antiquity of it, the loftiness of its ethics and all of these arguments that he gave. He
made this observation, he said “That these arguments in and of themselves were sufficient
to prove that the Bible is the word of God.” Objectively they proved the case. “But no
one will be sufficiently convinced of these evidences until or unless God the Holy Spirit
pierces the heart and soul of that person and confirms the truth of His word through
the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.” Now Calvin at that point was not jumping into
a sea of subjectivism, saying “The only reason I believe that the Bible is the word of God
is because the Holy Spirit revealed that to me.” That is sort of like – what’s his name?
Not Adam Smith – the other smith in Pelmira. Vesta? Joseph! Getting his private revelation
from the angel Maroney behind a sheet where nobody in the world could investigate whether
he was talking to himself or talking to an angel from on high. That is not like that.
It’s not like the Holy Spirit whispers into our ears a new argument that is not available
to anybody else. What the Spirit does is changes the disposition of our soul so that, Calvin
says “Now, by the power of the Holy Spirit we are induced to
acquiesce into the indicia.” Notice that, in light of relativism, postmodernism, irrational
evidae which says that what we are to do is to believe against the evidence, to leap over
the evidence. Never mind whether the case is sound or unsound. No, no, no. Calvin says
that what the Spirit causes us to do is to bow to and to surrender to the evidence that
is there, that is objective, and is compelling. It melts our resistance overcomes the hardness
of our heart against the truth of God. Again, Calvin said that the evidence and proof for
scriptures are sufficient to stop the mouths of the epstriporous. Now, it’s already been
said in our time together that one of the most important tasks that we have in answering
the critics of the Christian faith in our day is not to provide proof and persuasion
to the unbeliever. We are to do that. We are to argue. Again the first two points here
are give the indicia, give the arguments for the assent of the mind. But the most valuable
role, I believe in the task of apologetics is to encourage the saints; to shore up the
church. Just as the first concern that Moses had was “How are your people how believe in
the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob going to believe now that this is what you want
them to do?” And Moses was an apologist to his own people. I can remember when I was in seminary. It
was the toughest three years of my life, because I was a zealous Christian, and I was in a
citadel of unbelief. Every day the precious doctrines of our faith were attacked viciously
by our professors. The first week I was introduced to it when one professor lashed out at a student
in my class for coming to seminary with too many pre-conceived ideas like the deity of
Christ. I witnessed another vicious attack of a professor to a student when he preached
on the cross. And the professor said “how dare you preach the substitutionary atonement
in this day and age.” And it wasn’t just a matter of difference of opinion. There was
this hostility that was palpable in the air, and very discouraging. And I can remember
all kinds of questions that were being raised. And even though I had a background in philosophy
and I could understand the philosophical assumptions that the critics were using, there were still
a lot of questions that I did not feel equipped to answer. But intuitively I knew these guys
were wrong, but I couldn’t answer them. At that time, when I was in seminary, there was
basically one major seminary in the United States that was remaining faithful to historic
reformed theology, and it was Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Back
in the days of John Murray, Ed Young, Ed Stonehouse, Cornelius Van Til, Maachen and the others
who were heroes of the faith. I used to go read those guys after class. And they would
give me the answers to these questions. And after a while whenever I hear a question I
wasn’t quite able to answer, instantly I had this confidence that God had raised up great
men of learning who knew far more than I did, who were able to answer these skeptical questions.
I said to our folks at Ligonier many many years ago, I said “The work that we do in
apologetics may not be understood in all of the details by all the Christians out there
who hear it, but it’s like “have gun will travel.” The old palatine story. That they
said “If we can answer these questions and if we can show credibility that the folks
in the church will not be devastated by the voices of skepticism that surround them.”
How many of you have sent our kids to college that was a Christian college, and they came
out of high school grounded in the things of God, and they got to college and had a
crisis of faith. They were hanging on by their fingernails because they were being beaten
down everyday, ridiculed and scorned for their faith in Christ. It is a common occurrence.
And so what those people needed was the task of apologetics inside the church, to calm
the fears. Because if Satan can’t take away your faith, he might be able to intimidate
you to such a degree that you are paralyzed; that you are not quite as bold as you were
before. And so, not everybody is called to be a professional apologist, but we are all
called to study those things of God, and to see that there are reasons for the hope that
is within us. Finally, the task of apologetics is to unmask the false idols of our culture.
Again as Calvin said “To stop the mouths of the epstrippers” In our day, the two major
articles of truth, the apologetics from the church must address with all of our might,
and all of our ability are these: the existence of God, and second, the authority of the Bible.
It may surprise you. You would have thought that I might say “the single most important
thing for apologists to prove is the existence of God, and then the second most important
thing is the person of Jesus.” No, I say the second most important thing is the truth of
scripture for this reason. If we can settle those two issues, the rest is exegesis. The
rest we can go to the source of God’s divine revelation, which proves the deity of Christ.
Now see in former generations prior to the enlightenment. In the middle ages there were
atheists. There were pagans. There was hostility to Christianity, but in the university world,
the climate for intellectual discussion was almost completely theistic. Philosophy was
seen – excuse me, theology was seen as the queen of the sciences and philosophy her hand
maiden. Philosophy served theology. Now Philosophy attacks theology and theology is all but banished
from the academic community. So that our fore fathers worked in a cultural context in which
theism at least was affirmed. Even the founding father of the American republic, without necessarily
embracing full-orbed Christianity, at least unequivocally affirmed theism as the bedrock
of our national political ideology. But those assumptions can no longer be taken for granted.
The basic point of assault of modern paganism and new-barbarianism is the doctrine of the
existence of God. And the point of that attack is in creation. If you can get away with creation,
get away with that, then you don’t have to worry about the existence of God. And if God
doesn’t exist who cares about the Bible? Who cares about Jesus? Who cares about ethics
and all the rest? And so the number one issue is; “Is there reason to believe, compelling
reason to believe that God exists?” And I am going to say that you can’t jump over
that question by simply asserting that God exists; because that is the question under
debate in our day. And we better learn how to respond to the agnosticism and skepticism
of Emanuel Kant. We better answer the skepticism that grew out of the enlightenment, particularly
with the French encyclopedists who believed that they once and for all, demonstrated that
the God hypothesis was no longer necessary to explain the origins of the universe or
of human life. That is the number one task of apologetics in our day. And so many of
our intellectuals have rolled over and played dead at the feet of Emmanuel Kant. To our
shame, because we have the case there. You have to jump into the abyss of irrationality
to argue that the universe came into being from nothing. Well, I’m not going to do the
work of apologetics and try to prove that point. Most of you have heard me do that on
other occasions. But the second important thing is the scripture. If we can make a case
that this book has its origin in God and divine revelation, then all the rest of the questions
of apologetics are footnotes. They can be solved by exegesis. The existence of God,
the existence of His word; those are the twin towers of the truth claims of Christianity
that have to be defended cogently and compellingly in every generation and no generation needs
it more desperately than our own. So let us not grow weary in seeking to defend the truth
of the existence of a self-existent eternal being who has manifested Himself in creation
and in history and in His inspired word. That’s our task. So git ‘er done. Let’s pray. Father
we thank you that you don’t leave us without your power, and without your truth. And we
know that though people’s preferences change from generation to generation O’ Lord that
the constituent nature of our humanity has not changed. The way to our heart is through
our brain. And we pray that we may be faithful in delivering your word to the mind, and that
your spirit would then take it to the heart. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

5 thoughts on “R.C. Sproul: The Task of Apologetics

  1. O learnt to speak English to understand this kinda messages , God is asowe , and apologetics is the best teaching in modern culture to encourage youth .

  2. The Bible talks about “clouds” going up and down with people going in and out. Clouds do not make those movements described in the Bible but spaceships do. Jesus ascended in a “cloud” (Acts 1:9). God rides in a “cloud” (Isaiah 19:1, Psalm 104:3). Jesus will come back “with” the “clouds” (Mat 26:64, Rev 1:7). Jesus will come back commanding a fleet of starships. The church will be raptured “in” the “clouds” (I Thess. 4:17). Spaceships will be used to rapture the church. The ancient did not have vocabulary or knowledge to understand what they saw so they called the flying objects “clouds”, “chariots”, and “pillars”, because was the words they had to describe something flying in the sky. The Bible even tells in Psalm 68:17 how many spaceships are in the fleet “The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands” (about 20,000). There is a good research done by Patrick Cooke called “The Great Deception – The Bible UFO Connection” which has the original words describing spaceships. It is all over the Bible. Jesus is real. He is the savior of the world but He is not seating in a puffy cloud. He is commanding a powerful army, which will take control of our planet. To understand the Bible you need to understand that the ancient described something but named with words they knew at the time. The star of Belem was a starship not a star, Jonah's whale was a starship with underwater capability. Think the Bible with the knowledge we have today and not a fictitious book. Do a search on the paint " The Baptism of Christ " by Aert de Gelder. He had access to secret achieves at the Vatican in 1710. He painted what he saw on the achieves.

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