Whenever I share my journey in faith and highlight how apologetics helped save my belief in Christ, I am attacked on social media as capitulating to “carnal reason” instead of trusting the Holy Spirit. Now, with such folks, it is usually a waste of time to show how this is a false dichotomy or how reformed epistemology addresses this topic but it isn’t just the average “Twitter Christian” who is hostile to defending the faith. Recently, philosopher Myron Penner has argued for an approach to the faith that is more inline with the fideism of Soren Kierkegaard and his book on the subject, (which is a hot mess) won honorable mention from Christianity Today as one of the best works of last year.
Yet, as the late great Catholic theologian Avery Cardinal Dulles demonstrates in his book A History of Apologetics 2nd ed. (Ignatius 2005), apologetics was not invented by egg heads during the enlightenment but is found in Scripture itself. For example, Dulles lists 1 Corinthians 15 as an early example of defending the faith. The Apostle Paul wrote,
15 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
Dulles points out that here Paul is responding to the challenge to the general resurrection by appealing to eyewitnesses and those who have followed Christ for no other logical reason than the resurrection, which, of course, also historically validates all of Jesus’ claims to divinity and teachings regarding the general resurrection. There are numerous other examples such as Paul “reasoning” with his fellow Jews (see Acts 17:2), Luke writing an “orderly account” so that Theophilus would know the “certainty” of what he had been taught, Peter and John demonstrating why God’s people are suffering, etc. In fact, one could argue the entire New Testament is apologetic in form. What I mean by that is the New Testament is primarily concerned with showing logically that Jesus is the obvious answer to how could God be both loving and just, how the Old Testament points to Jesus as the messiah, why history has meaning and a destination, etc.
I’m sure I will continue to field comments and Twitter messages about trying to dismiss the work of the Spirit. Yet, I think what Dulles clearly demonstrates in the first few chapters of his history of apologetics is that if you believe the Spirit guided the authors of Scripture, then you cannot pit reasonable arguments against the saving work of God.