On more than one occasion, people have asked me what areas should they focus on in their own study of apologetics. These are people that want to engage the culture and are burdened for the people God has placed in their lives. In my opinion, while there are many others not mentioned here, there are at least five apologetic areas every Christian should learn about. What I mean is that over the years of talking to hundreds of college students and others as well, these are the continual topics that always come to the surface. So here are some of my picks:
1.God’s Existence: It is imperative to know the different approaches to the the existence of God. How can you talk to someone about the existence of God without using the Bible? Don’t get me wrong: I love the Bible. But many people don’t accept the Bible as an authority. I discuss these issues here and here:
2. Religious Epistemology: Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with questions about knowledge and belief and related issues such as justification, truth, and types of certainty.I have lost count of the number of times that I have encountered the following comments by skeptics:
“There is not one shred of proof or evidence for the existence of God”
“There is absolutely no evidence for Jesus or your God”
“Science has shown that there is no God”
“Unless you can demonstrate that God exists or Jesus is the Son of God, you need to admit all you have is faith”
It is statements like the ones listed here that demonstrate that there is not even a basic understanding of epistemology. Keep in mind that I am not asking everyone to get a philosophy degree and to be an expert on such a heady topic. While in seminary I was blessed to take some classes in philosophy. However, I am by no means an expert! But the people making these types of claims just overstate their case and sound very naive. A more nuanced approach should lead one to say “I have looked at the evidence in this area and I don’t find it to be sufficient.” Or, “I don’t think there are good reasons to think God exists or that Jesus is the Son of God.” To see more about this topic, see here:
3.Religious Pluralism: One of the most controversial issues in religious dialogue is whether there is one way of salvation. In other words, the Christian claim that Jesus is the only possible Savior for the human race (Matt 11:27; John 1:18; 3:36; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 John 1: 5:11-12) is considered to be overly exclusive and arrogant. The Bible speaks of God’s judgment on pagan religions. They are said to have no redemptive value to them (Exod. 20: 3-6; 2 Chron: 13: 8-9; Isa. 37: 18-19; Acts 26: 17-18; Col. 1:13). While Christianity is a Jewish story and salvation is from the Jewish people (John 4:22), salvifically speaking, Paul makes it known that there is no distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish people. Both are under sin and must turn to God through repentance and faith through Jesus the Messiah (Rom 3:9; Acts 20:21).
What about those people in the Tanakh (the Old Testament ) that never exercised explicit belief in Jesus as the Messiah? What about people like Melchizedek, Jethro, Job and Rahab? In response, it is true that people in the Tanakh did not have explicit knowledge of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah as a payment for their sins. However, this objection fails to take into account the issue of progressive revelation. The principle of progressive revelation means that God does not reveal everything at once. In progressive revelation, there are many cases where the New Testament declares explicitly what was only implicit in the Tanakh. One of these truths is that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah who takes away not only the sins of Israel, but the entire world (John 1: 29; 3: 16). To see more about this, see our clip here.
4. The Creation/Evolution debate: One day, a college student yelled at me and said “Do you actually think you were created?” In this issue, it is imperative to define one’s terms. In this article called The Meanings of Evolution, authors Stephen C. Meyer and Michael Newton Keas list the Principal Meanings of Evolution in Biology Textbooks
1. Change over time; history of nature; any sequence of events in nature.
2. Changes in the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population.
3. Limited common descent: the idea that particular groups of organisms have descended from a common ancestor.
4. The mechanisms responsible for the change required to produce limited descent with modification, chiefly natural selection acting on random variations or mutations.
5. Universal common descent: the idea that all organisms have descended from a single common ancestor.
6. “Blind watchmaker” thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common ancestors solely through an unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural selection acting on random variations or mutations; that the mechanisms of natural selection, random variation and mutation, and perhaps other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, are completely sufficient to account for the appearance of design in living organisms.
The authors go onto critique each of these six points. I can’t say it more strongly in that Christians need to brush up on these definitions. Hence, the next time someone asks “Do you believe in evolution?” my advice is to respond with “What do you mean by evolution?” From my own experience, it does pay great dividends.
5. The Resurrection of Jesus: Given the resurrection is the central claim of the Christian faith, it is important to be able to articulate not only the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, but also the purpose and meaning behind such a significant event. We have provided some resources here.
I hope these topics and resources help you in your own study and outreach!