A Reason For The Hope
As Christians, be "ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." This must be done "with a good conscience", and it must be accompanied by a "good conversation in Christ". The "answer" which we are to give is an "apologetic", from the Greek word "apologia", and it is to be given to those who ask a reason "logos" of the hope that is in us. This does not mean that we are to wait until a formal question is put to us, but that we should continuously give the reason in view of the need the world has for it. The reason we give is of two-fold value. It strengthens the faith of Christians, and it leads the unbeliever to accept the teachings of Christ. The great need the world has for our presentation of our apologetic is evidenced by the wide-spread disbelief in Christian fundamentals. The great need the church has for the presentation of this defense is evidenced by the looseness that has for some time characterized the thought and the expression of "the liberal minded brethren" among us. It is my prayer that the articles to be presented in this series will help to meet both of these needs.
For The Hope
It is emphasized that our apologetic has to do with eternity as well as time. Peter says it is a reason of the hope that is in us. Hope involves our eternal destiny. Paul declares "if in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable." So the proper apologetic contributes to happiness in this life. Actually it solves the basic problems confronting man, giving him peace and joy here with his hope for the hereafter. The opposite ends of the pole of human happiness are represented by the words "most miserable", which, in I Cor. 15:19 are used to describe the condition of man without hope for the hereafter, and on the other hand, the words "rejoicing in hope", which are used in Romans 5:2 to describe the happiness of him who expects to "be like him" when he "shall see him as he is." Skepticism in all its varied forms and with its temporal attractions has never made one human life happy. Rather it begets pessimism with all of its hindrances to the enjoyment of happy living. So the issues involved in these discussions are eternal in their scope and universal in their influence. Both "the life that now is and that which is to come" are dependent on them.
Faith—the Substance Of Hope
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is the substance, that which stands under the things hoped for. In other words, faith is the groundwork of hope. If we can give a reason for what we believe, we are giving the reason of our hope. Without faith hope is impossible and with faith hope is the "anchor of our soul both sure and steadfast." To us the true apologetic includes the basis of faith, the object of faith, the content of faith, and the reasons for faith. John 20:30-31 serves as an illustration. John said, "These things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing ye might have life through him." The basis of faith is the record that testifies of Christ. "These are written that ye might believe." The object of faith is "Jesus Christ the Son of God." The content of faith is the entire doctrine derived from him. The primary reason for faith is that "ye might have life through him." Now see the issues that are involved. The true apologetic covers faith in God, faith in Christ as God's son, faith in the Bible as God's word and faith in man as a creature made in God's image. Opposed to faith in God are atheism, which says there is no God, polytheism which says there are many gods, and Unitarianism which says there is one god but no trinity. Also there is agnosticism which declares the impossibility of knowledge about God. And, partaking of the evil that is in all of these, there is modernism with its "weak" conceptions of God. Against faith in Christ there is, first, Judaism and then, pagan infidelity. The first looks upon Christ as an illegitimate child and the second as this or a myth. Again the modernistic school partakes of the evil in both Judaism and infidelity. To be sure there are not many, if any, modernists who are so ignorant of history as to say that Jesus was a myth but many of them look upon the great bulk of his teachings as mythological. So the consequences are the same as if they did consider him to be a myth. The same way, as we shall see later, the modernists who accept the historicity of patriarchs and prophets turn them into myths by viewing most if not all of their works and teachings as mythological.
The field of apologetics also includes all branches of evidence for the inspiration of the scriptures. Among these may be listed historical and archaeological confirmations, the arguments from prophesy, and various phases of internal evidence such as unity, sublimity of theme, and perfection of the moral standards therein contained. It has become necessary now to include also in apologetics the field of interpretation or hermeneutics. The reason for this will appear at once if you consult such a recent book as Robert Grant's The Bible in the Church, a short history of interpretation (Macmillan '48). The most superficial reader of that book will observe the naturalistic groundwork of his thoughts on interpretation. Also involved in apologetics is Biblical criticism, both textual and higher criticism. Textual criticism has to do with the question of integrity or the wholeness of the text, whether the text has been preserved in uncorrupted form. Higher criticism deals with the age, authorship or genuineness and inspiration, and literary characteristics of the text. Legitimate higher criticism fills a definite need because it adds much to our knowledge not only of the books themselves but of their background. Destructive or negative higher criticism, however, has approached its work with presuppositions or assumptions which vitiated whatever they accomplished. Hence the disrepute into which the term "higher criticism" has fallen among those who accept the conservative view of fundamentals. The basic assumptions, not the factual evidence, have caused wide-spread acceptance of various negative critical theories. These assumptions appeal to the spirit which rebels against the absolute authority of God in human life. A hopeful sign of the present time is the realization on the part of many that the modernist's arguments have not been arguments at all, but consequences deduced from his naturalistic presuppositions. To give an example, it is no real argument against the genuineness of the book of Daniel to say "I know it could not have been written in the sixth century B. C. because men cannot foresee empires five centuries ahead." Yet this is in substance the kind of argument by which modernistic theories have been spread.
We should include then in a Biblical apologetic a refutation of Atheism, agnosticism, infidelity and modernism. In this article no strict definition of any of these terms has been attempted yet there are features which are common to all. All are set for the destruction of real New Testament Christianity. It is to be regretted that even some brethren in the Lord have not seen this danger. One would not have to go far to find members of the church who have been influenced by modernistic theories to the extent that they will apologize for and sympathize with and even advertise favorably some modernistic teachers of the present time. It is the purpose of these articles to point out the fallacies of modernistic thought and to warn Christians against the "philosophy and vain deceit" of this thought, and of "science, falsely so-called."
Character From Faith
While faith is the groundwork of our hope, Christian character resulting from faith is the basis of personal hope. By this we mean that "faith without works is dead," or faith in the fundamentals gives us no basis for lope without character built upon them. In Romans 5:4-5 the apostle declares that character produces hope. In the King James Version the word is "experience" but in other versions it is "character." In other words, though we may present a Biblical apologetic "with the tongues of men and angels," if our lives are out of harmony with the apologetic, our argument falls flat. The strongest argument against infidelity is the godly life of a Christian. Perhaps this is the reason Peter says, in the same passage that commands the apologia, that we should have a good conversation in Christ and suffer not for evil doing but for well doing. The apologetic accompanied by Christian living is presented "in meekness and fear,"—not fear of man but fear of God.