Introduction: The Necessity of Theology and Apologetics
1 Peter 3:8-17, “A Ready Defense”
We now live in a day and age in which theological ignorance is at its highest in centuries despite the fact that the Bible and scholarly works are more readily available and literacy rates are higher than ever before.
This does not just apply to the unbelieving world, it also applies to the majority of God’s people in America. Most American Christians believe that all they need to do once they become Christians is to “trust Jesus”. This is a very ignorant belief which is contrary to the commands of God:
“You shall teach [the words and laws of God] diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:7-9)
“For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:10-13)
“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
As Jerome (5c.) would have said, “Ignoratio scripturarum, ignoratio Christi” (trans.: ignorant of Scripture, ignorant of Christ.).
Unbelieving attacks against the faith have now become a seasonal thing with an ABC “Special” every Christmas attacking the Virgin Birth and a History Channel documentary every Easter attacking the Resurrection. But it doesn’t stop here. There are also the constant subliminal attacks on the faith from the media which propagandize non-Christian worldviews. As a result of the widespread ignorance within the church and heightened attacks upon the faith from outside the church, the apostasy rate among our people in general and especially our youth is at its height. Josh McDowell calls the present group of American Christians “The Last Christian Generation” due to our failure to teach theology and equip our people to defend the faith. He estimates that only about 33% of all of our children will keep their faith after college. One online Christian news-site reports:
“Focus on the Family's Teen Apologetics Director Alex McFarland has been involved in youth ministry for the last 16 years. He says students are generally ill-equipped to fend for their Christian faith because they lack a good understanding of the facts behind Christianity – scientific, historical, or logical.
According to McFarland, “Teens have a sincere child-like faith but have not been exposed to good apologetics," which he says is “so necessary to being able to defend their faith.”
He warns parents, “I have counseled with many a distraught, even heartbroken, family, who spent 18 years raising a child in the ways of God only to have that faith demolished through four years at a secular university.”
Studies have shown that when students lack good defenses, their faith erodes. And two-thirds will forsake Christianity by their senior year of college. On the other hand, solid faith helps students in all aspects of life.”1
Instead of actively filtering the material they receive like they should have been taught to, Christian students in college are being passive sponges simply accepting unbelieving thought as if it were “objective” fact from “scholars”. Christian leaders and parents should have known that this would happen from Israel’s example:
“Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.” (Isaiah 5:13)
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6)
The age of the “simple-believer” is OVER. The church MUST go beyond the slogans and fads and the “feel-good” teachings we are used to and move on to the “solid food”:
“Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14, cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 1 Peter 2:1-3)
The prescribed method for combating this unbelief is not to put our heads in the sand by completely isolating ourselves from it (1 Corinthians 5:9-10) or pretend that it isn’t there, but rather, we are to fulfill the mission of the church by defending the “knowledge of God”:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
This is accomplished by utilizing and teaching the words of Scripture:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:12-17)2
“Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:11-14)
“O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 105:97-105)
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11-16)
2 The description that Paul gives here is that of a Roman soldier. While all of the components listed here are absolutely necessary, the only way for a soldier to stop his opponent from attacking him is to defeat him using the offensive weapon given to him, his sword. Today’s Christians practice godliness to a large degree and have faith, but because of their theological ignorance, they aren’t equipped to fight back against unbelief. They have left their spiritual sword on the bookshelf. How can an army win a battle if its soldiers aren’t equipped with any weapons?