Monday, July 07, 2014

Greatly Helped By Apologetics

When people are attempting to justify apologetics (it's remarkable how often that needs to be done, even in Christian circles), passages like 1 Peter 3:15 and Jude 3 often come up. A passage that ought to be mentioned more often is Acts 18:27, along with the context provided by verse 28. Ben Witherington writes:

"We are told that on his arrival, Apollos was a great help to those who had come to believe through God's grace. The help he rendered was apparently not just in teaching those who were already Christians but in doing apologetics….This last verse reflects the language of public debate used of a contest in which rhetoric is used, which involves arguments (or 'proofs') and refutations offered back and forth to convince the audience." (The Acts Of The Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998], 568)

Darrell Bock writes:

"This strong verb appears only here in the NT. It means 'overwhelm' someone in argument (BAGD 184; BDAG 229)." (Acts [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007], 593)

Apollos' apologetic activity isn't described as something counterproductive. There's no suggestion that faith is a blind leap in the dark or belief that goes against reason (two anti-Biblical notions that are popular in the modern world), so that Apollos' work was superfluous or undermining people's faith. His apologetic efforts aren't described in neutral terms either. Nor does Luke merely say that Apollos' work was helpful. Rather, he emphatically refers to how it "greatly helped".

That isn't true of every apologetic effort. But the potential is there. Apologetics is important work. That's especially the case in a rapidly developing information age like ours. People have so much access to so much information and are in such frequent contact with so many people and ideas. Work like Apollos' is even more important than usual.

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