Sunday, June 13, 2021

Apologetics Illustrated During Church Services

Church services provide some good opportunities for pastors, Sunday school teachers, parents, and others involved to teach and reinforce apologetic concepts. Since services often involve various types of repetition (e.g., regularly celebrating communion), there's more opportunity for reinforcement accordingly. For example:

- In the process of turning to a passage in the Bible, we distinguish one book from another. We distinguish among the gospels by the names of their authors. That's relevant to the popular modern claim that the gospels initially circulated anonymously. We have a lot of evidence that the gospels were distinguished from each other by means of authorship attributions from the second century onward. And continuity is more likely than discontinuity. It makes more sense that the gospels were distinguished by means of author names in the first century than that they weren't. That scenario better explains the widespread acceptance of the practice later and the absence of any comparable or better alternative. The need we have today to distinguish among the gospels in order to turn to a passage in one of them existed in the first century as well, and that provides evidence against the claim that the gospels circulated anonymously at the time.

- Baptism offers evidence for early interest in Jesus' burial and the empty tomb. We see that in Romans 6:4, for example. That's relevant to claims about the alleged lack of interest in and lack of references to the empty tomb among the earliest Christians. For further discussion, see here.

- Some portion of 1 Corinthians 11 will often be read or referred to during the celebration of communion. Verses 23-26 are valuable in some apologetic contexts. They illustrate Paul's knowledge of various details in Jesus' life, in agreement with the gospels. And these verses provide an example of Paul distinguishing between his own words and those of Jesus (verse 26 and beyond) rather than putting whatever he wanted to convey into Jesus' mouth.

These are just a few examples. Others could be added. I'd recommend mentioning concepts like these more than once. But even mentioning them only once could be enough to create an association in somebody's mind between an apologetic concept and a particular aspect of a church service. The association can then be reinforced many times over the years as that aspect of the church's services is repeated.


  1. Would certainly be something preferable to just adding a class on apologetics/church history because these are things you'd want everyone to know, not just people who have that specific interest and the time. This plus courses along those lines would be best.

    It would also help immunize Christians to suddenly being presented with "the Bible has been corrupted", or "there are over 400,000! differences in the NT!", or "there are anachronisms in the OT showing that the stories were written long after the time period they claim to be from!" Those all sound troubling to someone with no knowledge of this area.

    1. One way of putting it is to ask whether apologetics is more like playing a musical instrument or prayer. If there are only one or two people in the congregation who know how to play the piano, that's fine. We shouldn't expect all or even most Christians to know how to play a musical instrument of any type, much less how to play the piano in particular. But we should expect Christians in general to be involved in prayer. Even if some of them have gifts related to prayer that others don't have, everybody should be involved in prayer to some extent. Apologetics is more like prayer than like playing a musical instrument. All of us have minds, and all of us interact with other people in intellectual contexts.

      Your point about putting apologetic content in church services rather than just putting it in contexts like Sunday school classes is important. Just as we send children to school for a double-digit number of years whether they like it or not, we ought to be giving congregations apologetic information, telling them to do apologetic work, and so forth whether they like it or not. Everybody in the congregation has a mind, and every one of them should be growing intellectually (1 Corinthians 14:20, Hebrews 5:11-6:3). And our opponents have chosen to surround us with anti-Christian apologetics (in classrooms, on television, on the internet, in books, etc.), so we also have to do pro-Christian apologetic work because the choices of our opponents require it. If another nation has launched a military assault on the nation you live in, you don't get to choose whether to be involved in a war. The choice has been made for you.

    2. I usually have to roll my eyes at least once when reading a book, watching a movie, etc. The intro in a book detailing the Spanish Flu had to put in an oddball quote by, if I recall, Andrew Huxley, where it was claimed that it was Christianity vs medical science. It was superfluous and unargued, as if it was self-evident.

      Paul VanderKlay, who has a church in Sacramento, has gone as far as having meetups with his church members and non-Christians.