Thursday, September 08, 2022

The Two-Way Street Of Religious Discussions

"Whenever a Christian converses with a non-Christian about the truth of the faith, every request of the non-Christian for the proof of Christianity should be met with an equally serious request for proof for the non-Christian's philosophy of life. Otherwise we get the false impression that the Christian worldview is tentative and uncertain, while the more secular worldviews are secure and sure, standing above the need to give a philosophical and historical accounting of themselves. But that is not the case. Many people who demand that Christians produce proof of our claims do not make the same demand upon themselves....If the Christian must produce proof, so must others." (John Piper, Desiring God [Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1996], 273-74)

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

The Miracle Of John The Baptist's Existence

To add to my last post, consider the example of John the Baptist. He apparently didn't perform healings, exorcisms, or other such miracles during his public ministry. But his existence was a miracle. He shouldn't have been conceived. And there were other miracles surrounding his childhood. Since most of what we're told about John's background comes from Luke, see here regarding Luke's general credibility, here regarding an important line of evidence for his material on John the Baptist's childhood in particular, and here and here for examples of other early sources corroborating Luke. John's popularity probably was partly a result of those aspects of his background. Even where healings, fulfilled prophecy, and other forms of evidence aren't closely, directly, or explicitly involved, they're often involved in a more distant, indirect, or implicit way. Much of the apologetic nature of the Bible and the events it records is overlooked or underestimated, because people aren't thinking about the issues enough or aren't being honest about them.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Apologetics In Action

There are many Biblical passages that explicitly refer to the importance of apologetics and closely related concepts. See the examples discussed here. But there's also a lot of implicit reference to the importance of apologetics in scripture. Think of the evidential significance of the miracles performed by the prophets in the Old Testament era, the evidential significance of Jesus' prophecy fulfillments, the apologetic use made of the healings, exorcisms, and other miracles performed by Jesus and the apostles, and so on. As I've mentioned before, the Bible is structured around a framework of apologetics. The early Christians often referred to the two Testaments of scripture as "the prophets and the apostles" (e.g., The Muratorian Canon; Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, 1:1; cf. 2 Peter 3:2). Josephus and other ancient Jewish sources refer to how the closing of the Old Testament canon was brought about by the cessation of the prophets and prophecy. Evidential concepts like fulfilled prophecy and eyewitness testimony (apostles had to be eyewitnesses of the risen Christ) formed the parameters of scripture.

Because so much of the Biblical support for apologetics is of that less explicit nature, people often underestimate the value of apologetics. It's misleading to measure how much we should be involved in apologetic work on the basis of something like how often we come across explicit references to apologetics in scripture. Jesus and the apostles largely argued by means of healings, fulfilling prophecy in the presence of their audience, and performing other miracles. The less we're involved in such activities, the more we need to make up for that absence by means of argumentation and the citation of evidence. Much of what Jesus, the apostles, and other Biblical figures did in apologetics was of a nonverbal nature, but has to take on a verbal form where that nonverbal one isn't present.