The two words that modern Evangelicals have become afraid of are the following: doctrine and theology. In a sense, modern churches around the world that associate themselves with Christianity, have disdain for knowledge and wisdom. Rather than seeking to gain understanding and knowledge, Christians today are willing to incline their perception of knowledge to experiences and to their senses. Knowledge of the Scriptures and God’s attributes are vital for Christian living, especially when it comes to evangelism, apologetics, and preaching. However, we must be confident with what we know.
The Bible does not command us to believe that the Lord is God indeed, or to feel that God is sovereign; notice we are to know that God is who He says He is. One of the most astounding ways in which God describes Himself is through the phrase “I AM”. God is the great I AM, which means He is forever more the same as well as the fact that His nature never changes. It is attributes like these that we need to study, but why? Why is it important that we know at least the basics of theology? One reason is to elevate our worship so we can obey the second commandment and forbid ourselves from worshiping God in an improper way. The second reason is so that we would fear our God as He is powerful, sovereign, and mighty.
However, one reason that stands out to me, especially in a day and age in which apologetics is discouraged, is to give an answer for what we believe in. One of my favorite Scriptures comes from 1 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV) which says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” God wants us to exercise humble orthodoxy and to be stewards of His word. We are not to cause division in the true body of Christ, but we are most definitely commanded to stand up for doctrine and theology.
More evidence that Christians are to be brave when it comes to making a defense is found in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV) where Paul states, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Notice how much emphasis Paul puts on the mind. Paul states that we have divine power to destroy strongholds. What is this stronghold? Paul goes on to say that the strongholds that we are to destroy are arguments and lofty opinions raised against God, and we are to defend God with our knowledge, with the necessary help of the Holy Spirit.
Now while there are many Christians who could care less about the mysteries of God and His divine characteristics, there are some who wish to defend God, but they don’t know where to begin. I must admit that at times, theology (whether exegetical or systematic) can become complicated and we don’t know where to begin. I have also met Christians who fail to exercise apologetics in a down-to-earth fashion with precision, simplicity, and yet with bold confidence in the word of God. In the Bible, we see the most perfect example of a defense of the gospel, the doctrines of Christian, and the theological aspects of our faith. The event is recorded in Acts 17, where Paul stood on the top of Mars Hill, and gave us a perfect example of how to exercise a good Christian defense with the following steps.
1) Address Worship and Idolatry
What this culture refuses to recognize is that even those who don’t believe in the God of the Bible and consider themselves atheists, are still very much religious. For example, on Super Bowl Sundays families in the United States gather in homes and sit with their eyes glued to the TV. They scream and cheer and groan. Some who sit in the stadium where the game takes place have painted themselves and try to extend their arms in manic fashion, hoping that they could somehow affect the turnout of the game. We also worship beauty, power, and (the biggest God in America) money.
In Acts 17:22-23 (ESV), Paul addressed the Athenian intellectuals and made them realize that their hearts and minds are inclined to worship: “‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.‘ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.'” So now, Paul is about to get ready to direct their focus away from their own worship and instead unto the true God.
2) God’s Sovereignty and Omnipotence
Almost immediately, Paul is describing the absolute glory of God and His divine nature. In Acts 17:24-26 (ESV), Paul continues his speech, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”
Paul is making it clear to the Athenians that Father God has set all things and foreknew all things. The Athenians were strong believers in coincidence and the view of chance, and Paul is now saying that there is no such thing as chance or luck. Apologetics should always focus on the vastness of God and His full control. We are to follow Paul’s example especially in this so that we would destroy all kinds of human pride whether it’d be in themselves, their religion, or even their nationality as in the case of the Greeks. God is sovereign, all-powerful, and omnipotent and Paul knew it was absolutely necessary to address it.
3) God is Not Distant
A big misconception that the Greeks had (as well as the culture today) was that God was distant and that He was unreachable, ergo “the unknown God”. However, Paul is saying something completely different in Acts 17:27-28 (ESV), “That they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘in Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.'”
Notice that Paul says that God gave us a possibility to feel our way and try to find Him. This implies that we are blind and we are in darkness, yet God draws us to Him so that we may seek Him. He is making it clear to the Gentiles that God’s presence is not a far reach, but rather is just merely a step of faith that they are called to take. Also, Paul decided to quote Athenian literature to prove a theological point rather than using Scripture, so that Paul could show them their foolishness through their own writings. They believed that there was no God that watched them so closely, but Paul points out that God has attempted to reveal Himself even through their writings.
This modern culture believes that they can live life the way they want without any consequence, but God instead reveals Himself to us. He reminds us that He indeed watches over us and takes into account our stumbles in darkness and falls in our blindness. Sin is a major issue and God remains close, ready to embrace the one who is granted faith. Always try to bring this up when defending Christianity as well as the next (and final) point.
4) Salvation is at Hand, Repent
No matter the level of theological understanding, we are to always declare the call of the Holy Spirit when defending who God is. The most important characteristic of God in His divine nature is that He is the Savior and He stands ready to save sinners who should repent in faith. Paul gives this call in Acts 17:29-31 (ESV) saying, “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.”
He calls for the Athenians to repent of their ignorance and foolishness. He doesn’t tell the Athenians that they need to repent from negative attitudes or sadness, but instead he calls the people to stop being ignorant of God and not to prolong His wrath any longer. God commands people everywhere to repent, lest they be damned on the day of judgement. It is a scary thought to be in the hands of a God who hates sin and punishes all wicked doers. God is not created, nor is He confined to our own imagination, but rather He is real and He has declared to the world who He really is. When defending God, we must always remind the one with whom we are having the discussion or debate that repentance is vital and God stands ready to judge the works of all men.
Of course, apologetics can be tough, but we must be prepared to make a defense. God depends on us to proclaim the message of the gospel, but He also expects us to know. Knowing God’s identity, His plans, His work, and His nature is crucial for every moment as we do not know when the Holy Spirit will put us into battle to destroy the arguments of the world. The greatest weapon that anyone could use is the Word of God. Jesus Himself used the Word of God during combat against Satan, the Pharisees, and all false doctrines. The Bible testifies to the nature of God and it contains all we need to know; there is no reason to disregard its significance and its value.
I urge and plead with all Christians to follow after the example of Paul on Mars Hill. When we show the people their need for God, God’s greatness, God’s near presence, and God’s plea for all to repent, we can accurately depict the gospel. Study the Word and know your God so that all may come to know Him as well. When we base our faith on feelings, we become believers and faithful ones based on the conditions of mood and setting. However, when the soul finds verity in the Word of God and plants it in the mind, that faith is unshakable for it is based not on superstitious “feels”, but on the renewal of the mind and its desires. May God grant us knowledge at all times so that we will be prepared to make a defense at His desired time.
Soli Deo Gloria.