Acts 17:16-34 records Paul’s visit to the city of Athens. His pattern was to observe, to be provoked, to reason/converse, and to preach/proclaim.
Observing a city full of idols, and being provoked in his spirit, Paul reasoned out Christianity with people from all walks of life. Invited by philosophers, Paul preached at the Areopagus - aka Mars Hill by the Romans.
After contextualizing the Gospel with reference to an altar that had been dedicated “to an unknown god,” Paul made an assessment that sadly rings true for many today. He told them that they worshipped in ignorance.
Proceeding to contrast the self-revealed “unknown God” with their man-made idols, Paul even referenced their own poets to make his point. He then presented a case for the linchpin of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus.
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
(Acts 17:16-18, NASB)
and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:14, NASB)
1 Peter 3:15 instructs all Christians to be ready to make a defence for the hope in them. The word for defence in the Greek is apologia, from which we get apologetics.
When Christians cannot defend their belief system, they often end up disregarding or abandoning it. In the process, they reinforce the negative stereotype that Christianity involves blind faith.
Christianity involves reasoned faith, not blind faith. John Lennox (2009), responding to Richard Dawkins in a book, emphasizes that “faith is a response to evidence, not a rejoicing in the absence of evidence” (p. 16).
There are convincing reasoned arguments for Christianity. Christian apologetics involves knowing these arguments and knowing how to effectively communicate these arguments to others.
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
(1 Peter 3:15, NASB)
For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.
(Philippians 1:7, NASB)
2 Corinthians 10:5 provides a basis to destroy speculations raised up against the knowledge of God. Our minds should not be held captive to traditions of men.
Like Paul, the early Church Fathers conducted polemics by addressing heresy - false teachings that threatened the Church. In the ensuing era, Christian polemics addressed deviations that arose from within Christianity.
With the rise of Islam and pseudo-Christian cults, Christian polemics expanded to address false religions. Adherents of false religions are more receptive to Christianity when they doubt their current belief system.
Whereas Christian apologetics is likened to defence, Christian polemics can be likened to offence. Apologetics and polemics are ultimately flip sides of the same coin, and some believe they are indistinguishable.
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 10:5, NASB)
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8, NASB)
holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
(Titus 1:9, NASB)
A goal. A person.
Many have devalued absolute truth through apathy and false tolerance. Yet for those pursuing truth, the 1-2-3-4-5 Worldview Grid by Ravi Zacharias is helpful.
One goal to pursue:
Two approaches to truth:
Three tests for truth:
Four questions to answer:
Five disciplines to study:
Ravi echoes 3 prominent tests for truth and suggests applying them to 4 crucial questions. The evidence points to truth ultimately being a person in Jesus.
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
(John 8:31-32, NASB)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
(John 14:6, NASB)