Jesus Christ as Apologist

Brian DeJong takes us to Jesus Christ as Lord as well as the preeminent practitioner of apologetics. Listen to this important conversation on an underdeveloped topic. Rev. De Jong is pastor of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and currently serves as the chairman of the Candidates and Credentials Committee for the OPC’s Presbytery of the Midwest. His article, “Lord Defender: Jesus Christ as Apologist,” published in Ordained Servant, is an excellent treatment of Jesus’ apologetic example and an important call-to-action that Reformed apologists would devote time and attention to studying this topic.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Bruce Sanders

4 years ago

You gave a high level overview of apologetics and asked for a call to action. So let’s get started:

I will start with the presupposition that the listener to your podcast is the average congregant in a local church, and your message is for them to become more apologetically engaged.

Who then is the target audience? Sikhs and Muslins are two of the fastest growing religious groups today and need to hear the Reformed message.

As you pointed out, Jesus and Paul (two of our biblical examples) knew the teachings of their opponents, and used weaknesses in their theologies to differentiate the gospel.

Question: Do you really feel the average congregant has the motivation and training to deliver the message? If not, you need leadership and comprehensive programs. These will draw time and resources away from existing ministries.

You may say my example is an extreme case. I agree … I made the case to show that any move toward apologetics will require expertise at many levels, starting with the problem that the average comfortable congregant would never start ‘public speaking’ (the number one fear according to business psychologists). The number 2 problem is that if pressed and stressed, the congregant will simply move to another church to restore his/her comfort.

So, I have opened the discussion. It is time for other listeners to respond.

Camden Bucey

4 years ago

Bruce,

We are a niche program—distinguished from relatively similar programs distributed on broadcast radio. Our average listener and target audience is are theologically capable church officers, seminary students, pastors, and scholars. We were specifically making a call for increased attention to developing Reformed apologetics academically with the express intention of serving the Church.

Bruce Sanders

4 years ago

Camden:

Thanks for the important clarification. The replies should be interesting.

Patrick

4 years ago

What are your thoughts on the story of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, specifically verse 31. It seems to give creedence to a presup approach and downplays the usefulness of evidence.

Bruce Sanders

4 years ago

Patrick:

In addition to this podcast, Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional hermeneutic circle has been discussed during several CTC podcasts, and during one podcast it was admitted that a Muslim could start with the Qur’an and correctly use Van Til’s method to show that Allah is the true God of creation. The take-away from this is as several critics of Van Til have written, “Without specific evidence, presuppositionalism as an apologetic is only effective for someone who is ready to uncritically believe.”

You mentioned Luke 16:31 “And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

Determining clinical death in biblical times was problematic. Pliny the Elder in A.D. 60 wrote in his Natural History (7.176-179) of persons deemed dead, observed as dead during preparation and funeral, yet arose and walked away. Alexander the Great survived a spear into his chest. Jewish rabbis too knew of the problem of misdiagnosis and in the Talmud stated that burial clothing must be in 4 loose sections without knots to allow mobility should the deceased wake up, and in the Tractate of Mourning (Semahot), that a family member must check the deceased at least once during the first 72 hours, which was the time of sleep. Apparently there were enough misdiagnoses to warrant the Tractate. The Romans also delayed funerals for the same reason (reported by Ps.-Quintilian, as discussed by D.R. Shackleton Bailey in Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 88 (1984), pp. 113-137). In summary, to see someone alive after being pronounced dead was not a surprise in that day, and Pharisees in particular would not be persuaded of the miraculous by anyone claiming resurrection.

Camden Bucey

4 years ago

Bruce,

I believe you’ve misunderstood our treatment of Van Til’s presuppositional method. A Muslim most certainly cannot use Van Til’s method by basing it upon the Qur’an and Allah. Only the triune God of the infallible Scriptures provides the necessary ontological and metaphysical foundation for all of reality. Any of Van Til’s discussions of ontology, and especially the problem of the one-and-many, will demonstrate this point.

Bruce Sanders

4 years ago

Camden:

The Van Til context of your reply to me is much more comprehensive than mine to Patrick. I was simply building the case that evidence is a necessary part of presuppositionalism. Ignore evidence and any presupposition is just invention … if the premise does not intersect reality, it is just myth. For instance, if Reformed theology were based exclusively on special revelation, geocentrism would still be taught.

Regarding Muslims, if Van Til type presuppositionalism opens with the position, “my god is the only true god, his messenger is the only true messenger, this holy book is the only true holy book, my interpretation is the only true interpretation, I will only consider natural theology that supports my position, and if you oppose me you are wrong,” then an Imam is free to use the same rhetoric in defense of his faith. Other than the exchange of faith statements, nothing is gained except entrenchment.

In your podcast, and as I mentioned in my first reply, Jesus and Paul set the example of first knowing the opponent’s theology and weaknesses. In my opinion, this is a better approach to apologetics than Van Til’s.

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