The Pastor as Apologist
by Dayton Hartman
It is no secret that American culture is becoming increasingly post-Christian. Recent research reveals that only 23% of millennials believe that Scripture is truly the Word of God. Another 26% have adopted a liberal interpretation of Scripture by believing that it may contain some of the Word of God but should not be taken literally. In short, less than half of the next generation have any respect for the text of Scripture and only a small minority of that group believe that it is authoritative.
Consider this data in light of William Edgar’s observation that “…Christians have grown so used to their own language, terms, and culture that they have become isolated from those who surround them.” (Reasons of the Heart, 12).
There is a two-fold problem at hand:
1. In our proclamation we have assumed a Christian worldview on the part of our listeners, and this is a false assumption.
2. As we are communicating poorly, our audience isn’t even listening.
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Recovering Apostolic Apologetics
The solution to this growing problem is to recapture the apostolic method of preaching. The first sermons of the apostles do two things: (1) make much of Jesus and His gospel and (2) defend the truths contained in the gospel.
- In Acts 2, Peter preaches the gospel message, explains the Scriptures, and defends the claims contained therein by referencing the miracles of Jesus.
- In Acts 17, Paul reasons with the men of Athens through preaching the resurrection of Jesus and utilizing philosophical language that his listeners understand.
- In the very next chapter (Acts 18:24-28), Apollos preaches about the ministry of Jesus and refutes those who would deny that Jesus is the Messiah.
Beyond the sermons preached by the first Christians, much of the text of Scripture itself is written as an apologetic.
- The first chapters of Genesis are both a Scriptural account of creation and an apologetic against Ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies.
- Even many of the miracles recorded in Scripture are meant to serve apologetic purposes. These miracles range from the plagues in Egypt demonstrating the futility of Egyptian gods to the healing miracles performed by Jesus, revealing that He is the Messiah.
The text of Scripture is so littered with apologetic elements, I would argue that it is difficult to preach the whole counsel of God without incorporating apologetic elements into one’s sermons…