Gospel Centered Apologetics
by Graham Veale
It is tempting to think that the phrase “Gospel-centred” has lost something of its value in evangelical circles. Perhaps it made sense to talk about “Gospel-centred” ministries, “Gospel centred” discipleship or even “Gospel-centred” marriages. However, when we come close to endorsing “Gospel centred” diets, we might wonder if a trend hasn’t been taken a little too far. This is a shame because it seems that “Gospel centred apologetics” is a biblical ideal; a concept that would remind evangelists and pastors of their priorities in apologetics.
A Gospel centred apologetic would differ from other approaches in two ways. First, it would not aim to defend every evangelical distinctive. Evangelicals believe that the historical reliability of the Bible is vitally important, but in apologetics the goal is to defend the central claims of the Gospel rather than every statement of Scripture.1 Peter 3 v15 commands Christians to have a ready defence simply for the Gospel. We are to defend the message that God the Son died for our sins and was raised by His Father; not the belief that Jericho was razed by Joshua.
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Apologetics should focus on defending the truths that a person must believe if they are to accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord. These can be outlined quite simply – the universe is God’s creation, but mankind’s rebellion against the Creator has left us morally and spiritually ruined; God’s Son died so that we can be rescued from our plight and he rose again so that we might be part of the New Creation. But we must guard something more than a brief articulation of the Gospel. We must also defend the essential truths that a person must implicitly accept to have a saving faith; a list of truths that no child of God could deny.
This means defending something like Richard Baxter’s and CS Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”; a list of the doctrines that all Christians hold in common. Of course, salvation is not a matter of passing theological examinations; but surely you cannot deny who God is and be one of his children? There must be certain beliefs which cannot be denied if someone is to accept the Gospel. We must be willing to accept that God is Triune, for example, and that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. Apologists must clarify these teachings as best they can, to defend the Gospel from more palatable, but dangerous, heresies…
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