In this message from Craig Parton, we consider the topic of apologetics. We'll explore the history and value of lawyers' defense of Christianity, dealing with objections to the faith, what apologetics is and is not, and why and how all believers are called to defend the faith.
Beginning in the brickyards of Egypt and ending in the tabernacle filled with God's presence, the book of Exodus chronicles the deliverance of God's people from Egypt and records the end of their oppression under Pharaoh. It also provides an account of the beginning of a prophecy fulfilled: God promised Abraham descendants beyond number, and on the pages of Exodus we see Israel become a great nation.
In this verse-by-verse study, Pastor Skip Heitzig presents an in-depth look at Moses, the ten plagues, the ten commandments, the desert wanderings, the construction of the tabernacle, and more. As we study, we'll see the grace of God, witness the glory of the Lord, and a catch a glimpse of Israel's coming Savior.
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Pastor Skip Heitzig: Good evening. Craig Parton is a lawyer from California. Don't hold that against him. Before entering the legal profession, he spent seven years on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. A popular conference speaker, he teaches every summer with John Warwick Montgomery at the International Academy of Apologetics in Strasbourg, France. Tonight, he'll be speaking to us on the law and the gospels.
Craig Parton: A legal defense of the biblical gospel. Some of you are probably thinking what in the world do lawyers have to offer to the defense of Christianity? The story has told of the great tragedy of a bus full of trial lawyers that went over the embankment. They were all killed. The tragedy was there is an empty seat. That's the feeling of most people about lawyers.
How could a lawyer possibly have anything worthwhile to say about Christianity? What we're going to find out tonight is that lawyers historically have been uniquely attracted to Christian faith. Particularly in my profession, trial lawyers who work with juries, who work with evidence, who work with facts, who go for verdicts for over 500 years and in fact back to the time of Moses have been interested in Revelation that has been presented to us in scripture.
We're going to learn about why lawyers have been attracted to the faith, what the defense of the faith is really about, why we should do it, why very few people are doing it today, and what their excuses are which are -- you'll find out and then finally, how to defend the faith. Before I do, let me mention a couple of things, there's a book table back in the back. I do usually have to mention, not everything on the book table is free. So those of you who took books without the small little reimbursement that might be required for the books can repent after this is over and pay for them.
But there are some things back on that table that you want to get a hold of. There are some free editions of a magazine called Modern Reformation magazine which has a show called The White Horse Sin that I'm on quite frequently but I just did a recent article for them called, Defending Nothing and Evangelizing No One.
The topic is about apologetics. And there are some free copies that are out there for you. And secondly, a short advertisement, what would a lawyer be without calling 1-800-if hurt? They all should have gotten a copy of the brochure for the International Academy of Apologetics that takes place every summer at Strasbourg, France. We're on our 15th year. This is English speaking. You don't have to learn French. It won't hurt you a bit if you do. The culinary experience is worthwhile on its own to be there.
And also in France, traffic signals are mere suggestions. So you can have lots of fun driving in France. The academy is oriented toward the person interested in deeper experience and exposure to the areas of the Defense of the Faith. You don't have to be a lawyer. You don't have to be a pastor. I told many people, we always have a few lawyers, we'll always have a number of pastors, we have undergraduates, graduates, housewives.
In fact, the person who did the best in the oral examination that happens if you come on the second year was a housewife from Jamaica. Better than any evangelical pastor we've ever had, better than any seminary student and the PhD brain surgeon or anybody else that we had.
So the teaching is designed to equip you in the questions you have as laity. That you have in your business. That you have in school, that you have in your vocation, your calling that God's given you, that God-given calling -- when you are called to bring Jesus Christ and him crucified to everyone who will listen. So that is back there. Everyone should have a copy of that. Feel free to take more if you're interested. This year is full. The academy brochure you have is for next year. And I encourage you to sign up early. It's filling up very quickly. Okay, to the topic.
You have a short outline and we're going to take some questions on as we go through. Apparently, you're going to text me. I've never done this before. I won't answer, but you'll feel very good about texting. Somebody else better answer. I don't Facebook. I don't Twitter. I don't do any of that kind of stuff. I have an email capability and even that is defective half the time.
So people who are astute at email things, we'll take your questions. Anyway, we're going to talk first about what value could lawyers possibly bring to the Defense of the Christian Faith? Well first, law in Christianity have gone together for a very, very long time. The pastor here is working through the Book of Exodus.
The first lawgiver was Moses. Paul in the New Testament was legally trained, rabbinically trained. You find this legal theme throughout the New Testament. The practice of the law has attracted a number of Christians, believing Christians through the centuries. It has a very noble heritage. One of the earliest defenders of the faith in 3rd Century was the church father named Tertullian, a nice name, they gave people one word names in those times, Tertullian, Eusebius and they just name themselves after cities. I'm Eusebius of Leon. I'm Eusebius of Caesarea. This is Tertullian, a lawyer, Cyprian, another defender of the faith. Church Father was a Christian lawyer. Hugo Grotius, there's another marvelous name in the 16th Century was a Dutch Christian, a Calvinist who was engaged in the defense of the faith, wrote the first textbook on the Defense of the Faith in the 16th Century. He took on criticisms of the Bible. He resolved alleged areas in contradictions in the Bible back in the 16th Century. There is no new objection to Christian faith, sports fans. This stuff has been raised for centuries and dealt with in exceedingly clear in forthright ways by other defenders of the faith.
Grotius did this in the 16th Century. In a book you can pick up, column on the truth of the Christian religion, not a fancy title. I will hint to you the first about 500 books written on the Defense of the Christian Faith and the history of Defense of the Faith are all titled the same thing. In Latin, it's called the "Veritate Religionis Christianae," on the Truth of the Christian Religion. They weren't dig on creative titles. They just got the word out there.
Then there was Sir Matthew Hale, Lord High Chancellor under Charles II, William Blackstone, called the Father of English law. Every American lawyer through the 19th Century studied Blackstone. Abraham Lincoln studied The Commentaries of the Laws of England by Blackstone as his legal training to become a lawyer in the State of Illinois. Blackstone was the basic training. Says Blackstone in his three volume commentaries in the laws of England, "Every lawyer should commence their study of the law with the stuffy of Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture is revelatory and is the basis of all justifiable law. No law should be permitted to contradict revealed law," said Blackstone.
Then in the 19th Century later was a guy named Simon Greenleaf. Simon Greenleaf, 19th Century was the professor, the greatest professor of evidence that this country has ever had. He was the great professor of evidence at a little tiny place on the East coast called Harvard, The Harvard Law School. At Harvard, he was the eminent professor. He wrote the three-volume series modestly entitled Greenleaf on Evidence.
I mean when you're the authority, you can do things like that. Someday, I'd like to write Parting on Apologetics, as if that meant something. Greenleaf on Evidence, Greenleaf was a believing Christian. He actually wrote the Constitution for the nation of Liberia in 19th Century because of his interest in foreign missions, President of the Massachusetts Bible Society and author of one of the great books on the Defense of the Faith called the Testimony of the Evangelus by Simon Greenleaf. Sell your mother to get that book. No, no. I have a better -- no, don't sell your mother, sell your mother-in-law. No, no. Some of the books that I mentioned in here tonight by the way are in the Bibliography and one of the books that are back there called The Defense Never Rest.
So, if you wonder where some of these books are and you don't write them down, that's where you get them. And I by the way unapologetically recommend reading to you. It's the lost art. I mean Apologetics and the Defense of the Faith is about learning the objections of unbelievers. It's finding out what unbelievers are asking.
It's not about a one-way dialogue from us to them. It's a two-way dialogue. And so it involves reading, it involves study. And it does not involve having necessarily a fancy degree. The two best lay people I know in the Defense of the Christian Faith neither of whom have high school diplomas. So you are asking the wrong person. If you stand up tonight and ask the question, "That's too much work. I don't have time to do that."
You will not get a nice answer from me. You'll get a very nasty answer. So don't ask that question. Start reading and that book will give you some help in places to start. Greenleaf's book is an excellent place to start, the Testimony of the Evangelists where Greenleaf puts Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on the witness stand and cross-examines them according to the laws of legal evidence which we'll do tonight and finds like every trial lawyer has found who honestly looks at this case, that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are primary witness, primary source documents that present an eyewitness account of a central figure.
Greenleaf did that back in the 19th century. Sir Norman Anderson in our century won the greatest authorities on Islamic law, a believing Christian road on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a lawyer. And then probably the two greatest defenders of the faith today that are also lawyers, one, Lord Hailsham, Former Lord High Chancellors of England, a believing Christian wrote his biography, The Door Wherein I Went which is the story of his conversion to Christianity on the force of the evidence. It was like C.S. Lewis who said, "I became a Christian kicking and screaming, because that was the intellectually mature decision to make even though I hated every moment down that road, that road I had to go on because the evidence demanded I go that road."
So there's Hailsham and finally John Warwick Montgomery who you can learn and teach under and study under I should say at Strasbourg Academy. Now Montgomery is an English barrister and American attorney argues cases today before the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and has written over 50 books on the Defense of the Christian faith.
Lawyers, so what is it about lawyers in Christianity? What are the factors about the law that have attracted so many trial lawyers? Well, you need to know a couple of things about what the law is interested in. First, believe it or not contrary to racist stuff on TV, the law is evidence oriented or fact oriented. Every legal case is based on certain facts. That's the primary foundation on which the law is applied. The jury is asked to determine if something happened, number one. Number two, the law assumes the least and makes you prove the most. Assumes the least and makes the advocate of the position prove the most.
Very interesting, as opposed to most Christians today who make Non-Christians assume the most. There's a whole group of them floating around that I'll make mention of a little while later, "Keep you on the edge of your seat. Who are those people? I'll tell you, okay." So the law is fact centered or evidence centered, that will be the foundation of every legal case will be the facts and the understanding that the facts can be arrived at and that there's one proper interpretation of the facts.
Well everyone is entitled to do their own interpretation. Everybody has a different view, bah, humbug! That never flies in a jury. They will be instructed. You will find it, if you cannot find this then the defendant is not guilty. But you will come to a verdict, the best understanding of the evidence. So, the law is fact centered or evidence oriented, it assumes the least that makes people prove the most and finally it goes for a verdict, a decision is required.
Lawyers don't mess around with speculation. You don't get to go into a law court and say, "By the way, I just have this feeling something bad is going to happen to me next month. I'd like to sue Donald Trump and make some money on it. I think he's going to fly over my house and do something nasty. Can I get a remedy from it?" The law will throw you out on your ear. You must have a specific dispute. Contrary to many Christians today who are messing around in speculation. Speculation about the beginning of time, what was the Lord doing when none of us were around. You know at the very beginning of time, or what the Lord is going to do at the end of time spending enormous amounts of time figuring out the precise weekend the Lord is going to return when the Lord himself didn't have that information in this human nature. Not a good idea. Stick with the central message of it which we'll see tonight.
The central message from Genesis to Revelation has a cross in the center of it. It is a Christocentric message at the center of this and it begins right at the front end of Genesis of the need for a savior, the promise of that and the fulfillment in Jesus Christ. So that's what the law brings. Well, so what? So what's the fact or evidence oriented it assumes the least proves the most. So it calls for a verdict.
Well what about any other religious claim? How many other religious claims are facts or evidence based? Essentially, none. You may say Islam, you may say Mormonism but actually when you get to the root of these things they're completely not evidence oriented. When you push and push on these, these are not evidence that can be checked out by any objective observer. Instead you have Muhammad in Islam, all pining in the 7th century about what really happened at the resurrection.
I can tell you as a trial lawyer, Muhammad would never get to say peep in the court of law about Jesus Christ for a very simple reason, he didn't live then. He didn't see it. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John either were eyewitnesses of the account. Or as Luke says, "I checked all of these facts out systematically." And Luke was a physician. You know how awful those people are with rubber gloves, I mean think of him. In Colossians 4:4 we know he's a physician, he's extremely meticulous with evidence. These are primary sources. Well, Christianity in fact happens to be fact centered, evidence based. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 and following where Paul mentions and discusses what the gospel is. In fact, go so far as to say if Jesus Christ is not risen from the dead as really a historical fact. You are absolutely deceived, you are not only wasting your time on Wednesday night, you're wasting your time on Sunday night.
And by the way, Paul's message is, "Oh, but you should be moral even if it isn't true, you should be moral boys and girls." Hogwash, Paul's message is, "Eat, drink and be married. Be a complete hedonist, tomorrow you die and you're dust." Paul didn't hold to some little moralism if it's not true. The foundation of it from 1 Corinthians 15 is in fact true. Acts 1:3 Luke talks about the many infallible proofs associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many infallible proofs, that's what Christianity is a fact, evidence centered. And it requires us to assume the least with Non-Christians and prove the most. Paul does this in several places. Acts 17 is probably the greatest confrontation of Christianity with Paganism anywhere in scripture where Paul marshals the case for Christianity starting where the Athenian philosophers were. He begins in Theism, he ends in Christo-centric apologetic for the resurrection. He doesn't merely mess around with proving the existence of God.
This is something you can learn from legal apologetics. Go for the center of the case as effectively and precisely as you can when talking with people who are not believers. Apparently there's a lot of things floating around in even apologetically circles that give the impression that we're fully satisfied as somebody comes to a belief in God, I'm not. I don't know about you, I'm not. The reason is very simple, the devil is a theist. Okay, according to James, "The devil also believes and he at least has something more, he shutters."
So it is never enough. I never accept a debate for the existence of God. It will always get to the clearest expression of who God is in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the center of Christianity and that historical argument which I'll get to in just a moment so, it assumes the least, it proves the most and in fact the verdict is required.
It's not enough to just believe facts about Christianity, it's not even enough to simply ascent to those facts, to say, "Yes, those are facts" you must indeed trust those facts for yourself. Now that doesn't make them facts. I can tell you, that I am putting $5 million in your bank account, your destitute, you owe everybody money. You're going under for the third time and I simply tell you, "By my good grace, I'm putting 5 million in your account." It's done. It's accomplished. It's a fact.
Now, you can even ascent to that fact and it does you no good unless there is what the Latin reformers called "Fiducia", "Trust" in those facts is being true for you, "Proma" that reformers said in the 16th Century. You must believe in the saving Christ proma that he died for you. Doesn't make the facts true but brings the benefits to the individual believer.
So, the law has these factors Christianity matches right up with this, this is why lawyers historically had been so attracted to the Christian faith and had become Christians in amazing amounts of numbers over the centuries. So that's what the value that lawyers could bring, their background, their training, lawyers are trained in evidence, every lawyer who goes trough law school takes a course in evidence, the Bar Examinations all examined on the issue and the area of evidence in how you prove certain facts.
So that's why we say, "Lawyers defends the biblical gospel" and not for example, an orthodontist defends the biblical gospel. Not that orthodontist don't defend the biblical gospel but lawyers specific and specialized training has lend itself to be matched wonderfully with the defense of the Christian faith over the centuries.
Two, two, what apologetics is and what it is not? What apologetics is, first? Apologetics is biblical commanded first. It's biblically commanded, it's not an option that is given to people with PhD's or people who like to argue. I mean if you really like to argue, join the debating society or get married, no, no. Maybe one of these, it is not designed for people that are necessarily intellectuals or who are polemical or who like to fight and knock heads with one another.
In fact, the biblical admonishing comes from 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says "Be ready always to give a reason" "Apologia" in the Greek. That's which we get apologetics, defend, be ready always to give reasons for the hope that is within you yet to do this with neatness and gentleness or reverence and respect, the Greek says, "Reverence or respect."
We do a very poor job of this in modern Christianity, we do a very good job of preaching one direction and we wonder why there's just a simple turn off. But to understand a non-Christian's position takes work. It takes reading. It takes study. Apologetics is simply giving a reason for the hope that is within you and it's biblically commanded, Paul does it in Acts 17, in the Old Testament, they used evidence to show the existence of God all over the place.
A good place is probably 1 Kings 18 and Elijah and the prophets of Baal. There was good evidentiary apologetic, Elijah says, "Look I got a spare weekend, I like to bring it with the prophets of Baal, right now, here at the stadium, this is the way it's going to happen, you get a bowl, I get a bowl, you dig an altar, I dig an altar. Okay, you put some wood under yours, I'll tell you some stuff I'll do to mine. You call down fire, burn it up we'll go worship your god."
They go and they jump around, they do other things, Elijah makes fun of them for a while, has a good time, finally says "okay, is it my turn? I'm getting bored, it's three o'clock", "Okay, it's your turn" "Good, start the water, pour water all over it, throw rocks on it." And he prays and God sends down a flash, burns up everything, the bowls, the stones, the water, the whole enchilada.
There was a miraculous intervention in the Old Testament, the use of tactile evidence to show God's, in fact existence at that time, it's all over the New Testament. Apologetics is simply giving a reason for the hope that is within you. It means to give the defense and it comes right out of the law courts of the time.
Well, scripture commands it and in fact it had its own two or three centuries in Christian history, the centuries of the apologists. I mean the apologists were the ones hat were put in together, the responses that we're coming up to Christian doctrine. Heresies were arising as the New Testament was being circulated in the first, second centuries, Gnosticism, Arianism, other various heresies were being propounded. Defenders of the faith arose, dealt with those objections and as a result to that, we have things like the Creeds of Christendom.
The creeds, if you got a special 10 minutes, read the Apostles' Creed. It's amazing at Strasbourg we talked about -- a little about the creeds making sure you know what the basics are of Christianity. Many people don't even know what the creeds are. The Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed were developed during the age of the apologist, those who are involved in the defense of the faith.
You show me somebody interested in missionary work and I'll show you a good apologist. You show me a church not interested in apologetics and I'll show you one that is not doing effective missionary work in this day or anywhere in the world for that matter. You need to understand the unique opposition to the faith that is coming up in whatever culture God calls you to, whether it's in this country or whatever continent it is, and that's what apologetics is about. That's what apologetics is.
Well what isn't apologetics? If that's what it is, what is it not? Well, it's not philosophy. Apologetics is no simply doing philosophy. A lot of people got a very bad feeling about apologetics because it took one course on it where the teacher proceeded to explain what the ontological argument was for the existence of God.
They had never met anyone in their life and likely never will who had a problem with the ontological argument for the existence of God. And so they felt that apologetics likely is that kind of esoteric non-contact with the real unbelieving world. Well that indeed is not what apologetics is, it's not philosophy, it's not systematic theology. It's not in fact starting with Genesis and working out a systematic theology. That's not what apologetics is. In fact, it's also not preaching. It is not preaching, this bothers my Lutheran brethren, some Lutherans may be here, they're in shock, they're never seen this many people together in their life so this is socially very difficult for them. But if you're a Lutheran in here, my experience with Lutherans is they tend to push all of apologetics into the preaching office. Very high view of the public ministry and therefore, the pastor does it. That's good, but that's the domain of the pastor, if I mess in that domain, I'll really mess it up.
So that's one of the years, probably if you ask what error Calvinists make mostly, it's confusing apologetics with philosophy, Lutherans, the errors of confusing apologetics with preaching. Evangelical's error is confusing apologetics with giving your testimony. You thought I wasn't going to step on your toes, don't worry. See I go home after this, you can mash your teeth and I run out the side door.
Apologetics is not simply giving your testimony. Why? Because what Christ has done in your life is not the Gospel. And you never know how someone else is going to view what's going on in your life. About the time you present your life as this marvelous representation of obedience to the Lord, the Lord has his way of making sure your neighbor will see you flipping off someone as you drive down the street, right? Throwing rocks into their pool, that's exactly the way it always -- about the time you put your piety up in front of the cross of Jesus Christ, you're going down. It's a bad place to be.
So, a lot of apologetics today is about what has gone on in their life, 98% is about the person and the other 2% is how Christ changed their life. Neither of those are the gospel.
A hint, a practical evangelistic suggestion, when you talk about you there's one thing that you have a PhD in, sin. So when you talk to a non-Christian, you talk about sin. I suggest you talk about your own sin, instead of the sin of and we have a whole list inevitably. The lists are sins that we aren't attracted to at the moment. It's a sin that we haven't committed in the last 12 to 16 minutes, so it's not a problem for us.
But you see people wanting to talk about -- I'll give you a real example of a sinner. Okay, they look at this paper and look at this person right here. Instead, talk about your own as Luther said, "You want me to describe sin, let me describe my last 24 hours." That's something I find non-Christians listen to, my own failure to fulfill the law. The fact that I am my by nature a lawbreaker, that I am Simo Justus at Picator, Luther and Calvin said, "I am simultaneously sinful, yet justified to the very day I die, I'm in Romans 7 beating up with its sinful flesh. And if you don't believe that, you're headed to one of two directions, arrogance or suicide."
I'll tell you the truth, it will drive you insane if you think you're going to pull this off without Jesus Christ at the center in his dying and shedding his blood and rising again for you. Now that was preaching, it felt good Skip wasn't here, but I'll get back to my thing here.
So, what apologetic is not, it is not giving your testimony, so what is it? It is about giving reasons and defending the gospel. I'm not against the intelligent design movement. We've got Bill Dimsky at the Academy. We have Oliver Wilder Smith. We have the greatest authorities and science that come. It's critical to learn this stuff in this day and age. But you got to go farther.
I was at a theism conference with the top apologists in theism, they got done with the day and I said, "I just have one minor point to point out to everybody in the conference, Jesus Christ was never mentioned." That should tell you something about an apologetical focus. It ought to be riveted on the cross of Jesus Christ. And that's what the gospel is. What is the gospel? Well, here is the simple definition. Christ died for sinners and you qualify. That's it. That's it, Christ died for sinners and you qualify. The gospel is not about you. It's not about your improvement. It's not about your ethics. It's not about turning America back to God. It's not about reforming the democrat or Republican or any other political party. The gospel is about Christ and what happen for you 2,000 years ago about 20 minutes outside the Jerusalem on a hill. That's what the gospel is and the verification of that by his resurrection from the dead and I maximized that freedom to preach that any day of the week over heavy more morality in my culture. If my choice is making my culture more moral, or keeping it more open to getting gospel preachment in it, I always go for keeping it more free to preach the gospel in it.
Satan will take moral people any day of the week. He'll take you to hell through immorality or he'll take you dressed up going to church with morality. He'll take it both ways as long as it doesn't have the cross in the middle of it. Okay, that's what apologetics is, it's defending the gospel and the reformers, Luther Calvin and all those chaps, talked about law preceding gospel.
Law always comes before gospel. Very important to keep these distinctions clear in talking with non-Christians. I was on staff for many years with Campus Crusade and we had a tendency at times to realize that people had no idea what the bad news is because he started with the good news. If you don't think you've broken God's law, what in the world is the remedy? I mean if people aren't sick, they don't go to a doctor for heaven's sake, unless you're some kind of a real strange person. You first have to understand how deep the sickness is. That's what the law does. The law crushes you. It never justifies you. You give the law to satisfied sinners, said Luther. I love that, law to satisfied sinners, gospel to terrified sinners.
And as he said, the true theologian of the church is the person who can understand when to give law to the satisfied sinner and gospel to the terrified one. We mix this up in church all the time and send people off worst than if they never have come. I tell non-Christians, unless you find this being taught on Sunday morning, you have no obligation to go to church, none.
There's no biblical admonition to just show up and hear false teaching. You hear where the law is preached clearly and I mean the law of God, the Ten Commandments, not "Thou shall not have a cigar or drink wine that ruins my whole social life."
It means the true violation of the word of God in thought word indeed, the Ten Commandments, violating them and thought word indeed by what we do and by what we leave undone. No man can stand before God righteous. That's what the law does. And it's to confuse this and this can be an absolute disaster. My suggestion is keep it defense to the gospel to what is C.S. Lewiw calls, "Mere Christianity", the basic things that we agree on as Christians necessary for salvation. You can find those in the Apostles' Creed, certainly. It's not defending the oddities of your denomination, whatever it maybe, or not a denomination. Well, the oddities of what you are. I don't know what it is.
Texting, no, no, no, this thing, whatever it is about the oddity. Some people have them that you have to whine up on a certain place exactly how the Lord operated the first six days of creation, or exactly the weekend the Lord is returning. Okay, that stuff is not in the Creed of Christendom. I'm not saying we don't work with the text and do the best that we can for unbelievers dealing with it. But you stay with the Creeds of Christendom and apologetics. That will give you enough of a full-time effort of what this is about. So apologetic is do you have reason, it's biblically commanded. And what we're defending is the Gospel. It's the gospel and not mere theism.
Okay, third, why defend the faith at all? Spend a very little time on this -- other than being biblically commanded, we defend the faith today for three words, the contemporary situation is secular, it is global and it is pluralistic. It is secular, global and pluralistic, the contemporary situation today. It is secular, first, means simply that the intellectual foundations of our society today are not Christian. We can dispute and talk about when that happened and you can have endless long discussions about when this tide began to turn. But the fact is, the intellectual tone of culture in general, in the arts, in the academy, the university is decidedly not accepting the claims of Christianity. It is a secularized situation.
Secondly, it's global. That just means that you can't get away from foreign ideas anymore. It is not possible to wall yourself off in a nice little environment and never come into contact with Non-Christians. After all, probably somebody from some different religious position has moved in next door, goes to school with your kids, sits next to you at the office, whatever it may be. This kind of thing would be unheard off a hundred years ago in the United States when the general prevailing culture was one of the Churchianity. That is gone and it isn't coming back anytime soon, I don't have a chance to preach this sermon but I would sometime, why it's gone. It's our fault that it's gone.
We start Boogiemanning the secularist, it's the Christian church that dropped the ball and wasn't teaching the truths of the Christian faith to the next generation, but telling them to become Christians because it will make their life better. Really, really, it made the apostle's life infinitely more better. They were all crucified or killed.
I mean Paul never once lead a higher living seminar in Rome, ever. Okay, it's secular, it's global and finally it's pluralistic. That just means that there's many, many ideas floating around out there. I've mentioned the Defense Never Rests, the book that's out there. There is also another one I've done specifically for this reason called Religion on Trial and it looks at how to deal with people from different religious positions, assuming the least, proving the most.
It's a pluralistic situation. "Well, we can never -– this has never been like this before." "This is a particularly perverse generation. Look at X, Y and Z, there's senators who're dating the llama or something." No, no, no, something like that. Variations of this, what's going on? Look, I got some news for all of us. It isn't any different than what it was in the time of the apostles. It was secularized, it was hostile to Christianity. There were foreign ideas all over the place, a multiplicity of religious positions floating around, hostility it was a difficult environment to preach Christ crucified. And you find the apostles' main message being a moral one? No, the main message was Christ and Him crucified.
Did they turn society upside down? Absolutely, as a by-product of that not as a result to the preaching of Christ crucified alone. They didn't say "And by the way", first thing Peter gets up in Acts 2, "By the way, first thing I want to get to is the Roman baths, horrible place. Let's spend some time on that." You don't see that at all, could he? Did they just ignore it? Scripture doesn't say anything about that particular sin, does it?
What they went to was the heart of the matter, man's rebellion and separation from God and the complete rescue in Jesus Christ. That message is the power of God to salvation. That's it, that's the word of God preached in its purity and fullness, the saving gospel. God does the moral fix on his spare time with that, after that's done.
So, the contemporary situation is as clear and as close to the first century as any other time could have it. We defend the faith because it's biblically commanded and because scripture calls us to do it and the contemporary situation requires it. Fourth, reasons that Christians don't defend the faith, I don't get to spend a lot of time here and I want to be nice, no, no, no that's never been a problem no, no. Why reasons why Christians do not defend the faith, well there's intellectual reasons they don't and there's moral reasons.
The intellectual reasons are basically put out by people that have a very long name associated with them. They're called pre-suppositionalists. They basically argue like this. Look, man is totally depraved, according to scripture. He is completely conceived in sin, Psalm 51, and therefore any evidence or arguments you get into with a Non-Christian are inevitably doomed to failure, because the Non-Christian will take every argument and invert it and turn it away, and all of this because of total depravity. And what do we say to pre-suppositionalists?
First of all, pre-suppositionalists have very little apologetical impact with non-Christians. If you want to hear something painful, listen to a pre-suppositionalist debate in someone from Islam which I did recently. They both debated about the existence of God. They both decided they agreed beginning with their position that God existed and the debate ended.
I'm sure everyone went home feeling thrilled that that was the situation. Look, when it comes to total depravity scripture teaches total depravity, but it doesn't teach that man is incapable of understanding the evidence for Christian faith. It does say that man is totally incapable of saving himself. There is no work of man that can say -– that he can crawl up to God and say, "I somehow saved myself." Absolutely not, total depravity does mean that man will never be able to intellectualize himself to heaven, but he still can understand evidence. You can still be an unbeliever and be a fabulous brain surgeon. You can understand facts. Well the non-Christian say, "No I mean spiritual facts." Spiritual facts? What's a spiritual fact? The bible doesn't know about those. It knows about facts.
Where do you get the word spiritual facts from? Well Jesus' death and the resurrection, oh really? You have to join a Masonic lodge to understand those facts? First that is not apostolic preaching. Apostolic preaching is Acts 26 Paul saying to Thesus and Agrippa, "This didn't happen in a corner. There's a bunch of bodies running around, 500 at least, I can bring them in as witnesses." "Paul if I let you go on, you will persuade me to become a Christian." "I wish that would happen Agrippa, but for these chains I wish everyone would become a Christian." Paul wasn't a pre-suppositionalist. He didn't require people to assume the bible was the word of God in order to show that it was intellectually consistent and logical to its premises.
So there are intellectual reasons some believing Christians who take scripture very seriously believe that apologetics isn't worth while. I don't suggest that you move in the direction of pre-suppositionalism if you want to read more on it we've got some books in the back that'll help you on that.
Then there are those who have moral reasons, moral reasons why not to do apologetics, it basically reduces to things like, it will ruin my life. I mean what will happen to me morally if I read some non-Christian books. This will mess up everything. If I actually -- and what happens in the worst of all, I get a question I can't understand and my child hears me fumble. I got news for you, your child already knows that you fumble, okay. We all do.
It'd probably do the most good to hear -– get yourself in a discussion where you got in to deep water and you simply in humility said, "You know that's a very good question. I'm sure there's an answer to it, I'll get back to you when I find a good answer to it. But I'm not going to fake my way through this. But there's tremendous fear in many evangelical and reformed Lutheran circles for that matter, that if you do apologetics you'll get refuted. If you do it evidential apologetics is what you're talking about, you could lose an argument. Well, you know what exactly is the option? Preaching and not listening to any argument against you? You think that's the Apostolic method?
So reasons they don't defend are both intellectual and moral, but I want to spend the lat few minutes that we have on how to defend the faith. And as I mentioned I do this much more on Religion on Trial and you can look at that in detail. How to defend the faith, the unique aspect of evidential legal apologetics in an age of secularism is that I believe and legal apologists have presented for centuries the fact that apologetics is not just destroying other people's arguments. In fact I don't recommend you spend a lot of time refuting non-Christian positions, okay?
It makes you annoying and will get other people psychologically resistant to you. I recommend that if you have an hour on a train with someone, you spend five minutes on their position refuting it, dealing with it, asking probing questions about it, then you spend the rest of the time marshalling the affirmative evidence that scripture's reliable that it presents Christ in the center and that He verified His claims to be God by his resurrection from the dead.
Spend the majority of your time presenting positive evidence. Why? Because you and me as Christians have the burden of proof, a lot of Christians don't believe that, no we don't. Non-Christians got to prove there isn't a God, hogwash, we're the one's asserting the affirmative position, we have the burden of proof. You're the plaintiff in this. You should marshal the affirmative evidence. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't suggest you start with apologetics with non-Christians.
Apologetics is always something that you go to when the non-Christian has raised objections. You don't start off a discussion with a non-Christian by saying, "Well, doubtless you have problems with the virgin birth." Don't be like that, okay? There's enough mess in the world that it doesn't need you – you know in fact I never really did think about -- yeah, I do have problem with the virgin birth.
You start by presenting the gospel and if there are no objections and people that have no problem, it's like the Ethiopian unit. There's a bunch of boatload of people walking around who were asking the question, "How shall I be saved?" You don't start with apologetics with those people. You preach and you bring them Jesus Christ in him crucified, call them like the Philippians jailer to believe and then you catechize them out the Wazu in your church. You get them around solid, biblical teaching and bring them up in apologetics like Apollo's, like a clue when Priscilla did in Acts five with Apollo's.
You teach them a better way, you show him how to defend the faith. You give them solid Christian doctrine along the way. So don't misunderstand me, apologetics is not where you begin. But let's face it, in 300 years of secularism, people have problems that they have believed are legitimate objections to Christian faith. And that's why in Defense Never Rest have a bibliography in there of books that you should be familiar with.
Now I often say I can tell everything I need to know about a person's interest in non-Christians by looking at their library. So if I came home tonight to your house, would I find works there that if I was a non-Christian would make me see that you are trying to deal with some of the questions I'm raising. Or would I see shelf after shelf of self-help how to loose weight with Jesus, how to date with Jesus, how to whatever along those lines? Okay, ask yourself that question and then do something about it. Read one book that helps equip you to talk to non-Christians.
Again, this isn't about getting degrees in being a spokesperson there. You'll find out that the Lord will open up these opportunities as you get on the non-Christians wavelength. Get a book that answers the 10 basic questions non-Christians ask the most. It's not like new questions are being developed. If you have a handle, basic handle on the 10 questions non-Christians ask the most, you will cover 99.9% of the objections non-Christians raise. And these are question that have been asked and answer since Augustine and Jerome correspondent in the fourth century, since Tertullian, Cypran and others put this responses together to the problem of evil and all other kinds of issues.
The answers are there. The Christian church has the answers and may I suggest you start it early here. If I have one class to teach at my church, I don't teach the adults, I don't teach high school anymore, junior high. You give me the junior highers. That's who I equip in the defense of the faith now. It's gone down there, I used to just hang out with the high-schoolers to give them apologetics. But we're done with them, they can now go and make themselves onerous to others.
We deal with junior high level kids. Get an apologetic program for them. Use R.C. Sproul's reasons to believe or Josh McDonald's stuff and get them those answers to the basic questions. If you don't think they're getting them now, maybe you're right. Maybe you're right but they're going to get them very soon. Now if you equipped them into that and at the front end you'll be much better off. Okay, a couple of words of how to positively present the evidence and assume the least and improve the most.
I'm going to give you a very short four-point outline that my 7th graders don't go to 8th grade until they can recite on their feet to me and support this. Okay, so don't tell me this is too deep and heavy unless you need to go back to the 7th grade class in Santa Barbara and you could do this. Okay, here are the four points.
First Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are primary source documents. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are primary source documents. Okay? Number two, in those documents, Jesus claims to be God in the flesh. This argument builds by the way, it's an inductive argument. It's an evidential argument. In those primary source records, Jesus claims to be God in the flesh. Three, in those primary source documents, Jesus' death and resurrection is described in great detail.
In those primary source documents, Jesus' death and resurrection is described in great detail, that's three. Voila! Christ's resurrection, number four, proves his deity, Christ's resurrection proves his deity. Notice this is not a circular argument, the argument doesn't assume at the beginning what it seeks to prove. It starts with the basic primary source nature of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and ends with Jesus as God.
Now I developed this in much more detail, you come to Strasbourg and we picked this apart. This is the basic historical argument for Christianity. Now I've done the first one on the primary source nature of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If I have one hour on a secular campus, that's the only point I will spend an hour on, proving that point. It is the one I find evangelicals are the least equipped to deal with.
You know the least about the first point that I just mentioned, probably. You're probably the most I should say uncomfortable with establishing that to a non-believer because unbelievers have watched the shows in television and they've seen all kinds of things that say basically Matthew, Mark, Luke and John came 500 years late. It was written by inebriated monks and it was done so the Catholic Church could proceed.
Is that the case? Well the fact is that is not the case and it's worthwhile spending significant time. Why do I spend my time on that first point? Because ones that point is established, this four-point argument moves in a lickety-split to the cross of Jesus Christ and non-Christians see it coming at the front end. So I -- in and others that I dealt with and Jesus seminar people and debates in Jamaica, this is the issue they don't want in. They don't want to loose number one, they've got to have a document that's an error, that's corrupted, that comes late. Because if it is primary source material, if it's the best material on the life and death of Jesus Christ, if it's trustworthy, then that second point Jesus claims to be God in human flesh is easy to prove.
You should have tons of verses on the second point, John 8:24, Luke 5:18-24, a number of verses. Doubting Thomas from the end of the book of John where Thomas confesses Christ as his Lord and his God after touching his side, at least Jesus offers to allow him to touch his side. Whether he did or not, who knows. But Thomas confesses the faith, Jesus does this, he forgives people's sin and then backs it up by raising people up from their pallets. He says, "If you believe in me you will not die in your sin." He presents the good news. Jesus claims to be God in the flesh. He claimed to be God. Now obviously claims are cheap and you may have a non-Christian in point two claimed that anybody can say they're a God, it reminds me of the -- it was clearly Albuquerque Calvary Minister who went to the psychiatric ward to visit patients, not members of the church but a psychiatric ward. And went to the psychiatric ward and there was there on visitation and there was a man with a three-cornered hat in his hand, in his jacket. And the pastor said "And who might you be?" "Napoleon, Napoleon of course." And the pastor said, "Well, who told you that? And he said, "God did."
And then from the other room, another one of the patient said, "I did not." Which just go to show anybody can claim to be God, claims are cheap and that's true on point two which is why we move to point three, Christ's death and resurrection is described in great detail.
Again this is not difficult to establish from the text itself and in fact there's good medical and external evidence that this man was dead. And there's the same kind of first eyewitness primary source account that he indeed was seen again alive from the dead. So number four, Christ's resurrection proves his deity. And if non-Christians at this point say, "No, it doesn't," I will often ask so look, Jesus said, "This shows he could conquer and did conquer death. Death has been swallowed up in his resurrection, in his victory."
What could possibly be more significant to claim victory over if you've got in the flesh? I mean, do we really want God to come back and say, "You know, I'm going to prove that I'm God. I'm going to cure universal hang nails as a problem dealt by people in different cultures over the centuries." No, he deals with the primary problem we all face in every culture, every race, the problem of death. And he established his victory over death.
Finally and in conclusion about apologetics, I leave you with these lines. Apologetics is not to be done instead of evangelism. It's not apologetics instead of evangelism, nor is it apologetics versus evangelism. Nor is it apologetics without evangelism, but apologetics, when centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ living a perfect life in our place under the law and dying an atoning death for our sins is apologetics as evangelism. Thank you very much.
Pastor Brian Nixon: Good stuff. Now, I'm going to put you on the trial.
Craig Parton: Okay.
Pastor Brian Nixon: I'm going to put you on trial.
Craig Parton: Good.
Pastor Brian Nixon: Few questions and I will be the techie guy, but I have something to confess to you that I'm not really tech savvy as well but --
Craig Parton: Oh good, excellent.
Pastor Brian Nixon: We have people who are -- first of all, on behalf of Calvary of Albuquerque, thank you for coming out.
Craig Parton: My pleasure.
Pastor Brian Nixon: It's always a blessing to get information on how to effectively communicate our faith. With that now we do have some questions.
Question number one --
Craig Parton: Is it going to pop up on the screen or is somebody is going to say "I owe the money."
Pastor Brian Nixon: Yeah. No, that's me.
Craig Parton: Oh that's you?
Pastor Brian Nixon: No I'm just kidding, -- it's on this screen right here.
Craig Parton: Oh, got you.
Pastor Brian Nixon: So question number one is how did the modern perception of people being basically good come about? And how would apologetics address this very topic? So, where did this idea that we're good?
Craig Parton: Well it certainly doesn't come from the book of Romans. As John Worth Montgomery says, he says, "I believe I could convince a Martian from Romans that man is not basically good." So the concept cannot arise from anyone who takes the bible seriously. So first you must cast erosion and suspicion on the biblical text, so the concept that man is basically good and getting better is really one with God, is a synonym for God, arises with modern secularism.
Modern secularism begins with corrosive views of the bible's reliability. That is a fundamental issue. Is scripture trustworthy? Is it the word of God in the competing world of a lot of different world views or is it not? When that began to be in question in the 18th century and critical works on the bible began, with it arose an optimistic view of mankind. 19th century was called "The Century of Optimism" in all kinds of ways in literature and art, the century of revolution, the century of Karl Marx, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Charles Darwin, all these Philosophical viewpoints were an optimistic view of where man was going. I can give you the sources for those. Jacques Barzun is one of the great ones, the history of ideas from Marx, Darwin, Hegel, this concept that man is good and getting better arises right along with and the bible cannot be trusted. The bible has errors in it. Paul was wrong about the basic nature of man.
So, how does apologetics address this? I think Louis is the best -- I had a guy tell me this the other week literally at a wedding reception Saturday -- Friday night, we're talking about this and he said, "Oh Jesus is cool but I'm also God." Okay? And I said to him, his wife was right there, I said, "That must be very disappointing" because we all know who we are. Lewis said, the way to do this if a person doesn't want anything to do with the Ten Commandments, fine, well just go on your own moral conscience. We just go with your moral conscience. What do you think is right and wrong? Everybody has an inherent morality.
I don't care if there were people who eat other people. They have a rule, "Thou shall clean thy plate." They have a morality and not all of them clean their plate. So you go for the areas where people show that they can't possibly live up to that and the best place to get help on that is how C.S. Lewis writes about it in Mere Christianity. "In your worst moment, I don't care who you are, you have done something that you couldn't believe you could do." As Lewis says, "Even the thorough most going little rudder like X wouldn't have come up with that.
That's exactly who -- I just tell people that's who I am. Oh you're not that, dad. You don't know me. There's a great book entitled, Good Men Do What Bad Men -- no, Bad Men Do What Good Men Think, it's by a psychologist. It's very true. Bad Men do What Good Men Think.
Pastor Brian Nixon: Hope that answers your question. Let's move to question number two. Can you briefly summarize how to determine a satisfied sinner versus a terrified sinner?
Craig Parton: Wow. Well, this is the most difficult thing possibly to do in all of evangelism, but it's when you're bringing the law to people, when you're establishing to people that they need a physician, people may indicate that they really don't think that they do. Then you bring the law to them. You don't move to the gospel until a person sees how sick they are. It's not an easy thing to do and there's not one way of going about this that's why Luther said it's the true theologian that can actually do this. But it's being sensitive to the fact. And not just blowing by it. Oh by the way, everybody's a sinner now, let's get to the news that really I know wouldn't offend you, Christ died for our sins. All right that's the good news. Let's talk about the good news.
First, be sure and clear that the law's understood that we're lawbreakers. Otherwise, it's not really good news. The good news is not that you were basically cool and you really were basically at the root, you were nice and God kind of owed it to you to save you.
The biblical picture is the opposite. Running the opposite way, God haters, read Romans the first few chapters conceived in sin, haters of God, lying and doing all kinds of things. That is who we are by nature. That's why the rescue is such good news. It had to come completely outside of you and in spite of you.
If this came up to you and me, we'd never come up with this. I mean, we figure most of us are pretty good when we grade on the curves, so difficult to do but very, very important that you bring the gospel to those who are terrified sinners. And by the way, here is how you know if you've got gospel passages that you're dealing with people, go to somebody's deathbed who's a Christian. What verses are you going to read them? If you tell me you're going to read them the Sermon on the Mount, I'm going to tell you, you don't know law and gospel. That is law preachment. That was not good news when Jesus said, "Be perfect like my father in heaven is perfect." If you ran away going, "Yeah. I knew I was." You're history. That had to have destroyed people. You look on a woman to lust for her, you're exactly like the adulterer, should be stoned in the Old Testament.
Have a good day, no. So, if you want to know, but how do I know if the bible's law or gospel, you have a dying Christian at their bedside and you're going to bring scripture to them. What verses do you read? You're my little children. I have all the hairs of your head numbered, died for the since of the world, God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, verses that are all about God doing it in spite of you has nothing to do with you. Those are clear, pure gospel passages. Get a hold of that first so you understand the proper distinction.
Pastor Brian Nixon: Well, we have time just for one more question and we'll conclude with this. Would Luke be qualified as an expert? Isn't Luke's gospel a secondhand account?
Craig Parton: Technically Luke is not an eyewitness but he says he carefully checked these things out, number one. Number two, this was all circulated during the time that there were hostile witnesses existing in the first century so, the ability to confront Luke in his writings existed then and that's what the law is concerned about with people that are trying to put written documents into evidence.
Did you see the event? Or did this document circulate in any culture, in an environment where it would've been refuted if it wasn't correct. In fact, there's no first century reputation at Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. All you get is this hogwash Gnostic second century stuff that would never get into a court of law.
Now I'm going to preach. Never get into a court of law ever as hearsay. You don't get to talk about Jesus and be in the middle part of the second century in the gospel of Judas. That doesn't beat Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So Luke is qualified as an expert. He said he carefully checked out all these things systematically, it matches up with all the external evidence that we have and most importantly is circulated amongst hostile witnesses who had the means mode of opportunity to refute it.
Pastor Brian Nixon: Well Mr. Parton, thank you so much.
Craig Parton: Thank you.
Pastor Brian Nixon: Once again, let's give Mr. Parton a warm Calvary hand.