Time for an apologetic church?
Pastors should develop an apologetic culture in their churches as the need for Christians to defend their faith has increased significantly, Canadian author and apologist Stephen J Bedard said.
In an interview featured on the Apologetics 315 website Monday, the author of Unmasking a Pagan Christ: An Evangelical Response to the Cosmic Christ Idea, talked about issues ranging from the need for articulation of the Gospel to the Jehovah’s Witness booklet and the evidence of Jesus’ existence.
Asked what his advice to pastors was, Bedard said they should make their congregations aware that there are answers available.
"It’s not a blind faith,” he said. “We don’t have to prove that Christianity is absolutely true, but we have to demonstrate that it is something rational."
Bedard is pastor of Woodford Baptist Church and First Baptist Church in Meaford in Ontario.
Bedard, who got interested in apologetics after reading Christian authors and thinkers C S Lewis and Norman L Geisler, said churches also needed to articulate what the Gospel is. Only when they know what the real thing is will they be able to respond to the counterfeit, he said.
Bedard said the need for apologetics had “increased significantly”. People today are exposed to all kinds of doctrines, from Gnostic gospels to theories like “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” thanks to the media, he explained.
Gnostic gospels are based on texts that are not part of the standard biblical canon. “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” is a documentary made by a Canadian filmmaker on the Talpiot Tomb near the Old City in East Jerusalem and it seeks to misinterpret the events regarding Jesus as recorded in the New Testament, Christians believe.
Those who want to get involved in apologetics – the discipline of defending a Christian position by the systematic use of reason – must spend time with atheists, non-Christians, and those who are skeptical of the Christian faith, Bedard advised.
“Just listen to what they believe” and do not hesitate to acknowledge the good points they raise, but also go to the Scriptures to see where the Bible says they are wrong.
A father of five, Bedard said he learned a lot from his children. “They ask everything and do not take anything for granted. They challenge me all the time,” he said, adding that children and others should always be encouraged to ask questions.
Bedard also announced that his upcoming book, a response to the Jehovah’s Witness booklet “What Does the Bible Really Teach”, was expected to hit the market “in the next couple of months”.
He said he was impressed with the honesty of Jehovah’s Witnesses about what they believe. “We can also learn from the way they equip their people.”
Mainstream Christians accuse the Jehovah’s Witness denomination of doctrinal inconsistencies and biblical mistranslations.
Titled Jehovah’s Witness and What the Bible Really Teaches, to be published by Clements Publishing, the book is “a guide to having productive conversations with Jehovah’s Witness".
Talking about his first book, Unmasking a Pagan Christ, Bedard said it was to counter a theory by a Canadian author claiming Jesus never existed.
He said people ask if there is evidence of Jesus outside of the Bible and why there is little Jewish and Roman evidence, but “when I took a look at the actual evidence, I found that we actually have quite a bit, in fact, more than we’d expect.”
Those who ask for Jewish evidence totally ignore the fact that the Jewish society at the time was quite illiterate, he said. “So it was really unlikely that most of the people who heard Jesus preach would actually be writing it down. Even if it did get written down, it was unlikely that it would survive to this day.”
About Roman writings, he said there was little record of what was going on in the first century in terms of trials in the provinces such as Judea. So records of Jesus cannot be expected either, he reasoned.
But there is evidence in the writings of the first century Jewish historian, Josephus, he said. “It’s pretty firm evidence that Jesus existed. Outside of that we have the Bible and we have Paul.”
Josephus wrote of a Jewish sect led by James the Just, identifying him as the brother of Jesus. His writings also included sections on John the Baptist, the High Priest Annas, Pontius Pilate, and Jesus called the Messiah.
If critics were to use the same standards they use to verify writings on Jesus on other historical figures, “we would have to burn our history books,” Bedard said.
However, apologists must remember that 1 Peter 3:15 asks us to respond in gentleness and respect, he said, and cautioned that the purpose of apologetics is not to win argument, but to win people to Christ.