Why The Bible Is Necessary For Apologetics: A Brief Reflection On 1 Peter 3.15
The study of defending the Christian faith has recently become extremely popular. Bookstores are filled with manuals on how Christians can defend their faith. Usually the books present “facts” from secular writings. The Big Bang Theory, Ancient Greek philosophy, Near Death Experiences, selections from secular Roman historians and even liberal theology are used to try and show unbelievers that Christianity is reasonable. Christians are encouraged to look at these “facts” with unbelievers in a “neutral” way as though God does not exist or the Bible is not His Word. I find this odd.
When we are looking for help in our marriages, or need to tell someone how to be saved, or we are trying to find a word of comfort to share with a hurting friend we typically go to the Bible. If we do not go to the Bible for these things, we at least should do so! I find it odd, then, that we should go anywhere other than the Bible when we are called upon to defend our faith.
God knows everything. Thankfully, God has revealed some of His knowledge to us. We have a basis for our knowledge because of revelation. It is for this reason we should turn to the treasures of wisdom (the wisdom of God) we have in the Bible when we need help with…well…anything! Defending the faith is not an exception.
The Bible is needed for motivation to defend the faith. If someone asks, “Why should we even defend the Christian faith?” the only way we are able to answer at all is if we turn to the Bible. “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3.15 (ESV) This verse of the Bible commands Christians to always be ready to make a defense. This is one verse that gives us our motivation for defending the faith. There are many others. If we approach an unbeliever from a point of view where God does not exist or the Bible is not His Word then there is no need to defend our faith. There is no honest way to get on “common ground” with an unbeliever and still have a reason or motivation to defend our faith. We not only have to be committed to the Bible, we should be committed to it! The Bible tells us that we must defend our faith.
The Bible is needed to tell us what we are defending. The answer to the question, “What is Christianity?” can only be found in the Bible. The verse referenced above mentions that Christ is Lord and speaks of the hope that is within us. This is one verse which presents at least two components of Christianity. There are many others. If we understand that we must defend our faith but do not know what our faith is in then we are unable to defend our faith. We must know what it is we are defending before we are able to defend it. We not only have to know the Bible, we should know it! The Bible tells us about the faith we defend.
The Bible is necessary to tell us how to defend our faith.
If we believe the Bible then we have a motive for defending our faith and we know what we have faith in, but how should we defend our faith? The verse we have been considering tells us to provide a defense and tells us what we are defending. It also tells us how to defend our faith. We start by regarding Christ the Lord as holy, and we present our arguments with gentleness and respect. This verse contains instruction on how we are to defend our faith. There are many others. There is no reason to regard Christ the Lord as holy or to be gentle and respectful toward those who oppose the faith if we do not recognize that the Bible is morally binding. We cannot even know who Christ is apart from the Bible, much less call Him Lord or regard Him in our hearts as holy. We not only have to submit to the Bible, we should submit to it. The Bible tells us the way in which we are to defend our faith.
The Bible is necessary to tell us the method by which we are to defend our faith.
The Bible is necessary for the motive, material, and manner of the defense of the faith. There is another sense to the question, “How should we defend the faith?” This question is not asking for just the manner in which we defend our faith, but the method by which we defend it. Of course motive, material and manner are all parts of method and we have seen that all three come from the Bible. The method by which we defend our faith likewise comes from…you guessed it…the Bible! Remember that 1 Peter 3.15 commands that we are to honor Christ the Lord as holy. There is no realm in which Christ is not Lord; Christ is Lord of all. Those who do not submit to the Lordship of Christ Jesus are rebelling against God. They disagree with God in thought, word, deed, or some mixture of all of the above. However, no one can disagree with God on a point and still have the truth about it. Disagreeing with God is, to put it plainly, stupid. For example, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ Psalms 14:1a (ESV)”; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)”; and “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools Romans 1:21-22 (ESV)”.
Believing The Bible
When someone contradicts the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Truth (John 14.6), on a fundamental point (e.g. the universe is created by God, the Bible is the Word of God) that person is attempting to start off in the wrong direction when it comes to understanding anything correctly. Our method of defending the faith should be the same as what the Bible presents. The Bible makes the claim that it is the Word of God. It is self-attesting. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17 (ESV)” If God is the final authority on all matters of truth, then what He says goes. Hence the Bible as the Word of God is also self-authenticating. There is no higher standard than the Word of God by which we may judge the Word of God. “For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater by whom to swear, He swore by Himself Hebrews 6:13 (ESV)” If someone does not agree with the Word of God, you can be pretty sure that he or she will not agree with your words concerning the Word of God. The Bible is the Word of God, the Word of God is true, and to reject this results in futile thought.
Foolishness Of Unbelief
Many think it is foolish to have such faith in the Bible, including Christians. It angers many that someone should take the Bible to be the final authority, as we do, on faith. What alternative do those raising this supposed objection have to offer? They say that they object based upon what their senses and their reason tells them. Perhaps they claim to take “science” as their authority in matters of truth, even when it comes to judging whether or not the Bible is the Word of God. There is a serious problem with this view. How do we know that science is a reliable guide to truth? We cannot test “science” using science. Even if we could test science in this way, we would just be using science to test science, and the question is whether or not science is reliable in the first place! Those wanting to defend the view in question could say that they have faith in science, but this means that their final authority fails at the most basic level. Having “faith in science” is not scientific at all, and so the position falls under its own weight. The foundation is cracked, and even if it were not, it would not be wide enough. There are many things which cannot be touched by science. Logic is not scientifically testable, nor are moral laws, yet the reality of both of these press upon us every day! Furthermore, how do we know that the universe will continue to work in predictable ways? Should we remain open to new possibilities in scientific discovery, even unpredictable ones? If so, why should we continue in science upon the assumption that things will remain the same?
Christians believe the Bible. God has given us our senses and reason to use in coming to truth. Science is something we are able to do because God made and controls the world. Furthermore God has made us in such a way that we are able to come to know the world. While there is much to learn, we will never learn anything that overturns a fact which is known and revealed by our all-knowing and loving God. God has revealed Himself to us through His creation and given us reliable tools to know Him more. This we know because the Bible tells us so. We make observations and think about them and come to conclusions. However, in using our faculties we do not take them to be the final authority.
God has given us the Bible. May we reflect on this and allow it to shape our understanding of all we think, say, and do, even when it comes to defending the Bible itself.
About the Author
C.L. Bolt holds a B.A. Philosophy (High Honors) and B.A. Religion from Lynchburg College (Magna Cum Laude) where he was awarded with the 2007 Raymond Morgan Award in Philosophy, 2008 Virgil Hinds Award in Religion, 2008 Access Achievement Award, was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi and was a member of the 2008 VFIC Ethics Bowl Team. He is pursuing his M.Div. with a concentration in Biblical and Theological Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He contributes to Choosing Hats apologetics blog at www.choosinghats.com and wrote a chapter for The Portable Presuppositionalist by Jamin Hubner available at www.amazon.com. He lives in Indiana with his wife Kerri and dog Flash.