When I began my blog, I wrote that I was adding my voice to those of giants. By that I meant that others, far better than I, have already written on anything on which I would write. I do hope that my approach will be of help to others nonetheless. A great example of this idea concerns this post. Jesus, our greatest example in all things, Himself practiced apologetic techniques. This truth is wonderfully described in the book The Apologetics of Jesus by Norman Geisler and Patrick Zukeran. I cannot really add anything to their work, but hope to bring out some truths showing that Jesus did exemplify the perfect apologist setting an example for us to follow. While their book emphasizes the methodology of Jesus, I simply want to show that Jesus did indeed practice apologetics.
Those who question the use of apologetics point out that Jesus actually refused, on several occasions to use apologetics (Matt. 12:28-30; Luke 16:19-31; 23:8-12) and even rebuked those who were seemed to be seeking reasons to believe (John 20:24-29). The first three passages are best explained by noting the limitations of apologetics. In each case, the subjects were not honest seekers, but hardened skeptics of the truth. A good apologist knows that no one can argue another individual into faith. Jesus certainly understood this knowing perfectly the heart of every human. In these cases, Jesus would not play the game of His enemies and neither should we. The more difficult passage is the one found in John where Jesus tells His disciples that those were more blessed who would believe in Him without seeing the evidences the disciples had seen. This incident can not be used against the use of apologetics because Jesus never rebuked these or any honest seekers for seeking evidence; but, as we shall see, gave them evidence to help them to believe. Not only so, but Jesus never said that those who would believe later would do so without evidence, but only that they would believe without the direct evidence that the disciples had. He certainly was not saying that the future more blessed believers were blessed because they blindly believed without any evidence. As we saw in my last blog, the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking themselves practiced apologetics giving evidence for faith. Nothing in the passage found in John, therefore, would contradict using apologetics to point one to the self-revelation of God through Jesus Christ.
Geisler and Zukeran give many instances found in the Gospels showing that Jesus used a number of different apologetic techniques. They wrote whole chapters dealing with our Lord’s use of testimony, miracles, reason, arguments, and prophecy, among other things, to reveal the existence of God. I would like to concentrate on the activity of Jesus after the Resurrection. Luke tells us that Jesus, during the forty days after the Resurrection, “shewed himself…by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:4). All the Gospels record a number of His appearances to many individuals including, as Paul points out (I Corinthians 15), to over five hundred on one occasion. Both Luke and John tells us that, when the disciples were doubting, Jesus did not tell them to “just believe” but invited them to physically examine Him (Luke 24:36-40; John 20:19-20, 26-28) and even ate in front of them to prove He was not a vision (the food disappeared) (Luke 24:36-43; cf. John 21:15). While Jesus did reprimand the two on the Emmaus road for their lack of faith (Luke 24:25, 26) as well as Thomas (John 20:27), these rebukes were for their refusal to believe in light of the evidence presented to them including Old Testament prophecy (cf. Luke 24:25). Hence Jesus never asked for blind faith, but did demand a real and rational faith based on the physical evidence and the prophecy of Scripture.
Clearly, then, Jesus practiced apologetics as our great example. This practice of apologetics is in line with the practice of Scripture itself and in accordance with God’s command that we be ready to defend the faith we exhibit. Having demonstrated the biblical mandate to practice apologetics, I want to go on to the actual practice of revelational apologetics, pointing people to God’s revelation of Himself. Before I do so, though, I will need to cover some preliminary concepts which I will begin to do, Lord willing, in my next post.