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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Unapologetically Apologetic

In certain circles (namely, the circles in which I circulate) the theological discipline of apologetics often gets a bad rap. Some belittle the whole apologetic enterprise saying, "you can't argue someone into faith." Thus many confessional Lutherans ignore apologetics and the field is over-run by modern Evangelicals (Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, etc.) We Lutherans have some hearty influence in the field, however, namely John Warwick Montgomery and Paul Maier, but these are few and far between.

If apologetics is the enterprise of forming systematic arguments to defend one's beliefs, then confessional Lutherans do this all the time - only they do to it towards fellow Lutherans and other Christians. Polemics has a noble and oft-abused history in the Christian family.

There is a screaming need for intelligent Lutheran Christians to apply themselves anew to the enterprise of apologetics towards non-Christians. We need to overcome our allergy to human reason and construct cogent arguments to defend our teachings against objections. Yes, Luther once called reason a whore because he was reacting against the excesses of Scholastic medieval writers. But he also acknowledged that reason can serve theology when enlightened by the Spirit (cf. Table Talk).

You can't argue someone into the Faith, to be sure. There is a distinction between apologetics and proclamation. For many, the one must precede the other. I agree that it is dangerous sin to make reason a master over divine revelation. But what about the many areas of conversation that are located just outside the perimeter of divine revelation? And that support the claims of the Church?

Most faithful pastors do the apologetics I'm talking about nearly every day. That is, if they engage in conversations with unbelievers about God or matters of the spirit.

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tgeek said...

So many times, apologetics (which can be very difficult to do correctly) is replaced with appeals to emotion (which is very easy to do). In a way, that what the Ablaze! strategy is all about. It's about sharing experience and feelings rather than cogent arguments for the faith.

VirginiaLutherans said...

I whole-heartedly agree! I think it isn't practiced enough, especially in light of the "science based" attacks on Christianity. I guess it is too confrontational, and I will admit takes wisdom to know the right approach. However, Paul uses "inspired" logic in Acts 24, and Peter at Pentecost. It is almost a lost art, one I wish/hope we learn to practice more frequently with boldness provided by faith.

Paul, in Bethel Park said...

Hello, Pastor!

I spend a lot of time in the Word and am hungry for more. This has led me to seek the proper hermeneutics in doing so.

To that end, our Vicar lent me his copy of Ralph A. Bohlmann's "Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Lutheran Confessions". I have found it to be very enlightening.

I was wondering if you had any recommendation(s) from your experience that would also be of help.

My e-mail address is

Have a great day for the Lord.

Sincerely, Paul

L P Cruz said...

Pr. Scott,

I think Lutherans do apologetics but not in a way done with much publicity.

Sorry for the plug but take a look at my thoughts why Lutherans are seen as if they are not doing apologetics...


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