Lest friend or foe misunderstand the author’s position, some explanation is warranted. As the saving mechanism of our faith, the gospel does not require any aid or support. Paul, the apostles of the Gentiles, is very clear that the power of God unto salvation is not found in man’s wisdom but in the preaching of the cross. Please consider the following references:
- Romans 1:16—For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation.
- I Corinthians 1:16--For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
When an individual by faith applies the blood of Christ to their own individual sin account God erases their sin debt based on the merits of Christ's finished work. Logic, philosophy, or apologetics plays no part in this once for all transaction in terms of justifying the sinner. Faith is all that is required to receive the free gift of eternal life. Simply stated, sinners are justified though a once for all transaction the moment they trust in and rely exclusively on Christ's work on their behalf. Human effort, religious regulations, law keeping, or human viewpoint play no part in the eternal salvation of the lost.
So then, how does apologetics aid and support the gospel? In order to answer this question consider the following classic example of man’s problem and God’s remedy. Many are familiar with the following diagram illustrating the hopelessness of man's sinful condition and the futility of human performance to save one from sin's penalty, death, hell, and eternal separation from God.
Herein lies the first goal of apologetics. A skillful defense of the gospel of grace has the capacity to lead the sinner to the edge of the cliff. From this vantage point, the natural man can see that faith in the work of Christ is the logical next step in solving the problem of human sinfulness. This is what many evangelists have called the point of decision. Even the best logical and philosophical arguments sometimes do not result in the salvation of the lost because the power of God unto salvation is not found in our apologetical arguments. Ultimately, salvation is an act of the will and it cannot be forced upon someone. Consequently, apolgetics plays a vital role in walking the individual to the edge of the cliff where the decision is made whether or not to take the dare of faith.
The second application of apologetics is for the individual pictured in the diagram to the right. This person has already taken the leap of faith and chosen to accept the cross work of Christ as the only payment for his their sin. Despite being a recipient of God's very righteousness through the process of justification, believers sometimes have doubts about the nature of their relationship with God. Satan's attempts to shake the foundations of a believers faith are often unrelenting. This is especially true in our day where the attacks of militant atheism, religious pluralism, relativism, and politically correct tolerance seem to threaten the very fabric of our faith.
For the believer, apologetics offers an opportunity to look back across the gulf and see that faith in Christ really does make logical sense. While reason is not a prerequisite to faith, it does not stand against faith as some Christians have asserted. Faith and reason alike both find their source in God and are intimately tied to one another. As believers we do not have a blind faith: rather our faith rests on a foundation of fact. Therefore, our faith must be guided by reason. For example, I could chose to believe that the earth is flat despite all of the evidence to the contrary. However, holding such a belief is unreasonable no matter how much faith or how sincere my faith might be. Herein we see the opposite side of the coin with regard to the relationship of faith and reason. While our faith must be guided by reason, reason also affirms our faith. In short, "Christianity is not a mystical religion, such as many Eastern religions and their New Age clones. Neither is it a mythical religion with idols and man-made gods. Nor is Christianity a misinformed religion, such as the various cults. Rather, Christianity is an historic religion, and its truth-claims are grounded on objective, historical facts."(1)
1) Dan Story. Defending Your Faith: How to Answer the Tough Questions. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1992), 17.