When I was a Non-Denominational type of Christian (who exhibited true American Evangelical tendencies), I used to view Apologetics as the "Holy Grail" to evangelism and outreach.
That is to say that I believed with all my heart and soul that if I could only find the most compelling and creative way to appeal to a non-believer's mind, then I could convert anyone and everyone!
This caused me to sinfully pursue the "Magic Bullet" of Apologetics and I constantly refined my argument (like a Lawyer) or sales pitch (like a Top Salesman) until I was certain (me -- not God, not His Word!) that no one could possibly counter it or resist it's logic, which would force them to "make a decision for Christ" right there on the spot.
I now know how wrong and un-Biblical that was and have repented of such things.
So, after all our studies on Apologetics this week, I thought we should hit the Pause Button for just a moment and make sure we're all on the same page regarding that topic and it's direct connection to Conversion and Election/Predestination.
By now, we've clearly demonstrated how the historicity of Christianity is a powerful tool to use in any Apologetics discussion.
At the same time, it's all pointless if our proclamation of the factual nature of our faith does not also include a proclamation of Law and Gospel.
This surely doesn't mean that we are the ones who have the ability to convert souls or that "Decision Theology" has any kind of legitimacy, but I think we can all agree that when 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you," it assumes that any confession we give will certainly be about Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind.
The Word of God says quite plainly...
John 3:8 (ESV) The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
That being said, one thing we do know is that the Holy Spirit works through the Lord's "Means of Grace" or God's Word and Sacraments.
Let's recall what The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord has to say about the Doctrine of Election...
13] Therefore, if we wish to think or speak correctly and profitably concerning eternal election, or the predestination and ordination of the children of God to eternal life, we should accustom ourselves not to speculate concerning the bare, secret, concealed, inscrutable foreknowledge of God, but how the counsel, purpose, and ordination of God in Christ Jesus, who is the true Book of Life, is revealed to us through the Word,
14] namely, that the entire doctrine concerning the purpose, counsel, will, and ordination of God pertaining to our redemption, call, justification, and salvation should be taken together; as Paul treats and has explained this article Rom. 8:29f ; Eph. 1:4f , as also Christ in the parable, Matt. 22:1ff , namely, that God in His purpose and counsel ordained [decreed]:
15] 1. That the human race is truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ, who, by His faultless [innocency] obedience, suffering, and death, has merited for us the righteousness which avails before God, and eternal life.
16] 2. That such merit and benefits of Christ shall be presented, offered, and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments.
17] 3. That by His Holy Ghost, through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered, He will be efficacious and active in us, convert hearts to true repentance, and preserve them in the true faith.
18] 4. That He will justify all those who in true repentance receive Christ by a true faith, and will receive them into grace, the adoption of sons, and the inheritance of eternal life.
19] 5. That He will also sanctify in love those who are thus justified, as St. Paul says, Eph. 1:4.
20] 6. That He also will protect them in their great weakness against the devil, the world, and the flesh, and rule and lead them in His ways, raise them again [place His hand beneath them], when they stumble, comfort them under the cross and in temptation, and preserve them [for life eternal].
21] 7. That He will also strengthen, increase, and support to the end the good work which He has begun in them, if they adhere to God's Word, pray diligently, abide in God's goodness [grace], and faithfully use the gifts received.
22] 8. That finally He will eternally save and glorify in life eternal those whom He has elected, called, and justified.
23] And [indeed] in this His counsel, purpose, and ordination God has prepared salvation not only in general, but has in grace considered and chosen to salvation each and every person of the elect who are to be saved through Christ, also ordained that in the way just mentioned He will, by His grace, gifts, and efficacy, bring them thereto [make them participants of eternal salvation], aid, promote, strengthen, and preserve them.
24] All this, according to the Scriptures, is comprised in the doctrine concerning the eternal election of God to adoption and eternal salvation, and is to be understood by it, and never excluded nor omitted, when we speak of God's purpose, predestination, election, and ordination to salvation. And when our thoughts concerning this article are thus formed according to the Scriptures, we can by God's grace simply [and correctly] adapt ourselves to it [and advantageously treat of it].
Obviously, there's a lot more in that section on Election, but I wanted to highlight that excerpt for our purposes here today.
Now, for emphasis, let's also prayerfully consider what we know about the Gospel of Jesus Christ too...
The Gospel Is For Proclamation
St. Mark's Gospel begins with the title: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." The Gospel consists in the person of Jesus Christ and his work to ransom us from sin and death. This message about Christ would be of no benefit to us if the message is not told and proclaimed. So the gospel is also a proclamation of what Christ has done to ransom us. Without a proclamation there would be no ransom. The proclamation itself brings with it the ransom on the forgiveness of sins. What if some exceptionally rich man began handing out ingots of gold in a public place in our town? If we never heard the message that this was taking place, we would remain paupers. If the gospel is not proclaimed, its riches remain buried and the forgiveness of sins is not received. This is why the gospel is written down, read in public, and proclaimed by the church which the gospel creates. If this is true, the four New Testament books we call the Gospels should not be titled the Gospel of St. Matthew, the Gospel of St. Mark, and so on, but rather as Mark himself has done; "the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1). So while Christ ransomed us once and for all by his death and resurrection, it also belongs to our redemption that that work of Christ should be proclaimed to us. Through its testimony that redemption becomes our own. So St. Paul says, "Christ gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time" (1 Timothy 2:6).
-- Rev. Scott R. Murray from April 15th Daily Devotion Email Newsletter
In addition, Martin Luther, in his Lectures on 1 Timothy, 2 also wrote about this.
Here's a small taste...
Had Christ been crucified a hundred thousand times and had nothing been said about it, what benefit would the act of His being brought to the cross have brought? But when I come to this, I must draw this act into history and publish it for all the world. Also, if anyone had seen this, he would not have thought that the work of redemption was taking place there. The work is fulfilled on the cross, but no one knows of the redemption except the Father and the Son. Therefore to the act also the use of the act must be added, that it may be declared through the Word and that one may hold it by faith and, thus believing, be saved. Paul's intent, then, is this: to the work of redemption belongs the Word of preaching, which does nothing else but impress the work of redemption. "You [Luther] have urged this passage beyond measure. No one, etc. Answer me. You credit the remission of sins to the Gospel, to Baptism, and to Scripture. But the forgiveness of sins lies in the shedding of the blood." Who has placed those words in your mouth so that you know that this is the redemption from sins? You did not see it on the cross. You heard it, but through the Word. They say: "Christ completed the redemption with a single work." Yes, but He distributes it, applies it, and tells it by testimony. There is a testimony in baptism. We are baptized into Christ. His Word is present. I am baptized into Christ the Crucified. In baptism, therefore, there is a use of redemption-an application of its use. In this way the Gospel is the spoken Word, but it gives and brings this that Christ is, etc. Thus the Word of God brings out the remission of sins. Therefore there is remission of sins in the gospel. This one fact -- that Christ once, etc. -- is divulged and spread in the Word. Thus there is remission of sin in the sacrament.
Apologetics. Conversion. Election/Predestination.
Finally, here's a "Lightning Cut" video from Rev. Matt Richard that answers the question of "Why are some saved and not others?"
The best part is that he takes a brief moment to answer this question from a distinctly Arminian, Calvinist, and Lutheran perspective.
If you'd like to go deeper with this subject, then you will want to spend some time with The Epitome of the Formula of Concord too (actually, I probably should've suggested you start with that and read it first).
In addition, there's also a good summary overview of the Doctrine of Election that you can read by CLICKING HERE. Of course, you can follow that up with more studies by CLICKING HERE and CLICKING HERE.
At this point, I'd like to share a word about "unwavering faith" from the By Faith Alone: 365 Devotional Readings Updated In Today's Language taken from Martin Luther's many writings.
Genesis 48:21 (ESV) Then Israel said to Joseph, "Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers."
Israel's words give us a beautiful example of true faith. When Israel died, he didn't have any doubts. Rather, because of his strong and unwavering faith, he stated, "God will be with you." His faith shows that even though he is dead, he still lives. He went to his grave trusting God and His promises. This kind of faith swallows up death. Mere knowledge of what God has done would never be enough to stand up against death and hell in times of trial. The devil himself possesses that kind of knowledge. But true faith, which believes God's Word and trusts that His promises will come true, gives glory to God and acknowledges that He is trustworthy. This kind of faith defies and conquers death, as Paul says, "Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). Even though death swallows us up, we will return again to light and life. When I'm talking about faith, I'm not talking about merely acknowledging that something is true. That kind of faith doesn't place any confidence in what God says. It merely states, "Christ's suffering and death are historical facts." Genuine faith, however, confesses, "I believe that Christ suffered and died FOR ME. I have no doubts about this, and I rest in this faith. I can depend on God's Word to help me fight against sin and death." We need to be reminded of Scripture passages such as these. They show us the examples of believers who, by their unwavering faith, showed us the way. We should learn to follow and imitate their faith so that we, too, may proclaim, "I am baptized and saved. I will die in this faith. Any further troubles I have won't make me abandon my faith."
I think that's a nice bookend to any piece on Apologetics.
It also brings us full circle to our previous study on Judas and another on St. Thomas.
As we learned from those studies...
Judas is proof that the Baptist slogan, "Once saved, always saved," is simply not true. Judas is one of the apostate -- those who fall away from faith in Christ. The book of Hebrews sadly insists that it is most certainly possible for believers to fall away from faith; but it’s nearly impossible for them to be restored to repentance "since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm..." (Hebrews 6:6). Not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord!" will be saved (cf. Matthew 7:21-23). And so in Judas we find an example of the Bible’s warning: "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12). So where is the Good News in the story of Judas? It’s awfully hard to see. But I believe the Good News is that nothing -- absolutely nothing -- could ever get in the way of our forgiveness except for outright unbelief and refusal of God’s grace. In Romans 8, the apostle Paul writes, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
Thinking about the word "doubt" though, we may not properly understand Thomas’ full disposition and outlook by this one term. Otherwise stated, was Thomas the disciple who simply felt a lack of certainty? Was his faith a little bit weaker than the rest of the Apostles? Was he simply hesitant to believe? Truth be told, we must take a closer look at today's Gospel reading and note that there was a 'sharpness' to Thomas' unbelief. In other words, it wasn’t like Thomas was wavering in faith and just needed a mere faith pep rally or some motivational speaker to energize his faith so that he could be placed into the non-doubting category. No, Thomas said, that he would "never ever" believe unless he could see tangible proof. Indeed, Thomas demanded a visible and tangible proof before he was willing to budge even an inch away from unbelief. I don’t deny that he doubted, but rather my point is that he stubbornly insisted in this either or proposition. "No, proof, then I am quite alright not believing!" He was a staunch skeptic.
In other words, believing and citing the historicity of Christianity is one thing, but having faith in the Jesus Christ and His promises for us (which is what those historical facts are all about) is another thing entirely.
This is why we must be careful we do not become like Judas or like Thomas and cause "shipwreck" to our faith (1 Timothy 1:19), which we can see is definitely a possibility.
That's why we also can't view Apologetics as though it's "formulaic" or an "If-Then" type of thing. God works through His Word and Sacraments to add to Christ's Church -- He's not dependent upon our own creative, cunning, and persuasive arguments that appeal to one's rational mind only thanks to our oratory skills andtalents.
How do we do that? By gathering with other faithful believes at a local church and allowing His called and ordained servants to use the Word of God to fill our ears and the Body and Blood of Christ to fill our mouths as often as possible!
Pray for God in His grace to give you a faith that truly believes and doesn't just parrot the line that "Christ's suffering and death are historical facts."
Pray for God to always remind you that...
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
This is most certainly true.
Here's Rev. Karl Hess with the final word...
No one should be forced to receive the gifts of Christ. If our need and the greatness of the gifts don’t compel us to come to hear God’s Word preached, or to baptize our children, or receive the Lord’s Supper, or go to Bible study, or read it at home, or confess and be absolved, external force won’t help. It would be wrong for me, however, not to show you the greatness of Christ’s gifts and remind you of your need. But mostly I preach this for those who see their need for it and desire the blessing, but who are afraid or ashamed; I preach this to encourage you to come. I cannot invite you as graciously as Jesus invites you; I wish I could. I can tell you that Jesus welcomes sinners and those who are weak in faith. He wants them especially to receive His comfort and pardon. I can tell you that the greater our sins appear to us, the more worthy we are of condemnation, the more graciously Jesus invites us to come to Him. When we come, He will not only forgive us. He will wipe our guilt and shame away entirely. He will make us reign with Him, seat us above the holy angels, make them our servants. I can tell you that when Jesus showed the disciples His hands and side He didn’t do it simply to show it was Him, nor did He do it to remind them of their sins. It was also an invitation to them to consider how sincerely He loved them and had how completely He had forgiven and put away their sins. The place of the nails and the spear in His body are seals to us that we no longer have anything to fear, but have peace with God that can’t be taken away. By those same marks Jesus invites and urges us to come to Him so that we may hear Him say, "Peace be with you". I pray that you will hear His invitation and recognize that when He opens His Word, bestows His Sacraments, and absolves us, He comes into our midst with peace as He came into that locked room. And when He does so He enables us to leave our locked rooms and go forth into the world with His peace to reign with Him. Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Apologetics is always necessary to some extent in this fallen, sinful, unbelieving world we live in and it is always about contending for the faith and defending the faith even though we recognize that the Lord does not need our help to accomplish His plans and purposes for humanity (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 1:3).
Yes, Christ's Church is a "Confessing Church" indeed, and when you have been given possession of the truth, how can you not stand and speak it to those who desperately need to hear it? To withhold from the dead the very truth about the Truth Himself that has the power to make them alive would be truly unloving.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, such Apologetic discussions with others (Christians and non-Christians alike) should always be viewed as being most certainly helpful and necessary, but we should never believe that such Apologetics debates and discussions somehow serve as a "Means of Grace" in and of themselves unless they include a clear and faithful proclamation of Law and Gospel as provided to us by the very Word of God itself.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!