By Scott Keith –
“But 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
What does it mean to give a defense of the Christian faith? Discovering a valid answer to this question has occupied a goodly portion of my life. I, like most apologists, use the verse listed above from First Peter to defend the idea of giving a defense. The Greek word most relied upon is ἀπολογία, which means intelligent reasoning–a properly or a well-reasoned reply; a thought-out response to adequately address the issue(s) that is raised. This is of course not the only passage from Scripture that tells the Christian to or implies that they should have the ability to elucidate to a doubter the validity of the Christian claim. Here I think most of First Corinthians fifteen, Paul before the pagans on the Areopagus (Mars Hill) in Acts Seventeen, as well as Paul’s explanation of the natural knowledge of God which can be obtained through natural revelation in Romans one and two.
Much of my theological training has involved extensive education in how to give a defense. Most of my teaching in churches and classrooms has centered on evangelism and apologetics and does to this day. In fact, I consider my book a work of apologetics in that it “gives a defense” of the idea of a good and gracious God from the idea of a good and gracious father. It utilizes the concept of an analogia entis, or an analogy of being, as taught by Thomas Aquinas. The idea is that a good and gracious dad is not just like a good and gracious God, nor is he unlike that God, but rather, he is an analogy or foggy picture of a God who is both good and gracious. This God has given us fathers to be His priests in the home, pictures of His grace, and point their children to Him.
I have said many times on this blog that I owe most of what I know to Dr. Rod Rosenbladt. This is most certainly true. Dad Rod has guided me, formed me, and pointed me toward an understanding of the need to share and defend the faith to those that are outside of the Church. But Dr. Rosenbladt had a teacher too. Rod’s mentor and main influence was Dr. John Warwick Montgomery. Dr. Montgomery is considered by many to be the foremost living apologist for biblical Christianity. Dr. Rosenbladt studied under Dr. Montgomery at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, where Dr. Montgomery served as Professor of Church History, 1964-1974, and Chair of the Division of Church History and History of Christian Thought. Rod, in turn, passed what he learned from Dr. Montgomery on to his students at Westmont and Concordia University Irvine.
Dr. Montgomery’s road to Christianity was a rocky one, which seems to be what motivated him to dedicate his life to the task of being an able apologist. “To use C. S. Lewis’s words, ‘John Warwick Montgomery was brought over the threshold of the Christian faith kicking and struggling.’ The year was 1949. The place, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Herman John Eckelmann, a persistent engineering student, succeeded in goading Montgomery into religious discussions. Montgomery, a philosophy major disinterested in religion, found himself forced to consider seriously the claims of Jesus Christ in the New Testament in order to preserve big intellectual integrity. After no mean struggle, he acknowledged his rebellion against God and asked His forgiveness.”
At Rod’s instigation, I too studied under Dr. Montgomery for a brief time. In 1997, I, along with Pastor Koch, traveled to Strasbourg France to participate in what I think was the first annual International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism, and Human Rights. For two weeks, Pastor Koch and I learned:
1) To evangelize first.
2) Not to give people problems they don’t already have.
3) Evangelize again.
4) Remove the intellectual obstacles on the road to the cross.
5) Defend the veracity of the New Testament documents.
6) Understand and defend the validated claims of Christ in the New Testament.
7) Present a Christ who claimed to be God and proved it by forgiving sins, fulfilling prophecies, performing miracles, raising people from the dead, and finally raising Himself from the grave as the first fruits of our resurrection.
8) To show that Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or our Lord, and Savior.
9) Oh yeah, it seems like we’ve already been evangelizing, but do it again for good measure.
10) Lastly, to understand that when finally, one does come to the faith, that it is the power of God alone, through the work of the Holy Spirit, by means of the proclaimed Gospel that has brought him there.
Dr. Montgomery is the author of over one hundred scholarly journal articles and more than fifty books, most of which are available at 1517 the Legacy Project. He is internationally regarded as a theologian, apologist, and lawyer. He is truly the General of the Lutheran apologetics movement, and his boots are on the ground in Southern California. He lectured at Concordia University Irvine today, October 19, 2015. It will be a rare opportunity to hear him speak in person. His topic: “A Lawyer’s Defense of Christianity.” If you are in the area, I highly recommend you try to make your way to Concordia to hear him speak for a night that is sure to include some marching orders from the General himself.