The importance of the Trinity for Apologetics

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The importance of the Trinity for Christianity cannot be overstated. The Christian doctrine of God defines our faith more than any other doctrine. A particular aspect of Christian evangelism and practice, that of apologetics, will be my focus here. The importance of the Trinity for Christian apologetics is likely greater than we realise.

In a recent conversation with a Muslim colleague, I maintained that our God is triune, to which she exclaimed “No he’s not. God is One. If there is more than one God then there would be war within God.” There’s a big conversation which flows from that statement, which I cannot go into. Some people would say that me raising the Trinity in an evangelistic conversation with a Muslim is apologetic suicide. In this context, it surely wasn’t. Why? Because the doctrine of the Trinity makes it abundantly clear to our fellow theists that the Christian God is not the same God as their Allah.

Likewise, when discussing who God is with a postmodern pantheist (who would reject the labels because labels are oppressive and not postmodern), I think it wise to raise the Trinity early on in the conversation. And not to get into a deep discussion about how it works, but mainly about who He is. Who is our Triune God? He is not one and the same as the world, that’s for sure.

The Trinity is highly useful in apologetic conversations, because there is no god like our God. We should not capitulate to the spirit of the age and say “Yes, of course all of our conceptions of god are ultimately valid and the same.” That is a lie. The fact that our God is triune makes that abundantly clear. To make this distinction saves us from wandering down a dangerous labyrinth with our unbelieving friends, and it saves them from thinking that all is well with their beliefs. The doctrine of the Trinity confronts everyone with the stark and dangerous truth that our God is three persons, and one God. When we are trying to convince someone of the truth of Christianity, we must ensure that they understand who our God is. We are defending and propagating the Christian faith, after all.

Some excellent resources from UCCF

UCCF: The Christian Unions in the United Kingdom, have a couple of excellent websites. Both are vital resources for the Christian. I have utilised them for a number of years, now, and have not been disappointed at any point.

The biggest website is bethinking.org. This is an immense apologetics resource, featuring articles, talks, interviews, debates, and scholarly papers, all free of charge. Topics include culture & worldview, other religions, the historical Jesus,  evangelism, and many others. There are talks from some of the greats of Christian apologetics, including Francis Shaeffer and William Lane Craig, and you’ll be introduced to some excellent British apologists like Michael Ramsden and Amy Orr-Ewing. If you talk with non-believers (and I sincerely hope you do!) you should utilise this resource. It covers just about everything you want to cover.

The second website from the UCCF crowd is theologynetwork.org. This is another brilliant resource, this time focusing on theology, and church history. Mike Reeves is the dominant figure on this website, and he really is one of the best communicators in theology today. Again, there are articles, talks, interviews, and so on. Many of the talks are from UCCF staff training sessions, and so are good for someone looking to tuck into some meaty, but accessible, material. There are sections on basic Christian beliefs, biblical studies, historical theology (including an outstanding series of talks on important theological figures from the Apostolic Fathers through to the awful, but important, Friedrich Schleiermacher). Download some articles to read, or put some talks on your phone to listen to while driving. It’s good stuff.

Farewell, Pastor Martin

Today is Pastor Martin Pakula’s final Sunday service as Interim Pastor of Hills Bible Church. Martin has been with us since June 2011, and has served the congregation at Hills faithfully week in and week out. It is a sad day, as we have grown in fellowship and friendship with Martin and Jennie. Martin’s clear and accurate expositional preaching has been provoking, challenging and encouraging. His drive for Hills to be a church focused on evangelism and outreach will be an enduring part of his legacy. He instigated scripture reading training, the Christmas gingerbread house event, the regular public and systematic reading of scripture in our services, and hospitality evangelism. We will also miss his regular blog contributions. Jennie has also been faithful member at Hills, serving on the music team, and playing a leading role at the women’s events.

Picture caption: A recent Ministry Leadership Team meeting. Left to right – Stu pretending to be Luke Hodge, Lindsay looks to be off fishing, and Martin in his Anglican garb on his way to deliver the Eucharist at St. Chuzzlewit’s. 

Martin, we have much to thank you for, not least for putting up with our Baptist sensibilities. We’re sorry you weren’t able to finish off the elements each Lord’s Supper, but it’s just not the way it’s done. In all seriousness, both you and Jennie will be sorely missed. May the Lord bless you and your family in the next chapter of your life and ministry.

Stranger Evangelism

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I’m always amazed at the capacity we Christians have for justifying our own sinfulness and apathy.  I have done my fair share of stranger evangelism in the past.  It’s not easy, but almost always rewarding (and easier than you think it will be!).  Stranger evangelism is basically the idea of walking up to someone you don’t know and sharing the gospel with them.  This could take the form of door-knocking or walk up evangelism at University or the shopping centre, etc.  But it’s amazing how many reasons Christians can suddenly think of as to why we shouldn’t do it!

This week I was out at the University campus, not doing stranger evangelism, but inviting strangers to Continue reading Stranger Evangelism

Evangelism: Words vs Deeds

Let’s face it: we’re chicken.  No one likes being ostracised, ridiculed, or shown hostility.  So we often stay quiet and don’t evangelise our friends and family.  However, I must say that reactions of ostracism, ridicule and hostility are actually quite rare.  But we fear it nonetheless.

What I want to deal with here, though, is something I have come across in every church I have attended.  There is a rationalisation common amongst Christians that says if we live a good life before others, that will be enough.  Recently Duane Litfin wrote an excellent article on this topic in Christianity Today (“Works and Words: Why you can’t preach the Gospel with Deeds”).  He says: “How often do we hear these days, with passion and approval, the famous dictum attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary”?”

As someone who grew up in the Jewish religion, let me tell you that I would not be a Christian now if the Christians around me held to this view.  I grew up knowing nothing about Jesus whatsoever.  The actions of Christians around
me told me precisely nothing.  I could not know about my sin, and Jesus’ death paying the penalty for my sin in my place, by looking at the behaviour of Christians.  That notion is patently ridiculous.

I thank God for the godly Christians who told me about Jesus.  Their behaviour was indeed different and was one of the things that led me to ask them about their beliefs.  Behaviour is indeed important.  But it is no substitute whatsoever for preaching the gospel.  We have to use words.

To quote Litfin again: “The belief that we can “preach the gospel” with our actions alone represents muddled thinking. However important our actions may be (and they are very important indeed) … they are not “preaching the gospel.” … If the gospel is to be communicated at all, it must be put into words.”

An example from Litfin: “Imagine you have been assigned the task of communicating the following idea to a particular individual: Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great at the Macedonian court between 342 and ca. 339 B.C. Unfortunately, you discover that your pupil has no previous knowledge of either Aristotle or Alexander, what a tutor is, what Macedonia is, who Christ was, or consequently, what B.C. means. What’s worse, you do not have the verbal code available to you. Your pupil does not speak your language, and you do not speak his. All you have available are nonverbal channels of communication. How would you go about your task?

Your assignment would be impossible. You cannot communicate this type of content nonverbally. What facial expressions, or gestures, or eye behaviour, or actions could express information about Alexander or Macedonia or B.C.? The nonverbal code is incapable of bearing this kind of weight. You require a verbal code—that is, words and sentences and paragraphs—to convey your meaning. Without them, your task is undoable.”

I would love honesty from my fellow brothers and sisters.  Don’t say that you will just try and evangelise through your actions.  There is no such thing.  People are only saved through hearing and believing the message of the gospel, in words.  Admit that you are scared, and then we can do something about that and move forward!  I find evangelism scary.  But it is always such a blessing to share the good news of Jesus with others.  And when someone accepts the gospel and is saved – there is nothing better.

 


Posted May 30, 2012.

Evangelism

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Last night a group of 20 people met in our home to talk about evangelism. This wasn’t just a talk-fest – we were considering the best strategy for our church to proclaim the gospel to people who didn’t know Jesus.

We came up with a few simple definitions of ‘evangelism’. The two that I liked are; evangelism is explaining the gospel to non-Christians in a language they can understand, and evangelism is introducing people to Jesus. Simple!

We discussed the idea that while the Bible teaches that some believers are given the spiritual gift of evangelism, this does not mean those who do not have this gift are Continue reading Evangelism

Decision for Christ

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John the Baptist called on people to repent and believe the good news
().  Jesus did the same ().  They were calling for people to make a decision.  As Evangelicals we also call people today to make a decision to follow Christ.  This is right and good.

However the call to make a decision can sometimes be divorced from the gospel itself.  I was at a church meeting recently where the pastor called for people to make a decision for Christ.  There is nothing wrong with that in itself.  The problem was that he had not explained the gospel at all.  Not a word about sin, judgement, Jesus’ death, resurrection, atonement for Continue reading Decision for Christ

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

A Call to Ministry

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Many fine Christians believe in a call to ministry.  I have often been asked whether I am called to ministry myself.  What does the Bible say about such a call?

I wonder if the idea of a call comes from the call of prophets in the Old Testament.  Isaiah and Jeremiah were called to be prophets; Saul and David were called to be kings.  However if this is where the idea comes from it would be on very shaky ground!  We must read the Old Testament as fulfilled in Christ ().  The kings and prophets are types of Christ, not us.  We are not kings and prophets; we are like the normal Israelites.  We need to move from the Old Testament to us in application by a two stage process, not a one stage process.  A one stage process jumps from the Old Testament straight to us in application, bypassing Jesus and the gospel.  Many errors result from such a reading of the Bible.  A two stage process moves from the Old Testament to its fulfilment Continue reading A Call to Ministry

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,

Firing Your Pastor

There are probably only a few legitimate reasons for removing a Pastor from his post; immorality and apostasy would rank high.

In my middle years, I was caught up in a move, on the part of a handful of congregants, to remove the Senior Pastor of the church in which I served as lead deacon. The complaint was that his preaching style was too simple, too pedestrian, lacking intellectual rigor. There was some truth behind this opinion.

But as I was later to learn, it overlooked one thing.

One Sunday evening, at the same time these machinations about the Pastor were going on, my oldest daughter and I sat in the church as this Pastor delivered another ‘light-weight’ sermon. I had some difficulty staying focused Continue reading Firing Your Pastor