South Sydney Anglican Church

Apologetics: Defending the Christian Faith (2nd Sunday)

21 April 2024

Series: Apologetics

Bible Passage: Romans 21:18-31

Sinful Man’s Problem is Rejection of God, not Ignorance of God

Intro:    Well morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and last week we began a sermon series on Apologetics. Now as you can see the image for this sermon series is a SET OF SCALES. This is because apologetics is basically the weighing of our Christian worldview against different belief systems to show the superiority of Christian faith.

PRAYER:       Well, let me again give you a definition of APOLOGETICS again (Slide 2). Well last week I gave you THE MORAL ARGUMENT for the existence of God. This week – I’m going to give you THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT for the existence of God. The cosmological argument for God was first developed by the ancient Greek philosopher ARISTOTLE. Then in the middle ages – Christians like – THOMAS AQUINAS AND Muslims like – KALAM AL-GHAZALI further developed the cosmological argument for Gods existence and it now goes like this… (Slide 4).

Now again, this philosophical argument is hard for scientists to repute. Everything science has established – says the universe began to exist – some 13.6 billion years ago. That was the beginning. Now let’s not quibble about the date at this point. If we simply concede the big bang happened – what caused the Big Bang? Generally speaking, scientists agree – nothing comes from nothing. But secular, atheistic scientists – don’t like the IMPLICATION that this points to a first cause or God.

So to defeat the Cosmological Argument many scientists attack the second premise and say the universe didn’t really have an actual beginning. Quite often they’ll concede that there had to be a cause behind the big bang, but then they say, “we just don’t know what that cause is yet.So Christians then say – “So what was the cause of the cause behind the big bang? Doesn’t there still have to be a first cause?They then usually respond saying there were more and more unknown causes all the way back to infinite. Always another cause. But never a first cause. But this idea breaks a couple of other scientific laws.

By claiming more and more unknown backwards causes they are claiming what is called the PARADOX OF INFINITE REGRESSION. Yes, it has a real name because mathematicians will tell you this is mathematically impossible? They’ll tell you God makes way more logical sense than infinite regression. (Now if you want to understand better – why infinite regression is not possible mathematically – check out this book!) But the idea of infinite regression also breaks the second law of thermodynamics. Things moving in a closed system are always losing energy. This is called entropy. So, if the universe has existed backwards to infinity – the universe should already have lost most of its energy and be moving towards a state of heat death or entropy. But the universe is not in a state of heat death or entropy – so the idea of infinite regression to infinity is not plausible.

So the ONLY other option for atheists is to attack PREMISE 1 – whatever begins to exist has a cause. Now that seems irrefutable. But Stephen Hawking the famous genius in a wheelchair hated the fact the cosmological argument pointed to Gods existence. So as an atheist – he committed the last ten years of his life – trying to disprove premise 1. He called his theory – A UNIFIED THEORY or A CLOSED UNIVERSE THEORY. Hawking tried to argue – the universe caused itself. Now if that sounds completely ILLOGICAL – that’s because a 160IQ doesn’t guarantee common sense. Later – Stephen Hawking wrote in his book “A Brief History of Time(Slide 5). Sadly, even after admitting failure – Stephen Hawking remained a committed atheist.

Point 1:         Apologetics – engages with People who Suppress God’s Truth

Show:                        Rom.1:18-20 (READ)

Explain:         Well Romans 1 begins by talking about natural revelation or natural theology. This is a knowledge of God that comes from nature. Now Romans 1 also speaks very clearly about homosexual conduct. But my focus in this sermon series is on apologetics and not homosexuality per se. So, today I’m going to speak about natural theology because natural theology is what we kind of appeal to – when doing apologetics…

THE KEY IDEA in verses 18-20 is that God has revealed certain things about himself IN NATURE that everyone knows (whether they have a Bible or not). So let’s look at this carefully. (Verse 18 – READ) It begins; the wrath of God is being revealed from heavenTHIS MEANS God is angry and Gods anger is somehow evident in our human experience – in terms of suffering. Everyone senses something is wrong with the world. But why is God angry? Well verse 18 says God is angry because of “all the godlessness and wickedness of people…” So God is angry because people are doing godless and wicked things. But (end of verse 18) God is also angry because people suppress the TRUTH.

People supress the truth that God exists and God is good. Verse 19 says “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” Paul is saying everyone has a RUDIMENTARY KNOWLEDGE of God because God has PLAINLY OR CLEALRY OR IRREFUTABLY made Himself known to all people. Now how has God made himself known? Well verse 20 goes on; “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” This is saying God has made himself known to everyone IN NATURE. Simply by looking at the world everyone knows 1) Gods exists, 2) they know God is very powerful and they know something 3) of Gods divine nature. They know God is good. As I explained last week our own knowledge of good and evil points to a great Law-giver in the sky…

The fact that God’s moral law is known even in nature is confirmed in verse 32 (Slide 8; Rom.1:32). This verse makes it clear that apart from the Bible – all people know Gods righteous decrees even from nature AND they know those who break these righteous decrees deserve death. Presumably, this knowledge is coming from our God given conscience. PAUL’S POINT is that no one is truly IGNORANT of Gods existence; Gods power or Gods moral standards. But sadly, people suppress this truth about God because they want to sin…

APPLY:          Now there are a number of important lessons in this passage. First, many skeptics attack Christianity, by saying ITS NOT FAIR that God should punish people who have never had the opportunity to know Him. But Romans 1 tells us that creation itself offers a clear testimony that 1) God is real, 2) God is good and 3) God punishes those who disobey Him. So based on this natural revelation – every human being has a responsibility to seek out this Creator God. AND Jesus tells us in the gospels that everyone who truly SEEKS God will find Him AND everyone who KNOCKS, the door will be opened (Matt.7:8). In Acts 17 – Paul says a similar thing in the Areopagus. He says God has put natural revelation all around us – so that man should SEEK God, FEEL their way towards Him and FIND Him (Acts 17:27).

We often hear of such things happening in Muslim or Communist countries where people don’t have Bibles. NATURAL REVELATION leads people to seek the Creator God and Jesus tends to turn up – often in miraculous ways so that people become Christians.

So when skeptics ask; what happens to everyone on judgment day who has not had a chance to know God?; we need to point out the fallacy in the question. According to the Bible; everyone has a knowledge of God from natural theology. But instead of seeking out more knowledge of God – most people suppress the truth. Now if skeptics say – “What truth? What natural theology?” it may be a good opportunity to jump into the moral argument for the existence of God. But no one will have a good excuse on judgment day because of natural revelation.

Apply:            But this raises an EVEN BIGGER QUESTION. If Romans 1 and Psalm 19 are correct – and everyone knows God exists, knows God is good and they are sinners (simply from natural revelation) – then why are we wasting our time doing apologetics? Why try to convince people of what they already know? GOOD QUESTION. In the history of the Christian church many great theologians have argued that apologetics is a pointless exercise. THEOLOGICALLY – I think this is correct. This is why we can do straight evangelism (without any apologetics) and atheists, agnostics and calathumpians regularly become Christians. This is because they already intuitively know all the things necessary to accept the gospel simply from natural theology. The gospel just needs to break their hard hearts. So theologically – apologetics is never necessary. But personally – EVANGELISM usually takes place in relationship and dialogue and sometimes APOLOGETICS creates the easiest path for relationship and dialogue to take place…

Point 2:         Apologetics – engages with People who are Broken

Show:           Rom.1:21 (READ)

Explain:         Now please notice that when we are engaging with unbelievers in apologetics and evangelism we are actually engaging with people who are BROKEN in three ways. FIRST, they have dysfunctional worship (ENTER). They don’t glorify God the way God made them to glorify Him and this has all sorts of negative repercussions. They have broken worship. SECOND, we see that their thinking is broken (ENTER). Paul says their thinking has become futile. This means their thinking doesn’t really align with ultimate reality. THIRD, we also see their hearts are broken (ENTER). Paul writes their foolish hearts are darkened. Now the word dark literally means dark or black. But when it is applied to people it usually means gloomy, depressed, or heavy – dark emotions.

Now this is where apologetics gets more interesting. I’ve just basically said that theologically speaking – apologetics is a complete and utter waste of time – that plays no ultimate role in people becoming Christians.

But for a very small percentage of the population – there are certain personality types who like to rationally think through every single detail in their worldview. That’s ok. God has called us to be all things to all people – so that some may be saved. So, what you are doing with such people is helping them to see that Christian worldview can be LOGICALLY and RATIONALLY defended. For people who take a lot of pride in their intellectual abilities – this is often really important. They want to see that the Christian worldview is not foolish. So helping them to see that Christianity actually makes more logical sense than most of the alternatives is a LOVING THING to do.

But let’s be honest – most people are not this rational, logical or even consistent in their worldview. Most people don’t reflect on 1) what they believe or 2) why they believe it. Seriously! Most people make decisions in life based on GUT FEEL. That’s usually 1) a little bit of logic, 2) a lot of intuition, 3) a fair bit of emotional desire and 4) a big slice of what will others think of me. Most people (even university educated people) are simply not as logical or rational as they like to think. This is why we can just do evangelism with most people and never, ever really engage in apologetics. And if you were going to become an expert in evangelism or apologetics – I’d always say – just pick evangelism.

But with that said – a little bit of APOLOGETICS – does often 1) open up conversations for the gospel and/or 2) keep conversations going for the gospel – when people throw defeater arguments at us like science has proven there is no God. If you can respond intelligently to that accusation – the gospel conversation may continue. Look again

 Now look again, at the THREE PROBLEMS Paul identifies in unbelievers in Romans 1:21. (Slide 10). The 3 Problems of Brokenness are; (READ). Now the gospel needs to heal all three areas. But out of the 3 areas of brokenness – what is the most neutral space to start a Christian conversation? (PAUSE). I’d say challenging a persons thinking is far easier than challenging their worship or emotions.

You see addressing issues of broken worship is pretty-deep. Paul explains – that those who stop worshiping God, don’t actually stop worshiping altogether. (Sometimes atheists and agnostics are far more devout worshipers than many Christians I know. It’s just they don’t worship God, they worship things). When atheists and agnostics reject God they always start creating idols to worship. For some people its 1) money, for others 2) power and for some 3) it’s even homosexual sex. Whatever a person puts first in their life always becomes the idol they then worship. But try telling someone they worship money, coke or sex and see how long the conversation lasts. Yes, eventually the gospel has to get there. But its easier to have the conversation in the realm of broken logic, before we move to broken worship and broken hearts…

The other deep end of the pool is broken hearts. Because of sin – everyone has been deeply and profoundly scarred by life. This often includes profound ANGER because of suffering. It always includes SHAME, GUILT AND REGRET because we’ve all done dumb, sinful things. And, without God most people’s hearts are also weighed down with a certain HOPELESSNESS and FUTILITY in life. But again, if you jump into this end of the pool – how many work colleagues or family members really want to open up and speak about their deep emotional insecurities with you. Well zero, zip, zilch. And if they are MALE – even less than zero, zip, zilch. Talk about my feelings. Forget about it.

Apply:            The point is – the safest and most neutral place to start challenging people’s brokenness without causing too much offense – is in the realm of thinking and logic. So here’s how I view apologetics for the average Christian. FIRST, apologetics is simply making you stronger and more confident in your own faith. You’re beginning to see that Christianity does have GOOD ANSWERS for many objections we face and this will make you more confident in evangelism. So tick…

SECOND, just a few apologetic arguments are often good conversations starters for evangelism. For instance, when people are talking about the big bang or something in science – you can simply say; “Did you know the world’s best scientists have no way of explaining the fine-tuning they find in the universe. There’s about a million things that are just perfect to sustain human life. I find that fascinating?” If they then bite and take an interest – bring them to church or Christianity Explored and I’ll deal with the deep ends of the pool. OR a little bit of apologetics often keeps the conversation alive when people try to use dumb defeater arguments. For instance, when people say “science has proven God does not exist.” You can respond that’s not true. The Moral Argument and the Cosmological Argument for Gods existence still can’t really be defeated by any scientist.” Now if they respondOh, what are those arguments?” You can respond “Well, lets look them up on google and I’ll try to explain them.” Again, if they show some interest bring them to church or Christianity Explored and the gospel itself will begin to address their broken worship and their broken hearts. But know this…

Point 3:         Apologetics engages with People – whose lives are Always Messy

Show:            Rom.1:22-25 (READ)

Explain:         Notice the words – 1) fool, 2) exchanged the glory; 3) sexual impurity; 4) degrading of their bodies; 5) lies instead of truth. Well Paul now explains – that if you are engaging with people who have 1) broken worship, 2) broken thinking and 3) broken hearts – you’re always going to be engaging with people who have very broken, messy lives.

So please know that when you start doing apologetics and evangelism you are always walking into people’s messy lives. Even, nice respectable, middle-class professionals will have a bucket loads of mess – hiding behind their intelligent, well-constructed fig leafs. It may not be ICE. But it may be COCAINE. It may not be BREAK AND ENTER, but it may well be white collar crime and tax evasion. It may not be transgenderism and homosexual conduct.

But you’re nice educated work colleague may be sleeping with his secretary and his wife may be having an affair with the young man who mows the lawns. All of this is against God’s natural revelation and it creates mess.

Now Paul goes on to speak about homosexuality and lesbianism – because these are very CLEAR EXAMPLES of people ignoring God’s natural revelation. We know from nature – WHAT needs to go WHERE to produce children. We know simply from nature that God intended man and woman to come together sexually – to produce life. And anything else is going against Gods natural revelation. (We don’t really need the Bible to tell us homosexuality and lesbianism is wrong). Its obvious. If everyone decided to be homosexual – our species would very quickly come to an end. So that tells us it’s against nature. But all people; whether heterosexual or homosexual suppress Gods truth in nature and this creates mess that only the gospel can fix.

Apply: The problem is – wading into other people’s mess with apologetics and evangelism is NOT particularly appealing. I don’t need their mess. I have enough of my own mess still in my life. But people are drowning in a sea of mess. SO THE QUESTION BECOMES – A) do we care enough to go into their mess with our apologetics and evangelism? B) Or are we happy to let people drown in their broken worship, broken minds and broken hearts.

Of course, as Christians we are called to follow Jesus’ example. Jesus didn’t leave us in our mess. Rather, he left his heavenly abode, came into our mess and became so personally acquainted with our mess – that he died on the cross to pay for it all. (GOSPEL) Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for everything you have done wrong – so that you can have peace with God. It cost Jesus his life to save you? But if you get serious about apologetics and evangelism (and you start wading into other people’s mess; especially the deeper ends of the pool) it’s going to cost you something too – to see people saved.

As people start to share with you some of the mess their IDOLATRY has brought them – you will be touched by some of that mess. As people begin to share with you their ANGER from DV or ANGER from watching a loved one die – very often a bit of that anger gets projected at you. That hurts. Sometimes as people share with you some of their SHAME AND GUILT – the stories can often be emotionally unsettling. It’s unpleasant. APOLOGETICS is not about winning intellectual arguments. APOLOGETICS is about loving people enough to wade into their mess – so you can throw them A LIFELINE.

Now like I said much of the time apologetics is completely unnecessary. MANY PEOPLE just need you to throw them the life-line of Jesus. But nonetheless apologetics can be a conversation starter AND a kind of neutral philosophical space where you can begin to bring Jesus into people’s messy lives. THE PROBLEM is people hide their spiritual and emotional mess behind intellectual fig leafs – because they are scared. Apologetics can also keep God conversations going when people throw empty DEFEATER ARGUMENTS at you – that are designed to simply shut the conversation down. Often again, because people are scared to take off their fig leaf. But if you can keep the God conversation going long enough – eventually it will bring their mess into the light and that can be messy. But apologetics will never fix the problems that are revealed. Only the gospel – spoken in love can do this work. In love – you must show them that worshiping Jesus will be far more satisfying than the idols they’ve been worshiping. In love – you must help them to deal with their shame and guilt – by giving it to Jesus and trusting je has paid for it – fully. And in love – you must help them deal with their anger – often learning to forgive, even as God has forgiven them. Apologetics is never an end in itself. The goal is the gospel and throwing people a life-line in Jesus…

In 2 Corinthians 10:5 the apostle Paul says – (Slide 3; 2Cor.10:5). Please note that as Christians we have a God-given duty to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against a true knowledge of God. But these worldviews that we are trying to destroy are also called strongholds. Worldviews are not just neutral ideas. Secular Darwinism, Islam and much of woke ideology is actually a spiritual, demonic stronghold – designed to hold people captive to Satan through lies.

THE PROBLEM is that if people believe certain lies are true – they are unlikely to accept the gospel. For instance – if you are a committed atheist – who doesn’t believe in God; you’re not likely to believe that God came into the world as the man Jesus Christi to die for your sins. You can’t even accept the first premise of the gospel because you don’t believe in God. So sometimes we need to point out inconsistencies or untruths in atheism, or Darwinian evolutionary theory or Islam so that people can properly process the gospel message.

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