God is an Apologist

Jason Dulle

It is popularly believed that faith is antithetical to evidence and reason; that reason is opposed to, and leaves no room for faith. Interestingly, it is thought that this is the view of Scripture. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Biblical notion of faith involves placing trust in what we have reason to believe is true. We are not commanded to believe in the absence of evidence, but based on the evidence. We are even commanded to be prepared to give a defense (an apology) for our Christian faith when asked by non-believers why we believe as we do (Colossians 4:6; I Peter 3:15-16). Paul regularly engaged in apologetics (Acts 17:7, 22-31; 18:4, 19, 28). Even the Almighty has done so. Consider the following examples in which God plays the role of apologist:

Old Testament Use of Apologetics

Exodus 4:4-5 Then the LORD said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. This," said the LORD, "is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers-- the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob-- has appeared to you." (NIV)

Why did God give Moses the miracle of turning the rod into a snake? It was so the Israelites may believe. God didn't expect them to believe His word through Moses apart from any evidence that Moses was speaking the Word of God. God supplied good reason to believe His Word was true.

Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (NIV)

Test the Lord? That's right. God invited the Israelites to test His word to see if it was true. The confirmation that the Lord is telling the truth would be witnessed by the outcome of their obedience to what He has spoken. He does not expect us to believe His Word in theory, but to experience it in practice as He confirms it experientially.

Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." (NIV)

Not only was God acting rationally toward His creation, but He invited them to participate in a rational discussion with Him about what it was that He was going to do. No hint of anti-rationalism here.

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death." You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. (NIV)

Are we to put our faith in the Word of God when it is first spoken to us? No. We must first identify that it is the Word of God before we believe it. How do we do that? We do so by testing it: we wait to see if what was spoken comes true. If it does, then the word was from the Lord and it is worthy of belief. If it does not, then it was not from the Lord and we should not believe it. There's no hint of "you just need to believe the Bible because the Bible is the Word of God" found here. The Word of God needed to be demonstrated to be the Word of God before the hearers were obligated to accept it as trustworthy and divinely authoritative.

New Testament Use of Apologetics

Mark 2:10-11 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."

Shouldn't the scribes have simply believed that Jesus had the power to forgive sins? Why did Jesus feel the need to prove to them He had such power by healing the paralytic? Isn't evidence contrary to faith? Apparently not! Jesus made a claim about His authority over sin; a uniquely spiritual issue that is not empirically verifiable. Apart from extraordinary evidence to believe such an extraordinary claim Jesus could not expect for the scribes to believe it. To prove He had the authority over the spiritual realm (which the scribes could not see) Jesus exercised His authority over the physical realm (which the scribes could see). What Jesus did in the physical realm served as sufficient proof that He had power to do what He said He could do in the spiritual realm.

John 2:18-21 So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" 19Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
Jesus promised that His words would be confirmed by His own resurrection. He didn't say, "Just believe what I am saying to you because I am saying them to you."

John 10:36-38 Do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, "You are blaspheming,' because I said, "I am the Son of God'? 37If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him."

The works that Jesus did were the reason to believe that what Jesus taught was of divine origin. His miracles served as divine confirmation of His message. Again, we find no hint of a "just believe it" kind of faith.

John 15:24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.

Why did it matter that they had seen the works Jesus did? Why did their viewing of Jesus' miracles cause them to be guilty of sin where there previously had been no sin? It was because the miracles gave divine confirmation of the truth of Christ's message. Apart from that confirmation their lack of belief might be understandable. Once the truth had been confirmed, however, they were without excuse for their rejection.

John 24:29 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." 26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" 27Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" 29Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

While we often focus on the last verse, the fact remains that Jesus confirmed His resurrection for Thomas by allowing Thomas to touch Him.

Acts 1:3 To the same apostle also, after his suffering he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. (NET Bible)

Jesus told the apostles several times that He would die and then be resurrected. According to the version of faith many Christians espouse to Jesus should have ascended into heaven immediately upon His resurrection. There was no reason for Him to show Himself to the apostles. They should have simply believed Jesus' word that He would rise from the dead. But Jesus did not ascend immediately to heaven. He stuck around for 40 days and presented Himself to the apostles with many convincing proofs so that they would know He was resurrected.

Acts 2:22 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds wonders, and miraculous signs3 that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know. (NET Bible)

Jesus was shown to be who He claimed to be by miracles, signs, and wonders. He gave reason for His contemporaries to believe that what He said was true was indeed true.

Acts 17:31 Because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead." (NET Bible)

God does not expect us to blindly believe there is coming a day of judgment, but gave us proof of such in raising Christ from the dead.

These passages, while not exhaustive, serve to demonstrate that God does not expect us to blindly place our faith in His Word. He gives evidence to confirm that what He has spoken is indeed the Word of God, and allows us the epistemological liberty of proving it before expecting us to believe it. If apologetics are good enough for God, they're good enough for me as well!

Related articles:

An Apologetic for Apologetics
An Appeal for Preparation
Biblical Examples of Apologetics

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