Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Apologetics for Dummies

I am studying apologetics in Bible Study. This very interesting subject covers one-third of Aristotle's three different types of rhetorical proof--logos.

Logos is the use of logic and reason to persuade one of the truth of a premise. With the lost, it is difficult to start with "The Bible says....", and apologetics demonstrates that there are preliminary steps we can take to help persuade that the Bible is a source of truth. To me, that seems to be the biggest hurdle, and one in which the Holy Spirit plays the fundamental part.

The study is a book written by Norman Geisler entitled When Critics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences. In the first chapter, he reminds us that God commanded us to be ready to give answer to all men for what we believe. The study of apologetics is part of the foundation for winning the lost to Christ.

Apologetics by itself is insufficient. Citing Aristotle again, we learn that pathos and ethos are the other two types of rhetorical proof, both of which are important to our witness.

Pathos is the use of emotion to persuade. The best example of this to me is sharing one's testimony. I have never failed to be moved by the Spirit when hearing the testimony of one who has been saved from a life of sin, whether that life was similar to or different from my own. Having been saved since age 4, I can only guess what the lost experience on hearing a testimony.

Ethos is the use of authority to persuade. As Christians, we should be perceived as authorities on Christianity. The world will readily point to the divorce rate among Christians (equal to that of non-Christians) or the corruption of clergy (Catholic and Protestant alike) or the hypocrisy of churchgoers (not necessarily Christians) as a way of judging all Christians. However, this is the fallacy of the false generalization. Just because a few Christians are hypocrites or corrupt does not mean that all Christians are the same, or that Christianity is empty or antithetical to its stated values. Only by demonstrating in our own lives the struggle for holiness and the miracle of salvation do we make clear our authority as Christians to share the Gospel.

Combining these three modes of persuasion in the service of the Gospel was recognized by St. Augustine in the 4th Century. It lives on in the sermons of pastors around the world. Learn to recognize the use of these persuasive elements and to integrate them appropriately into your own witness. You may find yourself a better prepared tool for Christ in ministry.