So what things should we apologize for as Christians and what things shouldn't we? Should we be embarrassed by our beliefs or shouldn't we? Should we be ashamed for what we stand for or the values that we hold dear? Are we embarassed to say we believe in miracles? Should we be ashamed to believe the stories of the Bible? Are they far-fetched? Should we believe that the Bible recounts true history and ultimately instructs us on what is ultimate truth? Are we ashamed to declare that we believe in a Saviour Who was born of a virgin, performed many miracles, and rose from the dead? Should we be embarrassed for believing in the Bible? Are we crazy for believing in an invisible God? Jesus said that if we're ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of us before the Father in Heaven (Matthew 10:32-33, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26). God is calling for resolute faith in the days in which we live. There is a shaking that's taking place in every realm and in one way or another, it's touching each of us. When all is said and done, where will our faith lie? What is our faith really made of and will it stand the tests of our times? God wants our faith to be firm and sure, unwavering in the face of adversity or persecution of any kind. Are you a Christian or not? Do you believe or not and are you ready to take a stand against all odds? Will the real Christians please stand up??!!!
The Bible says that the apostasy or "great falling away" that would take place in the latter days would be a clear sign that we are living in the times before Jesus Christ's soon return. The apostasy represents an abandonment of the faith, of the position or post one once held. It can be described in almost militaristic terms. It's as if a soldier once held a position but chose to abandon the very thing he or she was called upon and trained to do. One needs to look no further than our modern culture and its blasphemy challenges or "new atheists" to see that we have arrived at that juncture and have actually been there for quite some time. Plain and simply put, we're there folks....people are falling away in mass numbers including pastors, Christian artists, leaders, and lay people which is quite alarming. What is causing them to fall away? Is it because the Word of God is not believable? Are its thoughts antiquated or has science laid its truths to rest? Should we be apologizing or should we be apologizing? No, I'm not being redundant...I mean two entirely different things here. This is the blog where I dive into the topic of apologetics and declare with a loud voice, "No!!!!" we should not be apologizing for what we believe, and yes, we should be apologizing, that is, giving a defense for our Faith (i.e. a reason for why we believe). And if there are things that we should apologize for in a remorseful sense, may it be things done in the name of God that God never called people to do, that have left occasion for attacks against the Faith, and have left an ugly mark on the history of Christianity. Angela, you ask, just what are you talking about here?" I'm glad you asked...Let me clarify!
During the time of the early Church (i.e the Church in its infancy, from its birth at Pentecost to about the mid-3rd century), new believers to the Faith had to be familiarized with the tenets of Christianity upon baptism. How were the Church leaders going to best accomplish this? This need coupled with persecution from without and heresies from within forced the leaders of the early Church to define what its basic tenets (beliefs) were with a set canon (or list of authorized books) and set creeds (short statements of belief taken from the Word of God) that clearly and summarily laid out, defined, and supported key Biblical doctrines. These and other doctrines of the Church were hammered out at various Church councils. Persecutions from without came by way of various emperors of the ancient Roman Empire who had a policy of toleration so long as it did not conflict with Roman religion or loyalty (patronage) to its various emperors. To the ancient Romans, Christians seemed like an odd bunch. They kept to themselves, they met in secret, they were thought to eat the blood and flesh of their slain leader (which was really communion, the Lord's supper). People thought they practiced orgies as they celebrated what they called love feasts when in actuality they would gather over meals and share in common what they had so that none went without. They were also viewed as quite narrow-minded in their beliefs, because they refused to worship any other God but their own. This caused them to be branded as atheists, oddly so, because they refused to worship the gods of Rome, nor partake in any kind of emperor worship which became compulsory at times. Here is where the various stories of the martyrs entered the picture. Some refused to renounce their faith to save their very lives. To be a Christian in those times was frightening because standing for their beliefs and practicing them was not only frowned upon, but could eventually bring death or maiming of some sort. To be fair, some Romans came to admire them for their acts of kindness. In many cases, Christians were misunderstood. Some ancient Roman historians began to say that only those who were unlearned, weak minded, poor or superstitious followed and believed the Christian Faith, but many bright and intellectually trained men began to take up the cause of Christianity being able to understand the language of Greek philosophy and the teachings of the Bible at the same time. They began to defend the Faith from without and defend the Faith from distortions within called heresies. Heretical teaching was teaching that tended to go off the beaten path of what was considered orthodox Christianity. These defenders were known as the apologists or early church fathers who wrote many classical works, many still in use to this day, setting the record straight on what the Bible declared and didn't declare to be true.
Fast forward now to the apologetics movement of today...is it needed and how should it best be approached? I would say yes it is needed today, especially in light of the assualt Christianity has taken from almost all levels of society, especially due (I believe) to the spirit of the age, which I talked about in my last post. I also say that it should be approached with wisdom, with sensitivity, with a level of humility and with a spirit of compassion. People have honest questions. They're dealing with real problems. There are things that happen in life that they just don't understand, or can't make any sense out of, and so it leads them to doubt the God of the Bible and His Word. Not to mention, there are so many seemingly right paths to God and science, history, anthropology, and archaeology have all had their part in proclaiming truth which seems to debunk the Bible and its truth. I cannot speak for other people in how they choose to approach this subject; no, I can only speak for myself. I firmly believe one cannot force another person to believe. This is where we have to acknowledge the blatant errors of the Church's past in the institution known as the inquisition and what that church marshalled court system thought to accomplish. I think anyone can relate to the sense of passion one feels about a subject that they hold dear and want to protect and defend, but sometimes the best of intentions can go off the beaten course, and so the spirit behind one's beliefs get lost in their actions. I think not understanding too just what it is that Christians believe, or not having a proper understanding of the Word of God are what has led many people to dismiss the idea of Christianity and its relevance for today.
If you have left the Christian faith because of what you discovered science has proven to be true or untrue concerning the Bible, then I plead with you to consider areas where you may be wrong about your new beliefs. Do you really have all of the facts at hand? We as Christians have every right to believe in miracles, to believe in a God Who cannot be seen, but Who has shown that His very words can be trusted, that He knows all things, even the end of time from the beginning, that He is our Maker, and that He holds everything in His hands.
Just how is a lay person to discern between all of this? And when such findings come in direct contradiction to the Bible, who or what should we believe? Should the latest breaking scientific news cause us to abandon ship? No, absolutely not...we should cling ever tightly! That's where people like myself come along who speak the language of both science and the Bible, who see compatibility and not the conflict others bring up. We find no reason to dismiss the Biblical account as being true to life. Understand that it's not just science that leads us to believe this, but everything that the Bible declares to be true...from history, to archaeology, even to eschatology...the latter being the biggest set of proofs on the burner right now that have so many people wondering what in the world is going on. This is where the evidence from Bible prophecy proves to be so powerful.
In my last blog, I shared how Jesus Himself foretold of the great "falling away" that would take place in the last days as a sign of His soon return. It grieves my heart that so many have abandoned the Faith, especially young people for what seems like greener grass or a brighter, more rational side of the fence, but just what have they left the Church for...have they joined the emperor in clothing themselves with the Emperor's New Clothes? Once covered and clothed in the righteousness of Christ, they have believed a lie which will only lead to their detriment. I'm nearing the end of a class I'm taking on the Origin of Life and just what I've learned so far has made my heart grieve all the more, not for what I believe but for those who chose to abandon their Christian beliefs in favor a fautly scientific worldview. There are so many problems concerning scientific theories on the origin of life, better known as abiogenisis...truth be told, many scientists have almost altogether concluded that it would take nothing short of a miracle for life to have arisen by naturalistic means. This is fodder for yet another future post!
When addressing one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation, Jesus admonished them to "strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die" (Revelation 3:2). Of those churches that do remain, how many are following a watered down Gospel? Of the faithful few that remain, how many can really call themselves Christians? Of the many that warm the pews each Sunday morning, who is standing for godliness and who is unashamed to believe in God's Word as truth? Tribulation will separate the true wheat from the tares. If the ultimate test of faith were to come to your doorstep, would you be ready to handle it? If your very life depended on whether you declared yourself to be a Christian and whether or not you would be willing to renounce your faith, how would you respond? Do you know that the day is coming when you will no longer be able to sit on the fence, but will have to make a definite choice for or against the Lord God? Remember how I talked about the systems of the world changing? Do you know that the Bible says that the one world government that will be established will also include a world religious system that will tie itself in with a world economic system? Its leader will demand allegiance to his system, and that allegiance will become compulsory. In the year 250 AD, Emperor Decius demanded that all citizens of Rome pledge allegiance to him, making an offering to him and showing proof of their worship by obtaining a certificate that they had completed their obligation. In a similar manner, the coming world ruler will cause an economic system to be implemented that will make it illegal to purchase (buy or sell) except that a person bears his mark on their right hand or forehead. This is the famed mark of the beast, the 666 that everyone knows about, chi ro sigma as its spelled in the Greek. And so we see that the former things were a pattern of things to come. The persecution that has been in the past will reiterate itself again, and in all acuality, has already started. Will you be ready to handle it? Are you truly a Christian? Stop apologizing (feeling ashamed for believing in the Bible's truths in their entirety) and start apologizing (defending) them, not through arms or the sword, but through a reasonable defense of the faith, a reason for the hope that lies within you!