What is the Core of Christian Belief?

What is the Core of Christian Belief?
By: Rev. Joseph R. Kramer

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

-John 3:16–18 (NIV84)

I recently received an email with a whole list of questions. I have been wondering how best to respond. The reason is that all of the questions are in the form of one question with multiple parts. So I will attempt to answer them simply and concisely, as each question that was proposed you could literally write a doctoral thesis about.

Someone has asked what are the core beliefs amongst Christians?

What we have to remember when answering these questions is that Christians believe in an objective truth, not a subjective one that has been accepted by many in our world today. I could spend a lot of time talking about this subject, but suffice it to say that the statement that truth is subjective is an objective claim and there the statement falls apart. The Bible, and all of life, is based on an objective reality. We must come to this understanding first before we can answer what Christians believe.

So how do you answer this question simply? It is very hard! We must remember that there are issues that Christians disagree about and ones that are essential to our faith. The core of Christianity is summed up in the following statement, taken from the Apostles Creed (I updated it in modern English and updated it to be more accurate).

 

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son the second in the Trinity (God become man), our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.  On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, The Universal Church established by Jesus Himself, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. AMEN.

While this is a bit different than the Apostle Creed, I believe it is very accurate. That being said, we must keep in mind that a creed (while helpful) is not scripture but a guide to what our faith means. All of this (which I have modified above) is the core belief of a true Christian.

So the question is not what do Christians believe that make them Christians, but what have you done about Christ. He is not some figure that cannot be known, but is living and wants to have a relationship with everyone. This can only happen as one yields control of their lives to Christ and accepts Him as their personal Lord and Savior. We must believe John 3:16 in order to be seen as a Christian.

Out of this belief and the change that is wrought by the Holy Spirit does one’s life begin to line up with right living before God (Sanctification).

A good thought to ponder is the following, As a Christian I am not perfect, but am being perfected. Someone once said, “I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.”

How about you today? Have you had a life changing experience that can only be explained by the life changing work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in your life? If not why not? We aren’t promised tomorrow. Would you cry out to God to receive you as a son? If so it is simple, it is not about the words you say, but the cry of your heart. You can say a prayer like this; “Jesus I know I am a sinner and I know my sin separates me from you. Come into my heart and be my master and savior. Thank you Jesus, Amen.” Or, you could just say “Jesus come into my life!” Again, it is not about the words, but your heart.

I hope this has answered the most important question in your life. That is, what have I done about Jesus Christ? What have you done? Have submitted? The Choice is yours today.

TOO Many Christians are Shallow in Their Beliefs

TOO Many Christians are Shallow in Their Beliefs
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority….

-2 Peter 2:1-10

 

Peter has just completed talking about the prophets in chapter one. He points out that there were false prophets back then as well. He is warning his readers that there are and will be false teachers in the church (universal). These individuals will, and have, introduced heresies into the church. His readers must be careful of these teachers.
In verse two Peter tells us the sad outcome for those Christians/people who follow these teachers. That is, people will be lead away by false teaching. But why? Because they do not actually study the Scriptures and are not rooted in its’ teaching, no they think they are alright, but they deceive themselves and thereby follow corrupt teachers who are deceiving others. By doing this they give the church (universal) a “black eye.”

False teaching often is mixed with truth. Many people then (and today) think they can pick out the truth from error, but such thinking is in itself error. Being around subtle false teaching spoils the whole teaching because it changes the meaning of what is written (i.e. improper application to an individuals life). False teaching very rarely starts outside of the Christian church. No, it usually originates within a fellowship and then evolves into blatant heresy; by the time anyone notices the false teacher usually has a following, and thereby splits the fellowship and creating their own based on heresy (a good example is false sects that call themselves Christians).

In verse three Peter tells us their character. He says they are greedy. In our Americanized culture we associate greed with financial greed, but this is not always the case. Greed can be more than for money. Many false teachers seek sexual pleasures, places of honor, money, and many other things. The point here is that these people are very self-centered and self-focused. The outcome, according to Peter, is that false teachers will exploit you. They will use you until there is nothing left (i.e. you are burned out). Peter has already pronounced false teacher’s judgment. He states that though they may seem to be getting away with their false teaching, in reality God’s judgment is hanging over their heads. When this judgment is metered out to them (either in this life or the life hereafter) we may be assured that it will happen.

Verses four through ten are Peter using examples from scripture to prove his point. Christians who have read the Old Testament will recognize these events. To the first-century Christian, who was mostly Jewish at the time of this writing, would definitely have understood these analogies as they were familiar with the Torah (Old Testament writings).

The angels that Peter speaks of in verse four are fallen angels. There is a passage in the Old Testament where angels left their abode in heaven and had “relations” with women (c.f. Genesis 6). Now there is a debate, albeit small, in the “church-world” about who these angels are. However, most Biblical evidence would seem to point to these angels who had “relations” with women.
Now Peter continues his thoughts on the judgment of some of the Old Testament history. He brings up the destruction of the world and Noah’s family being the only survivors (c.f. Gen 6); Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed and brought down (c.f. Gen 19:24-28).
In verse nine he concludes his final thoughts on God upholding the righteous and eventual punishment on the wicked. In verse ten he tells us that this kind of judgment is especially true for false teachers. This is because these teachers follow their corrupt and sinful nature, though they hide it in self-righteousness and piety, and despise the authority of God and those God has placed above them (i.e. The Apostles).

How about you today? Do you know enough of God’s Scripture to know if something is false? The Bible says we are supposed to study the scriptures diligently. It isn’t addressed to just clergy, but to everyone. Will you come and allow God to deepen your walk today? or will you stay in the shallow end of the pool and possibly be deceived and hurt due to false teachers? The choice is yours.

Thoughts on Chaos and the Beginning of Everything

Thoughts on Chaos and the Beginning of Everything
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

What lies below is some thoughts on the creation event I have been thinking about. I would love some feedback (via e-mail or comment). It is not meant to be an all-inclusive treatise on the subject but some simple questions with some thoughts that go with it.

I believe that it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a Christian. Let us start at the beginning. There are some things that naturalists believe that I just can’t grasp by faith.

If all the universe was made by a big bang, where did the bang come from? Some people will say that the big bang came from some kind of protoplasm, or some kind of formulas that existed. But where did that come from? They can’t answer that. Because nothing means nothing. If the big bang happened out of nothing, then protoplasm and other things that are brought to explain it, is not nothing.

Christianity believes that God created everything from nothing (ex-nihilo). How? Because God lives in infinity. He is outside time and space. Therefore there is no infinite regression of causes, it starts and ends with Him. This affirms our belief that He is the alpha and Omega. Now this is a hard concept for us as humans to understand. Why? Because we are finite. We live in time and history with a past, present and future. To understand this concept fully, is beyond us; however, we can understand some of it. To me this is the best understanding.

Another thing, I don’t see with my logical mind how out of chaos comes order. No, throughout history we see it the opposite. Throughout order, chaos ensues. We see mutations in humans that are not helpful, but cause harm. We also see creatures that are irreducibly complex (do a search for a flagellum). It is constructed like an outboard motor. If any one part breaks down, they all break down. So how does little changed over time account for this? It doesn’t, it can’t.

But if God created everything so perfect, what happened?How did creation get so messed up? Well from a Christian perspective, sin entered into the world and because of sin the whole of creation marred. This is an easy answer, but people want to make it complex. No, this is the answer.

This not all inclusive, just some thoughts I would like people to ponder and send me some feedback about.

____
In Christ,
Rev. Joe Kramer

What is The Purpose of Preaching?

What is The Purpose of Preaching?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

This is the question that we will be exploring today. I wrote this article in APA format because it was published that way when I wrote it during one of my Master’s classes. This, however, is adapted for our purposes here today.

“A man who first tried to guess ‘what the public wants,’ and then preached that as Christianity because the public wants it, would be a pretty mixture of fool and knave”(Lewis, n.d., ¶ 5).  A lot of people believe preaching to be something easy and just getting up and talking about the Bible or current events. More goes into preaching than just giving your thoughts on a passage of scripture ore preaching current events. In this essay we will begin to explore the subject of preaching. The first thing we must know is why we preach. There are two responses to this, an objective response and a subject one. Then briefly explore the goal of preaching.

Let us begin by exploring the reason for preaching. There are two responses to this question. One is the object response and the other is the subjective response. This is not a new question throughout history preachers have struggled with the effectiveness of their preaching, even in the nineteenth century, the so-called golden age of preaching. The twentieth century has brought new challenges that other centuries did not have to contend. Such as the rise technological resources, i.e. Television, internet, Digital Video Discs and the list could continue. (Hamilton, 1992). But preaching still remains the same with only minor changes.

 

The Objective Response

We know that God has chosen to reveal himself in nonverbal ways (i.e. general revelation) but God has chosen to reveal himself in verbal communication as well (assuming one believes in the divine origin of the Bible). The question is raised then, is preaching different from public speaking? Yes. First Corinthians chapter two verses four and five tell us (NKJV) “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” So then preaching is empowered by God not just by man’s word and thoughts. Preaching is the very act of God using a person who has been called by God to deliver and apply God’s message to individual lives (see Ephesians 4:11)  through the act of standing in front of people and speaking what God has given them (Hamilton, 1992). So, is there some kind of a unique authority of the Word of God? Yes. Both Matthew chapter twenty-eight verses eighteen through twenty and second Timothy chapter three verse sixteen points to a special and unique authority about God and His Word. As a matter of fact Hebrews chapter four verse twelve reports that God’s Word is active and alive (Hamilton). We do not often think of Words having any kind of life but the Bible says that His Word is alive and mixed with our faith can become a powerful motivator and life changing substance. Because of all of this we know from several scriptures that the Word of God is attended by the working of the Holy Spirit. Acts chapter one verse eight shows that the Holy Spirit descended upon the people and they began to proclaim God’s Word abroad through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. In First Corinthians chapter two verse four Paul reminds the people at Corinth that his preaching was shown to be true not merely by words, but words coupled with the demonstration of power by the Holy Spirit (Hamilton).

All of this indicates that God intends for preaching to be continued throughout this dispensation (or time) of grace. “The theological realities which saw the first-century church stress the preaching/teaching of the Word have not changed. God still reveals Himself and His will for people through verbal propositions” (Hamilton, 1992, p. 16).

 

The Subjective Response

The response here is for those that do the preaching. The question here is why should a particular person preach / teach God’s Word? As with all other things our response must be rooted in God’s Word. Throughout the Scriptures we find all the preachers were called by God. Some were dramatic (i.e. Isaiah and Paul) other were not so dramatic, but a simple call (i.e. Amos and John). The intricacies of the call or not important, the assurance that one has been called by God to preach / teach is important (Hamilton, 1992). In the New Testament, which is our guide, the call is both an internal call from God to the individual and an external recognition of that call by the church. There are some truths that must be present in an individual’s life, these are “. . . the truth and power of the gospel, the authority of Scripture, the giving of spiritual gifts, and the Lord’s sovereign right to call whomever He chooses. If these are missing, the felt call may be shallow and the product of one’s own thinking” (Hamilton, p. 17).  That is the part where the church’s recognition is important. Too many people believe that being in ministry is easy, or that it will bring them prestige and this is why they chose to try to go into ministry. In actuality ministry is very difficult financially, spiritually and emotionally and should never be entered into with an actual call to the ministry. Jeremiah understood this, which is why he wrote the following words in Jeremiah twenty verses eight through ten (NKJV).

   8      For when I spoke, I cried out;

         I shouted, “Violence and plunder!”

         Because the word of the LORD was made to me

         A reproach and a derision daily.

   9      Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,

         Nor speak anymore in His name.”

         But His word was in my heart like a burning fire

         Shut up in my bones;

         I was weary of holding it back,

         And I could not.

   10      For I heard many mocking:

         “Fear on every side!”

         “Report,” they say, “and we will report it!”

         All my acquaintances watched for my stumbling, saying,

         “Perhaps he can be induced;

         Then we will prevail against him,

         And we will take our revenge on him.”

 

The Goal

The goal of giving a speech is understanding. That, however, is not the goal of preaching. Yes the previous sentence is correct, the goal of preaching is not understanding. So what is it? It is quite simply, faith. The goal of preaching is to produce faith in the hearer. It makes no sense to man, but only to God. “The content of the proclamation is intolerable to men of all races, since it treats of the Crucified. This satisfies neither the Greek urge for knowledge nor the Jewish demand for religious certainty. . .only the believer. . .accepts it” (Kittel, Bromiley, & Feidrich, 1964-, p. 712). Faith can only come through hearing God’s Word and faith is always content with the simple content of God’s Word spoken by a preacher. This means that the audience must participate in the discovery process through the sermon that has been prepared for them by the preacher and the Holy Spirit working together. “The faith which the Word demands of man is also a gift of the Word, R. 10:8. Since faith comes by preaching, faith and proclamation have the same content, 1 C. 15:14” (Kittel et al., p. 712).

Each of these can be explored more thoroughly, but what is presented in this essay is a good overview of the reason for preaching in general, that God has called specific people to accomplish this task and the goal of the task. Preaching should never be taken lightly but should be entered into soberly and reverently, likewise the congregation should also participate in the act by receiving the Word as God’s Word, applying to their lives and mixing their faith with the Word that is being presented to them. In this way preaching is a participatory exercise instead of a one sided event.


References

Hamilton, D. L. (1992). Homiletical handbook. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

Kittel, G., Bromiley, G. W., & Feidrich, G. (Eds.). (1964-). Theological dictionary of the New Testament (Vol.Vol. 3). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Lewis, C. S. (n.d.). Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. Retrieved December 13, 2011, from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/preaching

 

What Is the Purpose for Defending the Christian Faith?

You know I hear a lot of people today who are in love with Apologetics (i.e. The Defense of the Christian Faith). I love Apologetics as well. But, I have been thinking. What good does it really do? I mean if Apologetics were the answer to a dwindling church attendance in America, shouldn’t our churches be full right now? So what is the problem?

The problem is that Apologetics is not done properly! Apologetics has become about arguing, not sharing Christianity in a loving manner. Apologetics should be about removing hurdles to faith, not causing a hurdle. We have too many Christians claiming to defend the faith without understanding the faith. Our faith should be about bringing others to Christ. Without a sense of love and sharing toward the individual all we accomplish is arguing, and I have seen too much of that. Just answer their questions in love. Period. So what do you do next? Don’t argue, just let God work on them.

So for the next few weeks I am going to dedicate a small section of thoughts for Christians about what our faith should be, dealing mostly with Apologetics issues (i.e. Questions skeptics would ask). But today I want you to focus on why we would study this. To remove hurdles, not get into arguments.

Think about it and if you have any questions please write me and ask them. I will answer them here. Thanks.

____
In Christ,
Rev. Joe KRamer

4 Views of The Christian Rapture

4 Views of The Christian Rapture
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

 (15) For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming c will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.

-1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (HCSB)


Christians tend to be pretty bad at predicting the future. We get things wrong sometimes, so it should be no surprise to anyone that there are four different theories as it relates to the rapture. They are (1) Pre-tribulation Rapture, (2) Mid-tribulation Rapture, (3) Post- Tribulation Rapture, and (4) Pre-Wrath Rapture. Now there are other theories as well, but these are our four most common today.

The Tribulation (A Really Quick Overview)
Most Christians (evangelicals) believe in something called the Tribulation period. This period spans seven years and during this time the entire world becomes united under one leader; this leader is in actuality the anti-Christ. He will consolidate all power and all religion under one banner (Of course some will not agree). During this time to be a Christian means capital punishment. No one will be able to buy or sell with the mark of the beast. Approximately 3 ½ years into this (a little further) this will be the time of the Great Tribulation when God will pour out His wrath on the earth (before that is known as the time of Satan). At the end of the Tribulation period Jesus will return to rule and reign for a thousand years before the earth is destroyed and remade. There is a lot more to this but this is an overview.

Pre-Tribulation Rapture
In the book “Foundations of Pentecostal Theology” the author writes the following. This is a concise and easy to follow explanation (for the most part).

  • The strongest argument for a pre-tribulation Rapture is the fact that throughout the New Testament exhortation is given to look for and wait for the Coming of Jesus (Mt. 24:42, 43; 25:13; Mk. 13:35; 1 Thes. 5:6; Ti. 2:13; 1 Jn. 3:3; Heb. 9:28; Jn. 14:3). Jesus promised, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:3). Here Jesus’ Coming is for the purpose of receiving the Church unto Himself and taking her to a place in the Father’s house; this Coming cannot be the same as His coming with the Church to earth as the post-tribulationists contend. The blessed hope of an imminent Coming of Jesus is one of the strongest incentives to practical godliness and diligent service (Ti. 2:12–14; 1 Jn. 3:3). If the Tribulation must come first, with the manifestation of the Antichrist, before the Rapture, who will look for a Coming of Jesus until many of the events of the Apocalypse have transpired? The parable of the faithful and unfaithful servants recorded in Matthew chapter twenty-four teaches the tragic result of saying, “My lord delayeth his coming” (24:44–51).


Mid-Tribulation Rapture
This one kind of gives it away. People who hold to this believe that after the covenant between the anti-Christ and Israel is broken (3 ½ years into the tribulation). Then Jesus will take the Christians from the earth.

The following sequence of events is taken from “The Journal of Ministry and Theology: Volume 3.” This may seem a bit confusing and hard to follow. My hope is that this will spur you on to further research on your own.

 

  • The first 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th Week see nothing more than general trials and troubles that the world always goes through.
  • The Antichrist is revealed with the abomination of desolation half way through the 70th week.
  • The two witnesses of Revelation 11 are killed halfway through the 70th week.
  • During the 3½ days when the dead bodies of the two witnesses are left in the streets to be seen, Christians will experience tremendous and intense tribulation. This tribulation is not characterized as the wrath of God but as the wrath of man.
  • At the end of the 3½ days, the two witnesses are resurrected and raptured (Rev 11:11–12) which is a picture of the rapture of the Church. This is associated with the 7th trumpet in Revelation 11:15 (which in turn is associated with the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52—”at the last trumpet”).
  • At this point, the Church is raptured and joins Christ in the air. JMAT 3:1 (Spr 99) p. 86
  • Four things could be said about the remaining 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th week:
  1. Christ remains in the air with his saints for the next 3 1/2 years, watching the ensuing developments on earth.
  2. The millennial reign of Christ begins and, thus, overlaps the judgments of the vials.
  3. The wrath of God is poured out on the earth.
  4. Antichrist generally prevails on earth.
  • At the end of the 70th week of Daniel, Christ stops his watching and comes down to earth with His saints to destroy Antichrist and to continue his millennial reign on the earth.

 

Post-Tribulation Rapture
In the book “Foundations of Pentecostal Theology.” It states that the post-tribulation position is simply taking scripture less literally and is in actuality different events describing the same thing that will occur at the end of the tribulation. The author states the following:

 

  • The Post-tribulation Rapture Theory. Those who hold this theory believe that the believers will go through the Tribulation and that the Rapture will occur simultaneously with, or immediately before, the Lord’s Coming in Judgment. They hold that the Rapture of the Church and Christ’s Return to Rule are simply different aspects of a single event which will happen at the end of the Great Tribulation, and just before the defeat of the Beast and his followers and the beginning of the Millennium.


Pre-Wrath Rapture
This view in its basis holds that we will be raptured before God pours out His wrath on the earth. This view (held by many advocates, including myself) takes passages that the other views ignore and is able to reconcile them. The largest proponent of this view is Dr. Marv Rosenthal. He sums it up in the following way. This excerpt was taken from “The Journal of Ministry and Theology: Volume 3”

 

  •  The first 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th week are the beginning of sorrows but do not constitute any wrath of God, only the trials and tribulations of life. In fact, Rosenthal insists that the word “tribulation” is never used for the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week.9
  • The term “Great Tribulation” applies to a second period of Daniel’s 70th Week for which there is intense tribulation or persecution of Christians. This period lasts an indeterminate amount of time but less than 3½ years. Most of the diagrams show it ending half way through the last 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th Week.10
  • The first six seals cover the time from the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week until the end of the Great Tribulation (roughly 5¼ years). In their entirety they constitute the wrath of man through Antichrist.
  • The sixth seal marks the coming of cosmic signs that precede the trumpet judgments.
  • The Lord raptures the Church at the end of the Great Tribulation.
  • The Day of the Lord is the time of God’s wrath that covers roughly the last half of the second 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th Week. This follows the rapture of the Church. This time of wrath is God’s anger poured out on all mankind including Israel and the nations.
  • This time of God’s wrath actually extends for thirty days after the end of Daniel’s 70th Week as God’s bowl judgments are poured out on the nations who persecuted Israel. This thirty-day period is based upon Daniel 12:11.

 

Concluding Remarks
Please note that I tried to keep the scholarly rhetoric down in this article. I know that I have skipped over A TON OF THINGS on each of these views. My point was to introduce people to these views, not come to a conclusion on each one. I will say (my personal opinion) that the Pre-Wrath Rapture seems to fit best into scripture (speaking of all my studies).

 

I pray this will spark you on to further study and reflection. May God bless you.

The Need for Apologetics in the Local Church

As most of you know Apologetics is a near and dear subject to me. I thought this article would be a good one. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I. – Rev. Joe Kramer

The Need for Apologetics in the Local Church

Article ID: JAV331

By: Perseus Poku and Rodney Scott

This article first appeared in Christian Research Journal, volume 33, number 01 (2010). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to:http://www.equip.org


Apologetics is biblical. That’s why it should play a foundational role in the ministry of the local church. However, here are five additional reasons apologetics should be a staple in the life of the church.

First, it helps believers master the fundamentals of Christian doctrine so that they can effectively evangelize the lost (Titus 2:7-8). Second, it provides answers to objections leveled against truth (1 Pet. 3:15). Third, it inspires believers as well as nonbelievers to inquire more about the Christian faith (Acts 17:32-34; 26:28). Fourth, it teaches Christians to think critically through the philosophies of opposing worldviews (1 Tim. 1:3, 6-7). Finally, it can help the Christian who is experiencing a crisis of faith.1

In short, apologetics is an essential component to help us grow in our faith and is therefore vital to the church in the twenty-first century. It is not vital to the church’s existence per se, but rather her quality of existence, that is, her effectiveness in engaging the culture for Christ (Matt. 5:13). Consider the words of Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton as they describe the infiltration of the church into the world: “We learn that until comparatively recent times, Christians have actively worked out the implications of their faith in all areas of life and scholarship-from philosophy to mathematics to physics to biology. Christian faith has not been a purely private matter. Nor has it been shut off in a separate part of life, as though it were relevant to worship but not to work.”2 It is time we take our rightful stand in the world. The local church has been given an identity. She is the Lord’s mouthpiece and the world’s conscience. She is salt and God can use apologetics to shake her and the world up. Every church dedicated to the Lord’s mandate (Matt. 28:19-20) should be interested in evangelism. If evangelism deals with the spreading of the good news, then those who share it must be ready to articulate and defend the faith (1 Pet. 3:15).

Birth of an Apologetics Ministry. The ability to give a defense for the apostolic doctrine is at the core of the Christian faith (Acts 2:42). Any believer who constantly shares the good news will eventually meet someone who has a question about the Christian faith. This was my (Perseus’s) plight when we began witnessing in 1991. I just accepted Christ a year before and I had a zeal for witnessing. This burning desire to share Christ was also fueled by my close friends. They also loved the Lord and were willing to spread the gospel each Saturday. We met at the church at 11:00 a.m. for prayer and consecration. We would then walk the streets around the church sharing the gospel door to door. It was through this method of evangelism that our apologetics ministry was born. During one of our street witnessing ventures, we encountered two gentlemen. They were dressed in white shirts, black ties, and dark pants. They were very friendly and well informed. These two men professed to be believers in Jesus, the Bible, and the church. As our discussion progressed, however, we soon discovered their doctrinal belief was inconsistent with our biblical worldview. As a result, all the members of our witnessing group agreed to begin studying more about other faiths. We wanted to be able to articulate the Christian faith while effectively being able to give a defense for God’s word. This encounter compelled us to do more studying on the cults. In order to better understand the doctrines of the major cults, we made appointments to visit them. We were able to visit the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Nation of Islam mosque, and an orthodox Islam mosque. These experiences further buttressed the need for Christian apologetics. Our hearts were saddened from the experiences with the cults. We soon realized that if we were going to make an impact in our community, it would have to start with the church. As a result, we decided to approach our pastor about starting an apologetics ministry. Fortunately, we have a pastor who understands the word of God and he gave us permission to start the ministry. The St. Paul apologetics ministry started in 1992 at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, located in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento, California. Under the leadership of Pastor Ephraim Williams, the church blossomed to a membership of about five thousand. According to a local survey, Oak Park had within its limits approximately one hundred churches. We were not aware that any of these churches had an apologetics ministry and so there were no models for us to follow, but Pastor Williams publicly gave us his vote of confidence from the pulpit and informed the congregation about the new apologetics ministry and its function. We met as a group once a month and engaged in systematic theology. Initially we averaged approximately eight people per meeting. We now have more than seventy members in this ministry. The early years were extremely difficult. Some church members did not understand the need for an apologetics ministry while other members strongly supported us. We pressed on, and eventually we became known as the ministry that answered biblical questions. We made it easily available for the congregation to obtain answers regarding their Christianity. We created a resource cabinet in the administrative wing of the church. The cabinet contained Christian Research Institute (CRI) perspectives, which are one-page statements on various issues. We were able to provide answers immediately to many questions through the aid of the CRI perspectives. In addition, we created an information box. The box was intended for church members to drop in their questions. Someone from our ministry contacted the church members to provide answers within two to three days of receiving a question in the box. We even received questions from various Sunday school teachers. Eventually the church started to understand the role of the apologetics ministry. Furthermore, the influence of this ministry has expanded outside the church walls. Since the inception of our apologetics forums in 1998, many other churches have expressed interest in apologetics training. We have been blessed to have individuals such as Phillip Johnson, Norman Geisler, J. P. Moreland, and Hank Hanegraaff speak at our forums. We also developed series on “Loving God with All of Your Mind,” “Let the Truth Be Told,” and “The Essentials of the Christian Faith.” The forums are intended to expose Christians to apologetics. In addition, our hope is for attendees to take the information back to their own churches. It is always a blessing to see different people from various nationalities and denominations talking about sound doctrine. My favorite part about the forum series is the question-and-answer period, where participants are welcome to question our speakers.

The Value of Apologetics in the Local Church. As a ministry, we find it helpful to have a church that believes in the inerrancy of the Bible. As a result, the ministry has become a vital component of the church. In an attempt to promote hermeneutics, we approached our new membership department. With the approval of our pastor, we created an apologetics class for all new members. It is essential that we give our new converts the purity of the major doctrines without contamination (1 Pet. 2:2). This was the purpose for incorporating an apologetics class into the new membership curriculum. By attending the apologetics class, many new members have been able to gain confidence in their knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith. The church has additionally utilized the apologetics ministry in terms of research. When St. Paul was working on opening a bookstore, church staff asked us to identify sound and heretical authors. The ministry accepted this awesome task and was able to recommend authors that adhered to sound doctrines. Our ministry is currently working on a youth apologetics class. According to David Wheaton, approximately fifty-one percent of Christian college enrollees deny their faith upon graduating.3 It is in light of these alarming statistics that we decided to develop apologetics training sessions for our youth. Since they share classrooms with atheists, naturalists, skeptics, and students with many other worldviews, it is important that they receive training in sharing and defending their faith. In order to train them, we conducted a workshop entitled, “Let the Truth Be Told.” It is also our hope that our youth will develop Christian clubs at their various schools. Ultimately, we hope to develop trained ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). I understand that each church is different. I am also cognizant that resources vary from church to church. Despite obvious challenges, it is very important for every Bible-teaching church to have an apologetics ministry or curriculum woven into its programs. Failure to do so will ultimately create an atmosphere for erroneous doctrine. Developing a culture for apologetics will help churches root out unbiblical statements, lyrics, teachings, and traditions. Having an apologetics ministry has helped our church tremendously. Many of our members are now doctrinally sensitive. They search the scriptures for edification (Acts 17:11) and are willing to confront any aberrant views. The heartbeat of every church should be to develop an apologetics ministry dedicated to maintaining the integrity of sound doctrine. –Perseus Poku and Rodney Scott

Perseus Poku holds an A.A. in Education and a B.A. in History from California State University, Sacramento. Mr. Poku is currently working on his Masters in Christian Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary, and serves as the full-time Staff Minister at St. Paul Baptist Church in Sacramento, California.

Rodney Scott holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Biola University and an M.A. in Philosophy from Talbot University. He serves as Director of Evangelism and Discipleship at Progressive Community Church in Stockton, California.


NOTES

1 When my Aunt Bennie died, my years of study on the evidence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus gave me assurance that she not only survived the death of her body, but that she would soon receive a new body at the resurrection.

2 Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), xiii.

3 David Wheaton, University of Destruction (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2005), 170.