Is it okay to get paid for ministry? (Q & A time)

This post is an informal discussion time, recorded at the first service, before preaching the sermon, “Is it okay to get paid for ministry.”

–> Remember you can subscribe to my theology podcast here!!! <–

–> Subscribe to my Sermons Podcast (yes, I have two different podcasts) here!! <–

 

Is it okay to get paid for ministry?

What about Paul? Tent-making? George Müler?

This is a sermon that everyone in ministry needs to hear!

Nobody likes to talk about money. It’s a tough subject to talk on!

But we need to talk about it, because ultimately money is a heart issue: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mat. 6:21, Luke 12:34).

Like the dreaded talk “about the birds and the bees,” the talk about money comes around once in a blue moon. it is often short, awkward, and everyone is glad when it is over.

But one thing is often missed. Usually, a pastor – caring deeply for his congregation, and sometimes motivated by a practical need to raise donations – usually talks about the giving aspect of money. Should we tithe? How much? Why? What does it mean? Etc.

But when was the last time you heard a sermon on receiving money? “Is it okay to get paid for preaching/teaching/singing/cleaning in the church? What rules apply? What about tent-making? etc.” For myself, the answer was “never,” and so I thought it was about time someone spoke to this issue.

Because in the absence of good information, a whole host of bad ideas can come crowding in. Such half-formed, mis-informed, poorly-thought-through ideas as…

  1. Ministry isn’t real work
  2. Ministers shouldn’t be paid
  3. All work done for God should be a gift: therefore, not paid for
  4. Money paid to pastors/missionaries is a gift, not a salary
  5. Pastors/missionaries don’t deserve to be paid
  6. Ministry is a hobby, not a “real job”
  7. Ministers should be poor. Their families should be poor.
  8. When they ask for money, ministers are greedy
  9. Corruption is rampant in the church: pastors are just out to make a killing off of their congregations!

These sorts of silly ideas – already wilting in the light of day – are floating around right now in the minds of the average person in our culture…and in the minds of people in the congregation…and in your pastor’s mind!

When they go unaddressed, they can really wreak havoc on his or her soul and mind. For myself, I have found these sorts of ideas can lead to stress, workaholism, a lack of self-respect, and a whole host of other mental maladies.

It’s time for some good thinking on this issue.

I recorded a four-part podcast series on this, in which I clarified my thoughts.

Missionaries n Money 1: Five Questions

Missionaries n Money 2: Bible Survey

Missionaries n Money 3: Paul

Missionaries n Money 4: Appendix

–> Remember you can subscribe to my theology podcast here!!! <–

These podcasts I then boiled down to a twelve-page document. You can download it in pdf here or scroll down to read it. (It is a work in progress: I welcome critique and editing feedback!)

Finally, I had the opportunity to preach this last Sunday on the subject. As you can imagine, the sermon was densely packed with information! You can listen to that sermon below.
.

–> Subscribe to my Sermons Podcast (yes, I have two different podcasts) here!! <–

I also recorded an informal question and answer session in the much smaller service just before this one. You can listen to that here.

Remember to love your pastor well! He cares for you!

****

Ministry & Money

Is it okay to receive money in ministry?

Josiah Meyer

OUTLINE

IS IT OK TO RECEIVE MONEY IN MINISTRY? 

Introduction

A Quick Word on Giving 

Dangers of Ministry & Money 

1. The Gospel Must be Totally Free (Simony) 

2. We are all “priests” 

3. Greed should never be a motivation for ministry 

4. One must work for their keep 

5. On “Fleecing the Sheep” 

Five Questions 

1. Is ministry work real work? 

2. Is it okay to get paid for ministry work? 

3. Is it okay to be paid well for ministry work? 

4. Is it okay to ask for money to do ministry work? 

5. Is it okay to budget and save while doing ministry work? 

Objections 

What about K. P. Yohanan? 

What about George Mueller? 

What about Paul?

Why I Care

IS IT OK TO RECEIVE MONEY IN MINISTRY?

Introduction

You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone… (Phil. 4:15)

Nobody likes to talk about money. If it is talked about, we very helpfully focus on the giving aspect. This is so crucial because “where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also” (Luke 12:34). Giving is ultimately a heart issue, and so when our beloved pastors get up the courage to speak on money, they usually spend their time addressing the importance of making Christ the Lord of our hearts…and our wallets.

However, another important aspect is the question, “Is it legitimate to receive money in ministry?”

If people are called to give, to whom aught they give?

If people wish to work in ministry, how aught they pay for it?

What rules/limitations/guidelines apply?

We will focus our discussion by asking the following five questions:

Is ministry “real” work?

Is it ok to get paid for ministry work?

Is it ok to get paid well for ministry work?

Is it ok to live exclusively off of ministry work?

Is it ok to ask for money in order to do ministry work?

Is it ok to budget and save when doing ministry work?

First we will look at some big-idea concepts, and some dangers.

A Quick Word on Giving

Some of our thinking about money is undeveloped, immature, and sometimes just downright silly

Let’s have a reality check right now: everything costs money

Houses, cars, gas, electricity, “a roof over my head”

Professional time, services, mowed grass, cleaning, etc.

Sometimes, teens and young adults “just don’t get it”

“Mom, can I have the keys to the car?”

“Mom, where are my jeans?”

“Mom…there’s nothing to eat!”

Part of the reality check of going to college, renting a place, getting married, etc., is to realize: nothing is free. It never was. Someone needs to work for your food, lodging, education, etc.

Sometimes we can have a similarly immature – and downright silly – idea about how money works in the church.

It takes time/money to…

Mow the law

Plough the snow

Rent/buy the building

Pay for cleaning

Pay for lighting

Pay for people’s time (pastor, counsellors, worship leaders, etc.)

It costs money to meet as a church

Where does the money come from?

Since Protestant churches are not state sponsored, all of the money for missions, church & church activities needs to come from individual donations

Yup. That’s you and me.

Dangers of Ministry & Money 

Right away, you may be feeling some resistance to what I just said. Some of you might be wanting to say, “You can’t tell people that! Maybe they won’t come back!” So let’s look at some very important dangers and cautions in Scriptures about ministry and money.

1. The Gospel Must be Totally Free (Simony)

The Bible teaches us over and over that the Gospel must be free.

The rich should not have extra access to the Gospel (James 2:1-6)

The poor should not be hindered from the Gospel for financial reasons (Mat. 11:5, Luke 4:18, Luke 7:22)

The Bible gives us dire warnings that this is a very serious matter

Elisha’s servant Gehazi was striken with leprosy for asking for an “under the table” gift for the free gift of healing which his master performed (2 Kings 5)

Jesus “cleansed the temple” by vandalizing and displacing the businesses of those who were trying to make a profit off of those trying to worship in the temple (Mark 11:15-19, Matthew 21:12-17, Luke 19:45-48, John 2:13-16)

Ananias and Sapphira were stricken dead by God for trying to buy fame in the church by lying about their gift (Acts 5)

Simon Magus was “condemned to hell” by Peter for trying to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-24).

Notes:

It is from the passage on Simon Magus that we get the term “Simony,” a term coined by the Reformers, to describe the practice of “buying” religion in the Catholic church (e.g. Indulgences, clerical positions, etc.)

It is because of a sensitivity to this issue that we have practices like “passing the offering plate,” or having a collection box in the back. Ironically, it is because we are so passionate about offering the Gospel free to all that we talk so much about giving. If we just charged an entrance fee, as many religions and cults do, we wouldn’t need to talk about giving.

The Gospel must also be free from all compulsion: for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7)

2. We are all “priests”

It is very important for Protestants that pastors are not part of a special “priestly class”

We believe in the “Priesthood of all Believers,” (Revelations 1:6, 5:10, Acts 2:16-19)

Sometimes, a subtle belief in a division between the “clergy” and “laity” can sneak in

Sometimes, there can be negative feelings between those in full-time and those in part-time (or “tent-making”) ministry: one can feel, or be made to feel that they are not doing “real” ministry. My brothers, this should not be so!

The same standards which should apply to pastors (e.g. Living standards, right to property, etc.) should also apply to non-pastors. And vice-versa. We will look at this more below.

3. Greed should never be a motivation for ministry

One of the qualifications for Christian ministry is that one should be free from greed

One of the persistent attributes of false teachers is a tendency towards greed. (1 Timothy 6:3-5, 2 Timothy 4:3)

Greed leads to false teaching, because a greedy teacher will preach what people want to hear, not what they need to hear, because that is the path to financial reward in ministry (2 Timothy 4:3).

4. One must work for their keep

Laziness and entitlement are a constant problem with humanity.

Laziness is continually condemned in the Bible (Proverbs 6:6, 6:9, 10:26, 12:27, 13:4, 15:19, 19:24, 20:4, 21:25, 22:13, 24:30, 26:13-16)

In the New Testament Church, there was a problem of people living off of the community, but not really working.

Paul taught a zero toleration policy on this, stating: “if anyone is not willing to work, then his is not to eat either.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

Paul taught that even for widows, they aught not to be supported if they were young, able-bodied, weren’t contributing to the church, and could be supported in other ways: aka getting married and starting families (1 Timothy 5:3-7).

Because of this danger, we must address the question, below, “Is ministry work ‘real work’? 

5. On “Fleecing the Sheep”

In extreme cases, churches may be guilty of “fleecing the sheep”

This phrase comes from Ezechiel 34:1-10

The passage is an extended metaphor, and hard to know specifics: but one gets the idea of a combination of all of the above abuses, combined with a self-serving, arrogant, uncaring, selfish, greedy attitude. An entitled, lazy, greedy “priesthood” living in luxury at the expense of the laity. This attitude was seen at times during the most corrupt periods in the Middle Ages, and in some modern Cults. It may also be the case sometimes in the churches of the “Health & Wealth Gospel”

This was also the case during the Second Temple Judaism (Matthew 21:14)

Five Questions

Throughout this time, we will be looking at the question, “Is it okay to receive money in ministry?” We will divide that down into five smaller questions to give it a thorough answer.

Is ministry work real work?

Is it okay to get paid for ministry work?

Is it okay to get paid well for ministry work?

Is it okay to ask for money to do ministry work?

Is it okay to save & budget to do ministry work?

1. Is ministry work real work? 

Biblically, we are all to work

God works for six days, then rests. We are to do the same (Genesis 1)

God gave humanity work to do immediately upon creating them (Genesis 1:26, 2:5, 15)

After the Fall, work is cursed and will be hard (Genesis 3:17-18)

Those who do not work are “lazy” and are condemned in Proverbs and elsewhere (Proverbs 6:6, 6:9, 10:26, 12:27, 13:4, 15:19, 19:24, 20:4, 21:25, 22:13, 24:30, 26:13-16)

Paul teaches that those who do not work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

Some forms of “being busy” do not count as work (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, 1 Timothy 5:13)

Paul is very clear that ministry work – especially preaching and teaching – count as “real work” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

2. Is it okay to get paid for ministry work?

Yes. Why?

Because a “worker is worthy of his wages.”

Jesus says so (Matthew 10:10)

Paul says so (1 Timothy 5:18, 1 Corinthians 9:14)

In all of these cases, it is a person working in ministry that is meant

1 Corinthians 9:1-14 says, “the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.”

Because soldiers don’t serve at their own expense (9:6)

Because vinedressers should eat of their own vines (9:6)

Because shepherds should drink of their own livestock (9:6)

Because even oxen should share in the rewards of their work (9:9)

Because plowmen aught to plow in hope (9:10)

Because threshers aught to thresh in hope (9:10)

Because those who work in the Temple receive of the offerings (9:13)

Therefore: “God has directed that those who proclaim the gospel will get their living from the gospel.” (9:14)

(Note: Paul does not want to be paid, so he has a reason for boasting, 9:12, 15-18). However, his personal vow in now way invalidates the general rule he has laid out in this passage

Full-time ministry is a time-honored tradition in Scriptures

The Priesthood

God instituted that priests would live from the sacrifices and free-will offerings

When he re-instituted temple worship, Nehemiah found that when they were not paid, the priests and Levites left the Temple to work and provide for themselves. (After all, one cannot expect someone to work without paying them, can they?) He re-instated a means of paying them through offerings so that worship would continue

The Prophets

Some prophets were part-time, or “tent-makers” (Amos 7:14)

But most were full-time, through:

Miraculous provision (1 Kings 17:4)

Donations (1 Kings 17:10-16)

Communal living (2 Kings 6:1-3, 4:39-40)

Jesus never engaged in “tent-making” during his ministry years

He lived on hospitality (Matthew 8:14-15, Luke 10:38)

He lived on private donations (Luke 8:3)

He lived off the land (on social assistance?) (Luke 6:1)

Sometimes God provided miraculously (Mark 1:13, Matthew 16:9)

Jesus never told His disciples to engage in “tent-making”

They were to take advantage of hospitality (Luke 10:7)

The Apostles did not engage in “tent-making”

(Ok, they worked briefly between the crucifiction and Pentecost – but that’s it! John 21:3)

The Early Church lived on communal living (Acts 4:37)

The Apostles did not work, and did not even want to do administrative tasks, but “devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4)

The Apostle Paul:

Did at times work to support his ministry. He did so for personal reasons, although he knew he was not obligated to do so. (1 Corinthians 9)

He also:

Received gifts (Philippians 4:15-16)

Asked for gifts (2 Corinthians 11:8, Romans 15:24, Philemon)

Accepted hospitality (Acts 16:14)

Used communal living (Acts 9)

(perhaps) he was “sent out” from the church with more than just prayers: otherwise, how could he have afforded so many sea voyages? (Acts 13:3)

(perhaps) he had some wealthy private donors, such as Philemon

(See further discussion below)

3. Is it okay to be paid well for ministry work?

…or should pastors be paid at, or less, than the poverty line?

Yes. Why?

A) Because Paul said, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” “ – 1 Timothy 5:17-18

Elders should be paid “double”…not “half honour,” as is so often the case

The context makes it very clear what is meant is financial renumeration

The Old Testament priests were well taken care of

The reality is that in ministry, the funds are often tight. Someone going into ministry should know that lower income is part of the burden to bear. Many ministries simply cannot do better. But there is no Biblical warrant for underpaying one’s pastor when one has the means to do better. There is nothing “spiritual” about being poor. Rather, pastors are worthy of “double honour.”

Objection: but greed aught not to be a motivation for ministry (1 Timothy 6:3-5, 2 Timothy 4:3): on the other hand, it is not “greed” for a worker to expect his wages. It is a sin to withhold wages when they are due (Deuteronomy 24:15)! If a worker agrees to work for free, or for reduced salary, of course, that is quite a different matter.

4. Is it okay to ask for money to do ministry work?

…or should we all do as George Mueller did?

There is no Biblical command not to ask for money

B) Jesus told His disciples to ask for lodging, food, etc. (Matthew 10:11)

Many Biblical figures asked for money, food, water, resources

– Elisha (1 Kings 17:11-15)

– Jesus (John 4:7)

Paul (Romans 15:24, Philemon)

D) Therefore, it seems reasonable to ask at times for money: although we aught to be careful never pressure anyone, or create a hindrance to the Gospel

5. Is it okay to budget and save while doing ministry work? 

…or should we all do as George Muller did?

Nowhere in the Bible are Christians told not to budget/save: rather, the Proverbs and other passages are full of admonitions to steward one’s money, including budgeting and saving (Proverbs 30:25-26). Since Protestants believe in the “priesthood of all believers,” what we expect of pastors we would expect of everyone else. And we certainly want to encourage good financial practice among everyone in the church!

Perhaps Muller based his life-vows partially on Jesus’ words to His disciples (Matthew 10:5-15) but:

This is not a support for not asking for support: disciples were to impose themselves on a host

Wives and children are not mentioned in this passage: this seems to be a singles missions trip

Jesus very explicitly taught that this was not to be the normative model past the time of His ministry years (Luke 22:35-38) see also Matthew 10:16

Objections

What about K. P. Yohanan?

Western-style missionaries are wasteful

Indigenous missionaries are a better use of funds

After having lived in a third-world country, I understand that the “wasteful” things are actually precious, sanity-giving & life-giving

This makes an unfortunate false dichotomy between western and indigenous missionaries: clearly, we need both

One cannot simply take a western missionary’s salary (say $6,000) and divide that up into equal parts to evaluate whether it would be better to pay that many indigenous peoples (say $60): the reality is, people give to people they know, and that money would likely not be re-allocated

As one indigenous person said, “You cannot replace real people with money.” Yes, we need to support indigenous peoples: but there is no substitute for sending real, flesh-and-blood missionaries as well

What about George Mueller?

Who did not ask anyone for money

Who did not keep any money on hand: any surplus was given immediately to ministry

This model is not taught in Scriptures

As seen above, believers are to save/budget, as well as pray and rely on God

As seen above, there is no Biblical commandment not to ask for support

Elisha did it (1 Kings 17:11-15)

(arguably) Jesus did it (John 4:7)

Paul did it (Romans 15:24, Philemon)

Muller asked in passive ways

If Muller had a personal vow, that is commendable, but it is not binding on those who did not take it, neither does it negate the Bible’s teaching on these matters

What about Paul?

He was a tent-maker: he worked at least part time (Acts 18:1-3)

He held up his own example as one for others to emulate (2 Thessalonians 3:9)

This was not the only way Paul supported himself. He also…

Received gifts (Philippians 4:15-16)

Asked for gifts (2 Corinthians 11:8, Romans 15:24, Philemon)

Accepted hospitality (Acts 16:14)

Used communal living (Acts 9)

(perhaps) he was “sent out” from the church with more than just prayers: otherwise, how could he have afforded so many sea voyages? (Acts 13:3)

(perhaps) he had some wealthy private donors, such as Philemon

In the famous passage of Priscilla and Acquilla (Acts 18:1-3), he only worked until his traveling companions arrived, at which time he “began devoting himself solely to the word…” (Acts 18:5)

Paul received funds so often, and in so many different ways, in fact, that his statements in 1 Corinthians to have worked “for free” need an explanation. In 2 Corinthians, he clarifies that he did not only live on his own resources, but he also received support from other churches to work “for free” in Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:8). This begs the question…why?

Some have theorized that Paul wished to avoid a conflict of interest, in having a sponsor who may have wanted to control Paul’s message. Perhaps this explains why Paul has no problem asking the Corinthians for gifts to give to another cause (2 Corinthians 9)

Some have theorized that Corinth was an especially lazy and undisciplined place, and Paul wished to give them an example. This also seems to have been the case in Thessalonica (2 Thessalonians 3:11). Perhaps it was also the case in Ephesus.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Between the two models of “full-time” and “part-time” (or tent-making) ministry, there can sometimes be some friction, even scorn. But we need both!!

The Gospel simply cannot break new ground without the “full-time” model. Unless they are already independently wealthy, how could someone try to work full-time in a third-world country, while also evangelizing? Where could they even find employment. And why would they steal jobs from locals? It just doesn’t make sense.

But likewise, the Church absolutely needs people who are willing to donate their time free of charge, or on half salary in order to start up new churches, and keep churches going.

Both models are desperately needed!

Both models are absolutely “real ministry”

Why I Care

I am a missionary, and so the issue touches me personally

I care about the Gospel: I believe if we fund it, it will go forth more abundantly

I care about missionary/pastor wives and families: I think they are asked to suffer unnecessarily, and the price is often very heavy. And senseless.

Apologetics: What, Why, How? (Official class: video, audio, pdf)

What is apologetics? How is it done? Why do we need it?

As the first in our class on Apologetics, this lecture will seek to answer these questions.

This lecture was delivered at Wellspring School of the Kingdom in Sherbrooke, Quebec in September 2016. The video is coming, and will be posted soon

Click here to read the syllabus. For a limited time, you can take this course for a fee of $100, by correspondence, for credit.

Click here to download the first class notes in pdf: scroll down to read them.

Click below to listen to my lecture.

  .

****

APOLOGETICS: WHAT?

—- what is apologetics? —–

 

“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” – 1 Peter 3:15

 

DEFENITION 1:

Apologetics is being ready with an answer when skeptics ask.

1 Peter 3:15

“being ready”

  • If you don’t know what to say when someone asks, you are doing it wrong.
  • Necessarily includes time spent BEFOREHAND thinking through:

o   Potential questions

o   Good responses

“to make a defense” = ἀπολογίαν (apologia)

  • 1) verbal defense, speech in defense
  • 2) a reasoned statement or argument (Thayer)
  • Acts 22:1

 

DEFINITION 2:

Apologetics is using reason, debates and arguments to convince someone of the truth of Christianity.

  • Acts 6:9-10
  • Acts 9:21-22

Whereas many form of evangelism appeal to people’s emotions, apologetics normally appeals to one’s intellect.

 

Like Paul and Stephen, our “reasoned defense” can and should be compelling enough to push people to change their beliefs. Those who are unwilling will either turn away or resort to ad hominem attacks.

 

 

 

 

DEFINITION 3:

Apologetics is explaining Christianity to a foreign culture, using their words, concepts and sources to explain Biblical concepts.

  • Acts 17:16-33

Points to notice from Paul’s address to the Greek philosophers:

  • Although explaining Biblical concepts, nowhere does he quote Scriptures
  • He begins by doing “cultural exegesis” (v. 16-17)
  • He starts his address by finding common ground (the “Altar to an unknown god) in their religion (v. 23)
  • He proceeds by uses a poet (cultural reference) to make an important point (v. 28)
  • When he arrived at a point, which his audience rejected (the resurrection from the dead) many turned away, but some believed. (v. 31-34)

In this way, apologetics is like a bridge, where one plants one foot in the foreign culture, and one foot in the Bible. One attempts to understand both the Bible and culture well enough to create a solid bridge, and then one attempts to draw people across the bridge to Christ and a Biblical worldview. (This mental picture will be important as we move forwards)

5c0a67db-4172-4132-8aee-42edf0a62989-1-2048x1536-oriented

In this way, Apologetics is the opposite of preaching “Christianese” to people. Instead of saying, for example, “Are you, my brother, a Lamb of God, washed in the blood and sanctified for heavenly bliss by the Heaven-sent Son of Man?” … we could communicate the same idea by saying, “I am a Christian. Would you like to hear what my religion teaches about how to find God?”

 

Another way to say this is that apologetics is missions.

  • Before leaving for exotic locations, missionaries are trained to observe their host cultures and learn to translate Christianity into the language and world-view of their audiences
  • In our increasingly secular context, many are realizing that we need to do similar work in order to communicate effectively in our own cultures

 

 

DEFINITION 4:

Apologetics is a systematic presentation and defense of the basic ideas (doctrines) of Christianity, for Christian and non alike

  • Acts 19:9, 1 Peter 3:15
  • It is speaking words “with our minds,” in addition to our hearts/spirits. Cf. 1 Cor. 14:18-19

If we are to “be ready with a defense” for “the hope that is in us,” (1 Peter 3:15) we will need to spend serious time in study and contemplation about the nature and inter-relation of the ideas (doctrines) of our faith. This work is called “theology” and the most popular form of theology today is “Systematic Theology.” Systematic Theology is simply examining the important doctrines of Christianity one at a time, in an orderly and “systematic” manner. There is much overlap between theology and apologetics because one cannot go very far in apologetics without engaging seriously in theology: and one should not go too far into theology without apologetics.

 

 

DEFINITION 5:

431a7164-6556-4354-aa17-1e286c6b87c7-1-2048x1536-orientedApologetics is re-casting the myths and cultural stories by which a culture defines itself.

– Integral to one’s Worldview* are certain cultural stories, myths and ideas

  • g. America – the story of freedom, independence, of heroism, etc. stemming from the War of Independence, and the Frontier mentality
  • g. Quebec – “I remember” a story of defeat, oppression, “but we will rise again!” a story of country values, religious abuse, liberty and independence
  • g. WWII, “Lest we forget” – our society remembers the dangers of: fascism, dictatorship, science to an extreme, the horrors of war, and especially racism

– At times, these stories can directly conflict with the gospel message

  • g. “Religion just causes war” – based on the 30-years war, and the Peace of Westphalia (now forgotten, but the lessons are not)
  • g. “Evolution has disproven Christianity” – based on the Scopes “Monkey Trials”

– The task of the apologist is to re-cast these stories

  • Sometimes, we simply need to repent of the sins of our fathers
  • Often we need to distinguish between the message of Jesus/the Bible, and the actual practice of Christians (e.g. Divorce, crusades)
  • Very often, stories are based on real historical events, but are distorted in the retelling. The apologist must learn some of the real history that lies behind such events as the Scopes Trial, Galileo’s imprisonment, the Crusades & Inquisitions, the Nicene Creed, and Jesus’ earthly life in order to educate people who ask questions about the faith

 

 

DEFINITION 6:

Apologetics is war

Apologetics is an intellectual war, fought on the battlefield of ideas, against Satan, his demons, and people they have deceived. At stake are the souls of humans, as well as the future direction of society.

  • 2 Cor. 10:5

 

As warfare, we must be prepared for spiritual attack.

  • We must “put on the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:10-18).
  • We must stay close to God in all aspects of our lives (family, work, sex, play, entertainment, exercise, devotions, friendships, money). Attempts to compartmentalize and allow God only into certain areas of our lives will make us weak and vulnerable
  • We must avoid, at all costs, putting ourselves in positions of isolation, sin, weakness and vulnerability. Satan is like a roaring lion, which takes full advantage of such opportunities. (1 Peter 5:8)

o   (example: Wandering into an atheist chat-room at 1:30 AM when you are bored, half-asleep and perhaps already somewhat out of fellowship with God…is asking for disaster! Rather, be alert, prepared, and calculating in your apologetics.)

 

As spiritual warfare, apologetics is like the “queen of the sciences”

  • Just as a general must dabble in virtually all of the sciences (philosophy, history, mathematics, trigonometry, biology, etc.) in order to win, so apologetics branches out to most of the major branches of science, including:

o   Archaeology, history, ethics, philosophy, anthropology, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, etc.

o   One cannot master everything: but our class will take us into and out of various disciplines, and provide a basic understanding of each, and how they relate to the question of defending the Christian religion

 

 

 

APOLOGETICS: WHY NOT?

Some will object that apologetics is unnecessary or even dangerous. Here is a summary of some of the critiques of Apologetics, and some responses.

 

  1. Apologetics makes people smug and arrogant
  2. Apologetics is not spiritual enough
  3. We should preach Christ, not philosophy!
  4. Apologetics is dangerous
  5. (Academic) Natural Theology is impossible
  6. (Academic) Systematic Theology is “Modern” and thus Outdated

 

Throughout this section, we will notice that these objections come rom very real dangers. Behind every critique of Apologetics is a valid pit-fall that we must be aware of and guard against.
 

  1. Apologetics makes people smug and arrogant
  • This is a real danger! Especially online where social media and chat-rooms tend to bring out the worst in us
  • 1 Peter 3:15 concludes, “…yet with gentleness and meekness.”a-li4l46zcmp1omgqrvxj40hmasuqcpgcmhief5kq1a

o   Gentleness/meekness = πραΰ́της (prautes)

  • Mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness (Thayer)
  • mildness, that is, (by implication) humility: – meekness. (Strong’s)

o   Respect = φόβος (phobos)

  • (to be put in fear); alarm or fright: – be afraid, + exceedingly, fear, terror. (Strongs): by implication, can mean “respect”
  • Commentators are divided as to the precise meaning of this word: some see it as a command to Fear God, others see it as motivating us with a fear of failure.
  • I prefer the NASB translation: respect.

ú  Respect people’s stories, their journeys, their struggles, their hearts

ú  Treat with holy reverence the vulnerability they give, when they ask you why you have hope

  • Elders aught not to be argumentative (1 Tim. 3:3, Tit. 1:7)

o   It is a fact often overlooked that one of the essential qualifications of an elder is that they be, “…not argumentative…”

  • πλήκτης (plektes)
  • 1) bruiser, ready for a blow
  • 2) a pugnacious, contentious, quarrelsome person (Thayer)
  • We aught to be ready to give gentle, respectful, intellectual response when people ask us about our faith: but we must guard against an argumentative spirit, which is a sign of spiritual brokenness (cf. “…he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions…” 1 Tim. 6:3-5)
  • On a Christian-atheist website one day, I noticed that one of the atheists had chosen as his tag-line a paraphrased quote by Maya Angelou, “I will probably forget most of what you say. But I will never forget how you made me feel.” That really stuck with me!
  • In our text, William Lane Craig points out that being prepared with good answers when people ask often allows us to have a calm, reasoned answer: it is when we are flustered, confused and unprepared that conversations tend to get heated.
  • (segway) “But isn’t Apologetics just an argument about words (2 Tim. 2:14, tit. 3:9), rather than “spiritual talk” about the Bible and the Spirit?

 

 

  1. Apologetics is not spiritual enough
  • TRUTH: like theology, and any other mental discipline, it is possible to retreat from one’s heart, from relationships, from the world, and even from God into an unbalanced pursuit of truth.

o   While such devotion in mathematics, biology, etc. may produce very good fruit, such one-sidedness in Theology, Apologetics and related disciplines has a long history of creating a dry, dusty, academic and soul-killing faith

o   This is a real danger to avoid!

o   However, one does not avoid an extreme by being extreme in the opposite direction: rather, we must find and work out of a holistic place of balance, connection and vitality.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. We must preach Christ, not philosophy
  2. 1 Corinthians 1:18, Colossians 2:8

apologetics-done-wrongTRUTH: Philosophy and worldly wisdom is a continual, seductive danger for the Church, especially those in academia

Some of the most pernicious strains of heresy (Arianism, Modernity, Liberalism) were incubated in academic circles, often with the explicit intention of reaching the lost for Christ. Q. How do we avoid following this same pattern?

  1. In every preaching of the gospel, there will always be a “stumbling-stone,” or a point of offense. This will be in a different place for each culture and sub-culture. We aught to be wise about how we approach such “friction points” between Christ and culture. We need to carefully build a “bridge” from where people are to where God is. But we can never hide from the offense of presenting the full Gospel. This will usually cause ridicule, rejection and even persecution.

Remember, Jesus sends us out like sheep in the midst of wolves, instructing us to be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves. (Mat. 10:16)

This discipline is what is meant by, “Sanctifying Christ as Lord in your heart.” (1 Peter 3:15)

BUT: right thinking is not incompatible with spiritual vitality

We are commanded to love the Lord with our minds, as well as our hearts and bodies (Mat. 22:37, Mk. 12:30, Lk. 10:27)

We are commanded to be “mature” in our thinking, as opposed to infantile (Eph. 4:14)

Right thinking is much more necessary, in our intellectually advanced society, where so many objections and religious alternatives exist

 

APOLOGETICS: WHY?

Why do we need apologetics?

 

  1. Because we are living on a mission field

As North America follows Europe in it’s rapid secularization, we can no longer assume that people have a Judeo-Christian framework to understand our words

Our culture has a very powerful, distinct, and diverse culture

Those raised in church culture are often quite disconnected from contemporary cultures and sub-cultures

It is thus no exaggeration to say that the voyage across the street to share the gospel may at times represent as much of a cross-cultural experience as a voyage overseas: in some cases, the cultural differences will be even more striking at home

Thus, in the same way that we need “Cultural Hermeneutics” and missions training in order to understand a culture, and contextualize the gospel overseas, we need the same process and tools at home

 

  1. Because Christianity is under attack

With forces such as New Atheism, Liberalism, and other religions at work, Christianity receives an almost constant barrage of critiques and objections.

 

  1. To reach men, students & professionals, and to keep our youth

I want to assure readers that this section does not represent a sexist bias on the part of the teacher.

It is a statistically determined fact that certain genders and demographics find church less interesting. Many church-growth experts (yes, there is such a thing) have written extensively on the problem of how to keep men (especially young, single males) in church. Other problem demographics include students and professionals.

It has been observed that apologetics:

  1. Often attracts many of these demographics
  2. May have a positive effect on keeping these demographics from leaving churches.

Many churches invest a lot of resources into outreach – as well they should. But they aught also to consider that as much as 70% of their youth will at some point leave church. Some will never return. In fact, tomorrow’s “lost” are sitting in the pews today. If we can answer some of their questions now, they may never leave.

 

APOLOGETICS: How?

Note: in a high-level class on apologetics, definitions like this would be very important. Don’t worry – this information won’t be on “the exam”! (There is no exam) However, it will be helpful to you, just to know what is out there.

 

Directions of Apologetics

In professional debates (e.g. in a legal situation, in a debater’s club, or in presenting and defending a thesis in education), there is a “positive” and a “negative” stance. Stated differently, there is an “offence” and a “defense.”ec4f2ade-835f-4a64-a8d6-8b50c583cc3d-1-2048x1536-oriented

The positive stance

– A person defending a “positive stance” in debate is making a claim.

  • g. “Pepsi is better than Coke.”

– (Normally, the person presenting a positive case goes first in a professional debate)

– Now, being in the positive stance is hard work. Why? Because in the positive stance, one “bears the burden of proof.” In other words, one must prove the assertion they have made.

73169dbf-02d1-4fff-aa52-76723a5b8e8e-1-2048x1536-oriented

 

The negative stance

– A person presenting a negative stance will attempt to disprove a positive statement. (E.g. “What do you mean Pepsi is better than Coke?”)

– The person presenting a negative argument does not bear the burden of proof. Rather, their job is to push the burden of proof back onto the person in the positive position, and to attempt to disprove his assertion (E.g. “Who says Pepsi is better than Coke? Prove it!”) The person in the positive position must now back up his assertion with evidence, or admit that he was wrong.

 

Clarifications:

– If it helps, you can think of the positive as the “prosecution” and the negative as the “defense” in a legal situation

– It is very important to remember that when in the negative/defensive role, one does not bear the burden of proof. It is up to the other party to prove their claim. If they do not succeed in proving their claim, they lose the argument. Similar to “innocent until proven guilty.”

– If a person in a negative/defensive position makes a claim of their own, then they have taken on a burden of proof of their own. (e.g. “No, I think that Coke is better than Pepsi!”) Now they too must bear the burden of proof.

– A skilled debater can sometimes shift the burden of proof. (e.g. “Well, everyone knows Pepsi is better than Coke. What? You don’t think so? Why not?”)

 

Apologetics: Positive & Negative
The same categories apply in Apologetics, and are termed “positive” and “negative” apologetics. More commonly, they can be referred to as “offensive” and “defensive” apologetics.

 

80a75453-677a-414d-a4e3-1b698e37bb4c-1-2048x1536-orientedDefensive Apologetics

– In our culture, people attack religion and Christianity all of the time: defensive apologetics is being ready to “defend” the faith against such ideas

– Most of this class will deal with defensive apologetics

 

 

Offensive Apologetics97f73802-f5b4-4cd0-9f2f-9541d722f069-1-2048x1536-oriented

– At times, it is appropriate for Christians to point out that the alternative worldviews (Atheism, Islam, New-Age, Secularism) are bankrupt, or inferior to Christianity

– This will entail “going on the offensive” to prove their insufficiency

– Presuppositional Apologetics (the subject of our next class) is offensive apologetics

– This sort of apologetics is much harder to do well, and should be avoided, if defensive apologetics can be used instead, or if one is not prepared to back up their beliefs: a failure to win one’s case often counts (in the minds of those who hear and debate) as a loss for God/the Gospel. Be careful what you claim, and don’t bite off more than you can chew!

 

 

 

Apologetic Methods

In addition to the two basic stances – offensive & defensive – there are at least five major methods for doing apologetics. As mentioned before, definitions like this won’t be a major concern in this course: but it’s important to know what is out there, and how different people approach the same material.

 

There are five basic Apologetic Methods:

 

The Classical Method

The Evidential Method

The Cumulative Case Method

The Presuppositional Method

The Reformed Epistemology Approach

 

The Classical Method

– Classical Apologetics begins by using Natural Theology* to prove that God exists (against Atheism)

– Further proofs from science, history, the Bible, logic, etc. are then used to prove that Jesus exists, and that Christianity, rather than another religion, is the true one

– This is the basic methodology of William Lane Craig in our text, and it is the format we will be loosely following in our class

 

The Evidential Method

– Evidential Apologetics seeks to prove Christianity through a collection of proofs or evidences for Christianity

– Evidential Apologetics resembles the Classical Method, but is more eclectic and situation oriented

– I find this method helpful in conversation, as it follows more naturally the natural progression of dialogue and conversation

 

The Cumulative Case Method

– As Josh McDowell did in his famous, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” this method seeks to find a large amount of proofs for Christianity, and present them together to utilize the strength of a cumulative argument

 

The Presuppositional Method

Emphasizing that without God, no thought is possible (or, “All Truth is God’s Truth!”), presuppositionalists begin by stating:

  1. The Christian worldview works
  2. No other worldview really makes sense

After having established that Christianity is the only workable worldview, Presuppositionalists either:

  1. Conclude that the battle is won, or
  2. Move on to another method to further prove the rightness of Christianity

Cornelius Van Til and Francis Schaeffer are two famous examples

I find this method extremely useful in teaching Apologetics to Christians or to very dedicated seekers. It is a very powerful way of creating a solid foundation for thought. Lecture 2 will be a presuppositional presentation.

However, I find this method is limited in it’s usefulness, since:

  1. It involves an audaciously large claim (aka that only Christian Theism succeeds as a worldview)
  2. This claim is difficult to make in normal conversation, just due to time constraints
  3. This view is hard to present or to receive without some background in philosophy
  4. Many people in our culture will not even give it a hearing, since it comes across as so arrogant

 

The Reformed Epistemology Approach

– This approach believes that the other methods grant too much to skeptics: why should the Christians always build a positive case and thus bear the burden of proof*?

– The Apologists claim that the presence of the Holy Spirit within them gives them direct access to God. (In technical language, “The internal witness of the Holy Spirit gives them a ‘properly basic’ belief that God exists”) Thus, the burden of proof* is on anyone who claims that God does not exist.

– This view is newer in the scene of apologetics: it gets its name because proponents claim they see it at work in some of the Reformed writers.

– The beauty of this approach is that it shifts the burden of proof* onto critics of Christianity. By claiming that the existence of God is self-evident, and accessible to every person through the Holy Spirit, these apologists force critics to make a positive case against Christianity.

– This step is important because it is always easier to take a “negative” stance than a “positive” stance

 

More than a model, a system, I find this view extremely helpful as a reminder. No matter what ideas are presented to us in culture or science, we do have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit within us. Let us not let go of that. And in a storm, let’s hold tight to our anchor.

 


TALK ABOUT IT:

 

Anti-intellectualism. Have you experienced an anti-intellectual attitude in your faith tradition? In yourself? What was its motivation? What does the Bible say about this issue?

 

 

 

 

Questions: What are some of the most difficult questions nonbelievers have raised? What are some of the most common? Make a list. (This will help you for your major assignment) Have a look at the class outline to help you think of more questions.

 

 

 

 

Stumbling Stones: Where are the “friction points” between the Gospel and our culture? Where are people selling out? What is the cost to Christian doctrine, and to Christianity if people compromise on these issues?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opponents: What are some of the major opponents of Christianity that you see? How have they touched you personally?

 

A Tale of Three “-ities”

File 2016-04-02, 5 25 25 PMPost-modernity, Modernity & Pre-Modernity.

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this sermon, please subscribe to my sermons podcast in iTunes. You may also want to follow my theology podcast, my YouTube channel, or my Twitter. Thank you, and God bless!

Can we evaluate worldviews?

In what sense can we say a worldview is better than another?

 

File 2016-04-02, 5 25 25 PM

 

 

If you enjoyed this sermon, please subscribe to my sermons podcast in iTunes. You may also want to follow my theology podcast, my YouTube channel, or my Twitter. Thank you, and God bless!

Dawkins & the Genetic Fallacy

I learned of God from my parents. Does that make my beliefs invalid?

3-dawkins-ravi-born-india-meme-fixed-third-hindu

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this sermon, please subscribe to my sermons podcast in iTunes. You may also want to follow my theology podcast, my YouTube channel, or my Twitter. Thank you, and God bless!

What is a Worldview?

File 2016-04-02, 5 25 25 PMA brief introduction to the important concept of “worldview.”

 

 

If you enjoyed this sermon, please subscribe to my sermons podcast in iTunes. You may also want to follow my theology podcast, my YouTube channel, or my Twitter. Thank you, and God bless!