A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

What is one of the best ways to prepare for explaining and defending Christianity’s truth claims? I suggest that tapping into the wisdom of historic Christianity’s greatest thinkers is one such way.

As I pointed out in parts 1234, and 5 of this series, the term apologia sophia (Gk: ἀπολογία σοφία) transliterates the Greek word endings and roughly translates to “apologetics wisdom.” In this final installment, I hope to give more practical advice (even genuine wisdom) that you can use in your apologetic engagements.

One of my chief aims when I teach students either at Biola University (for a master’s in apologetics program) or in my role as an RTB scholar, is that students of apologetics appropriately ground their defense of the faith in the biblical and orthodox theology of historic Christianity. Apologetics needs to be tightly connected to theology. After all, throughout church history apologetics was viewed as a branch of theology.

Thus, I strongly recommend that students read classic apologetics works that have a strong theological emphasis. In part 5 of this series I listed and described three classic theologically oriented texts. Here are three more.

Theologically Oriented Apologetics Classics

1. On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius

As the title conveys, Athanasius’s (ca. 296–373) book explains and defends the incarnation of Christ against heretical attacks. Athanasius affirms that the essence of Christianity is found Jesus’s claims to be God in human flesh (a single person with both a divine and a human nature). During Athanasius’s lifetime, the influential Arian heresy challenged the incarnation. Arius of Alexandria (ca. 256–336) taught that Christ (the Son) was not truly equal to the Father in nature; rather, he was a created being. In On the Incarnation, Athanasius argues for the truth of the incarnation and indirectly argues against the Arian heresy by insisting that only the God-man (God in human flesh) can save human beings.

2. The City of God by St. Augustine

Augustine wrote in excess of 5 million words over his scholarly career, which makes him the most prolific ancient author. The City of God (Latin: De civitate Dei), written intermittently between AD 413 and 427, is considered to be Augustine’s scholarly masterpiece. The City of God stands as Augustine’s monumental analysis of world-and-life-view. It is his longest (more than a thousand pages) and most comprehensive work, and some people believe it’s his most significant contribution to Western thought. In this book, Augustine laid new foundations in the fields of Christian apologetics and worldview and in the analysis of Christian history.

3. Cur Deus Homo by St. Anselm

Cur Deus Homo is a work of philosophical theology in which St. Anselm (1033–1109) attempts to provide an explanation for possibly the greatest Christian mystery of all (as the Latin title asks): “Why the God-Man?” Anselm lays out a theological theory for why it was necessary for God to become man in Jesus Christ and for the Son of God to suffer. This idea becomes a rational defense of the necessity of the incarnation in light of the atonement. Anselm’s theological conclusion is that only the God-Man can make the necessary payment to restore God’s honor and humankind’s relationship with God. Because Jesus Christ is God, he has the dignity and glory to carry out the task, but he performs it in the nature of a human being. Thus, the incarnate Christ appeases God’s honor and justice.

Reading and studying these three classic books will definitely help apologists ground their apologetic efforts in the richness of historic Christian theology and Scripture. As the Word of God exhorts: “For he [Paul] vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah” (Acts 18:28).

Reflections: Your Turn

Have you read the three Christian classics above? What other Christian classics have you read? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources:

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About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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