Lord’s Library contributor George Baxa created this resource to offer a brief introduction to systematic theology and apologetics for new Christians.
As believers, we walk by faith, living our lives in light of eternity. Our lives are different, we look to a sure future while holding lightly to this world. We should be setting aside the grasping and self-focus, standing out as lights in a darkened world. Around us are people, though, who look to experts for what to believe, how to live, and how to interact. Pundits provide sound bites which shape views, often seeing acceptance supported by the prominence of the speaker. None wish to pull back the curtain and reveal the true nature of their knowledge.
To us the privilege falls to lovingly and humbly remove the mental blinders placed on those around us, working as the instruments of the Holy Spirit.
Systematic theology is defined by Charles Ryrie as a correlation of “data of biblical revelation as a whole order to exhibit systematically the total picture of God’s self-revelation.” Norman Geisler defines Systematic Theology as “an attempt to construct a comprehensive and consistent whole out of all revelation from God, whether special (Biblical) or general (natural revelation).” Apologetics, per Geisler, “deals with the protection of Christian theology from external attacks.”
Systematic Theology and Apologetics
All Christians are commanded to go and make disciples, through the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As recorded in Matthew 28:19, the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples on an undisclosed mountain in Galilee to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” in Matthew 28:19: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
Christ defines the scope of teaching in verse 20, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Peter, in 1 Peter 3:15, commands that the Christian “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” Groothius shows that this text is the command for all Christians to engage in Apologetics in his work Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Guide for Biblical Faith.
From this Scriptural standpoint, to teach those that do not truly understand the Word of God or people to whom the Bible is a completely alien concept, the apologist must have the ability, as Geisler states in his definition of systematic theology, to “construct a comprehensive and consistent whole” from all revelation of God. Additionally, having a comprehensive and complete whole allows the apologist to discuss alternative world views. The use of systematic theology will help the apologist support the existence of a Moral Lawgiver when faced with a “moral” Atheist.
Understanding the holiness and uniqueness of God allows the apologist to demonstrate the flaws in the polytheist or pantheist worldviews.
Having a solid understanding of the true nature of God (Theology), Man (Anthropology), Man’s sin (Hamartiology), and man’s offered redemption through Christ (Soteriology) will give the apologist the humble spirit and loving demeanor Peter outlines in 1 Peter 3:15 for the Christian apologist to use when presenting hope. While Apologetics is used to defend the faith from the external attacks of those who do not value the Word of God, the apologist must be outfitted through the study and knowledge of systematic theology. Properly outfitted, the apologist, as led by the Holy Spirit, will have the framework to answer the philosophical, historical, and scientific challenges to the faith the outsider will bring.
Apologetics is not evangelism in and of itself. One can demonstrate superior knowledge and provide a convincing, supported argument, yet leave the audience agreeing but not changed. Salvation is a change of the heart, not of the mind. Yet in our information-saturated world, a Christian can remove the mental challenges which are being used to turn a deaf ear to the conviction of the Spirit. We must love the Lord with all of our hearts and our minds, and in doing so, serve Him in the Commission He has given us.
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- A Brief Introduction to Systematic Theology and Apologetics - March 20, 2023