HUGH’S NEWS & VIEWS
I AM AN APOLOGIST
According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, an apology is “an acknowledgment expressing regret or asking pardon for a fault or offense.” To apologize is “to make excuse for or regretful acknowledgement of a fault or offense.” On the other hand, according to the same authority, an apologist is “a person who argues in defense or justification of another person or cause.” An apologia is “a formal defense or justification.” Apologetics (which is plural in form, but used with a singular verb), is defined as “the branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christianity.”
In his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W. E. Vine defines the Greek word apologia as “a verbal defence, a speech in defence, [and] is sometimes translated ‘answer’ in the A. V.” (King James Version of 1611). Vine then cites several passages in which this Greek word is used. [Note: “Defence” is the spelling in Vine’s work.]
Every Christian should be able to give an apologia (an answer, a defense) for his/her faith and hope. The apostle Peter says as much when he writes, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense (answer, KJV; ASV) to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15). (The word “answer” or “defense” in this text is apologia in the original Greek New Testament.)
While it is the responsibility of every Christian to be an apologist for the Way of Christ, it is especially incumbent upon preachers of the gospel and elders of the church to be able to defend the faith of the gospel. Paul affirmed that he was “set (appointed) for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:17). Among the qualifications of elders (pastors/shepherds, bishops/overseers) is that of “holding fast to the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9), meaning those who teach contrary to the sound doctrine of God’s word.
In compliance with these demands and expectations, I strive diligently to be an apologist for God and the truth of His word. Through sermons, Bible classes, the written word (including these “News & Views” essays), as well as my manner of life (Philippians 1:27), I endeavor to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
I have been charged by some of my liberal/progressive brethren of being an apologist for a narrow, sectarian viewpoint. I deny that charge, and affirm that my only desire is to defend the gospel of Christ, with all that the gospel entails. Dr. Cecil May, Jr. has perceptively observed,
“The biblical definition of Christ’s church is ‘the saved,’ ‘the redeemed.’ Every saved person, every one born of water and [the] Spirit (John 3:5), is a citizen of His kingdom, is added to His church, is a member of His body. If we used the phrase ‘church of Christ’ exclusively with that biblical meaning we would clear up a lot of confusion, both in the religious world and in our own thinking. What is narrow or sectarian about recognizing that all saved persons are in the church because God both saved them and added them?” (Magnolia Messenger, Winter 2013, p. 16).
That is precisely what I contend for—the undenominational, non-sectarian body of Christ, His church as defined by and portrayed in the New Testament!
It is my progressive brethren who are intent on turning the autonomous churches/congregations of Christ into a modern day, Johnny-come-lately denomination, “arising out of the Stone-Campbell Movement of the early 19th century.” They seem to think that if enough of our scholars and enough of our historians will keep speaking of the church in terms of a denomination (i.e., our movement, our fellowship, our tradition, Church of Christ people, Churches of Christ congregations, etc., etc.), such denominational thinking and terminology will rub off on the rest of us and we will throw in the towel with reference to the plea to be undenominational and admit that we, too, are a denomination.
But that is not going to happen as long as people read and study their Bibles and are content to be governed by the Scriptures alone. There is still a large number of us who are apologists for simple, apostolic Christianity, for the undenominational church of which we read in the New Testament and which exists anywhere in the world that the seed of the kingdom, the word of God (Luke 8:11), has been preached and received in its purity!
I am proud to be an apologist for the New Testament order of things. I am not ashamed of the plea for people to return to the New Testament alone as the only standard of religious authority, to be a Christian only, and to be the undenominational church so beautifully described on the pages of the New Testament! I would be afraid to be ashamed and ashamed to be afraid!
“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). So said our Lord!
January 28, 2014