Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word "apologetics" derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense.

Do You Believe the Whole Gospel?

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  • Do You Believe the Whole Gospel?

    Unbelief. This one word expresses the judgment Emil Brunner, the Swiss “crisis theologian,” used to describe nineteenth-century liberal theology. The rise of such liberalism was a conscious synthesis between naturalism in the world of philosophy and historic Christianity. Liberalism sought to de-supernaturalize the Christian faith and to restrict the modern significance of Jesus and the New Testament to ethical considerations, particularly with respect to the needs of human beings, and especially with respect to their material needs.

    This provoked a significant dilemma for the organized church, first in Europe and then in America. If an institution repudiates the very foundation upon which it is built and for which it exists, what happens to the billions of dollars worth of church property and its numerous ordained professionals? The clergy were left with nothing to preach except social concerns. In order to maintain a reason for the continued existence of Christianity as an organized religion, nineteenth-century liberalism turned to a new gospel, dubbed the “social gospel.” This was a gospel that focused on considerations of humanitarianism and had at the core of its agenda a commitment to “social justice.”

    The use of the term “social justice” involved an ironic twisting of words. What was in view in this philosophy was basically the redistribution of wealth, following the template of socialism. The false assumption of this so-called social justice was that material wealth can be gained only by means of the exploitation of the poor. Ergo, for a society to be just, the wealth must be redistributed by government authority. In reality, this so-called social justice degenerated into social injustice, where penalties were levied on those who were legitimately productive and non-productivity was rewarded — a bizarre concept of justice indeed.

    The rise in importance of the social gospel provoked a controversy known in church history as the “modernist-fundamentalist controversy,” which raged in the early years of the twentieth century. This controversy witnessed an unholy dichotomy between two poles of Christian concern. On the one hand, there was the classic concern of personal redemption accomplished by Christ through His atoning death on the cross, which brought reconciliation for those who put their trust in Jesus. On the other hand there was the consideration of the material well-being of human beings in this world right now. It included the consideration of clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and caring for the poor.

    Many evangelicals at this period in history, in order to preserve the central significance of the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, gave renewed emphasis to evangelism. In many cases, this emphasis upon evangelism was done to the exclusion of the other pole of biblical concern, namely, mercy ministry to those who were poor, afflicted, and suffering. So glaring was the dichotomy between liberal and evangelical concerns that, sadly, many evangelicals began to distance themselves from any involvement in mercy ministries, lest their activities be construed as a surrender to liberalism.

    The fallacy of the false dilemma takes two important truths and forces one to choose between them. The assumption of the either/or fallacy is that of two particular matters, only one is true while the other is false; therefore, one is required to choose between the true and the false. The either/or fallacy that stood before the church in this period was either the gospel of personal redemption or the gospel of social concern for the material welfare of human beings.

    Even a cursory reading of the New Testament, however, makes it clear that the concerns of Jesus and of the New Testament writers cannot be reduced to an either/or dilemma. The problem with this fallacy, as with all fallacies, is that truth becomes severely distorted. The New Testament does not allow for this false dilemma. The choice that the church has is never between personal salvation and mercy ministry. It is rather a both/and proposition. Neither pole can be properly swallowed by the other. To reduce Christianity either to a program of social welfare or to a program of personal redemption results in a truncated gospel that is a profound distortion.

    Historically, before the outbreak of nineteenth-century liberalism, the church did not seem to struggle with this false dichotomy. For centuries, the church understood her task as both to proclaim the saving gospel of the atoning work of Christ and, at the same time, to follow Jesus’ example of ministry to the blind, to the deaf, to the imprisoned, to the hungry, to the homeless, and to the poor. The ministry of the church, if it is to be healthy, must always be firmly committed to both dimensions of the biblical mandate, that we may be faithful to Christ Himself. If we reject either the ministry of personal redemption or of mercy to the afflicted, we express “unbelief.”

    Source: Do You Believe the Whole Gospel?

  • #2
    The 'whole' Gospel -- believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the cross , was buried and rose again on the 3rd day for our sins. John 3:16. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And our neighbor as our self." We generally take good care of ourselves. We Ought to be taking care of others the same way.

    Maybe it's the rise of evolutionary thought. If 'we' are Not a special creation of God's -- but simply a 'by-chance' happenstance of nature then why Be caring about another 'by-chance happenstance of nature'.

    Maybe there are too many government agencies?!
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Sue D. View Post
      Maybe it's the rise of evolutionary thought. If 'we' are Not a special creation of God's -- but simply a 'by-chance' happenstance of nature then why Be caring about another 'by-chance happenstance of nature'.
      Scientific theories can neither increase nor decrease the human capacity for empathy. Furthermore, we are special in God's eyes, if and only if he thinks we are. Evolution has nothing to do with it.

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      • #4
        The rise in liberal theology in the nineteenth century was the result of a loss of self belief on the part of theologians. The ability of the physical sciences to deliver all sorts of material benefits led to their rapidly rising prestige, with a corresponding loss of prestige on the part of something which had nothing new or exciting to offer. In that situation, theologians started casting around for ways to make themselves "relevant" again, and they are still at it. The paradox is that they succeeded only in making themselves irrelevant. After all, who is going to interest themselves in a Church which has nothing to offer, except a pale reflection of the secular world people are already well familiar with?
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        • #5
          Some people are not especially empathetic. John 3:16 says 'For God so loved the world..... and 'every hair on our head is numbered' and He wants us to take our cares and worries to Him because He cares for us." So apparently He Does think we are special.

          But there are plenty of people in Society who have no sense of people being anything special. That mankind are simply an extension of the animal world. So - in their eyes -- we are all here for the time being and then die and go back to dust Period. The Gospel has no meaning to them.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by ThyWordisTruth View Post
            The rise in liberal theology in the nineteenth century was the result of a loss of self belief on the part of theologians. The ability of the physical sciences to deliver all sorts of material benefits led to their rapidly rising prestige, with a corresponding loss of prestige on the part of something which had nothing new or exciting to offer. In that situation, theologians started casting around for ways to make themselves "relevant" again, and they are still at it. The paradox is that they succeeded only in making themselves irrelevant. After all, who is going to interest themselves in a Church which has nothing to offer, except a pale reflection of the secular world people are already well familiar with?
            You've got a point -- with your last comment. Why Should the secular world bother with the religious world if 'we' don't live any differently than They do. "Doing' church is Supposed to make a positive difference. And that's what people are looking for -- that "something different'" And 'science' is representative of 'intellectualism'.

            Maybe if born-again believers would start Acting like we're supposed to act. Be the people we're Supposed to be. Through Christ. Maybe they'd be able to see a Positive difference.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Sue D. View Post

              You've got a point -- with your last comment. Why Should the secular world bother with the religious world if 'we' don't live any differently than They do. "Doing' church is Supposed to make a positive difference. And that's what people are looking for -- that "something different'" And 'science' is representative of 'intellectualism'.

              Maybe if born-again believers would start Acting like we're supposed to act. Be the people we're Supposed to be. Through Christ. Maybe they'd be able to see a Positive difference.
              I doubt if that is the point. You can doubtless find atheists who lead "christian lives" in the broadest sense of the term. What the Church needs to offer, in order to deserve anybody's attention, is an alternative account of what ultimate reality looks like.
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              • #8
                Originally posted by ThyWordisTruth View Post

                I doubt if that is the point. You can doubtless find atheists who lead "christian lives" in the broadest sense of the term. What the Church needs to offer, in order to deserve anybody's attention, is an alternative account of what ultimate reality looks like.


                And what would this 'alternative account' be?!
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Sue D. View Post
                  And what would this 'alternative account' be?!
                  You mean you don't know? That there is a God, who created all things, and to whom we are responsible. That it is in serving him that human existence is given its meaning.

                  Something other than "one damn thing after another," in other words.
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                  • #10
                    Okay -- we agree -- mostly -- your last sentence "one thing after another' -- what do you mean by That part.

                    Serving Jesus Christ, yes.

                    We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Spiritual growth. How is That accomplished.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sue D. View Post
                      Okay -- we agree -- mostly -- your last sentence "one thing after another' -- what do you mean by That part.
                      I mean the humdrum world of the everyday. One day just following another, with no rythm nor reason to it, and then, finally, death to bring a pointless end to a pointless life.

                      The Church needs to be able to communicate the truth that there is something beyond the humdrum. Otherwise it is denying the rationale for its very existence.
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                      • #12
                        Yes, the Church Does need to communicate That truth. The Church is the pastor / priest and the people are a product of a Society that operates on 'self' gratification. Maybe turn from 'self' to God. What would Jesus do in a given situation.

                        What does 'following Christ' look like in daily life? A lot of life Is the humdrum world of the everyday 'stuff' -- taking out the garbage -- going to school / work -- lots of Routine 'stuff'. So - what Can the individual do about that.
                        What makes life feel 'pointless'. Do we have a goal to work towards? What about the concept of 'eternal life'. There are passages that talk about the crowns that a person can look forward to in heaven. Laying our crowns at the feet of Jesus. Learning from God's Word and sharing that with others. Getting together to fellowship with other believers on a regular basis.

                        Thought-provoking
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