How Is Apologetics Bringing Christians Together?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

One of the largest blemishes on Christianity is the number of different denominations. Just among Protestants, there are dozens of major denominations and hundreds of smaller denominations around the world. And, of course, there are Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches as well. What does apologetics (defense of the Christian faith) have to do with denominations?

As a defender of Christianity, the very first thing you have to answer for yourself is this: what Christianity am I defending? It’s pretty difficult to defend something that you can’t describe.

I attend a Southern Baptist church, but when I started studying apologetics 10 years ago, I quickly came to realize that to defend the Southern Baptist denomination was not what I was called to do.

What I needed to defend was orthodox Christianity – the traditional, historical faith that was established during the first 500 years of the church, and codified in the ecumenical councils held during that time period. This is the Christianity that every major Christian group points back to in one way or another. As my seminary professor Norman Geisler once wrote, “Unity among all major sections of Christendom is found in the statement: One Bible, two testaments, three confessions, four councils, and five centuries.”

This is exactly the approach C. S. Lewis took in all of his apologetic writings. He always wrote about what he called “Mere Christianity.” Lewis had no interest in diving into the in-house debates among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. His was a calling to defend the common doctrines that all of these groups held sacred.

As I’ve studied apologetics, I’ve read numerous non-Baptist scholars, including quite a few Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox thinkers. Every one of these men and woman do their utmost to enunciate mere Christianity to the non-Christian world. I guarantee that if I hadn’t been studying apologetics, I would not have been exposed to such a wide range of Christians outside my denomination.

If you’ve ever been to an apologetics conference, you’ve probably noticed the way that Christians from every denomination mingle and network without thinking twice. We don’t wear name tags that label our denominations. It never comes up, honestly.

I believe that Christian apologetics can be a powerful force that unifies all Christians around the essentials of our faith. When we truly focus on what is central, on what is at the heart of our faith, we find that many of our differences seem less important.

Are we ready to drop all of our differences and unite as one visible church? No. There are real and substantial disagreements to be worked out. But the apologists are at the forefront, whether we know it or not, of a global movement to unify around mere Christianity. I am really excited about that and I hope you are, too.

  • nfq

    This is an interesting and complex point. When I talk to Christian friends and acquaintances in person, they seem ready to defend why their denomination is a better interpretation of scripture than other denominations (e.g. to tell me why they are Lutheran instead of Methodist or Catholic or what have you), much more than they are willing to talk about Christianity vs., say, Islam or vs. nonbelief. I see lots of (what looks to me like) squabbling over these points that differentiate denominations — even here, you had a post recently about how the “prosperity gospel” is disproven by the book of Job, and I’m sure members of those denominations that preach those teachings can counter with plenty of biblical citations of their own. And it does seem like the fact that there are tens of thousands of different ways to be Christian is a meaningful problem for the apologist — even if you can provide a good reason to think the Bible specifically is true or that any god exists (which I haven’t seen yet), it’s hard to know what to do about that information if even Christians can’t sort it out among themselves.

  • sean

    I find your statement about “One Bible, two testaments, three confessions, four councils, and five centuries” very interesting, as it suggests the the first five centuries hold the most truth. Yet you point to English translations of Greek rather than learning Greek (to my knowledge) that were created after these five centuries. You reject something like the Gospel of Judas, a gospel that would make sense of the contradiction found in the betrayal that what wholly necessary to allow you into God’s circle here on Earth. (Unless you are of Jewish decent on your mother’s side)

    Fill me in here. I wouldn’t think as a Protestant you’d not listen to the pope yet turn on your blinders to what some council that wasn’t in direct communication with God decided what made the most sense to them and which gospels to accept. What am I missing?

  • The three confessions, four councils, and five centuries only hold sway because they are based on one Bible and two testaments. It was during this time period that the church grappled with what was taught in the Old Testament and what was taught by Jesus and his disciples that was captured in the New Testament.

    Certainly there is more truth to be had after the first five centuries, but the doctrines and creeds that came from those centuries reflect agreements among all of the major Christian groups around today.

    Regarding the Gospel of Judas, it’s a late forgery that has nothing credible to say about Jesus’s life. That’s why I don’t care too much about it.

  • sean

    Gotcha, thanks.

  • Simon

    Why is only the first 500 years of Christianity considered universal for you? The last ecumenical council was held in 8th century.

  • Pingback: mid-week apologetics booster (2-4-2016) – 1 Peter 4:12-16()