Studying Apologetics (Part 2)

 

In my previous post, I listed Category 1 of the Apologetics “course” my kids study during high school. I know there is much more out there, many great resources, and we supplement this list (included in full below) with Bible study and reading books. However, we just don’t have time to do it all, so if you find something you like, go for it. I know this isn’t everything that can be studied, it just happens to be what we use, since our speech and debate league offers this as a speech category, and that is why we use their list as our base. :)

I calculated that we travel approximately one month out of each year for speech and debate tournaments, and that is during the academic school year! That means we have a lot of school work to catch up on the days we are home.

According to their website, the mission of our speech and debate league is to: “…address life issues in a manner that glorifies God, and ultimately preparing our students to shape our culture and impact people for Christ.” In addition, the mission is: “to promote excellence in communications through competitive opportunities where home school students develop the skills necessary to think critically and communicate effectively in order to address life issues from a biblical worldview in a manner that glorifies God.”

I can personally verify (as well as hundreds of others) that this has been true in our experience, and it is also excellent. I come across articles about the arts and Christianity, and the criticism that much of Christian art is substandard. It may be true, it may often be true, but it isn’t always true, and neither should it be. Being “Christian” doesn’t automatically make something substandard, although that is the label the secular world may add. And granted, poor quality products in the past (Christian movies and books, etc.) have left that impression. But that isn’t true in all cases, and there are people who have made it their mission to provide and create the best art possible.

I say all that to preempt the idea that a “Christian” league does not possess the same level of excellence that other leagues may be presumed to possess. We should add “home school” to that list, too. There are certain stereotypes attached to “homeschool” that convey a similar idea. I’m not saying that there isn’t substandard stuff out there, but that in this league in particular, which is what I’m familiar with, it is quite the opposite.

I’m sorry to sound so promotional. I wholeheartedly believe in this activity to the point I have said to many that this is the single best activity I could ever pick for my kids to participate in while in high school. I’d give up so many other things to do just this, if I had to. The benefits have been many and have been (and are) substantial.

This makes me think of the story of Daniel, and how it applies here. Daniel denied the rich food and meat and ate only vegetarian food, and he and his companions made an impression that was unmistakable. I know this isn’t a perfect illustration, but the same result is visible with speech and debate students: these students ARE different. Even the world recognizes it. (Of course the same is true for any believer: we SHOULD stand out as different. I’m making the distinction here as it applies to communication skills, social skills, confidence, etc., that make these students stand out.) Ironically, social skills is one of the biggest arguments that others make against home schooling and in favor of kids attending school; interestingly, however, many have found the “socialization” argument to be unfounded.

Any adult who comes and watches or judges a few rounds of debate or speech in this league would be hard pressed to say it wasn’t excellent, or these students have trouble communicating. Most walk away impressed, dumbfounded, surprised, blown away… and blessed. In fact, while we teach excellence, we also teach our kids that their speech is a “platform”, and to use it for good. In fact, while I was judging at a recent tournament, in which over 400 competitors from all around the country came, I found myself taking notes. These kids deliver interesting Informative or Persuasive speeches with information on topics that is new to me.

In secular leagues, a listener may hear excellent speeches, but won’t hear truth… the listener will hear stories of darkness, despair, and lack of hope (according to what I’ve heard others share). That makes hope and truth stand out… and it makes my heart glad to know that there are those who will use their voice as a beacon of truth into that gaping darkness.

But that isn’t the main point of my post here, so I’ll get back to the purpose of this post: why study Apologetics, and what do we study? 

As to the question of why, here’s what Systematic Theology says about why we should study theology:

1.) The Basic Reason. Well, this “basic reason” is explained in over a page and with very many words, so I’ll try to summarize what I think it’s saying. Two reasons: The Great Commission and Teaching. We are commanded to not only evangelize, but also teach. Teaching means that we must “collect and summarize” Scripture passages on a particular subject. For example, if someone asks, according to the book,

“What does the Bible teach about Christ’s return?” I could say, “Just keep reading and you’ll find out.” But if the questioner begins reading at Genesis 1:1 it will be a long time before he or she finds the answer to his question. By that time many other questions will have needed answers, and his list of unanswered questions will begin to grow very long indeed….There is simply not time in our lifetimes to read through the entire Bible looking for an answer for ourselves every time a doctrinal question arises. Therefore, for us to learn what the Bible says, it is very helpful to have the benefit of the work of others who have searched through Scripture and found answers to these various topics.” (p. 27)

The book we are reading is Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.

IMG_4862
The columns on this cover make it look more like a book on law or the Constitution… perhaps that is another reason why I hesitated to read it… :)

2. ) The Benefits to Our Lives. What are these benefits? Here are some: obedience, helping us overcome our wrong ideas, helping us to be able to make better decisions later on new questions of doctrine that may arise, helping us to grow as Christians. The book explains these benefits in very great detail.

So now, I’ll list all 5 Categories below. My kids research each definition, question, or statement, and complete index cards on each one. I would say that for each one of these, they use about three to six index cards. They research each topic, adding in relevant scripture, outside sources, personal stories or anecdotes, and examples (personal, historical, cultural, etc.) They may research as much as they like (using all methods available to them, books, internet, etc.) but they are not allowed to research in the competition room. All information they wish to remember must be written or typed on their index cards.

My older son started Apologetics over 2 years ago and still has not finished completing every single of these topics below, so his Apologetics box is not complete. But, that is the case for probably the majority of students, believe it or not. Students compete anyway, even knowing they may get a question they aren’t prepared for. So, they can use their Bible, and use relevant information on any of their other cards that might pertain to the topic, if they happen to draw a topic that they haven’t researched yet. And after some time, many students are able to offer some information, as there is some overlap in content that can apply to various questions.

We do have a study guide (written by a fellow parent in another state) that takes all of these topics and organizes them into about 25 separate topics, because there is some overlap. By covering those 25 topics, most of these definitions, statements, and questions are covered. 

Below, I list all 5 categories and the definitions, statements, and questions in each.

Category 1: EXISTENCE AND NATURE OF GOD

Definitions

  1. Explain the meaning and significance of the trinity.
  2. Explain the meaning and significance of the omniscience of God.
  3. Explain the meaning and significance of the omnipotence of God.
  4. Explain the meaning and significance of the omnipresence of God.
  5. Explain the meaning and significance of the transcendence and immanence of God.
  6. Explain the meaning and significance of the eternality of God.
  7. Explain the meaning and significance of the holiness of God.
  8. Explain the meaning and significance of the righteousness of God.
  9. Explain the meaning and significance of the sovereignty of God.
  10. Explain the meaning and significance of the grace of God.

General Questions

  1. In what ways has God revealed Himself to man?
  2. If God is real, why can’t people see or touch Him?
  3. If God is holy, why did He allow evil in the world?
  4. How can God be both merciful and just?
  5. Why is the unchanging nature of God critical to who He is?
  6. How does a Christian account for natural disasters?
  7. Why do bad things happen to good people?
  8. What is the role of the Holy Spirit?

Statement Analysis

  1. Analyze and respond to the statement, “The Old Testament God is a God of hate while the New Testament God is a God of love.” –Anonymous
  2. Analyze and respond to the statement, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” –Voltaire
  3. Analyze and respond to the statement, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” –A.W. Tozer
  4. Analyze and respond to the statement, “God set the universe in motion but He has no interest in it.” –Anonymous
  5. Analyze and respond to the statement, “If God understands my humanity and sin nature better than I do, why does He still hold me accountable for what I cannot help doing?” –Anonymous
  6. Analyze and respond to the statement, “As an atheist, I don’t believe there is a God.” –Anonymous

 

Category 2: SCRIPTURES

Definitions

  1. Explain the meaning and significance of inerrancy.
  2. Explain the meaning and significance of verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture.
  3. Explain the meaning and significance of divine inspiration.
  4. Explain the meaning and significance of Biblical canon.
  5. Explain the meaning and significance of higher (historical) criticism and lower (textual) criticism.

General Questions

  1. Jesus clearly demonstrated His belief in the authority of Scriptures. Defend this statement with evidence.
  2. If the Bible was written by men, how could it also be written by God?
  3. How can the Bible be trustworthy when it has been translated so many times?
  4. Is the Old Testament a reliable historical document?
  5. Is the New Testament a reliable historical document?
  6. Did the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls affirm or deny the accuracy of the Old Testament?
  7. How does the reliability of Biblical manuscripts compare to other ancient texts?
  8. How did the church decide what should be included in the canon of Scripture?
  9. Why are there parallel myths to the Biblical narrative in other religions? 10. Are Scripture and science in conflict?

Statement Analysis

  1. Analyze and respond to the statement, “The Bible is no different than any other holy book.” –Anonymous
  2. Analyze and respond to the statement, “The Bible is simply the work of a great conspiracy, where people sought to create a religion of their own.” –Anonymous
  3. Analyze and respond to the statement, “We can’t believe in a Bible that is full of contradictions.” –Anonymous
  4. Analyze and respond to the statement, “The Bible was written to look like Jesus fulfilled prophecy.” –Anonymous
  5. Analyze and respond to the statement, “The gospels were simply a collaborative effort of the church written after the time of Christ.” –Anonymous

 

Category 3: THE NATURE, PURPOSE AND DESTINY OF MAN

Definitions

  1. Explain the meaning and significance of the image of God.
  2. Explain the meaning and significance of the depravity of man.
  3. Explain the meaning and significance of original sin.
  4. Explain the meaning and significance of the sin nature.
  5. Explain the meaning and significance of sanctification.
  6. Explain the meaning and significance of repentance.
  7. Explain the meaning and significance of regeneration.

General Questions

  1. Do all men have a longing for God?
  2. Do all men have a conscience?
  3. If God is invisible, (1 Timothy 1:17) how can man be made in the image of God?
  4. If man is inherently sinful, why do many men lead relatively good lives?
  5. What is the purpose of man?
  6. What is the destiny of man?
  7. Why would a loving God create hell?
  8. What is the essential duty of man?
  9. What is the purpose of prayer?

Statement Analysis

  1. Analyze and respond to the statement, “All men were born with ten fingers and toes but no one was born with the knowledge of God.” –Voltaire
  2. Analyze and respond to the statement, “Heaven is only a state of mind.” –Anonymous
  3. Analyze and respond to the statement, “He’s only human,” as a justification for sin and the need for leniency. –Anonymous
  4. Analyze and respond to the statement, “When man dies, he simply ceases to exist. There is no immortality or eternal life.” –Anonymous
  5. Analyze and respond to the statement, “All matter, energy, and life are an interconnected unity of which we are an inseparable part.” –World Pantheism Movement
  6. Analyze and respond to the statement, “Religion is as much a living spring of violence today as it was at any time in the past.” –Sam Harris
  7. Analyze and respond to the statement, “All human beings go through a previous life.” –Honore Balzac

 

Category 4: SALVATION or HOW TO KNOW GOD

Definitions

  1. Explain the meaning and significance of justification.
  2. Explain the meaning and significance of atonement.
  3. Explain the meaning and significance of propitiation.
  4. Explain the meaning and significance of redemption.
  5. Explain the meaning and significance of reconciliation.

General Questions

  1. How can a man know God?
  2. Can a man become right with God by keeping the Ten Commandments? 3. Isn’t it narrow minded to believe there is only one way to heaven?
  3. Why does man need salvation?
  4. What is the purpose of the Church?
  5. How do you know that there is absolute truth?

Statement Analysis

  1. Analyze and respond to the statement, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.” –Anonymous
  2. Analyze and respond to the statement, “Every charitable act is a stepping stone to heaven.” –Henry Ward Beecher
  3. Analyze and respond to the statement, “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.” –Richard Dawkins
  4. Analyze and respond to the statement, “I believe I will go to heaven because I have lived a pretty good life.” –Anonymous
  5. Analyze and respond to the statement, “It is arrogant to claim to know the truth.” –Anonymous
  6. Analyze and respond to the statement, “I don’t want to be saved because I would need to give up the things I enjoy.” –Anonymous
  7. Analyze and respond to the statement, “I am not sure I want to be a Christian, as Christians are hypocritical, intolerant and judgmental.” –Anonymous
  8. Analyze and respond to the statement, “I don’t need to go to church. I can worship God wherever I am.” –Anonymous

 

Category 5: THE PERSON OF CHRIST

Definitions

  1. What is the meaning and significance of the deity of Christ?
  2. What is the meaning and significance of the Incarnation?
  3. What is the meaning and significance of Jesus as the Mediator?
  4. What is the meaning and significance of Jesus as the Messiah?
  5. What is the meaning and significance of Jesus as the Word of God?
  6. What is the meaning and significance of Jesus as the Lamb of God?

General Questions

  1. Why is the virgin birth essential to the Christian faith?
  2. Why is the resurrection essential to the Christian faith?
  3. If God is infinite, how could He limit Himself in the person of Christ?
  4. How could Jesus be both God and man?
  5. Why did Jesus have to die to provide salvation for men?
  6. What evidence is there for the historical existence of Jesus?
  7. What evidence is there for the resurrection of Jesus?
  8. What was the purpose of the miracles that Jesus performed?

Statement Analysis

  1. Analyze and respond to the statement, “Jesus’ life and death are merely examples to us that we should all live sacrificial lives.” –Anonymous
  2. Analyze and respond to the statement, “Jesus was a good man and a good teacher but certainly not the Son of God.” –Anonymous
  3. Analyze and respond to the statement, “I don’t need Jesus, I can just relate to God myself.” –Anonymous
  4. Analyze and respond to the statement, “Justice has not been served by Jesus’ substitutionary atonement.” –Anonymous
  5. Analyze and respond to the statement, “We have much to learn from the Jesus of the Gnostic gospels.” –Anonymous

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So what do you think? Isn’t that a lot of information – but good and useful information? As I mentioned in a previous post, students have 4 minutes to prepare, and then must deliver a 6 minute speech on any one of these questions above. I admit, I can’t readily answer the vast majority of the above, and not 6 minutes’ worth of quality and useful information. I learned some of the above while in a discipleship program many years ago, but certainly not all of the above. So, while my kids are studying these, I’m studying them, too. (Instead of note cards, I have a notebook.:) Also, don’t many of these questions and statements sound familiar? I think most of us have come across some of them, either as we wrestled with our own faith, or in conversations with others.

And that is what we are doing for the study of Apologetics.

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