Defending the Biblical Faith
by what God Shows Us
(The Isomorphic Element of Biblical Apologetics)
by Bob Burridge ©2019, 2023
1 Peter 3:15 has a challenge for all who rest upon the Bible as God’s revealed word, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”
The word translated as “defense” in the original Greek text of that verse is “apologia” (ἀπολογία). This is where get the name of a field of study we call “Apologetics“. It doesn’t mean “apologizing” for what we believe. It means “speaking out” defending what we know is true. The question answered in this field of study is, “how should we make a defense of the hope that is in us.” 1 Peter 3:15 admonishes us to present our defense with gentleness and respect.
We instinctively want to know what we can rely on as true. What we accept as “true” guides us in what we believe, how we should behave, and what things are moral.
We all have some basic ideas we accept as tests for what’s true. We call them “presuppositions”. We “pre-suppose” them as reliable tests. God calls his people to test everything by what he’s revealed. Some of our critics say they don’t pre-suppose anything. But that denial is in itself a “presupposition”. I’ve heard some of them say, “There are no absolute truths.” They believe that fact is “absolutely true”! Yet they don’t see they just contradicted their basic argument.
To support what people accept as true and right, they usually have some evidences to confirm what they believe. They also have evidences they believe show that what others believe is false.
a Biblical Defense of the Biblical Faith?
The Bible begins in Genesis 1 by making it clear that God is the Creator who designed everything. He called into existence all the universe and all that’s on our planet. He created humans with five senses as channels through which God communicates what he wants us to know. Our eyes see God’s glory all around us in creation. Our ears hear his word as it’s taught to us. He created our brains to have the ability to store and understand this information.
The reason why some don’t believe in God and accept what he’s made known isn’t because of a defect in what he’s made. The problem’s at a very different level. The defect is in the way some deal with what God’s revealed. Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” In our fallen condition we suppress the truth. We’re not able to accept what’s plainly there.
By direct revelation God surrounds us all with a dramatic display of his power and glory. Our senses take in this evidence at every conscious moment of our lives. Romans 1:19-20, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Psalm 19:1-2, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”
What God reveals about his plans, his promises, and what things please him are made known to us “analogically“. That means there is an “analogy”, a “similarity” between what we can perceive or understand with what God himself knows about himself and the creation of which we are a part. He created his physical universe to display his nature and glory in a way that his human creatures would be able to behold it as true and right.
All we know and can understand corresponds with what’s true in the infinite mind of God. We need to remember that God is infinite. He has no boundaries or limitations in his being, wisdom, power, and glory. We are finite, not infinite creatures. We can’t fully understand infinite things with no boundaries.
What we know as God’s creatures is an “isomorphism” of eternal truths. “Isomorphism” is a compound word. “Iso” means “same” and is combined with “morphism” which means “form”. What we can know has a form that corresponds with how God knows all things. It’s “similar” to those eternal and infinite things. God reveals these infinite things to us through things we can see and hear. That includes all the wonders of our vast universe and all the amazing things we see here on earth way down to sub-atomic structures which we have only recently begun to understand. It also includes his word spoken directly by God through chosen messengers, and written by the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the books of our Bibles. One day in God’s plan we will see more of the realities behind what we can know now. 1 Corinthians 13:12, “… Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Admittedly, our confident understanding of these revelations of God involves presumptions, things we begin with as tests for deciding what’s really true. The question is, where do these presumptions come from?
is that there are these two basic conditions
of human understanding.
1. We are all born in a condition where we are alienated from fellowship with God. We can’t admit the truth God has revealed in Creation, in his acts of Providence, and in his revealed word. We have a false view of what we really are.
Adam was created with the ability to directly take in and believe God’s truth displayed around him and spoken to him. When Adam sinned he lost his ability to recognize God’s glory revealed all around him (Genesis 3). He thought he could hide from God, he tried to blame Eve for his sin, his fellowship with his Creator was broken.
2. By grace through the work of Jesus the Christ some are restored to fellowship with God. God promised that one born to a woman would crush the head of the serpent who had deceived Eve (Genesis 3:15). God also provided a covering for these first fallen humans made of the skin from an animal (Genesis 3:21). The shedding of blood to provide a covering for sin was a hint at what that child of a woman would do. We see as God later revealed that Jesus would be that promised child. He would shed his blood in our place, suffering the death we all deserve as descendants of Adam. By grace alone, not by anything Adam had done, fellowship with the Creator was restored. This shedding of blood to cover the results of sin is an isomorphism. It’s an analogy of what would be accomplished on the cross of Calvary.
Ever since those events in Eden humans can be in one of those two states. Either they are in fellowship with God, restored by grace based upon the death of Jesus Christ, or they remain alienated from that fellowship which is what we all deserve. Those restored to fellowship with God are made able to see the truth of what God makes known. Those not restored by grace suppress God’s display of truth around them and try to explain things in other ways.
The goal of Apologetics is to answer those in the lost state in a way that directs them to truths God has revealed. It also assures believers in Christ by clarifying the foundations of their faith as they strive to live for God’s glory.
unbelievers we need to understand the problem itself.
As humans we inherit a defect. Aside from God’s restoring grace we are unable to behold God’s wonders and glory surrounding us. The corruption and depravity inherited by all humans is because we were were all represented in Adam and sinned in him. Romans 5:12 explains, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”. Jeremiah 17:9 explains the results of that spiritual death. There the Prophet says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jesus explained in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
The Apostle Paul made reference to this total inability of fallen humans throughout his letters. In Romans 3:11 he said, “no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Then in 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul said, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Jesus admitted to the disciples in John 6 that this is a hard teaching to accept in our fallen estate. Some stopped following him when these truths were explained. Some of his disciples said in verse 60, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” Jesus answered in verse 65, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” repeating what he had said back in verse 44.
In our fallen state we even refuse to admit God’s moral principles which our Creator put in our conscience. Though they know it’s wrong to murder, steal, lie, commit adultery, and such things, they begin with how these things disrupt their own lives, not with how they offend the true God. In Romans 2:14-16 Paul explained, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”
To try to explain everything around him the unbeliever presumes a human ability to know what’s true. He tries to explain away God’s clear display of his truth and glory. He develops godless theories of the universe, the Earth, biology, psychology, and human behaviors.
While we do our best to bring God’s truth to the unbeliever, left to himself he will continue to try to explain it away.It’s only when God by his redeeming grace changes the heart and gives understanding by the Holy Spirit. Only by the work of the Savior can he accept what God says as true. The Bible is the “sword of the Spirit” which we must faithfully use as the weapon God provides.That’s how we defeat the enemy of real eternal truth (Ephesians 6:17).
true about God, what he’s done, made, and planned.
God uses things familiar to us to explain things in realms beyond our comprehension. He created us humans with the natural ability to observe these visible things and to learn from them.
God made things and set up relationships to teach us about himself and his workings.
– As we saw in Romans 1:19-20 and Psalm 19:1-2 all of creation declares God’s power and glory.
– God established the family to teach us about our relationship to him. Marriage was established to show us the beautiful relationship between God and his people. Husbands are to love their wives sacrificially “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25). In godly parenting we learn that God is our perfect Father. He protects us, provides for us, and guides us, just as our human fathers are called to do (Ephesians 6:4).
– The power of great storms and powerful animals illustrate the great power of God which no one can tame (Job 40:15-24, 41:1-10, Isaiah 28:2).
– God guided human history to develop the idea of Covenants. They explain God’s gracious promise not to destroy his rebellious race of humans after their fall into sin. Instead he makes them his people and is their Protector and Provider
These forms can be used when we explain God’s truth to unbelievers and to his redeemed children. Of course we can’t change lost hearts. But we can patiently clarify what God has revealed so the Holy Spirit can open their eyes.
The Apostle Paul used this approach as he explained that God to the Atheneans in Acts 17:24-29. He told them that God is a spirit, the Creator and Sovereign Lord. The Temple illustrated his presence among them, but he wasn’t limited to being there. God is everywhere. God gave us life, the nations where people live, and everything. We shouldn’t just think he is the silver and gold that represented him. “In him we live and move and have our being”.
Of course today we don’t have temples of precious stones, but lost hearts imagine nature itself, the physical universe, as the origin and controller of all things.
When we have the opportunity to give an answer for the faith God has by grace put into our hearts we should declare that behind all we see of God’s creation and his workings in history is the greater reality of the Sovereign Creator and Redeemer himself. When we deal with the objections of unbelievers to give a defense of our God’s truth, or when we work with other believers to clear up differences in our views we need to keep these basics in mind:
1. We should always appeal to Scripture, God’s own word, as the final authority about what’s true. We should be careful to properly understand the portions of the Bible we use. We need to know what the words are saying, consider the whole context of the Bible passages we quote. Our goal isn’t to win an argument, but to clarify what the Scriptures teach.
2. We should be humbly respectful toward those who disagree. They are needy creatures of our Creator. Personal anger should never be shown against those with whom we are reasoning.
3. We should prayerfully rest upon the work of the Holy Spirit to open their understanding. Remember that the lost are blinded by their fallen condition. Only God’s grace can change them. We should be ready to confess our own limitations as we hunger to learn and submit to God’s inspired word.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)