Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Most Impactful Apologetics Lesson I Ever Learned

shiela connects by alicegop, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  alicegop 

 

Probably the most impactful lesson about Apologetics I learned through speech and debate was the interconnectedness of theology. Actually, I wrote an entire blog post about it! The basic idea is that no aspect of theology is an island. One topic relates to and interconnects with other topics.

For example, consider the twin doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy. Can you really understand one without the other? God breathed every word of the Scriptures, and thus every word is without error—for God cannot err. Inspiration without inerrancy is useless; inerrancy without inspiration is impossible. Every topic in theology is related to many other topics.

In Chapter 4 of Defend, I discuss how this reality affects the organization of the 100+ Apologetics topics. After some comments about the other two methods of covering all the topics (writing 100 cards or gathering general information that you hope applies), the key paragraph occurs:

“The third approach is what I call ‘Divide and Conquer’. … By writing one ‘concept card’ for each concept you can cover over 85% of all of the topics by writing only 25 cards. There will be some miscellaneous topics that don’t really fit into any particular concept, but you can cover over 85% of the 100+ topics by writing only 25 cards.”

If you want to cover all the topics, you have three options: write 100 cards, get a bunch of general information and hope it applies, or use Concepts. I first introduced the idea of Concepts in my Apologetics curriculum, Thoroughly Equipped: The Comprehensive Guide to Apologetics. When you realize that theology is interconnected, you can cover most of the 100+ Apologetics topics by writing only 25 Concept Cards.

You don’t have to sacrifice quality for ease, though: because you have fewer cards to write, you can go deeper on each one. You end up with 25 excellent cards instead of 100 adequate cards!

Most likely, you’re currently in the midst of preparation for Apologetics competition. I’m sure you recognize the value of this organizational system. Wouldn’t it be better for you to cover all 100 topics by focusing all of your efforts on 25 key concepts?

You can. It’s as easy as becoming Thoroughly Equipped.

How much is too much?

 

How much is too much?

No, I’m not talking about ice cream. (But if I were, this would be the answer.)

Back on target. I’m not talking about ice cream; I’m talking about Apologetics. In your Apologetics cards, how much content is too much? Should you write your speech out as though it were a platform speech? Should you organize with bullet points? Should you just put the verses and quotes on there and use them as you see fit in-round?

This is a question as old as competitive Apologetics itself—that is to say, the question is 10 years old. (Competitive Apologetics has been around since 2004.) There are three different answers. Instead of explaining further, let me illustrate. The card below is one of my favorites—Higher and Lower Criticism.

No, I’m not joking. This actually was one of my favorite cards during my years of competition! It was fun to take this complicated, boring-sounding topic and turn it into a speech that the judges actually enjoyed.

The card is presented three times, each with a different amount of content. The headings tell you which is which.

 

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Approach 1: Research Only—No Outline

Topic:

“Explain the meaning and significance of higher (historical) criticism and lower (textual) criticism.”

Verses:

Luke 1:1-4 (ESV) – “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

Acts 1:1 (ESV) – “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach”.

Definitions, Quotes, and Examples:

Theologians don’t actually criticize—they analyze.

Definition of Higher Criticism: Higher criticism examines texts in order to understand the background. It focuses on the author, date, and location of the original autographs.

Definiton of Lower Criticism: Lower criticism is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts.

Pastor John Piper: “The earliest list of New Testament books (Muratorian Canon) from the second century ascribes [the gospel of Luke] to Luke and there is no evidence that it was ever ascribed to anyone else.”

Jesus’ assault on the businesses in the temple—placed near the start of his ministry in John’s gospel, near the end of his ministry in the other three gospels. Textual Criticism explanations: two separate events; the gospel of John doesn’t use chronological order; John described the event out of order for a specific theological reason.

Significance of higher criticism: Higher criticism allows us to determine who wrote the books of the Bible and when. We can use that knowledge to better understand the books of the Bible. Example: The historical context of Paul’s epistles

Significance of lower criticism: Lower criticism deals with studying the text of the Bible to ascertain its meaning. Anything that helps us to better understand the Bible is significant.

 

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Approach 2: Research With Basic Outline 

  • This speech will be about higher and lower criticism.
  • It sounds boring, but is actually interesting and important.
  • State topic: “Explain the meaning and significance of higher (historical) criticism and lower (textual) criticism.
  1. Meaning
  • Overview first, then closer look.
  • Higher criticism: why and how the books of the Bible were written. Lower criticism: the actual teachings of its authors.
  • “Criticism” is not an appropriate term. Theologians do not criticize the Bible. They analyze it in order to understand it.
  • A. Closer Look at Higher Criticism
  • Higher criticism examines texts in order to understand the background. It focuses on the author, date, and location of the original autographs.
  • Acts doesn’t name its author. However, Acts 1:1: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach”.
  • The first chapter of the Gospel of Luke dedicates that book to Theophilus as well. The same author wrote both books.
  • Pastor John Piper says, “The earliest list of New Testament books (Muratorian Canon) from the second century ascribes [the gospel of Luke] to Luke and there is no evidence that it was ever ascribed to anyone else.” (http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/the-aim-of-dr-luke)
  • Because Luke wrote the book of Luke, and because the author of the book of Luke wrote Acts, Luke wrote Acts.
  • This helps us to understand and interpret the book of Acts.
  • B. Closer Look at Lower Criticism
  • Textual criticism: the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts.
  • Ancient scribes sometimes made errors or alterations when copying manuscripts by hand.
  • The textual critic seeks to reconstruct the original text as closely as possible. The ultimate objective of the textual critic’s work is the production of a “critical edition” containing a text most closely approximating the original.
  • Lower criticism is the discipline and study of the actual wording of the Bible (http://www.theopedia.com/Biblical_criticism); a quest for textual purity and understanding.
  • The gospel of John describes Jesus’ assault on the businesses in the temple at Jerusalem as occurring near the start of his ministry. The other 3 gospels place the event near the end of his life.
  • Using textual criticism, some interpret these passages as referring to two separate events. Others suggest that John makes no attempts to place the events in chronological order. Others conclude that John described the event out of order for a specific theological reason.
  • Using textual criticism, we can determine what the text should be and why it is in its current form.
  • Why does this matter?
  1. Significance
  • The significance is really quite simple. Higher criticism allows us to determine who wrote the books of the Bible and when. We can use that knowledge to better understand the books of the Bible.
  • Paul wrote many epistles. Those letters are often responses to letters from various churches.
  • By examining the historical context, and specifically the theological movements that were prominent at that time, we can determine why Paul chose to give certain instructions to certain churches.
  • Lower criticism deals with studying the text of the Bible to ascertain its meaning, and anything that helps us to better understand the Bible is significant.
  • Summary: Higher criticism deals with authorship, sources, and dates, and helps us to understand the context. Lower criticism deals with the correct text of the Biblical manuscripts and helps us to understand its meaning.
  • Learning about higher and lower criticism helps us to better understand God’s inspired word.

 

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Approach 3: Full Speech Written Out

  • For the next 6 minutes, you must sit and listen to me talk about…higher and lower criticism.
  • Now I know that may sound like a fate worse than death. But stay with me: it’s actually very interesting and has great importance to your spiritual life.
  • So, today we are going to have a very fascinating and intellectually stimulating discussion on the topic: “Explain the meaning and significance of higher (historical) criticism and lower (textual) criticism”. Let’s jump right in.
  1. Meaning
  • Let’s first look at an overview of the two types of criticism, and then look closer at each.
  • Higher criticism deals with why and how the books of the Bible were written; lower criticism deals with the actual teachings of its authors.
  • The word “criticism” must be one of the all-time least appropriate religious terms. Theologians do not engage in actual criticism – at least as the word is commonly understood. They analyze the Bible in order to understand it better.
  • Let’s take a closer look at higher, or “historical” criticism.
  • A. Higher
  • Historical criticism is a branch of literary criticism that investigates the origins of ancient text in order to understand “the world behind the text”. It endeavors to establish the authorship, date, and place of composition of the original text.
  • For example, nowhere in the book of Acts does the author mention his own name. However, Acts 1:1 says: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach”.
  • If we go to the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we see that book dedicated to Theophilus as well. That means that the same author wrote both books.
  • Pastor John Piper says, “The earliest list of New Testament books (Muratorian Canon) from the second century ascribes [the gospel of Luke] to Luke and there is no evidence that it was ever ascribed to anyone else.
  • So, by determining that the gospel of Luke was indeed written by “Luke the Physician”, and by determining that the author of the gospel of Luke also wrote Acts, we can determine that Luke the Physician also wrote Acts.
  • This in turn helps us to understand and interprets the book of Acts. Now let’s move on to look at lower, or “textual” criticism.
  • B. Lower
  • Textual criticism is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts.
  • Ancient scribes sometimes made errors or alterations when copying manuscripts by hand. Given multiple copies of a manuscript, but not the original document, the textual critic seeks to reconstruct the original text as closely as possible.
  • The ultimate objective of the textual critic’s work is the production of a “critical edition” containing a text most closely approximating the original.
  • So, lower criticism is the discipline and study of the actual wording of the Bible; a quest for textual purity and understanding.
  • For example, the gospel of John describes Jesus’ assault on the businesses in the temple at Jerusalem as occurring near the start of his ministry. The other 3 gospels describe the event near the end of his life.
  • Using textual criticism, some interpret these passages as referring to two separate events. Others suggest that the gospel of John makes no attempts to place the events in chronological order. Still others, using Biblical criticism, conclude that John described the event out of order for a specific theological reason.
  • Using textual criticism, we can determine what the text should be and why it is in its current form.
  • Hopefully you now have at least a general understanding of higher and lower criticism. But why should you care and continue listening? Let’s see why by discovering the…
  1. Significance
  • The significance is really quite simple: first, higher criticism allows us to determine who wrote the books of the Bible and when. We can use that knowledge to better understand the books of the Bible.
  • For example, the apostle Paul wrote many epistles, which are just letters to different churches. Those letters are often responses to letters from those churches.
  • By examining the historical context in which the letters were written, and specifically the theological movements that were prominent at that time, we can determine why Paul chose to give certain instructions to certain churches.
  • Next, lower criticism deals with studying the text of the Bible to ascertain its meaning. The significance is quite straightforward! Anything that helps us to better understand the Bible is significant.
  • In summary, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Higher criticism deals with authorship, sources, and dates, and helps us to understand the context. Lower criticism deals with the correct text of the Biblical manuscripts and helps us to understand its meaning.
  • Rather than being a fate worse than death, learning about higher and lower criticism helps us to better understand God’s inspired word. That’s certainly worth 6 minutes, wouldn’t you agree?

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So which approach is right? Actually, any of them can be.

It partially depends on who is presenting the card. Competitors who are just beginning may want to write more content out, while seasoned veterans may feel comfortable ad-libbing a bit more.

It partially depends on personal preference. My Apologetics box contains cards using all three approaches. However, I have more full speech cards than I do both of the other types combined. This is simply my preference.

However, here’s an important note: If you write your cards completely out, do not read off of them in-round. This is not a presidential speech—your cards are not teleprompters that tell you exactly what to say. This is an Apologetics speech, and thus you need to be speaking somewhat off the cuff. If you’re going to write you entire speech out (it always helped me to understand the card better), make sure that you use it as the starting point of your presentation—not the ending point.

So the answer to the question “How much is too much?” is “However much is too much for you!” Now go write some amazing Apologetics cards with as much content as you want.