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Templeton Project: Apology in the New Testament III

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Apology in the New Testament III.”

See also:

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The previous article ended with a quotation from First Peter.  “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame, For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”  (I Peter 3: 13-17 ESV)

Let’s summarize the letter of which this extended passage is a part.  Peter writes to the “elect exiles in the dispersion,” a specific reference to Christians’ living in several Roman provinces of what is today the country of Turkey.  By God’s mercy in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are “born again to a living hope,” fulfilled in end time salvation. Though the recipients have been through various trials, they are to rejoice in their salvation.  Persecution is always a possibility and may have been experienced by the recipients of the letter..

Peter calls on Christians in their exile, not to be conformed to the passions, but to be holy as God is holy.  The exiles are to remember that they were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.  The apostle continues with admonition to put away deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander and yearn for the “pure spiritual milk.”

Peter reminds the exiles that they are a spiritual house, a royal priesthood, a chosen race, a holy nation that “proclaim the excellencies” of God who called them out of darkness into his light.  They are to avoid the passions of the flesh.  Among the Gentiles they are to be honorable in their conduct.  Though non-believers speak of them as evildoers, the result will be that on the day of God’s visitation, they will glorify God.

Peter continues by exhorting them to submit to human authority, respecting the emperor and the governors sent by him.  Their doing good will silence foolish people.  It is of no benefit to be punished for doing evil and endure, rather it is good in God’s sight to endure for suffering for the good.

Christ is the example of suffering for Christians to follow.  He suffered, though He committed no sin, on the cross so that we may “die to sin and live to righteousness.”

Peter continues with a section on the proper conduct of husbands and wives and servants, followed by an admonition to the churches to “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” The exiles are not to respond to evil with evil but respond with blessing.   After some relevant quotes from the Old Testament, Peter writes the words that were quoted at the beginning of this article.  In our defense of the faith, Christians are to be gentle and respectful.

It is better to suffer for good than evil.  Christ suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.

Christians are to live for the will of God, not for evil passions.  The end is approaching for which we are to prepare.  He exhorts the recipients of the letter to live self-controlled lives and love one another in the the community.

Peter returns to the theme of the trial of the exiles.   They are not to be surprised that trials are happening.  They should rejoice in the sharing of Christ’s sufferings as they will rejoice when Christ returns and are to glorify God in their suffering.  Judgment begins in the household of God and then among those who do not believe the Gospel.  The elders are instucted on how to lead the flock and the young are reminded of their proper duty.

The exiles suffer now but will inherit the eternal glory of Christ.  Finally the apostle calls the exiles to stand firm in their belief.

Chrisitans are to suffer for the good, never for the evil.  Our conduct is to be good as a witness to others.  This includes a respectful and gentle way of speaking and conducting themselves with those who ask for an account of their  faith.  The appropriate way to present a defense of the faith is very important as is its content.

What can we learn from theis text?

1. The Christian community consists of elect exiles in this world and also is a holy nation and royal priesthood. Christians are elect exiles, because of God’s choosing us as His people in a world hostile to the Gospel.  Our true home is heaven, an imperishable inheritance.

2.  The churches and the people in them have gone through and will continue to go through various trials, not because we are evildoers, but because of doing good.  Persecution is always a possibility for Christians.

3.  We are not to conform to the passions, but remember that we are a holy nation.  Our lives should be one of self-control.

4.  Christ, who suffered for our salvation, is the model for our own suffering.

5.  To respond to others with an apology, or defense, is a witness to Christ.

6.  Our defense should be with gentleness and respect, no matter how the challenger behaves.

7.  We are to rejoice in our trials.

(All quotations from the Bible are from the English Standard Version)

Michael G. Tavella

March 18, 2019

The Day of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, 386

Templeton Project: Apology in the New Testament II

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Apology in the New Testament II.”

See also:

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The word, defense or apology, is found twice at the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The letter starts out with mention of sender and recipients, followed by a greeting.  Paul continues by giving thanks for the Philippian Christian community. He speaks of his defense and confirmation of the Gospel in partnership with the Philippians.  Paul is in prison when he writes this letter. A little bit later in the thanksgiving, Paul mentions that his imprisonment has served to advance the Word.  Furthermore, the Philippians have become bolder to share the Word as result of Paul’s situation and example.  He emphasizes that he finds himself in prison for the purpose of defending the Gospel.

The defense of the Gospel involves its proclamation so that others may believe.  To defend the Gospel is to witness to Christ.  When Christians are witnessing, they are proclaiming Christ so that people may believe.  To defend the Gospel is not a defensive measure in response to hostility, though hostility may be the case, but is an opportunity to share its power and truth boldly and humbly.  An apology is not an “I’m sorry,” the primary use of the word in English, but is a “Let me tell you about Jesus Christ and why He is the truth.”  Challenges to this witness will require answering questions and clearing up misunderstandings.  The Christian response should be respectful of the antagonist, rather than coarse, crass, and caustic.  The disciple is called to conduct oneself courteously both  in word and action without a deference that compromises the sharing of God’s powerful Word. Saint Peter puts itwell:  “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (mine) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,  having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” ( I Peter 3: 14-17 ESV)

Michael G. Tavella

Templeton Project: The Biblical Foundation–Apology

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “The Biblical Foundation – Apology.”

See also:

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In English the word apology most often means an expression of regret or sorrow for one’s lapse in behavior in word or action; but, it can also be used according to its meaning in ancient Greek, which is a defense of a point of view, opinion, idea, philosophy, religious belief, etc. In the New Testament the word is used in this latter sense in both its nominal and verbal forms.

Apology is used most often in Luke-Acts and Paul.  The verbal form appears two times in Luke, six times in the Book of Acts, and once in Romans and 2 Corinthians.  In Luke 12: 11 Jesus counsels the disciples, “And when they bring you before synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12: 11-12 ESV) The parallel passage in Matthew does not utilize the verb apologeomai, defend oneself, as does Luke.  The same is true when comparing Luke 21: 14 with parallels in Matthew and Mark.  Here again, only Luke employs the verbal form of apology while Matthew and Mark use a verb meaning to speak.

Luke 12: 11 pertains to the witness of the disciples at a time of persecution.  The Greek verb, apologeomai, in the English Standard Version of Luke 21: 14 is translated “to answer.”  The whole verse reads, “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.”  (Luke 21: 14 ESV) In persecution the disciple has the opportnity to witness to the Gospel.  Both passages in Luke where apologeomai is used refer to persecution and martyrdom of Jesus’ disciples. The meaning in both contexts is the same.  The Christian replies to the charges of the opponent and, at the same time, testifies to the Gospel of Christ.

In Acts the verb is used six times.  Paul makes his defense before Felix in Acts 24; before Festus in Acs 25; and before Agrippa in Acs 26.

Luke does not use the noun apologia but Acts, written by Luke, does.  In Acts the word is used two times toward the end of the book, as is the case with the verbs.  The word refers to Paul’s defense of his ministry in public.  In Acts 22 Paul must defend himself against the Jews’ false accusation that he was teaching against the Law and bringing Gentiles into the Temple. In Acts 25 Paul makes his case before Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice.

In Acts 22 Paul gives an account of his conversion. Paul’s defense also served as opportunities to witness to Christ.  He insisted that he was not preaching against His people, the Law, or the government.  In Acts 26 Paul gives yet another account of his conversion.

Both verb and noun refer to Paul’s defense in various contexts that were of a juridical nature.  He defends himself against false charges, gives account of his conversion, and witnesses to Christ.  The crowd opposed to the Apostle interpreted his defense with loud threats aginst his person.  The government officials listem more sympathetically.

The next article will consider Paul’s use of apology in Philippians and then in I Peter, its only use outside of Luke-Acts and the Pauline correspondence.

Templeton Project: Grounds for the Project

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Grounds for the Project.”

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The environment in America for debate on controversial subjects is replete with incivility, exemplified by politicians and news media. As a result, greater understanding on important matters has been lost in the turmoil.  No less has dialogue concerning topics of religion, especially those pertaining to Christianity, been caught in a Charybdis that inevitably leads to the disappearance and destruction of an environment in which the hearers could learn more about the subject at hand and the issues at stake.

This project, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, seeks to promote greater understanding and civility among Christians and atheists as they dialogue on matters pertaining to the Christian faith. The blog and response will test our ability to foster mutual respect on a subject that delves deeply into what is most important to human beings, the meaning of our lives in this world. It is not assumed that this is the first attempt to do this. But, it is a fresh undertaking that may or may not result in new insights.  If it fails in this,  it is hoped that it will at least provide a forum for the respectful exchange of views.  A small guide book for those in dialogue or seeking it will be produced as a result of this blog. Its primary purpose is to advise Christians.  But, atheists intent on positive dialogue will hopefully find it beneficial.

The Scriptural basis for this endeavor is found in I Peter:  “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (I Peter 3: 13-17 ESV)

Here are the specific goals of the project, susceptible to revision.

We will endeavor

1. to foster greater civility and understanding on matters pertaining to the Christian faith and atheism.

2. to avoid contempt and, at all times, to show respect for one another.

3. to acknowledge our lapses of civility and to pledge to do better.

4. to reduce misunderstandings that come from lack of knowledge of the subjects of religion and atheism and to clarify what participants believe.

5. to commit to research on matters we know little about.

6. to explore religious and non-religious views of the world.

7. to emphasize the importance of accurate historical, scientific (natural science), philosophical and theological knowledge.

8. to commit ourselves to promoting understanding and civility among friends and family.

9.  to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A committee has been formed to develop the resources to meet the above goals.  You will be hearing from them on this blog.

By: The Rev. Dr. Michael G. Tavella

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