As pastor of the Action Biblique church in Basel, Switzerland, I was recently able to organise two seminars led by Dr Martin Erdmann – whose apologetics approach is founded on Reformed theology. I was grateful for this opportunity for several reasons.
Firstly, Christian apologetics is not talked about much in Evangelical churches these days. Even at the theological seminary in Switzerland that I attended, the apologetics course had regrettably been long since removed.
Secondly, Dr Erdmann showed us that apologetics is a topic for every Christian, because we are all called to defend our faith (1 Peter 3:15). If we are to explain ‘the faith committed to the saints once for all’ (Jude 3) it is essential for us to have a systematic knowledge of Bible doctrines. This is important not only for church leaders but for all believers.
Thirdly, those attending the two three-hour seminars were given nourishment for their own faith, guidance regarding personal witness and the encouragement of spiritual activity among laymen in the church.
They were taught how non-biblical philosophical concepts influence the thinking of our contemporaries. As Christians we need to ask ourselves such questions as: What kind of person am I addressing when I talk about the Christian faith? How does he think? What presuppositions can I make when I testify about my Christian faith? Above all, how can I answer critical questions in a scriptural way?
To this end the historical background of apologetics is important. How did the Church Fathers and past Christian philosophers defend the faith? What were their arguments? Which of their approaches were biblical and thus useful today, and which do we need to discard?
The six hours of teaching were valuable to all present, helping and encouraging us in our daily spiritual conflict with the unbelieving culture of our time. At the end the attendees were asked if they would like further seminars addressing the practical aspects of apologetics. Most responded enthusiastically to the idea.
The apologetics seminars are one of a number of initiatives aimed at accomplishing specific ministry objectives. In addition, we seek to reach German-speaking people far and wide through the weekly web-site articles of the Verax Institute (www.verax.ws), the distribution of taped lectures and study notes, and the sale of Reformed literature.
There appears to be a renewed desire among ordinary church members to know God and his Word more deeply. But if this is to have a lasting effect, pastors and church leaders need to be reached with the ‘strong meat’ of sound biblical teaching. A focused teaching ministry operating trans-regionally can, under God, do much to produce renewed vigour in preaching Christ from today’s pulpits.
Finally, it was interesting to observe at the seminar the networking aspect of the Verax Institute. Church leaders and laymen, interested in spreading Reformed theology in the German-speaking world, were brought together to seek common goals for the future.
Many of the contacts and associates of the Verax Institute, who want to see its ministry expanded, come from diverse cultural, socio-economic and denominational backgrounds. They are united in their desire to promote a healthy biblical outlook on life, a renewed appreciation for expository Christ-centred preaching, and a Reformed concept of church worship – all to the glory of God.
Dr Erdmann is having increasing opportunities to preach at churches in Switzerland and Germany, promoting biblical theology in a spiritually starved area. Despite strong opposition from some quarters, there are clear signs of interest, from many churches in the region, in deeper theological issues and a committed Christian lifestyle.
It is hoped that these efforts will result in the planting of Reformed congregations, an ongoing program of theological education to build up pastors, and the stirring up of complacent church members through the message of God’s sovereign grace and love.