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Jesus Creed

Emerging Peter: First Apologetics

Here is perhaps the earliest evidence of lay-level apologetics: “Always be ready for a reply to everyone who requests of you an account of the hope that fill you” (1 Pet 3:15). That readiness becomes credible only when it is done properly and emerges from a lifestyle that is good.
Jesus’ advice to his disciples was not to worry about being ready because the Spirit would take over: Matthew 10:19-20. Since it is nearly certain Peter was among the first group, his words here show a development: Spirit-prompted words and readiness are not opposites. Both emerge from a good life.
First, there is here evidence of an ongoing running debate with culture and community: readiness is “always” and “to everyone.” And Peter expects their readiness to take the form of a “reply” (apologia). But observe that the apologia is provided when requested. And Peter urges them to carry on this debate with meekness and reverence.
Second, I’m impressed by what it is that calls for a request: their hope. The context makes it clear why it is the “hope” that triggers a request for an apologia: suffering. The resident aliens and temporary residents of the Asia Minor Christian community were suffering at the hands of various sorts and they evidently were facing such suffering in an unexpected manner: with hope. That is, they were confident in God, that the last word would be life, and they faced their sufferings with a tranquility and hope that suprised their oppressors.
Third, we should probably observe that this is not “evangelism” per se but readiness to give an apologia for the hope that sustains them. The apologia becomes, as 2:11-12 makes clear, a form of evangelism: it evokes wonder on the part of the oppressors.
Finally, the apologia gains its credibility from the good life the Christian community is living. Again, 2:11-12: avoid sin, do good, and these will speak for your faith. And this is precisely what Peter says in 3:16-17: it is all about “doing good” (which is the term Peter uses for community benevolence).
Peter’s emerging reflection on apologetics is an apologetic that emerges from a lifestyle of goodness, a gentle approach to how to respond, and a fortitude in faith that provokes curiosity. And from such factors a credible apologia can be built.

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posted March 30, 2006 at 9:53 am

Thanks for putting this well known verse in an emerging context. It is all too often used in a strictly “modern” tone.
However, you said “Spirit-prompted words and readiness are not opposites. Both emerge from a good life.”
Is it not more the case that the words, the readiness, and the good life all emerge from a deepening relationship with Christ?. In other words, the good life does not produce the words and readiness, the abiding does (the “abiding” of John 15).
Again, thanks.

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Aaron J. Smith

posted March 30, 2006 at 2:54 pm

The hope that we give an acount for is so important… and not just for evangelism. My understanding is that it is the hope of salvation to be revieled when we see Jeusus come again. In this context, all the “morality” that Peter has been speaking about takes on a new light, because we realy are alians and strangers, and we should be living lives that display this reality… or that live out and live in this hope.
So, when people see the hope of assured salvation that is displayed in our lives, they are going to ask why we have this hope… which brings us back to the person of Jesus, his death, ressurection, and promice to return.

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Bob Robinson

posted March 30, 2006 at 3:59 pm

As you know, 1 Pet 3:15 was the basis of what I called the “Emmanuel Apologetic.”
As the Body of Christ, the incarnation of Christ in the world today, we are called to be the “God with Us” for the people of this world. When we are Emmanuel for people, the “answer” or “defense” that we are told to be prepared to give is to those who ask us Christians why we live in such hope. What this presupposes is that the Christian community is living in such a radical and conspicuous way in the midst of those who do not yet know Christ that these people are either genuinely wondering why we have such a hopeful lifestyle or they are suspicious that we are just play-acting it. Most often it will be the latter. Many will mock a Christian community of do-gooders (they will “speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ” v. 16), but we must follow Christ as our Lord (v. 15a), and willingly suffer for the good done for people as Christ did (3:18, 4:1).
Modern “apologetics” is more about using philosophical arguments to attempt to win debates about theological questions. But it seems to me that the main biblical apologetic has always been an Emmanuel Apologetic—an apologetic that displays God to people by living among people as a community of hope.

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Scot McKnight

posted March 30, 2006 at 9:34 pm

How great to see that idea come up here again. Yes, your idea is a good one in this context and our context does ask more for an Emmanuel apologetic than a rationalistic one.
Good point. We can’t often enough remember to see it all in our being ‘in Chirst’.

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