“What are you reading?”
“A book on Christian apologetics.”
“Apologetics! I will never apologize for my faith in Christ.”
“No, no. Apologetics. It’s the art and science of defending Christianity through arguments based on science, philosophy, and history.”
“So you start fights about Christianity!?”
“No, intellectual arguments based on information from science, philosophy, and history that support the truth of Christianity. Let’s start at the beginning.”
What is apologetics?
When many Christians first hear the word “apologetics” they have a similar response to my uninformed friend. This is an understandable response in light of the fact that Christian apologetics wasn’t stressed among laypeople for a couple centuries until the past 10-15 years.
Apologetics comes from the Greek word “apologia”, meaning to make a defense. The word “apologia” appears 8 times in the New Testament; four times in direct reference to defending the Gospel. When we make an “apologia” of Christianity we are presenting evidence and reasons for the truthfulness of Christianity’s claims.
The case we make for the truth of Christianity can take many forms. There are arguments from science (i.e. the Big Bang or the fine tuning of the universe for life), philosophy (i.e. without God there is no unchanging moral truth), or history (i.e. archeology continues to confirm events, people and places from the Bible). Apologetics even comes into use when we are challenged by various worldviews and theologies.
We are told to do apologetics
The idea of defending Christianity actually goes back to the very beginning with Jesus. Throughout the New Testament Jesus used a form of apologetics to try to explain who He was. He pointed to the Old Testament idea of a messiah and the signs given to help the Jewish people identify him; showing how He fulfilled those signs.
Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36) and Paul’s at Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-31) were both early examples of apologetics in practice. In Acts 17:1-4 we see that while in Thessalonica, Paul “as was his custom, … reasoned with them from the Scriptures”. In fact, the Book of Acts is full of examples of the apostles and disciples using apologetic methods to show the truth of who Jesus was.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus uses language indicating He expected the disciples to do apologetics when He said: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Witnesses testify to the truth of events just as we are to testify to the truth of the events in the Bible.)
Apologetics aren’t just modeled in the New Testament; we are also directed to do apologetics in the New Testament epistles (Philippians 1:7, 16). The most famous is 1 Peter 3:15; “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (“apologia”) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” The entire book of Jude is a defense of the faith; which he states at the beginning of his letter.
Apologetics for Sharing the Gospel ad Reinforcing Faith
Apologetics becomes a tool for evangelism by removing intellectual barriers someone might have against Christianity. By answering questions about the truthfulness and accuracy of the Bible text, the creation of the universe, the Resurrection, truth, etc. we can help someone move closer to truly investigating the Gospel message. This, in turn, can lead to their accepting Christ as their savior.
Apologetics isn’t only for sharing the Gospel. It can also be useful for Christians. By studying common critiques of Christianity and their answers, Christians can feel more confident in sharing the Gospel. One of the biggest reason Christians don’t share their faith is they are afraid they won’t be able to answer question regarding Christianity.
Also, as a part of discipleship, young Christians can get answers to their questions about the Gospel. This allows them to honestly ask questions that otherwise would lead to doubts and potentially walking away from the Church. It can also provide comfort and reassurance in times of trouble for Christians old and new. Because we can have confidence in the message of the Gospel, we can better endure the trials and dry periods in life when we feel as if God isn’t close.
What apologetics is not
When the topic of apologetics comes up in many church circles, people will protest “you can’t argue someone into the kingdom.” While it is true the apologetics in and of itself won’t save any one, it can remove barriers to people being open to the Gospel message. This is how apologetics becomes a tool for evangelism. In the end only the Holy Spirit can move in someone’s heart to allow them to accept the free gift of God (Titus 3:5-7).
Keeping 1 Peter 3:15 in mind, apologetics also isn’t meant to be a bludgeon to be used against critics of Christianity. We are not trying to win arguments; we are trying to win people to Christ. If we approach the discussion with pride or arrogance, we are not modelling Christ for our friend. As Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason says: “If either of you get angry, you lose.”
Finally, apologetics doesn’t have all the answers. Although it can go a long way to answering questions skeptics and critics may have about Christianity, it can never fully explain an all-powerful Creator or His plans. We must keep this in mind as we seek to help people understand the grace of Jesus’ sacrifice.
This is only a brief examination of why all Christians should take an interest in apologetics. This blog will continue to provide more information on apologetics, it’s importance to Christian life, many of the common critiques of Christianity and their answers, and much more.
My goal is to post a new blog post every two weeks. Please check back often for new posts. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed please email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to address it or provide a reference that covers the topic. Welcome to this new venture!