The study and discipline of apologetics seems to be making a comeback in recent years, but not without its struggles. Apologetics seems to be that single Christian practice that is most misunderstood yet depended on most with regard to evangelism. It’s a discipline that requires intensive amounts of study yet the application of it seems to be very simple. Our ability to understand complex philosophical and theological concepts is important but only insofar that we can convey it to people simply.
Now before we get too far into this I want to define what apologetics is. Apologetics is the discipline of giving a reasoned defense of your belief or position. Apologetics is not being argumentative nor is it the belief that we can argue people into our beliefs. It is quite simply giving a reasoned defense. More specifically, with regard to our belief in Christ, what we’re doing is giving a reasoned defense for why we believe orthodox Christianity to be true. In this post I would like to address 2 objections and then offer two apologies (defenses) for doing Christian apologetics.
First Objection: I’m not going to apologize for being a Christian!
Well to this I have to say: I am glad you’re not apologizing. I see no reason to abandon your faith or apologize for it. Jesus did not apologize for his claims, neither did his disciples, and neither should we. We have a belief that is logically consistent, empirically adequate, and experientially relevant. Those three tests for truth show us that we have, unlike many other worldviews, a belief that is rooted in a Person and rooted in truth. Why on earth would you be sorry for that? When we are talking about giving an apologia we are talking about giving a defense, or reasons, for our beliefs and not being sorry for them.
Second Objection: No one comes to faith through arguments!
This is something I have heard a few times and I have to say that I agree with this. There is no objection among most apologists that we do not “win” converts or that we are arguing people into the kingdom of God. What needs to be clarified here is that we are giving evidences, or reasons, for why we hold our to our beliefs. We can pray for, minister to, live our Christian lives as best as possible, even give a defense for our faith; but at the end of the day it is not us who converts someone.
Now let’s move on to the two main reasons I think we should all be trained in apologetics.
First Defense: It is a biblical mandate.
Some people may not agree, but it is a verifiable fact that giving a reasoned defense is mandated by Scripture. I could cite 1 Peter 3:15 as a proof text, but since that is often used, I will cite a couple of other verses.
“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
“We must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:9
These two texts here are some of my favorite for supporting the biblical mandate for apologetics. Here, we find statements that clearly outline the act of refuting anything raised up against Christ and His work. A lot could be said about the need for apologetics and providing good reasons for why we believe what we do; I will boil it down to one. If our belief in Christ is not based in what actually happened in reality, in history, then we are no different than mystics, pantheists, or anyone else. We need to know that Christ’s resurrection is an actual historical event that took place lest we become just another voice in the cacophony of competing worldviews. To quote one of my favorite authors:
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” C.S. Lewis
Second Defense: The apostles did Christian apologetics.
Now I don’t want to assume that, just because the apostles did something, we should too; but I do find examples of the apostles performing apologetics. What I’m interested in is why they did it. The main verse that I want to look at is Acts 18:4 where Paul says, “and he reasoned in the synagogues every Sabbath, and tried to persuade the Jews and Greeks.” We see here that Paul was reasoning and trying to persuade people to believe that Christ was the Messiah and had risen from the dead. Considering the belief that some ancient cultures were more religious because they were older than others, why would Paul need to reason with people about Christ? Dr. William Lane Craig has some good insights here, “The Gospel is never heard in isolation. It is always heard against the background of the cultural milieu in which one lives.”
What Dr. Craig is saying is the Gospel message, if it is a timeless message, appeals to all people at all all times at all places and has to be presented against that background. The way that we would present Christ and the Gospel to someone suffering is very different than how we would present it to somebody who is very well off and happy with life. The presentation of the Gospel message would also be different in the West versus the East simply because the cultures are different. The Gospel message itself does not change but the application toward people has to change to take root and becomes relevant. If this doesn’t happen and Christianity becomes just another idea in a sea of them, then it would appear it has no truth value.
If Jesus can speak into the lives of so many different kinds of people, and if the early church leaders can appeal to the Jews in the synagogue and the Greeks at the Areopagus, then we should be able to appeal to people where they’re at. Even a cursory reading of the book of Acts provides multiple examples of apologetics, how the early apostles engaged with the culture, and that should be our example.