Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Think Apologetics. Tabernacle of David considers this resource trustworthy and Biblically sound.
What is apologetics? For starters, apologetics is not about apologizing for being a follower of Jesus. One of the primary passages that is used in discussing apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15 which says, “But in your hearts acknowledge Christ as the holy Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to every one who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have yet with gentleness and respect.” In the context of this passage, Peter is writing to a group of persecuted Christians. The word “Lord” (Gr. kyrios), is an indication of Jesus’ divine status (Acts 2:34-36). Peter did not suggest that his audience be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us, but he commanded them to be ready with an answer. An application can be made to us today. As Christians are called to give a reason for the hope within them, it is imperative to be both gentle and respectful.
In other words, apologetics is a branch of theology that is concerned with presenting an intelligent defense of the Christian faith. Jesus calls His people to “make disciples of the nations” (Matt.28:19). Within the context of Matthew 28:19, apologetics is part of that discipling or teaching ministry.
In relation to apologetics, Christian philosopher Stephen T. Davis says:
“In truth, faith needs apologetics. It needs it both to answer both the negative arguments of the resurrection and to construct positive arguments in favor of it. Apologetics will not create faith, but perhaps, for some, it will pave the way for it or make it possible. Evans goes on to say, What is destructive of genuine Christian faith, in my opinion, is not apologetics, but unfounded beliefs, unjustified commitments, unsound arguments, and “irrational leaps of faith.” It is the aim of apologetics to prevent Christian faith from amounting to anything like that.”
The God of the Bible is certainly a God of revelation. However, the God of the Bible is a rational being that endowed His creatures with the ability to reason. Remember, the Bible does command us to love God with our minds (Matt. 22:27), as well as love God with the rest of our being. In other words, the disciple of Jesus is called to use good reason, which the Bible commends to discover truth (Isa.1:18; Matt. 22:27; 1 Peter 3:15).
In his book Evangelism and the Early Church, author Michael Green notes that the early church advanced the gospel through the first four centuries because of three things: (1) The ability to engage in persuasive apologetics and outthink her opponents, (2) The transformed character and biblical compassion of believers, (3) The manifest power of the kingdom of God.
Apologetics is seen in several places in the Bible. As it says in John 20:21,”But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” The Apostles appealed to fulfilled prophecy and the resurrection as the basis for the evidence of Jesus’ Messiahship (Acts 2:14-32-39; 3:6-16, 4:8-14; 17:1-4; 26:26; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). They also appealed to objective eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:2-4; John 1:14; 19:31-35-36; 20:24, 30-31; 2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1-3). When the Apostles had to reach out to the Gentile or pagan community, they appealed to nature (Acts 14:14-17; Rom. 1:18-21).The book of Hebrews is addressed to a predominately Jewish audience. The apologetic in Hebrews is based on typology and the fulfillment of the Tanakh.
The Apostle Paul understood the need to use apologetics in his missionary work. As it says in Acts 17: 1-4, “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” It is important to note that logic is not simply a “Greek” concept that is absent from the context of the Jewish Scriptures. We see the Scriptures utilize logical devices, such as antithesis, if-then arguments, syllogisms and propositions.
After doing outreach for the past fifteen years, I am saddened to say that one of the predominant reasons our culture rejects our faith is because of a lack of information. Therefore, it is the Christian’s responsibility to give the individual the right information so they can make an informed decision about the gospel. Furthermore, many people are simply rejecting a caricature of our faith. And most importantly, if parents or pastors cannot articulate what they believe to a teenager or a college student, they may be showing that their faith is not important to them. I once heard a story of a father who had raised his daughter in the faith. After going to college, she returned home to tell him she had left the Christian faith. His daughter, along with so many other young people had attended plenty of youth activities and pizza parties. However, she had never been taught about why her faith was true. Stories like these could be multiplied. Therefore, it is incumbent upon parents and pastors to have apologetic training. In an age of intellectual skepticism, both teenagers and college students walk away from the faith because of unanswered questions.