September 17, 2012 § 2 Comments
This is the first of a three-part series on some fundamentals of apologetics, based on a small group study I am leading on the topic, designed to give a bit of an introductory overview.
Derived from the Greek word apologia, which means to make a defense, apologetics by definition is a systematic argument or defense of an idea or doctrine. While any religion or belief system (even atheism) can include apologetic discourse, most often when you hear of “apologetics” it refers to a defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.
Who does apologetics?
All Christians are commanded in Scripture to do some type of apologetics. First Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” Many apologists consider this passage more or less a banner for what they do.
Moreover, everyone is compelled morally to give a defense for whatever they believe and argue for the validity of their convictions. When we defend Christianity, in a way we are doing what we are made to do.
Why do apologetics?
Ultimately, I think the goal of apologetics should be bringing people to Christ. There are many Christian doctrines to defend and many methods by which it can be done; but any way we do it, I think we ought to make it our aim to, at some point in the discussion, introduce the Gospel. The first part of 1 Peter 3:15 calls us to “honor” (ESV) or “revere Christ as Lord” (NIV) in our hearts. That’s central to Christianity and ought to be our central commitment. While apologetics and evangelism are two separate things, apologetics is an integral part of evangelism and can be a very effective way to go about it. Since a commitment to follow Christ is intellectual, there is no evangelism that doesn’t use some line of reasoning or evidence to persuade the unbeliever. Apologetics is often natural and done without being aware of it.
Want to be like Jesus? Do apologetics. Jesus did (for Satan in Matthew 4:1-11 and the Pharisees/Sadducees in Matthew 22:15-45). Later, so did Paul (for the Jews in Acts 9:22, the Greeks in Acts 17:17-34, and believers in Romans 1:18-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-58), Peter (Acts 3:11-26) and others.
Personally, I’ve seen two major benefits in knowing how to defend my faith. The first is that I’ve learned how to use apologetics as an opportunity to present the Gospel, which is part of our Great Commission. The second is that I’ve gained confidence in what I believe through defending it. It’s statistically supportable that many walk away from their faith if they themselves are not firmly grounded in it. Don’t be a statistic.