What is Apologetics?

Apologetics is an extremely popular fixation at Christian colleges and seminaries. Every year New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary hosts the Defend conference—which is open to the public and well worth attending—featuring some of the world’s top apologists. Some influential Christians consider apologetics to be so important that they say things like: “In this day and age, evangelism is spelled A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S.”[1] However, apologetics is a foreign word to many Christians. So, what does it mean?

First off, apologetics has nothing to do with apologizing. Instead, apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia (απολογία), which means a defense or reason given to explain something else. Lawyers give an apologia for their clients in court. Similarly, in Plato’s Apology, written in Greek like the New Testament, Socrates gives a defense of his actions—that is, he gives an apologia for what he has done. Apologia‘s most famous appearance in the New Testament is in 1 Peter 3.15: “Always be prepared to give an answer/απολογίαν to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”[2].

In a Christian context, apologetics means to give a reasoned defense for our beliefs as Christians. Think about all the questions people have about Christianity and about Christians, and you’ll get a feel for some of the common apologetics questions: Why does God allow so much evil to take place? Does God even exist? If God exists, where’d he come from? Why does the Bible have violence in it? Can God really do everything? Aren’t there contradictions in the Bible? Are miracles possible? Was Jesus really raised from the dead? Doesn’t every religion lead to God? These are just a few of the questions in apologetics! Christian apologetics is the practice of providing rational answers to these and other questions.

Why You Should Do Apologetics

1. The most important reason that you should do apologetics is that the Bible tells you to do so. 1 Peter 3.15, which I’ve already cited, contains a direct order for Christians to be ready to answer questions about their faith. If you aren’t spending time learning what you believe and why you believe it, you’re directly disobeying 1 Peter 3.15, in addition to many other verses. Anytime you research something to answer questions about your faith or have a discussion with someone who has questions about Christianity, you’re engaging in apologetics

2. The Bible is replete with apologetics. For example, the apostle John wrote the Gospel of John so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”[3] That is, John wrote his gospel so that people would have a reason to believe in Jesus. Though the arguments in John’s gospel aren’t the apologetic arguments that we use today, he was giving a reason to believe that Jesus is the Messiah—he was doing apologetics. The book of Acts has many examples of apologetics. To name but one example, in Acts 2, the crowds hear the disciples speaking in tongues and claim that the apostles are drunk. Peter then stands up and explains why the disciples were speaking in tongues—that is, Peter gave a reason, an apologia, for what the Christians were doing.[4] Finally, Jesus did apologetics in His own unique way. In Luke 5.24, Jesus tells the gadflies of the gospels, the Pharisees, that He’s about to do something so that they will know that He “has authority on earth to forgive sins.”[5] Once again, anytime that you do or say something to explain something about the Christian faith, you’re doing apologetics.

3. Apologetics is a tool God can use to remove objections that could keep a person from coming to faith in Christ. Every Christian will agree that we should not do things that would keep a person from coming to faith. If I live a lifestyle that makes me a stumbling block to someone who is interested in Christianity, then I have sinned. Just like I don’t want my life to be the reason that a person doesn’t come to faith, I don’t want a question I could answer to be the reason that a person rejects Christ. Apologetics is the practice of answering these questions so that they don’t hinder a person from coming to faith.

4. Apologetics is required to have effective dialogue in our increasingly post-Christian culture. There was a time when what the Bible said was respected, everyone believed that they should go to church on Sunday, and few would question whether the Judeo-Christian God existed; that time is dying if it is not already dead. The fact is that the general public no longer takes these things as granted. If Christians continue to do evangelism like we did when everyone assumed that Christianity was true, then we shouldn’t be surprised when our efforts are less effective. Given our current culture, apologetics is vital to effective evangelism.

A time is going to come, if it hasn’t already come, when someone is going to ask you a question about the Christian faith. It may be your grand-kids, a coworker, or a complete stranger. When you answer that, you’ve become an apologist. Are you going to be a good one, or a poor one?

Notes & Sources

[1]https://twitter.com/Frank_Turek/status/889470266740539392

[2] 2 Peter 3.15, NIV.

[3] John 20.31, NIV.

[4] Acts 2.13-41.

[5] Luke 5.24, NIV.

4 comments

  1. Well-said, Nick! Thank you for addressing this important topic. I’ve found that even people who grew up in the church don’t know exactly what they believe or why. Before I began studying the Bible, that might be said of me too! But God’s Word comes alive in us as we read, giving us the Mind of Christ and helping us to know The One in Whom we believe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! As a pastor, I agree with your diagnosis: Lots of people don’t understand the basics of Christianity. In our post-Christian culture, it’s very important that people wrestle with how they understand their faith. I’m currently preaching through Colossians on Sunday mornings, and the importance of knowing theology keeps popping up.

      Like

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