Practicing Christian apologetics does not mean apologizing for being a Christian or for the doctrines of Christian theology. The term apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia which means “to give an answer or “to make a defense.”
“Therefore, Christian apologetics is that branch of Christianity that deals with answering any and all critics who oppose or question the revelation of God in Christ and the Bible. It can include studying such subjects as biblical manuscript transmission, philosophy, biology, mathematics, evolution, and logic. But it can also consist of simply giving an answer to a question about Jesus or a Bible passage.” (CARM)
1 Peter 3:15
This word apologia is used seventeen times in the New Testament but the most common verse referred to when considering apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15.
…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,… (1 Peter 3:15)
“Peter’s first epistle was written to the ‘exiles’ living in Asia Minor, located in modern-day Turkey. These exiled Christians were ostracized for their faith and suffered persecution. They were insulted and slandered. Some of them suffered at the hands of their own family members.
“Peter commands theses exiles not to live in fear or cower before opposition. Instead, he commands these exiled Christians — and us — to be always ready to make a defense. The main verb ‘to make a defense,’ from the Greek word apologia, is the imperative mood. The imperative mood is used for commands. There’s no procedure for deferment here. The command extends to all of us.” (Nichols)
“If your neighbor says, ‘I notice that you are a Christian. What is it that you believe?’ are you ready to explain not only what you believe but why you believe it? Some Christians tell those who inquire that we simply take a leap of faith with no bother about the credibility or the rational character of the truth claims of the Bible. But that response goes against the teaching of this text. The only leap of faith we are to take is out of the darkness and into the light. When we become Christians, we do not leave our mind in the parking lot. We are called to think according to the Word of God, to seek the mind of Christ, and an understanding of the things set forth in sacred Scripture.”
Many of us know what we believe otherwise we wouldn’t be aware of it to believe it in the first place. However, many of us have a much more difficult time explaining why we believe something. Often in our frustration to articulate why we believe a certain thing, we make the mistake of appealing to emotion, our feelings, our experiences, or making comments like Dr. Sproul mentioned above. Our emotions and experiences may mean a great deal to us personally but to another person trying to understand why you believe something, those arguments do nothing to help.
RC Sproul has an excellent book entitled “Everyone’s A Theologian.” That is true, everyone does think and have their own view of who God is, whether it be a correct view or not. Just as true of a statement as “everyone’s a theologian” is the statement “all Christians are apologists.” This is not an optional position to hold in Christianity, It is a commissioned role that comes with the title “Christian.” The moment you are regenerated, made into a new creation, you will be confronted with questions and accusations from others. Answering those questions is part of the Christian life.
God has called us all to practice apologetics but we often feel intimidated. Click To Tweet
“Jesus chose one highly-educated religious person as an apostle. That was Paul. The rest were fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor, etc. They were normal people of the day who were available and willing to be used by the Lord. They were filled with the Spirit of God, and they were used as vessels of God. God uses all things for His glory.” (CARM)
What a comforting bit of realization! God has called us all to practice apologetics but we often feel intimidated. “There are people out there so much smarter and more educated than myself. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I don’t know the answer?” The Bible shows us time and time again that God enjoys calling the ordinary, the average, the lowly to participate in His Grand Plan.
All Christians are apologists. Click To Tweet
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God choose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon men. (1 Corinthians 12:9)
Probably the first and most common song taught to children of Christians is “Jesus Loves Me.” This little hymn, made lullaby, has one of the first apologetic statements within it that many children learn. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” “For the Bible tells me so.”
In a recent article by Albert Mohler, he referenced this song and stated, “A mature Christian faith will say more than that, not less than that. ‘For the Bible tells me so’ does not mean that we do not have reasoned answers to difficult questions, but it does mean that we admit our dependence upon Scripture — and that we confess that God intended us to be dependent on Scripture.” (Mohler)
We may not be fully educated, the smartest of the bunch, or of any worldly standard worth listening to but God has called us and His glory shines brightest in the weakest. We are not to purposefully remain weak, for God is glorified as we mature in the faith and become stronger in Him. However, our weakness and ignorance in how to explain what and why we believe what we do is no excuse.
“There is no excuse for a Christian to be completely unable to defend his or her faith. Every Christian should be able to give a reasonable presentation of his or her faith in Christ. No, not every Christian needs to be an expert in apologetics. Every Christian, though, should know what he believes, why he believes it, how to share it with others, and how to defend it against lies and attacks.” (GotQuestions)
With Gentleness and Respect
In the Tabletalk article, Dr. Nichols went on to point out, “Peter also tells us that we need to make our defense ‘with gentleness and respect’…The word translated ‘respect’ could equally be translated ‘reverence.’ It’s the same word used of how we should approach God. So we exiles are to treat our examiners with gentleness and reverence.” (Nichols)
Keep in mind that this passage was written to Christians in exile and who were not treated well for what they believed. Many of them were being persecuted, even by their own family. Yet, they were called to respect and be gentle with those who were persecuting them.
We often forget this part of the verse, especially with the anonymity of the internet. We often become very emotional and upset and say things especially in a tone that we would never use with a person we were sitting down for coffee with. The person we are talking with may have used a tone, a comment, or sarcasm that set us off in anger. We are tempted to pound out an equally harsh rebuttal but that is not what we are called to. We are called to gentleness and respect/reverence. The audience of 1 Peter were experiencing harsh physical persecution and they were called to gentleness and respect. How much more are we called to this when someone merely types a careless or harsh remark in opposition to what we believe?
Let us confidently take up the mantle of apologist...with gentleness and respect. Click To Tweet
“Apologetics isn’t just for some Christians, it is for all Christians. We all must know what we believe, why we believe it, how to live it, how to defend it, and how to proclaim it — and we must do so with gentleness and respect.” (Parsons)
Let us confidently take up the mantle of apologist and train in how to properly answer those who question us but let us do so with gentleness and respect so that our testimony both in word and action brings glory to our God and Savior.
“May we be apologists, confident in the gospel and compassionate toward our persecutors, May we always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us — the only hope for a world in desperate need of the gospel.” (Nichols)
- Alpha and Omega Ministries
- Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
- Grace to You: Apologetics
- Ligonier: Handout Apologetics – free teaching series
- Ligonier Store: Apologetics
- Ligonier: Worldview and Culture/Apologetics
- Monergism: Apologetics
- Mohler, Dr. Albert. “For The Bible Tells Me So: Biblical Authority Denied…Again”. Albert Mohler. N.p., 2016. http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/09/26/bible-tells-biblical-authority-denied/. 27 Sept. 2016.
- Nichols, Dr. Stephen J. “An Apology For Apologetics”. Tabletalk 2016: n. pag. Print.
- Parsons, Burk. “With Gentleness And Respect”. Tabletalk 2016: n. pag. Print.
- Slick, Matt. “An Introduction To Apologetics”. CARM. N.p., 2009. https://carm.org/introduction-apologetics. 27 Sept. 2016.
- GotQuestions. “What Is Christian Apologetics?”. GotQuestions.org. http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-apologetics.html. 27 Sept. 2016.