Apologetics is to give an answer, to explain, to clarify a position. As Christians, we are called to practice apologetics, but why? What is the reason(s) for being able to answer people? Like a little child asks about everything…”but why?”
The first and most important reason to practice apologetics is because God has commanded us to do so. I’ll let God’s Word speak for itself on this point.
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)
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)
The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
not so the hearts of fools. (Proverbs 15:7)
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2)
The 1st and most important reason to practice apologetics is b/c God has commanded us to do so. Click To Tweet
Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:5)
Examples in the Early Church
In addition to the straightforward commands in Scripture to be able to explain Christianity and the Gospel, God has blessed us with examples of wonderful apologists in Scripture.God has blessed us with examples of wonderful apologists in Scripture. Click To Tweet
In this speech, Paul pointed out all the idols that were about the city. He recognized that they were a very religious group and even had an idol for “the unknown god.” Paul used this as an opening to tell these people about the true God.
On his mission trips, Paul would often visit the synagogues of the cities he stopped in before going to the general public. He would try to reason with the spiritual leaders of the towns first.
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.’” (Acts 17:1-3)
Paul would then move on to the Gentiles. He knew that everyone was in need of the Savior and that the Gospel is for all peoplee groups, not just the Jews.
“And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:8-10)
Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was also a great apologist.
“And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” (Acts 6:8-10)
Apollos is a man that we don’t hear a lot about today but he was a passionate and devoted apologist, as well.
“When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.” (Acts 18:27b-28)
In the passages describing who to give the job of leading the churches, we see that elders are to be skilled in apologetics.
“He 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)
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,” (2 Tim 2:24)
Practicing apologetics helps mature and sanctify the Christian.Practicing apologetics helps mature and sanctify the Christian. Click To Tweet
When asked a question that the Christian does not have an answer for, she has two options: (1) she can ignore it, say I don’t know and leave it there, or say “it doesn’t matter you just need faith;” or (2) she can say “I don’t know but let me find out and get back to you.”
The first option is not engaging in apologetics and leaves the Christian in an immature state. In addition, it shows she has no love for the person questioning her that she will not take the time to help the questioner find an answer that may help her better understand Christianity.
The second option is practicing apologetics. She grows to understand her own belief better and how to express this belief to the questioner. By going back to the questioner, she shows that she not only loves this person and cares for them by answering her question but that Christianity is not based on incredulous ideas but on real truth and logical understanding.
Correct false teachings about Christianity to the world
By answering those who question us on our belief or correcting those who have false understandings of Christianity, we help to prevent and dispel the false ideas that the world has of us. We give a better understanding of what Christianity is when we practice apologetics.
The early church faced harsh accusations from the pagan culture of the day. They were accused of being atheists because they did not worship the plethora of gods of the Roman empire and wouldn’t profess “Caesar is Lord.” They were accused of being cannibals because it was rumored that these followers of Jesus were meeting in secret and consuming the flesh and blood of a person. Early leaders of the church like Justin Martyr had to address these accusations and clarify what they actually believed.
Demonstrate the differences between Christianity and cults or other religions
There are many cults and religions that claim to be under the Christian umbrella. When we practice solid apologetics, we reveal the major differences between our worldviews. It quickly becomes evident that we do not believe in the same God, the same Jesus, or the same way of salvation. When we do not agree on the basics of Christianity, we cannot assert to share the same religion.
To wear the title of “Christian” it must mean something, it must stand for something. To reveal its true meaning protects our name and the name of Christ’s Bride from association with that which we have no common ground.
Correct false teachings within the churchOne of the places where apologetics is most needed today is in the church. Click To Tweet
One of the places where apologetics is most needed today is in the church. As with every previous generation, false teachings are in the church. Paul went to the religious teachers in the synagogues before proceeding to the general public (Acts 17:1-3). Correcting errant doctrines in the church is one of the main duties of apologetics.
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:1-3)
By practicing apologetics in the church, we teach the younger in the faith that Christianity is an anchor upon which to trust. There is truth and it can be found in the pages of Scripture. We fortify their faith so they will not be shaken when presented with what may seem like a logical argument. We also teach them how to test what someone claims is truth to the truth of Scripture.
Another benefit of practicing apologetics in the church is to expose the false teachings, heresies, and apostasy that have risen within the walls of the church. The stronger the apologetics within the church, the stronger the defense against false teaching and the faster heresy is detected.The stronger the apologetics within the church, the stronger the defense against false teaching. Click To Tweet
“One of the most important tasks we have in answering the critics of the Christian faith in our day is not to provide proof and persuasion to the unbeliever. We are to do that. We are to argue…give the arguments to the ascent of the mind. But, the most valuable role, I believe, in the task of apologetics is to encourage the saints, to shore up the church.” ~ RC Sproul
Part of Evangelism
When considering justification (blog article to come…for now consider it somewhat synonymous with salvation), the reformers came up with three essential elements. These words sound big and a bit intimidating but using them to understand these components really help to break down how apologetics plays a role in evangelism.
Elements of Justification
- Notae (aka Notitia) – the data/content/facts about the Christian faith
This is the step of evangelism where someone is told about Christianity, when they hear the Gospel. In apologetics, we participate in notae when we explain and clarify the data of Christianity
2. Assensus – the assent of the intellect to the truth of some proposition, the mind is convinced of the truth of the proposition
This is the point at which a person believes the Gospel. In apologetics, we give a rational defense of the truth claims of Christianity and rational arguments for the data.
At this point, a person is not considered saved. In fact, James 2:19 informs us that even the demons believe. I was stuck at this point for many years as a false convert. I knew the facts of Christianity. I had been raised in the church from birth. I believed the Gospel, I believed in the one true God, I believed Jesus had died and was resurrected for the sins of man, I believed Jesus would come back one day and everything we know will be destroyed and Christians will spend eternity with Christ and the unbelievers will spend eternity in hell. But, this is no different that what every demon and Satan, himself, know and believe. So, what makes the difference?
3. Fiducia – by trust
The final element of justification is in trusting in the Gospel, in God. Apologetics does not get a person to this point. We can explain the Gospel to a person, we can answer their questions and present rational arguments for the Gospel, but there is nothing we can say or do that causes a person’s heart to change and trust in the Gospel for their salvation. This is only by the work of the Holy Spirit through a process known as “regeneration.” The person is made a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) by the only being that has the ability to create…God.
“However the best arguments we ever offer, however convincing they may be, can never change the human heart that by nature is hostile toward God, at enmity toward God, and dead to the spiritual things of God. Apologetics can never prove the sweetness of Christ to a pagan.” ~ RC Sproul
It is the job of the evangelist/apologist to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work at this point. This is a great relief for us. We are not to carry the burden of another person’s salvation upon ourselves. Ultimately, we are not in charge of whether a person becomes a Christian or not. As Martin Luther said, “Your responsibility is to get God’s Word from your mouth to their ears. Only God can take it from their ears to their heart.” ~ Martin LutherApologetics is the duty of every Christian. Click To Tweet
Apologetics is the duty of every Christian. We are to know God’s Word and be ready to explain it in order to mature in the faith, protect the church from within and without, to reveal the truth of what Christianity really believes to the world, to properly evangelize the lost, and, most importantly, because God commands us to do so.
- RC Sproul: The Task of Apologetics (YouTube)
- Tabletalk: Faith Defined
- CARM: Eight reasons why we need apologetics
- ICR: Understanding Effective Biblical Apologetics