What is Apologetics?
Christian apologetics is that discipline concerned with defending Christian doctrine. Despite the name, apologetics is not concerned with apologizing, but defending, or answering.
But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)
The phrase “give a defense” is translated from the Greek word apologia. It’s not hard to see where we get the English word. So, here we have a biblical mandate to be ready to defend our faith and give an answer to those who have critical questions.
What Apologetics is Not
Apologetics is not about showing who is the smartest. It is not about winning arguments, or debates. The purpose of apologetics is to win a person, not an argument. With this purpose in mind, apologetics becomes Christ-centered. This means that although we may be giving a rational defense for morality, intelligent design, or the reliability of Scripture; our main purpose is to convince our audience that Jesus died a sacrificial death to atone for their sins and they must trust in Him for salvation.
Apologetics is not a substitute for preaching, evangelism, or Scripture reading. Apologetics should be viewed as supplemental to the previous mentioned endeavors. While preaching a biblical passage it may be worthwhile to highlight an apologetic argument. For example, while preaching Genesis 1 you may take a moment to discuss the modern debate between Intelligent Design and Evolution.
Apologetics is not evangelism. However, it can be a tool for evangelism. One has not done evangelism until the gospel is preached and an opportunity to respond to the gospel has been given. Apologetics should be viewed as a tool to break-down the “walls” of the critic in order to win an opportunity for evangelism.
There is a plethora of apologetic resources being produced and that is fantastic! However, reading a chapter a day of the latest apologetic book is no substitute for reading the Scriptures. The Scriptures are inspired by God and are useful for teaching and correction. We should be more concerned with reading the Scriptures than apologetic resources. Nonetheless, I do recommend supplemental apologetic reading.
The Spirit of Apologetics
Yet do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:16)
In the context of 1 Peter, Christians are commanded to respond to accusations against them with gentleness and respect. How much more should we conduct ourselves with gentleness when answering critics of our faith? Man’s anger will not accomplish God’s righteousness (James 1:20). Therefore, we must refrain from letting a debate get too heated, or from tweeting a less than genuine response. Better we lose a debate than our integrity.
Who Does Apologetics?
Apologetics is not (just) a professional endeavor. All Christians will most likely participate in some form of apologetics whether they want to, or not. This doesn’t mean that you need to have every answer to every question. My advice would be to become familiar with an apologetic resource (I recommend them all the time) that you can continually turn back to when you have a question. This way, when you are faced with a question you are unsure of, you can easily go and search for answers from people who do apologetics as a profession.
Love as an Apologetic
Always remember that nobody has ever been argued into the kingdom of God. Ultimately, showing love to others – even our enemies – is the best apologetic. Yes, rational defenses can do much to prepare a critic for conversion, but ultimately it is the Spirit of God who calls. Let’s pray for our critics, seek ways to love them, and do our best to answer their questions.
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