In Christianity, there is a specific area of study called “apologetics”. The word “apologetics” comes from the Greek word apologia, which means to make a defense. When a Christian is engaged in apologetics, he is attempting to rationally defend the Christian faith by using arguments and evidence rather than revelation. In Peter’s first letter, he tells the elect “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense [apologia] 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). While some are gifted in apologetics, Peter makes it clear that all Christians are called to participate in this ministry! Today I’m going to do my first blog in a weekly series (called Apologetic Thursdays) about how we can defend our faith. But before we get to specific questions, I thought it would be important to learn about apologetics.
Offensive apologetics seeks to give positive evidence and reasons to believe Christianity. Defensive apologetics defends Christianity from arguments against it by refuting them. Apologetics use history, philosophy, theology, and science to make its case. In a day and age where reason and evidence is an important factor in what many people believe, it’s crucial that the church be able to use these tools in evangelism.
Nonetheless, some Christians are skeptical of the use of apologetics in evangelism. Here are a few reasons.
- Doesn’t Scripture say to avoid philosophy?
People get this from Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” But notice that Paul doesn’t condemn philosophy in general, as in the tools of thinking and reason, he condemns philosophies that don’t lead to our have their source in Christ.
- Shouldn’t we take it on faith?
People who say this usually define faith as something we believe in without evidence. But where in Scripture do they get this idea? In the Bible God gives people reason to believe in Him! The faith described in Scripture is an active trust in God, and we can hardly trust someone we don’t have reason to trust! If faith is defined as “believing something without evidence”, then I can destroy your faith by proving Christianity to be true. Wouldn’t that be a bit odd?
Apologetics can strengthen the faith of Christians. God made us as emotional and intellectual beings, so to have as much intellectual confidence as we do emotional/spiritual confidence in our faith can help strengthen it.
- Arguments and evidence don’t lead people to accept Christ?
It’s true that the main reason most people disbelieve in God is emotional in nature, so I won’t argue with that. It’s true that argument and evidence may, at the end of the day, change no one’s mind, but this is hardly universal. The same can be said of sermons. Apologetics can be a useful tool for evangelizing because it can break down intellectual barriers to the Gospel or reveal new information to unbelievers that they didn’t know before.
In his book, Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig says, “I’ve even seen students come to Christ just through hearing a defense of the kalam cosmological argument!” (pg. 23). People like him and Ravi Zacharias use apologetics in their ministry all the time, and it helps bring thousands to Christ. The Holy Spirit can use apologetics just as much as a sermon.
Because of the importance of apologetics, my goal this semester is to give positive arguments for Christianity and respond to common challenges brought to it so I can help strengthen your faith and evangelism. Check back every Thursday for a new blog by me. You can also check out my previous blogs for topics I’ve already covered.
For some good beginners books to read on apologetics, read On Guard by William Lane Craig, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. For those who aren’t afraid to be challenged, get God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and William Lane Craig to see the strengths and weaknesses of each side of the argument.