Why Study Christian Apologetics?
First, what is Christian apologetics? The word itself is derived from the Greek work ‘apologia’ that means ‘a defense’. It certainly does not mean to apologize for Christianity and the English word similarity is unfortunate. So apologetics can be used to either defend or promote Christianity, but there is more.
Do faith and reason mix? How do I know Christianity is true? Well, it turns out that you can’t separate believing from reasoning and we need reason in order to have faith. Reason comes before faith in that you need to understand who or what you’re putting your faith in. We’ve got to use our minds to even be able to read the words in our Bibles, understand the gospel, and believe it is true.
We should study apologetics for several very good reasons. First, it is because the Bible commands us to several times. One of the clearest statements is in 1 Peter 3:15; “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” This verse is directed to believers – those who worship and serve Jesus as their Lord. There are two clear instructions for believers: we should be prepared to give reasons for our faith in Jesus, and we should do so with gentleness and respect.
Very clearly we are commanded to use our minds when we worship! For example, in Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” Worshipping with our minds is central to Christianity.
We see a good example of apologetics in action in Acts 17:2-3 – “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 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.’ Paul made several references to the importance of using our minds, for example: Romans 14:5 and 1 Corinthians 14:20.
Why Defend the Faith? We should defend the faith because from the very beginning with Jesus; this was done using apologetic tools.
- Jesus: gave people reasons to believe
- Jude: “contend for the faith”
- Luke: history helped establish truth
- Peter: “be ready to give an answer”
- Paul: persuaded Jews and Greeks
We are not called to naively trust everything that might be taught in our world today, even if some Christian teacher is the source! We are told to “test” teachings and spirits: see for example 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 and 1 John 4:1. We’re expected to be critical, skeptical, and thoughtful. Biblical faith is not a blind faith and God wants us to know what we believe and why we believe it.
The second reason is that it is helpful in maintaining and growing our own personal faith. The cumulative case for the truth of Christianity is overwhelmingly powerful.
Third, a working knowledge of apologetics makes us better witnesses for Christ. Some unbelievers have an intellectual barrier to Christianity. People deserve to hear and understand the case for Christianity. When they raise intellectual objections, they should receive concrete, verifiable answers that support the authenticity of Christianity. When it comes to convincing non-Christians about the truth of Christianity, apologetics aims at getting to the heart through the mind. Generally, we can’t believe what we know to be untrue, and we can’t love what we believe to be unreal. Arguments may not bring a person to faith, but they can certainly keep a person away from faith.
Fourth, learning more about some of the things God has done makes us even more appreciative of the great God we worship. His majesty is on display for us to admire, appreciate, and worship. God can and does use apologetics to help believers whose faith is wavering and to ease the suffering caused by doubt. Apologetics can be especially reassuring to new believers seeking to rationally justify their step of faith. It is a wonderful and joyful experience to discover that one’s faith is firmly grounded on objective truths that are confirmed by sensible, verifiable evidence.
Lending library books available at Baptist Campus Ministries:
Gravity, True for You But Not For Me
I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist
Cold Case Christianity
Other helpful resources:
Should Christians be Anti-Intellectual? (pdf to download)