1. Q: I have been in church for years, but I had not heard of apologetics until recently. What is it? Are you saying that Christians should apologize about something?
A. Christian apologetics is the discipline which deals with a rational defense of Christianity. Our term, “apologetics” comes from the Greek word apologia (ἀπολογία), which means, “to give a reason, an answer, or a defense.” It has nothing to do with saying, “I‘m sorry.” For the Christian, apologetics may include effectively explaining why we believe that God is real, the Bible is true, or that Jesus and His resurrection are authentic.
1 Peter 3:15 contains the admonition, “. . . be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. . . .” The same wording is found in Philippians 1:7 and 1:17, where Paul said that he is “set for the defense of the Gospel.” The principle is echoed in Jude 3, as believers are encouraged to “earnestly contend for the faith.” The Bible contains examples of using evidence and sound reasoning to minister to individuals (see Luke 21:14; Acts 25:16, 26:23-24; I Corinthians 9:3; and 2 Corinthians 10:3,4).
Apologetics deals with support for (and defense of) the core beliefs of Christianity. Examples are such topics as defending the authority and trustworthiness of scripture; presenting evidence in defense of Jesus Christ, His resurrection, and the Christian faith in general; and exposing the flawed reasoning behind many of the popular arguments against Christianity.
Ironically, many people today think that they have legitimate reasons for rejecting Jesus Christ and that God does not have justifiable claim on their life. Man feels that he has an apologetic, but God does not. In reality, it is God Who does have an apologetic, while man does not. The Bible says that those who suppressed God‘s truth in favor of their own sinful desires have no apologetic (or defense) for what they have done (see Romans 2:1).
2. Q: Was Apologetics Part of the Early Apostolic Church’s Example to Us?
A: Without question. Not only do we see apologetic discourse in both of the Old and the New Testaments, but the duty of the apologist did not die. Many of the early Church Fathers were engaged in apologetics debate with those who were opposed to the true nature of Christ, the nature of the Godhead, and the issues regarding salvation by grace through faith. When you look at these issues, we can see that we have a responsibility to uphold. Thankfully the Church Fathers boldly contended for the faith, but they have passed the baton to the succeeding generations of Christians who would follow. If we do not carry this torch that has been passed on to us, then their labor was in vain. That is why I like the passage: “Join with others in following my example brothers and take not of those living according to the pattern we gave you. . . for many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” — The Apostle Paul to the Philippians 3:17.
3. Q: Where do we find the example and pattern of Paul?
A: The master passage that many apologists turn to is Acts 17. This is known as Paul’s sermon or discourse at Mars Hill in Athens. It includes reasoning with and persuading everyone he could in the marketplace , as well as in religious gathering, about the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the very heart of apologetic dialogue.
4. Q: Why do we need to challenge and contradict others?
A: This is a great question. Let me restate the question this way: why should we challenge others? If you think of it, Christianity claims to be exclusive by its truth claims meaning this: Christianity alone is true. If we were to compare and contrast Christianity with the other great religions known to man (in a quantitative sense), we could defend this, and provide refutation on why those other religious systems fail. Without a doubt, Christianity is true. That is why we are to,
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine; For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; And they shall turn way their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:2-4.
If the secular culture challenges Christianity in order to stand up for what it believes, then we need to respond to that and do it responsibly and respectfully. It is only right to challenge what others believe, for the unexamined faith is a faith not worth believing.
5. Q: What Cause Do We Have to Doubt a Teacher? Isn’t This Disrespectful?
A: Allow me to answer the second part of this question first. If you are disrespectful to refute a teacher then yes it is disrespectful. However, if a teacher, be they in the secular college/university setting or in the local church is teaching something that is not true, or contrary to Scripture, then those of us who know the truth should respectfully and graciously address the error coming from the one who is teaching.
Let me also say that there is nothing wrong with standing toe to toe with the professor of the day so long as you maintain your testimony as a Christian, respectfully and intelligently engage yourself in the refutation of the faulty worldview. Biblically speaking: If Paul can be questioned then anybody can be. We are dire need for discernment in our day: “These Bereans were more noble (minded) than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11).
6. Q: Is Apologetics Just Limited to Paul’s Teaching?
A. This is a great question for it answers the misconception that apologetics is only a New Testament task or something that is only found in the New Testament. Not only did Peter agree that apologetic reason was warranted, “Always be prepared to give to every man who asks you a reasoned defense (apologia) for the hope that lies within you but do this with gentleness and respect.” — The Apostle Peter, First Letter (3.15), so did Jude when he said, “Earnestly contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints” Jude 3.
However not many believers realize that apologetic engagement is not just limited to the New Testament. The Old Testament has an apologetic fervor to it. Moses in Genesis 1 confronts the mythical accounts of creation known in his day. We also have the classical passage in 1 Kings 18, where Elijah is in a power encounter confronting the prophets of Baal.
There are also admonitions in handling and approaching the fool with sound reasoning (Proverbs 21:22; 26:4,5). Proverbs and the Book of Ecclesiastes are within the corpus of Wisdom Literature in the Bible. The Psalms also have an apologetics flavor (e.g., Psalm 19:1).
Is there anything in the Prophetic writings? Yes. There is the classic passage where GOD though the prophet Isaiah calls us to the following: “Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).