The underlying intention of apologetics would be to motivate you in passionately seeking out areas where you can grow deeper in knowledge and defense of your faith; which will serve to help you not be universally pacifistic when your faith is attacked but to be strategically aggressive.
There may be those who have no idea what the term Christian Apologetics means, so let’s start there. The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia which simply means ‘;a defense.’ So when we use the term Christian Apologetics we are referring to the branch on Christian theology that seeks to provide a rational justification for the claims of the Christian faith. Simply put, the defense of the Christian faith. It is a theoretical discipline with practical application that tries to answer the question, ‘What rational warrant can be given for the Christian faith?’
To explain how this is to be done, following are three vital roles which the discipline of apologetics plays today:
Many Western intellectuals have been deceived into believing that theology and thus Christianity is a joke that does not hold any weight in our modern, technological, fast paced culture. While I believe this is the result of an inability to accept the moral responsibility that is attached to such beliefs, it is nonetheless a growing problem mostly due to Christians having grown lazy alongside society in their effort to defend their faith.
Princeton theologian J. Gresham Machen put out a warning of what happens when we fail to acknowledge the power of an idea when he said, “false ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the Gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation to be controlled by ideas which prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.”
At another time Machen also stated that, “as Christians we should try to mold the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity.”
I think a good example of this can be found by looking at the history of the United States. A nation where Christianity was the base of our government. Even Benjamin Franklin who was thought to be a deist insisted that schools teach, “the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient and or modern.” Our government used to fund the shipment of Bibles to all parts of the world, used to fund missionary trips around the globe, used to allow prayer in schools, used to have no problem saying that we are “One Nation Under God” or “In God We Trust.” But because of a few people who had the passion for their opinions that Christians should have for their faith, all these things have been changed. Because we have failed to continue shaping culture, our culture has become pluralist, relativist, liberalist, and atheist. It is the age of the ‘;ist.’
Therefore, it is important as a Christian that we use apologetics, the defense of our faith, as a method with which we will continue our effort to shape the culture; even if it will not be state by state, we can do it inch by inch just as the early Christian Church did.
When we go to Church on Sunday we use worship to create an emotional and spiritual intimacy with God, additionally we can use apologetics to strengthen the relationship between us and God. Kind of like in a marriage, intimacy is great, but a stronger and more meaningful relationship where your faith and understanding of each other is dominant will generally result in a stronger and more meaningful intimacy with each other.
This is becoming increasingly important with the youth of today’s church. It has recently been found that as much as 90% of today’s youth will leave the church after turning 18. In high-school but mostly in college our youth are like fresh meat for the overwhelming non-Christian worldview and relativism that is taking over our society.
The church as an organization cannot fix or prevent this. It is the job of the church as a family; as mothers, as fathers, and as leaders of our youth. If we are not intellectually engaged in our faith and do not have good reason outside of the Bible to follow Christianity as well as answer questions set forth by our children, then the youth of the Church are doomed to the small chance that they might someday return to Christ by some other means. In our modern society it is unfortunately no longer enough to simply teach our kids the inspirational stories of the Bible and send them to youth group once a week. What they need is doctrine, logic, reason, rationality, and yes, even basic philosophy. When I mention philosophy I do not mean to imply that our children should know the writings of such authors as Augustine, Aquinas, and Kant, but that they know basic arguments that will help them defend their faith. All this in contained in the study of apologetics, like a mental 5 for 1 deal. Today it is absurd to risk something as challenging as parenthood without having a strong foundation in your faith and the ability to answer questions and defend it when necessary.
But it is not just the youth who need this strength. Whenever a member of the Church loses a loved one, they may need to be uplifted in their faith during their time of emotional crisis. Or when one comes across an atheist who stumbles their faith using some fancy argument, they will need us to show them truth and logic. Perhaps they come across someone of a different faith who tells them that the Bible is full of contradictions and false statements, they may need us to show them the validity and reliability of God’s word through prophecy and extra-biblical documentation.
Many times you may hear people say, “people don’t come to Christ through arguments.” Understand, that when I mention argument I typically mean a set of reasons given with the goal of persuading others that my belief or idea is right or wrong.
I think it is necessary to point out that this particular point of view is most definitely an unbiblical opinion based off of limited observation. All a person would need to do is read through the book of Acts to get a better understanding as to how biblical ‘;arguments’ really are.
You may be saying to yourself that there are no arguments in any of those verses, and it does seem that way when looking at it in English. But wherever you see the word ‘;reasoned’ replace it with the Greek word dialegomai which means ‘;conversed, debated, and argued.’
So when you read Acts 18:4, picture it more like this, “And he conversed, he debated, and he argued in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade the Jews and Greeks.”
When dealing with Jewish audiences the apostles used fulfilled prophecy, the miracles of Jesus, and most importantly Jesus’ resurrection from the dead after his crucifixion as evidence that He was indeed the Messiah (Acts 2:22-23).
But when they confronted Gentile audiences who did not accept Jewish scripture, the apostles referred to God’s handiwork in nature as evidence of His existence (Acts 14:17). They then proceeded to point them towards the eyewitness testimonies of Jesus to show specifically that God had revealed Himself to us through His son (Acts 17:30-31, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
I am reminded of Dr. William Lane Craig where in his book titled Reasonable Faith he says, “those who regard apologetics as futile in evangelism just don’t do enough evangelism.” I think he is right. But it is important to repeat myself in light of John 13:35 and 1 Peter 3:14-16 in that when we do dialegomai that we do it with gentleness and respect, because we cannot correctly be a disciple of Christ if we are inappropriately a jerk for Jesus.