What is Apologetics?

by | May 15, 2023

Is there a God?
How can a good God send people to hell?
Is Jesus the only way?

The person following Jesus might believe they can answer these questions undoubtedly.

But what about the person who doesn’t yet know Jesus? Or the person who opposes the existence of God and the teachings of Jesus?

One of the greatest tragedies in Christianity is that we, as people of faith, might only scratch the surface of our faith. We were barely skimming over the top of what, in reality, is an endless ocean of beauty and mystery. And it’s this infinite ocean that God desires for us to explore. Because in our exploration, we become deeper spiritually. We find a deeper understanding of our faith and our God in our exploration.

It’s the spiritual depth that will empower us to respond to the questions and give an answer to the hope that is in us.

 

Why apologetics?

C.S. Lewis once said:

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important

Because we believe our faith to be of infinite importance, we take great care to know what we believe and why. Understanding the core tenets of our faith is essential to not only our depth as followers for Jesus, but also to our witness.

In a culture that often opposes the ways and teaching of Jesus, the ability to know and articulate what we believe and why is more valuable than ever. And we can better understand and articulate our faith to those with opposing views through the study and practice of apologetics.

The term apologetics derives from the Greek word apologia, which has it’s roots within a courtroom setting.

In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal  judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense of reply (apologia).

This reply, referred to as an apologia, is the answer one had to a question and the defense one had when facing opposition. We find the term apologia in 1 Peter 3:15, when the Apostle Peter writes:

But in your hearts revere 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…

The word answer in the Greek is apologia. It’s this idea of having an answer, a response, and a defense to give. When followers of Jesus found themselves faced with opposition, they were instructed to have an answer prepared, ready to give at a moment’s notice. And it’s their response to questions and doubts from those in opposition to their fait that played a vital role in the advancement of God’s kingdom.

But in order for the early church to have a response to give, they had to know what they believed and why. And not only why they believed what they believed, but how their faith made sense of the world around them. This is why apologetics is an essential element in the life of those who follow Jesus. Apologetics challenges us to go beyond the surface and begin to plunge the depths of an infinite God, with infinite love for HIs creation. Apologetics empowers us to respond to the challenging questions of our generation with grace, humility, and clarity.

To undestand the importance of the study of Christians apologetics, we should imagine a conversation without it. If someone asked why you believe in Jesus and you stare back blankly and shrug your shoulders, it does not inspire much confidence. However, if you respond with conviction about how you know the Gospel story is true, it forces people to take a second look.2

It’s this “second look” that we as followers of Jesus should desire in every conversation and every interaction. But if we only scratch the surface of our faith, that “second look” might not come.

Because people have questions and doubts concerning God and Christianity in general, apologetics plays a crucial role in explaining how the dots connect. When questioned about the existence of God, apologetics can provide na explanation for an Intelligent Designer nad Creator. When asked how Jesus is the only way, apologetics can provide an explanation for sin, atonement, and reconcilation.

However, while cultivating a deeper understanding of the faith is crucial to our witness as followers of Jesus, the goal isn’t simply to win and argument. The outcome of kingdom apologetics isn’t just to explain how God exists.

The goal of kingdon apologetics is revelation. It’s to create space for God to reveal Himself.

The answers we mightprovide can serve to open a person’s mind, but to open a heart is something only God can do.

So what can we do to be prepared to give an answer? How can we be better equipped to respond to the questions and doubts a person might have?

To start, we cultivate our own personal relationship with Jesus.

It’s in our day-to-day journey following Jesus that we open ourselves to grow and mature spiritually.

Next, we study the core tenets of our Christian faith.

In order to properly defend our faith, it’s imperative we know what we believe and why. We need to know how our faith makes sense of the world and how our faith fills in the gaps that an unbeliever might have in their worldview.

Finally, we embrace every opportunity.

Each day there are potential opportunities to defend the faith and to give an answer for the hope that is in us. But the reality is, for many of us those opportunities seem daunting. The reason we might not engage in apologetic conversations stems mainly from the fear that we won’t know how to respond. Yes, there will be questions we don’t have an answer for and dots we won’t know how to connect in someone else’s mind.

Yet, the truth is we’re not alone.

It’s not by our power or might or intellect that we will convince others. It’s through  the person of Jesus and the power of His Spirit that we are equipped and empowerd to engage in apologetics.

So cultivate your relationship with Jesus. Study the Scriptures and listen to other apologists to create depth in your mind and life. Embrace each opportunity as it comes, and watch as God reveals Himself to every person you meet.

Where can I find resources to study apologetics?

If you’d like to dive deeper into the study of aologetics, you can sign-up for our online course Questions Aloud: Introduction to Basic Apologetics.

In this course, you’ll discover:

  • The Bible’s authorship and what biblical inspiration is
  • The creation narrative in Genesis and other myths and legends of the Old Testament
  • The validity and authorship of the New Testament

This introductory course will prepare you for our other apologetics courses,

Contemporary Post-Modern Apologetics: 201 (Old Testament) and Contemporary Post-Modern Apologetics: 202 (New Testament)

It’s time to dig deeper into the study of apologetics so you can get answers
to your questions and learn how you can begin defending the faith.

For further resources to help you on your journey of studying and practicing
apologetics, check out the list below.

Books:

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

 

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