What Is Apologetics?

*#1 in the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe by Pastor David Craig 

“When I find something in my faith difficult to believe, it often helps to consider how the alternative is *more* difficult to believe.” ~ Gavin Ortlund

What Is Apologetics? (Some Definitions)

“The discipline that offers an apology, or defense, of Christianity. Apologetics (from Gk. apologia, ‘defense’) both defends the Christian faith from its detractors and clarifies misunderstandings of it. In the early church, the apologists wrote to Roman elders who were persecuting the church and argued the case that Christians should not be punished or killed, because they were doing nothing wrong. They also clarified misunderstandings such as charges that Christians were atheists, cannibals, and committers of incest. Apologetics deals with arguments for the existence of God, the reliability of Scripture, evidence for the resurrection, the problem of evil, and more.” ~ Greg R. Allison, The Compact Dictionary Of Theological Terms, Kindle Loc. 269

“Apologetics, in its most basic form, is the practice of offering an appeal and a defense for the Christian faith. In other words, apologetics, through word and deed, answers both why a person can believe (defense) and why a person should believe (appeal). The goal of apologetics is to clear away the debris of doubt and skepticism in order to make a path for the gospel to be heard.” ~ Joshua D. Chawtraw and Mark D. Allen, Apologetics At The Cross, p. 17.

“Apologetics is concerned with the defense of the Christian faith against charges of falsehood, inconsistency, or credulity.” ~ Steven B. Cowan, Five Views On Apologetics, p. 8.

“Apologetics has to do with defending, or making a case for, the truth of the Christian faith. It is an intellectual discipline that is usually said to serve at least two purposes: (1) to bolster the faith of Christian believers, and (2) to aid in the task of evangelism. Apologists seek to accomplish these goals in two distinct ways. One is by refuting objections to the Christian faith, such as the problem of evil or the charge that key Christian doctrines (e.g. the Trinity, incarnation, etc.) are incoherent. The apologetic task can be called negative or defensive apologetics. The second, perhaps complementary, way apologists fulfill their purpose is by offering positive reasons for Christian faith. The latter called positive or offensive apologetics, often takes the form of arguments for God’s existence or for the resurrection and deity of Christ but are by no means limited to these.”  ~ Steven B. Cowan, Five Views On Apologetics, p. 8.

“That branch of Christian theology that has as its aim the reasoned advocacy of the Christian faith. It includes both positive arguments for the truth of Christianity and rebuttals of criticisms leveled at it.” ~ Millard J. Erickson, The Concise Dictionary Of Christian Theology, p. 14

“Apologetics is the branch of theology that offers a rational defense for the truthfulness of the divine origin and authority of Christianity, In the classic sense of the word, ‘apologetics’ derives its meaning from the Greek word apologia, which means ‘defense.’ A judicial term, it describes the way a lawyer deliberately and rationally presents a verbal defense of a particular claim. Or, more precisely, apologetics is to ‘speak away’ (apo = away, from; logia = speech, word) the charge brought against an individual (Acts 25:16; 19:33; 22:1; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 1 Peter 3:15; Philippians 1:7, 16; 2 Timothy 4:16).” ~ H. Wayne House & Joseph M. Holden, Charts of Apologetics and Christian Evidences

“(Gr. apologetikos, ‘suitable for defense’) The endeavor to provide a reasoned account of the grounds for believing in the Christian faith.” ~ Donald K. McKim, The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms 

“Apologetics provides well-reasoned evidences that empower nonbelievers to choose Christianity rather than any other religion. Apologetics can be used to show the unbeliever that all the other options in the smorgasbord of world religions are not really options at all because they are false. Apologetics can remove mental roadblocks that prevent nonbelievers from responding to the gospel. Apologetics not only provides a defense for the faith but also provides security to Christians. Believers can be sure their faith is not a blind leap into a dark chasm, but rather an intelligent decision founded on fact. Apologetics does not replace faith; it grounds our faith…Apologetics demonstrates why we believe and what we believe.” ~ Ron Rhodes, 5-Minute Apologetics Today, p. 12.

“Christian apologetics is simply the presentation of a case for biblical truth, most notably the central truth of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior. But a richer, more relational and more humble definition must include the central concern of apologetics: Christian apologetics lays before the watching world such a winsome embodiment of the Christian faith that for any and all who are willing to observe there will be an intellectually and emotionally credible witness to its fundamental truth. The success of any given apologetic argument is not whether it wins converts but whether it is faithful to Jesus.” ~ James Sire, A Little Primer On Humble Apologetics, Kindle, Loc. 197)

Two Aspects of Apologetics

Within the task of defending the faith there emerge at least two distinct aspects. (1) The destructive or defensive aspect The destructive or defensive aspect seeks to “dismantle” or explain away arguments against Christianity.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

[Paul addressing overseers/elders/pastors in the church] “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” ~ Titus 1:9-11

(2) The creative or offensive aspect offers evidence and proofs to support arguments for the truthfulness of the Christian faith.

[Jesus’ appearing to the disciples after the resurrection and just before his ascension to heaven] “He presented himself to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” ~ Acts 1:3

[Jesus’ appearing to the disciples after the resurrection] See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” ~ Luke 24;39

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” ~ Romans 1:19-20

The Ancient Use of Apologetics

In secular society, the use of apologetics as a defense against the attack occurred as early as the 5th century BC when Socrates presented his own defense before an Athenian court, which was later chronicled by his student Greek philosopher Plato in The Apology. During the 1st century AD, Josephus offered an apologetic on the ancient origin of the Jewish religion in his Against Apion (AD 93-95). In the early years of the church, Justin Martyr (100-167) and Tertullian (155-235) are recognized as apologists through their writings—First Apology and Second Apology by Martyr and Apologeticum by Tertullian. Among  other apologists were Tatian, Athenagoras, and Theophilus. Their main task, as Christianity sought to gain acceptance as a legitimate religion within the Roman Empire, was to defend Christianity against attacks from within the Roman philosophical society and pagan religious culture. Irenaeus (AD 130-202) defended the faith (Against Heresies, AD 180) against Gnostic ideas that emanated from within the church.

The Biblical Use of Apologetics

The principal Scripture for describing and advocating apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15 which says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

A few examples from the Scriptures (there are many more):

  1. Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 in order to demonstrate Yahweh as the Most High God;
  2. God giving Moses evidence that God would speak through him in Exodus 4;
  3. Stephen giving a defense of the faith before his persecutors in Acts 7;
  4. Paul arguing for his faith before kings, magistrates, and philosophers in Acts 17 and 22;
  5. Paul and Barnabas gave evidence for God and said that idolatry was worthless in Acts 14:6-20;
  6. Jesus defending His claims and challenges of the Pharisees and Sadducees ( Matthew 22:34-46; John 5).

How About You?

What are five of the most important “Whats” you believe and “Why” do you believe them?

Examples:

What is the meaning of my life?

What is the essence of God?

What is the essence of humanity?

What are the reasons I believe what I believe about anything?

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why I am I a Christian and not… (an atheist, mormon, muslim, etc.)

Why do I believe there is a God?

Why should anyone believe what I believe? 

Next Step:

Write down your top 5 What’s and Why’s and come up with an apologetic for each!

*You can subscribe to the Valley Baptist Church San Rafael Channel on YouTube to watch the lecture for this video as well as sermons from Dr. David P. Craig.

Author: lifecoach4God

I am the Lead Pastor of Valley Baptist Church (Bay Area), born and raised in Huntington Beach, Ca,, and currently living in Novato, California. I am married to my best friend of 27 years - Dana - and have five adult children; and six grand children. I have been a Teaching Pastor for over thirty years. I was privileged to study at Multnomah University (B.S. - 1988); Talbot School of Theology (M.Div. - 1991); Westminster Theological Seminary & Northwest Graduate School (D. Min. - 2003). I founded Vertical Living Ministries in 2008 with the goal of encouraging Christian Disciples and Leaders to be more intentionally Christ-Centered in how they live by bringing glory to God in nine key areas of life: (1) Intimacy with God, (2) marriage, (3) family, (4) friendship, (5) vocationally/ministry , (6) emotional and physical health, (7) stewardship, (8) discipleship, and (9) mentoring.

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