What is Apologetics?

By Jared C. Wellman The article seeks to answer two general questions: 1. What is Apologetics? 2. Why is Apologetics Important? What is Apologetics? Apologetics is best defined as a ³rational defense of the Christian faith.´1 It comes from the Greek word apologia (pronounced ³uh-paw-lo-gee-yah´) which means to speak on behalf of oneself or of others against accusations. That is, it means to give a reason or defense against false accusations. This word is found in eight different places in the New Testament: Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you (Acts 22:1). I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges (Acts 25:16). My defense to those who examine me is this (1 Corinthians 9:3). For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter (2 Corinthians 7:11). For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me (Philippians 1:7). the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel (Philippians 1:16). At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them (2 Timothy 4:16). but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15). Although all of these verses include the word apologia, it is 1 Peter 3:15 that is most associated with Apologetics, as it has come to be known. Sometimes in order to understand what something is, it is important to understand what it is not. Apologetics is not the art of being more intellectual than an unbeliever in order to mock him for his lack of understanding. Peter writes that one should make a defense with ³gentleness and reverence.´ This means that apologetics is not about winning an argument or proving that you know more, but about giving a rational defense of your faith in love. John writes that believers can reveal the unseen God through love (1 John 4:12).

Stephan C. Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 12.

Apologetics is also not about having philosophical discussions about meaningless questions such as: Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?; How many angels can stand on the head of a pin?; Can God create a rock too heavy for Him to lift? While these types of discussions can be fun, they fail to capture the definition of apologetics, which is to give a rational and reasonable defense of the Gospel. These questions do not give a defense of any kind but instead purport suppositional answers based on philosophical questions. Apologetics is also not evangelism. This may come as a shock to some, but apologetics and evangelism are two different things. Apologetics is more accurately understood as pre-evangelism. This is because Apologetics is more defensive in nature whereas evangelism is more offensive. Apologetics responds to attacks concerning such topics as God and Evil, the sufficiency of Scripture, the veracity of miracles, and much more. Once these types of subjects are overcome, evangelism can take place.2 This is important because most people have worldviews that are contrary to the claims of Scripture. If someone, for example, does not believe in the Bible, then sharing verses with them such as the ³Roman¶s Road´ becomes trivial because they first need to understand that the Bible is the legitimate source for truth. Apologetics accomplishes this. Why is Apologetics Important? Apologetics is generally important for two reasons: First, it is good for bolstering the Christian faith and second, it is good for defending the Christian faith. That is, apologetics can be useful for both the believer and the non-believer. Both of these aspects are seen in the following list of five reasons why the believer should practice apologetics: 1. The Believer Should Practice Apologetics Because the Bible Commands it The Bible is filled with individuals who practiced apologetics including Paul, Jude, Peter, and even Jesus. These individuals¶ practice of apologetics and writings concerning apologetics promote the thought that apologetics is a necessary practice for all followers of Jesus. Paul practiced apologetics in Acts 22 when he defended his new-found faith to the Jews.3 The thrust of his message was that it was reasonable to believe that Jesus was the Christ. He did this by sharing that he was an educated and reasonable individual (he spoke in the Hebrew dialect and explained that he too was an educated Jew taught by Gamaliel), that he once persecuted followers of Jesus just as they were doing, and lastly by explaining his experience with Jesus. In all of this, he was giving a ³defense´ (Acts 22:1). The idea is that he was doing apologetics (clearing the path) by relating to the worldview of the Jews so that he could then do evangelism. The Jews were afraid that turning to Jesus would cause them to lose their identity as Jews, and Paul was showing that he was still a Jew and a follower of Jesus. This is an example of how apologetics can be used for non-believers. Paul was a reasonable individual giving a reasonable defense for his reasonable beliefs. Jude practiced apologetics when he decided to write a letter to encourage the church to ³contend earnestly for the faith´ (Jude 3). Although the word ³defense´ is not used, the idea is. He advocated truth in the context of apostasy and falsehood. This is an example of how apologetics can be used for the believer because Jude essentially bolsters the Christian faith. Jude showed how many of the false teachers in the church were following the tradition of the false teachers throughout history.

It is best to think of apologetics as creating a path toward evangelism, much like one would create a path through the woods towards a cabin. 3 In fact, most of the uses of the word apologia are connected to Paul in some way.

It is evident from the theme verse for apologetics that Peter practiced apologetics and that he expected fellow believers to do the same. He writes, ³always being ready to make a defense´ (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis mine). The idea of the word ³always´ is ³forever´ or ³unceasingly.´ It essentially means that the believer should always be on the lookout for ways to defend his faith. This is perhaps the clearest command in Scripture to practice apologetics. Lastly, Jesus practiced apologetics. When questioned, Jesus consistently defended prophecies concerning Himself, His miracles, and His resurrection. That is, He gave evidences to these claims proving that they were legitimate claims and that they were either fulfilled or performed by Him showing that He was the Christ (Mark 14:61-62; John 2:19-21; Matthew 11:2-5). He was attempting to show His audience that He was indeed the Messiah, in order that their eyes might be opened to confessing a reasonable faith in Him. 2. The Believer Should Practice Apologetics Because it Can Help Lead a Non-Believer to Faith in Jesus Christ In the book of Acts, Paul consistently stood before the government defending His faith, expressing why it was reasonable (Acts 22-26). In Acts 26:28,4 Paul came very near to convincing King Agrippa that the Christian faith was reasonable. Believers can likewise accomplish the same goal today. 3. The Believer Should Practice Apologetics Because it Can Strengthen a Fellow Believer·s Faith in Jesus Christ Although James encourages believers to not doubt (James 1:6), many believers still struggle with it. Jude went as far as to write for believers to ³have mercy on some, who are doubting´ (Jude 22). The truth is, although believers have faith in Jesus as the Messiah, we are still faced with some difficult questions that may shake our faith, or that leave us pondering the answer. Some of these questions include how a good and sovereign God can coexist with evil, how a good and loving God could kill the entire world through a flood, and if the Bible is legitimately God¶s Word. There are very reasonable answers to all of these questions and when a believer learns these answers, it helps bolster his faith, knowing that what he believes is not unreasonable. 4. The Believer Should Practice Apologetics Because it Helps Protect and Affirm Christianity Science claims that Christianity is an unreasonable belief system. Thoughts such as creationism (that God created the world and man in six days), the resurrection (that Jesus rose from the dead), and that Jesus was a historical person who is also God¶s Son are all considered unreasonable beliefs. In fact, Christians are often mocked and ridiculed in institutions of higher education. It is considered ignorance to claim faith in Christ. Thoughts such as evolution and the Big Bang Theory are accepted as truth and any other belief is considered insufficient. Apologetics helps provide reasonable defenses to the claims of science. 5. The Believer Should Practice Apologetics Because it Helps Promote Truth in a World of Apostasy and Lies The Barna Research Group has performed a study that shows that 64% of adults and 83% of teenagers believe that moral truth is situational, meaning that truth is determined by the situation that one is in. Moreover, 19% of adults believe that sin is an outdated concept and 51% believe that if a person is good that they will earn a place in Heaven.5

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³Agrippa replied to Paul, µIn a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.¶´ http://carm.org/eight-reasons-why-we-need-apologetics

Furthermore, there are pseudo-Christian organizations that have started overtime (Mormonism and Jehovah¶s Witness being the two largest) that suggest either a fuller truth to the Bible (a third testament to the Bible) or counterclaims to the Bible (Jesus is ³a´ God, but not ³the´ God). How is a Christian to respond in a world full of apostasy and lies, be certain of the truth, and then defend that truth? There is a philosophical law that has been developed to help further logic and reason in dialogues. This law is called the ³Law of Non-Contradiction.´ It states that ³A cannot be both B and non-B at the same time and in the same sense.´6 That is, truth exists and when this much is understood questions such as the veracity of Scripture (whether it is true or not true), questions of Jesus (whether He is God or not God), can be easily answered. The idea is that there is such a thing as absolute truth. Apologetics helps determine what this truth is and gives the follower of Jesus the certainty to promote that truth in a uncertain world.

Jared C. Wellman is the senior pastor at Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas (missiondorado.com). You can visit jaredwellman.com for more articles and writings from Jared.


Ronald Nash, Life¶s Ultimate Questions (Michigan: Zondervan, 1999), 194.