There are a lot of words that get thrown around in philosophical and religious discussions that do not necessarily find their way into many everyday conversations. Some examples would be words like “hermeneutics,” “sanctification,” “dispensationalism,” and “apologetics.” I want to call our attention to that last word – apologetics. Although this might not be a word you use very often, it is a word that every Christian needs to know because it describes something that every Christian needs to do. Sound important? It is.
What is Apologetics?
Our English word “apologetics” is really just an Anglicized form of the Greek word “apologia,” which refers to a speech of defense, or a reply. It would be the word one would use to describe the answering of false accusations, for example. The word is found often in the New Testament, and by looking at a few examples we can develop a clearer picture of its meaning and usage. Consider these passages (emp. added in each verse):
- “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).
- “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).
- “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).
In each of these passages the meaning of “apologetics” is clear – to answer charges that have been leveled against you.
When we narrow the scope from general apologetics to Christian apologetics, we are speaking of the defense of the Christian religion against skeptical attacks. Christian apologetics is concerned primarily with offering a defense against attacks on the existence of God, the deity of Jesus Christ, and the inspiration of the Bible. Although this area of study often involves technical and scientific subjects, it is important for every Christian to expend the mental effort to better understand it. Why is that so? What are the reasons that would motivate a Christian to study apologetics?
First, we need to establish and strengthen our own faith. It has been my experience that we in churches of Christ can be very good at stating WHAT we believe, but some of us are not as confident in stating WHY we believe what we believe. If we cannot articulate in our own minds a reason for our belief in God, Christ, and the Bible that goes beyond, “Well, my parents believed in those things,” or “That’s what I was always taught,” or “I’ve never really thought about it,” then we are setting ourselves up for a spiritual disaster at some point in our lives.
When life seems to be falling apart around us, and it will seem that way at times (cf. John 16:33; Job 14:1), if our faith in God and in scripture is not a solid, evidence-based faith, then it will not hold us up and get us through those times. Faith can and should be the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), but it cannot do that if it is weak. But whenever I spend time studying the evidence for God in nature, or the evidence for the Bible’s inspiration, or the foundations of morality, my faith is made stronger and more secure. So can yours!
Second, we need to sharpen our ability to defend the faith against increasing attacks against it. With each passing day, the battle for the hearts and minds of people intensifies. Rest assured, the atheist and the skeptic know full well what is at stake and are unafraid to attack theism and Christianity. We are at war. It is not a battle that involves carnal weaponry, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a fierce and intense fight. Every day, through traditional media, social media, public school classrooms, and university lecture halls, the proponents of atheism and secular humanism are chipping away at the faith of young and old alike. We must prepare ourselves, as best we can, to counter falsehood and promote truth (2 Cor. 10:3-5). This is the battle we fight, the battle over how and what people think. But we cannot engage this battle ill-prepared.