Article by Casey McFall
Note: This article is one of a series of apologetics-related articles that are a condensed version of an apologetics class that I taught
Apologetics is most often referred to as: “The defense of the faith”. While this is true, apologetics is much more than that. Apologetics, similar to the halberd, is supposed to be used both defensively and offensively. From a defensive stand point, it is to be used to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel. From an offensive standpoint (offensive meaning to go on the attack, not to make people mad or be rude), it is to be used to win souls to Christ. But before it can be used either offensively or defensively, we must understand what apologetics is, and why we should be using it at all.
What is apologetics?
The dictionary defines apologetics as “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.” The word itself comes from the Greek word “apologia”; meaning, “A reasoned statement or argument” or “a speech in defense”. This is the word that was commonly used by the father of modern rhetoric, Aristotle, in an oratory context and it carried the connotation of the arguments that a person on trial in legal proceedings might present as his/her defense.
This word apologia is actually found in the New Testament in I Peter 3:15, where Peter says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer (apologia) to every man that asketh you a reason (logos) of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”. The Greek word that is used here for “reason” is also very interesting because logos can be translated into English as either “word” or “reason”. This is not just any word or reason however. The connotation of logos is that of something based on divine wisdom or evidences. In fact, logos is the word that is used in John 1:1, where it says “In the beginning was the Word (logos)”. We know of whom this verse is talking and the immense significance of it. What all of this means, is that this isn’t just any simple reason. It’s not just a flippant “Oh, I just believe it” type answer. No, our faith is something that appears as foolishness to the unsaved. It simply doesn’t make any sense! So when they ask us, “Why do you believe what you believe? What is the significant, meaningful reason that you have for actually having faith in this foolishness?”, we must be prepared to present them with reasoned-out arguments in defense of our faith. In short, Christian apologetics is the reasoned discourse explaining the truth of the Word of God!
*A note of warning: Apologetics is intended to be used to establish your faith or persuade the lost through a reasoned discourse about the truth of the Word of God. It is not intended to be used simply to win arguments! People come to God through a recognition of the truth, not through dexterous bouts of verbal jousting!
Why should I learn apologetics?
Although a lot of reasons could be given to illustrate why one should learn and use apologetics, I’ll break it down into four primary reasons: to obey God, to build a foundation of faith, to win the lost, and to understand Biblical doctrine.
The Bible commands it
There are several verses in the Bible that either directly command Christians to engage in apologetics or illustrate that it is good to do so. Perhaps the most commonly referenced verse regarding this is the one that I mentioned previously: I Peter 3:15. In this verse, we are commanded to be ready always to give an answer to every man. The word that is used is even the word from which we get our word “apologetics”! So this one is very clean-cut and straight forward.
In addition to that verse in I Peter, we can also see in Philippians 1:7 &17 that Paul declares his intent and purpose is to defend the Gospel. This obviously isn’t any kind of physical defense. Paul wasn’t strapping on a sword to wage a holy crusade against the unbelievers. This was Paul providing reasoned arguments to explain the truth of the Gospel (apologetics). Jude commands us to have the same purpose and intent in Jude 3, where we are commanded to “earnestly contend for the faith”.
Lastly, we see apologetics mentioned as one of the requirements for a bishop. Titus 1:9 says: “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Using sound doctrine to exhort and to convince is the very essence of apologetics! Remember what I said earlier about it being used both for defense and offense? This is exactly what Titus is referring to here. The leaders of the church must be able to use apologetics to teach why we believe what we believe while also being able to persuade the lost of the truth of the Bible.
Build foundation of faith
Something that I often hear from both saved and unsaved is “blind faith”. There is this pervasive idea that Christians must have a baseless faith built on hopes and dreams rather than evidence and proof. This is completely not true and not Biblical. This idea is so pervasive, that one dictionary even defines faith as “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” But a better understanding of the word can be gained by looking at the origin of it. Our word for “faith” comes from the latin word “fides”, which means: to command, to persuade, to trust. Can something be persuasive if it is built on nothing? If the entire content of this article was simply me saying, “Hey, you should use apologetics because I believe you should”; would that be very persuasive? Absolutely not!
Faith is something that built on evidences and proofs in order to be the evidence for something of which there is not proof. This can be seen in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” If faith is baseless and empty then how can it provide the substance for something else? God has given us a great number of proofs and evidences in the Bible, upon which we can build our faith. Then that faith should serve as the evidence for those things which are not provable. For example, nobody that I personally know has died and come back to tell me what happens after death. So it is not provable, there is no hard evidence for this. But the Bible tells us what happens after death and we can know that it is true because of the vast weight of provable evidences in the Bible that demonstrate its credibility. This is faith.
Perhaps the number one apologist in the Bible is the apostle Paul. We see him skillfully using reasoned arguments multiple times throughout the Bible to explain and persuade others of the truth. It was also his go-to tool for witnessing to the lost and bringing them to Christ. Acts 17:2 says: “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,”. “As his manner was” lets us know that this was a common occurrence for Paul. It was his habit to enter into the synagogues to discuss the scriptures with the Jews and converted gentiles. Note that it says that he “reasoned with them”. This is apologetics, and we can see the purpose for his engaging in apologetics in the very next two verses. Verse 4 says “And some of them believed”. This was always Paul’s main objective when discoursing with the lost and it should be ours as well!
If Paul had simply gone into the synagogues and told them, “Jesus is Christ, so believe on him”, very few people would have been saved. The Jews were people whose religion was not just a way to heaven; it was their culture and their identity. Why should they give that up because of the baseless belief of another person? It was for this reason that Paul demonstrated that Christ HAD to suffer and die and that is what Jesus did. We see this approach to winning souls again later in the same chapter. In Acts 17:22-30 Paul was reasoning with the men of Athens. He took a different approach than that which he took with the Jews since they had a different understanding and different starting point. But he demonstrated the Gospel to them with logical arguments in order to bring them to Christ.
This is exactly what we should be doing as well! What percent of atheists and evolutionists would be willing to give up on their belief system simply because you ask them to? I haven’t done the research, but I would say that it’s safe to assume it to be much less than one percent! The only way to bring these people to God will be to use apologetics to explain the truth to them with reasonable and logical arguments.
Develop an understanding of what I believe and why I believe it
The final reason to learn and engage in apologetics is to develop a deep understanding of what I believe and why I believe it. We are of course commanded and encouraged to do so (II Tim 2:15 and Acts 17:11); but there is also enormous danger if we do not! It has become commonplace for faith in God to become publicly mocked and scorned. Anyone who attends a secular college or university will be taught that there isn’t a God or that God doesn’t care about us and that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions at best and possibly nothing even but a work of fiction. There are some people whose favorite hobby is to challenge Christians in order to cause them to doubt their faith. Potentially even more dangerous, are those who have a portion of the truth, but have tainted that truth with a lie. They will use verses and scripture in an effort to persuade you away from true doctrine. It was these people that Jude was writing about in verse 4 of when he encouraged the saints to contend for the faith in verse 3!
An example of these challenges is one that atheists love to ask Christians. Their premise is that God is a murderer. As such, He either cannot be real or is someone that we should not want to follow and worship. Sounds ludicrous right? Here is the argument: God gave the command “Thou shalt not kill” in Exodus 20:13. But other than the vast number of people that He Himself killed, He also commanded His chosen nation to commit murder. Deuteronomy 20:16 says: “But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:”. We see in verse 17 of the same chapter, that God was talking about 6 different nations when He was giving this command. The Jews were commanded to completely wipe out 6 different nations! Everything that breathes. The animals, the men, the women; everyone all the way down to the tiniest infant was supposed to be wiped off the face of the earth. How could the loving God which teaches to turn the other cheek in the New Testament have given this incredibly harsh command? How is this not murder? Even if it was justified to kill the parents because of their sins, how was it okay to kill the babies? Even if it was alright for God to take their lives as part of His divine purgative, how could He command His chosen people to do so?
Want to be able to answer that question? Learn and use apologetics! And for those who don’t want to put off knowing the answer till they’ve learned apologetics, read the answer here! In it, I explain in detail, using the Word of God, the apologetic answer to that question.
For those who want to learn more about apologetics and are looking for additional resources, I highly recommend Dave Hunt’s book “In defense of the faith”. Unfortunately, not all of the verses referenced in the book are from the KJV, but the majority of them are. Like all things written without the divine inspiration of God, I recommend testing everything said against the truth of the Bible! It is an excellent resource however and he answers many questions about the faith using apologetics. You can find it at Amazon here: In defense of the faith
Thank you, Casey. This is a very well written and challenging article. I eagerly look forward to the next posting. And I will be studying for myself.Cheryl            June 13, 2019, 11:04 a.m.