What is Apologetics?
Apologetics comes from a Greek word, apologia. It means to make a defense of. It’s a judicial term that illustrates a lawyer giving a rational defense of something. “Apo” means ‘away’ or ‘from’ while “logia” means a ‘speech’ or a ‘word’. So, apologetics is to speak away or speak in defense of something.
The creative aspect of Christian apologetics means to offer evidence or proof that supports Christianity (Acts 1:3 & Luke 24:39 & Romans 1:19-20). The destructive aspect seeks to destroy arguments against Christianity (2nd Corinthians 10:3-5 & Titus 1:9-11). An example of this would be to point out the inconsistencies in a group like the Mormons or in evolutionary thinking.
The Biblical basis for Apologetics:
1) Apologetics is a biblical command & we are to give reasons for what we believe (1st Pater 3:15)
2) Believers are to contend for the faith (Jude 3)
3) We are to defeat arguments that are unbiblical (2nd Corinthians 10:3-5)
4) We are to defeat false doctrines and ideas (Titus 1:9-11)
5) God tells us to use reason (Isaiah 1:18)
6) Jesus, Paul and others engaged in apologetics (Matthew 22 & Acts 17 & Acts 18:24-28)
7) God says it’s unreasonable to believe without evidence (Hebrews 11:1 & 11:6)
8) He gave us evidence of His existence in nature & creation (Romans 1:19-20)
9) Paul & Barnabas gave the people of Lystra proof of God (Acts 14:8-20)
Apologetics in the early Church:
- A) Justin Martyr (100-167AD) wrote 3 books defending Christianity against paganism and argued against Judaism.
B) Athenagoras (2nd century) wrote 2 books defending Christianity against charges of atheism, cannibalism and incest. He argues for the resurrection of the dead.
C) Irenaeus (120-203AD) wrote “Against Heresies” where he successfully defeated Gnosticism and then defeated the current heresies infecting the church.
D) Tertullian (155-235AD), a successful lawyer, wrote 4 major books vigorously defending Christianity against the charge of atheism while proving the existence and worship of the one true God thru the use of the bible, fulfilled prophecy and an appeal to the public historical records. He used both faith and reason in his defenses.
E) Augustine (354-430AD) wrote 6 major books on apologetics covering the existence of God, morality, the nature of time, memory, sin, truth and salvation. He also wrote “The City of God”.
F) There were many other apologists in the early Church that very successfully defeated heresies and proved God’s existence and other biblical doctrines.
General Apologetic Systems:
While there are several apologetic categories, depending on who you talk to, the major ones are:
Evidential…shows how proofs of Christianity make belief in it reasonable, rational and credible. This way makes use of archaeological proofs, history, science, bible manuscripts and prophetic probability.
Classical…starting with certain undeniable truths, like the laws of logic, and addressing philosophical questions, like what is reality, what is morality, etc., it helps the unbeliever understand reality undaunted by false assumptions. It also shows evidence of God by using manuscript, archaeological and historical evidence.
Presuppositional…It assumes that the bible is true and that it provides the only framework that successfully explains our world. It shows that all other worldviews are inconsistent and illogical.
Experiential…shows how the transformation of a person, thru the experience of God in their life, is proof of His existence. It claims that reason and logic cannot save a person.
As you have probably noticed, while you may use one of these systems more than others, there is significant overlap between them. While I am mostly evidential, I also use some of the other three systems also.
Reasons for studying and applying Apologetics:
–The bible demands it (see above scriptures)
–Reason demands it. God made humans to reason things out (Isaiah 1:18 & Colossians 3:10). It’s by reasoning that humans are distinguished from animals (Jude 10). We’re to discern truth from error (1st John 4:6) and right from wrong (Hebrews 5:14).
–The world demands it. No rational person steps into an elevator without some reason to believe that it will work. People need belief that something is true (that the elevator will work) so they can believe in it for themselves (so they get in the elevator). People need evidence that God exists before they can put their faith in Him.
Objections to Apologetics:
–The bible doesn’t need to be defended. But this would disagree with 1st Peter 3:15. And if someone said that Mormonism is true, how would you respond? You’d have to use apologetics.
–God cannot be known by human reason. They’ll quote 1st Corinthians 1:21 which says, “For since in the wisdom of God the world thru its wisdom did not know Him…” But this cannot mean that there’s no evidence of God’s creation. Otherwise, why would Paul tell the Romans that the evidence for His existence is so obvious that they are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20)?
–Without faith, you cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). True, but needing proof comes before faith. I can have faith because I have overwhelming proof of His existence. Faith is said to be “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
–Jesus refused to give signs to evil men. That’s not what the scripture says. Matthew 13:58 says that He refused to do miracles in His hometown because of their unbelief. Yet He still gave them one sign…the sign of His resurrection (Matthew 12:39-40). Jesus did many signs and wonders for everyone else (Matthew 11:4-5).
–Don’t answer a fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:4). But Proverbs 26:5 says we should. So, which is right? This is easy. There are times when we should answer them as it may get rid of some of the obstacles to their coming to the Lord. Then, there are times when we shouldn’t answer them because we’d be “casting our pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). We have to depend on the Holy Spirit to lead us as to when we should or should not answer them.
–Apologetics is not used in the bible. Yes, it is! It’s used in many places but specifically in Acts 17, when Paul reasoned with the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill.
–You can’t prove that God exists by reason or logic. If by proof, you mean 100% certainty, then you’re right. But God’s existence can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. There are many things that cannot be proved 100%. Anything in history is only proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
–No one is converted thru apologetics. This is a straw man argument. Everyone is converted by the Holy Spirit by asking Jesus to forgive their sins and come into their heart. But apologetics can remove roadblocks or obstacles to a person’s coming to believe in Jesus.
The Value of Apologetics is Two-Fold:
1) To strengthen the faith of the believer. We need this, especially in times of severe testing of our faith.
2) To remove roadblocks or obstacles that are in the way of any unbelievers path to becoming a believer in Jesus.
“Apologetics and Christian Evidences” by House & Holden
“Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics” by Geisler
“Evidence that demands a verdict” by Josh McDowell
“Examine the Evidence” by Muncaster
“I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” by Turok
In Christ for rationality, reason and facts,