Christian, Give an Answer! The Relevance of Apologetics in the Church

This article was written by guest author Henry Brooks. Henry became a Christian this past year and has shown great interest in apologetics. 

The term “Christian apologetics” refers to the art and science of defending Christianity in the face of arguments made against it and in response to competing doctrines and philosophies. It also refers to a body of literature and arguments which are used to defend the Christian faith which one can consult in response to specific challenges. The term “apologetics” comes from the Greek work “apologia” which means “a defense or a justification”. From this we have our english word “apology”, the first definition of which is given by Webster’s International Dictionary, second edition, as “Something said or written in defense or justification of what appears to others to be wrong, or of what may be liable to disapprobation (disapproval)”. So then, “Christian apologetics” is the art and practice of defending and making a strong case for Christian doctrine and teaching to those who doubt or criticize them.

The modern unbelieving world would have us believe that Christianity cannot withstand serious questioning without ultimately being shown to be an outdated relic of a more primitive and superstitious time which is based on faulty reasoning and logical contradictions. Even many believers may have been imprinted with a fear that this assumption is true, and they might not dare to explore whether seemingly strong arguments against Christianity hold water, or whether they peter out into logical dead ends. Likewise, unbelievers generally avoid serious investigation into this matter for fear that their worldly assumptions might be shown to be false and insufficient to provide them with real comfort. The Christian apologist boldly takes on the question of whether or not Christian teaching is sound, with a confidence that the doctrines of the faith do withstand rigorous examination, and that they outmatch claims which are made against them when all logic and evidence are thoroughly and honestly considered. The Christian apologist asserts that the universe and even logic itself have been created by God, and that these bear the fingerprints of the maker and point to his word being true. They endeavor to demonstrate this whenever possible through well researched and patient discourse. They are confident that since all things come from God and bear his mark, a person who is eager to defend the Christian faith and is who is clear-minded and prepared enough can always provide those who seek to throw doubt on Christian doctrines with a debate that is challenging to the unbeliever’s worldview. This can even shake the foundations of such and awaken a greater interest in and respect for Christianity. Christian apologists seek to always be prepared to provide nonbelievers with this type of experience and also to reaffirm confidence in the Christian doctrines to any fellow believers who might be suffering from doubts.

The assertion that Christianity can be very ably defended using logic, science and physical evidence might sound very bold to some. It sometimes ends up being controversial in the church, since many hold that Christian faith should be kept apart from questions of logic, reason, and evidence. Some within the Church perceive apologetics to be a sort of diversion from real faith, since it entertains and explores such questions at length. Christian apologists however assert that analysis of Christian doctrines in the light of logic and reason and the physical and historical evidences of the world affirms the whole of the Christian doctrine rather than undermining it in any aspect. They also feel that it prepares a Christian to be able to give an intelligent and articulate representation of the Christian teachings to all who inquire or criticize them. The study of Christian apologetics is very useful in preparing a believer to carry out some of the commands that were given to Christians by Christ and the apostles regarding how the believer responds when their faith is called into question by others. It could be said that Christian apologetics is the intellectual side of living out the the Apostles’ teaching as we develop skills in defending and promoting the faith.

The Apostle Peter instructed Christians to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that it in you; however, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame”(1 Peter 3:15,16). Similarly, the apostle Paul wrote that “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been captured by him to do his will(2 Timothy 2:24-26). This suggests that we should always be ready to engage in discussion about the faith with unbelievers; representing and defending the teaching of the Gospel intelligently and coherently without becoming angry or losing our composure. Even if we are confronted with arguments and doctrines that are very unwholesome and and logically unsound–even if we are talking with someone who is being rude or insulting–we are called on to keep our composure and respond intelligently and with kindness, compassion, and civility. We are to do all of this in the hope that some of the people with whom we engage might be moved by sound words and a kind and patient example to turn away from sin and embrace the teaching which leads to truth and life.

Christian apologetics seeks to prepare the believer to address challenges and objections to the Christian teachings confidently both in discourse with others as well as in their own inner life.

If one has not studied the arguments that have been most successfully used to defend the faith from the types of objections and criticisms that are routinely levied against it by the world, it can be difficult for a Christian to remain calm in the face of having their beliefs questioned, challenged, or maligned. A believer might naturally regard serious questioning of Christian doctrines as an unnecessary source of conflict that would be better to avoid. They might feel uncomfortable, irritable, or squeamish around those who they know are at odds with the faith and who are likely to be vocal about it or present pointed questions. They might dislike such people and try to avoid them, rather than feeling compassionate toward them, eager to help them see the truth. In light of Peter and Paul’s teachings, this is not a desirable state for a Christian to remain in. Christian apologetics seeks to prepare the believer to address challenges and objections to the Christian teachings confidently both in discourse with others as well as in their own inner life.

Christian apologists feel there is a very unfortunate shortage of people who are able to defend Christianity effectively in the present worldly milieu. The need for Christians with talent and training in this area is very great. Globalization has brought cultures and individuals from every single corner of the world into close contact with each other for the first time. Many nations which had heretofore been predominantly Christian have become inundated with unchristian philosophies and religions. Any given person in the modern day will come into contact with and be courted by every major philosophy and religion which vies with Christianity for the attention of the lost. Many of these philosophies appeal powerfully to the senses and to the ego, and have been given a presentation which can seem highly intelligent and persuasive to non-christians. Christianity is increasingly painted as an old and rickety system of dogma which cannot withstand serious questioning, and as a set of overly strict rules that have no substantial basis. Young minds are being seduced by deceptive and harmful philosophies on a large scale, with few people around who know how to reinforce or present Christian teachings to them in a way that directly addresses the potent worldly spiritual rhetoric that they are being steadily inundated with. In addition, lots of older people are gradually drifting away from real biblical Christianity and being seduced by worldly spiritual teachings, and many of them might not be personally acquainted with anyone who would know how to articulately contrast what they are believing now with purer Christian teaching that they may have received in their youth, and to warn them of their intellectual backsliding. Christian apologetics has taken on all of the major claims of the predominant philosophies and doctrines of the present day which seek to draw people away from Christianity, and provides many powerful arguments and evidences which a concerned Christian can draw on to combat the influence of unbiblical spiritual teachings on the minds of acquaintances and loved ones and to defend and uphold Christianity in the public sphere.

In today’s world, many nonchristians dwell in a strange brew of ideas which make it challenging to prepare them for an intellectual ground for understanding truths of the Gospel. In order for them to gain insight into Christian teachings, it can be necessary to address and question some very strange assumptions about reality that have become deeply ingrained and unquestioned in the minds of many modern people. Doctrines such as “no-one can know what truth is”, “science has disproven the existence of God and sin”, “people create reality with their minds”, or “all is one conscious cosmic energy” are now assumptions that form the very bedrock of many worldviews. Notions such as these have become so firmly established that many who are under their sway have never encountered or conceived of any formidable argument against them. To be able to address these assumptions in an intelligent and articulate way is very vital to the endeavor of evangelism in our times. Within Christian apologetics, these worldly teachings are analyzed and handled very thoroughly so as to help Christians to provide a powerful rebuke to them in order to prepare the minds of unbelievers for greater insight into Christian teaching, and also in the hope that strange doctrines which oppose the message of Christianity may not go as unchallenged as they often are in the present day.

In today’s world, many non-christians dwell in a strange brew of ideas that make it challenging to prepare them for an intellectual ground for understanding truths of the Gospel.

It only takes a little study of Christian apologetics and not an unreasonable amount of patience with people to see the effect that an intelligent and well-researched defense of Christianity can have on spiritual discussions. Often, arguments presented against biblical teachings represent very simple misconceptions which can be quickly addressed and handled in such a way that even a nonbeliever can see that they were in error on those points. For example, misconceptions based on erroneous notions about history or about what the Bible says are very common and are easily refuted by referring to the actual facts of the matter. Some anti-biblical notions will be more difficult to address than others, especially those which are more philosophical in nature. But with even a little study of apologetics, one quickly becomes familiar with faith-supporting points and arguments which when brought into spiritual discussions prove challenging and interesting to nonbelievers and encouraging to fellow Christians. Naturally a more in-depth study of apologetics yields more profound results of this nature.

Many non-christians who engage in spiritual conversation with a Christian who is able to discuss Christian teachings patiently and intelligently often find such conversation stimulating and enjoyable. Christian doctrine which is formulated in such a way as to clearly address and counter the popular worldly doctrines of today can be a very interesting novelty for a lot of nonbelievers. It can also seem novel and refreshing to nonbelievers to engage with a Christian in conversations in which serious arguments against biblical doctrines are discussed without the Christian acquiescing or becoming irritated. Christian teachings presented in this way can provide for non-christians a direct and thought-provoking contrast to every other spiritual message which the world has presented to them. It invites them to consider spirituality and their own ideas in a new and interesting light. Believers who are “prepared to give an answer” for the Christian faith are able present Christian teachings to nonbelievers with a coherency and logical clarity that non-christians do not anticipate, and even those who greatly disagree with Christian points which are brought up in a discussion with a believer will feel awake and alive as they engage in trying to counter what the Christian is saying. They will often enjoy such a debate as much as people who are less committed to anti-biblical arguments, and consider it valuable and stimulating since it challenges and engages them intellectually. Even many non-christians who are vehement in their unbelief will respect and feel warmly toward a Christian who is able to respectfully challenge and stimulate them in a debate.

If a Christian can stimulate a nonbeliever to think about life in a new way and call them to awaken intellectually from a spell of strange and inconsistent worldly notions, they are providing an experience which is very exciting and valuable. Many people subconsciously yearn to see through the veil of their own ideas about reality and to have an “awakening” which will liberate them. People go to great and strange lengths in search of this through means which are often unhealthy and misguided. A Christian who able to discuss the Gospel with unbelievers in the way that Peter and Paul have recommended invite non Christians to experience a genuine “awakening” which the world cannot provide and which yields permanent results.

Many, including the writer of this article, feel that the ability to articulately defend the Christian faith is a vital and under-emphasized aspect of Christian life and study in today’s world. We propose that a greater emphasis on Christian apologetics would be of great benefit to the Church, and that the spread of the Gospel would be greatly aided by any increase of interest and energy into this area that any individual, church, or organization might be willing to put forth. Christian Apologetics is a discipline in which a little bit of study goes a long way, and a lot goes even further. It is our hope that there will be a renewed interest in the study of apologetics in the church, and that more Christians will look into this area of study as a means of honing their ability to reach unbelievers with the message of the Gospel and to make a compelling and effective defense of the faith wherever it is called into question.

The author of the article can be contacted at hbrooks80@protonmail.com

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