Misunderstanding Apologetics

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Apologetics is the task of defending the Christian faith as true. Properly understood it is an element of evangelism which has the sole purpose of delivering the Gospel of Jesus to lost souls. Apologetics is one of the pillars of 1517 The Legacy Project, making up the core of our publishing house, a series of podcasts, and many speaking engagements. The practice of apologetics is sometimes misunderstood by Christians. Some view apologetics as picking a fight with nonbelievers, others oppose it as unbiblical, and some have criticized it as exercising reason over faith. Let’s take a look point-by-point to better understand why apologetics is really just part of sharing the Gospel.

Picking Fights with Unbelievers

One of the most common oppositions apologists are criticized for is being Christian bullies. In this way apologetics is viewed as an opportunity to fight and argue. Simply put, picking fights with atheists and other non-Christians is not apologetics. The word apologetics comes from the Greek “apologia” meaning to give a reasoned defense. Apologetics is the process of answering criticism of the Gospel and addressing the genuine concerns of those who do not believe in Christ. It is done most effectively by meeting opposition to the Gospel with positive historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ.

The apologist's job is primarily to listen and hear the concerns of non-believers and turn the conversation to Christ. Whether the non-believer has moral, philosophical, or scientific objections, the apologist needs to get to Christ. Nobody has been saved because they were argued into theism. The uniqueness of Christianity is a God Who became man and proved His Godhood in a physical and historical resurrection from the dead. Do apologetic conversations sometimes lead to argumentation? Certainly, but the Christian's task is to meet hostility with Christ, not more hostility.

Apologetics is Unbiblical

This particular critique is always surprising—after all the very term apologia is contextually used in 1 Peter 3:15 to describe the Christian both defending his faith and giving positive reasons for the hope he or she has in Christ. Peter writes, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” If this weren’t enough there are numerous examples of the Apostle Paul actually engaging in what we would call apologetics. In Acts 26 Paul stands before judge Agrippa to defend Christianity based on the person and work of Christ. To do this, Paul employs the historical and visual fact that Christ was raised from the dead saying, “For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.”

Christ’s resurrection was not in secret but done publicly so that we might believe that He is God incarnate come to redeem His lost creation. Paul again summarizes this in Romans 1:3-4, “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord”. Can apologetics be done in an unbiblical way? Sure, but so can baptism, preaching the Word, or even talking about the nature of Christ. Just because apologetics can be done improperly does not mean the task itself is improper.

Reason over Faith

The Christian religion unlike any other holds the attribute of falsifiability. That is, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” The fact is that Christ has indeed risen from the dead. His bones are nowhere to be found. We have the evidence secured in the accurate bibliography and trustworthy testimony of the Apostles, that Christ as He prophesied rose from the dead, appeared to more than 500 souls after His resurrection, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father.

The historical fact of Jesus' resurrection does not undermine faith but supports it, strengthens it, and gives Christians the unique ability to defend it. Just because somebody knows the historical facts does not mean they will trust in Christ. True saving faith is the work of the Holy Spirit, given freely in the proclaimed Word.

The job of apologetics is not just for trained debaters or speakers. It is part of evangelism and thus part of every Christian’s life as they interact with those around them. If you want to learn more about doing apologetics you can listen to the Thinking Fellows podcast Introduction to Apologetics here.