Biblical Apologetics is a branch of theology that deals with defending–or “answering”–the Christian faith.
But in the context of the church, apologetics has not been widely accepted yet. It was for that reason that I felt sort of strange when I first began to feel that God was calling me into this field.
Ultimately, I want to honor God with my life. He called me to preach the gospel a few years ago, and early in her life, my wife knew that she was called to be in full-time ministry.
I think the problem lies in a complete misunderstanding about the nature of apologetics. Typically, I see it talked about negatively in two particular contexts:
- It is seen as apologizing for what we believe in.
- It is seen as arguing senselessly about whether or not there is a God.
I have no doubt that people do both of those things. However, that is not what God called me to do. And frankly, that is just not what “apologists” do.
We’re All Apologists
At least, we should be!
The classic verse for Apologetics found in the Word of God is 1 Peter 3:15 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”
The thing is, this verse is not directed to some select few with the calling to be an “apologist”–no! We’re ALL called to be able to give reasons for the hope that is within us. Sure, there are some who devote their lives to disciplines such as Science and Philosophy which can definitely be used in the defense of the faith, but God does not expect each of His children to become the next Newton or Aristotle.
The Bible clearly mandates that we, at some level, be able to defend our belief in Christ. God called me to be an evangelist and a writer on this subject. So, that is what I’m going to do.
But it is important to understand at what level we should all have a part in this, and in order to do that, we must take a look at the Biblical evidence for apologetics.
In effect, I am about to offer an apologetic for apologetics.
I’ve identified 4 areas in which the Bible addresses this subject–the purpose, posture, proof, and power of Biblical apologetics.
The Purpose of Biblical Apologetics
First and foremost–our “apologetic muscle” need not always be flexed.
We must realize there is a time and place for apologetics to be invoked.
Let’s look at the Biblical story of the woman at the well in Samaria. Jesus was sitting at the well, arguably waiting for this particular woman to come by. Jesus enters into a conversation with her in which He reveals that He is aware of her sin and her need for a savior.
She recognizes her brokenness. Jesus says, in effect, “if you take a drink of my water, the living water, you’ll never thirst again!” There was an amazing transformation in this woman’s life. She receives Christ that day and goes away telling everyone she knows about this man, Jesus of Nazareth, and what He can do for them.
This is interesting. This woman was broken–living in obvious sin (she has had 5 husbands, and was currently sleeping with a man who was not her husband!), and yet what Christ had for her was compassion. She did not present an argument for Darwinian Evolution before she would repent.
She was literally a broken sinner who had nothing left and simply needed a Savior. That’s all. Friend, we were all there once. And there are many there today.
She did not have an intellectual barrier to put up. She didn’t need a reason to believe (although, one could argue that it was a form of apologetics for Jesus to reveal that He knew her sin, but I think that may be a stretch).
Let’s contrast this with another story in the Bible (which we will reference later as well), found in Acts chapter 17.
In this portion of scripture, we find the Apostle Paul in a heated discussion with the Greek Philosophers. You know, those guys with the long, funny-sounding names? Most of them were really smart.
It has been said that all philosophers do is take what we already know and explain it in a way that no one but themselves can understand!
I have certainly seen that to be the case, but most philosophers are just like us–broken sinners just trying to make sense of the world. The thing is, God made some people to be very emotional, and God made others to be deep thinkers. They both need to be ministered to, but they speak different languages!
Back to Paul.
Remember, Paul told us that he became all things to all people in order to be a more effective witness (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). He was a master evangelist–he knew just how to speak the language to the different people groups he ministered to.
In Acts 17, when talking to the philosophers, Paul recognized they needed to hear more about why they should place their trust in Christ. Even if they understood that they were broken people, “logic” and their knowledge of the sciences and the world around them told them that there HAD to be an explanation.
The Bible says that “no man seeks God” (Romans 3:11). This means naturally, the philosophers were looking for any other explanation other than the one involving a God who would dictate their morality. And we find the SAME THING in our world today.
In this standoff, Paul invoked apologetics to reason with them about how God was the creator of the universe, and how this historical man named Jesus really died on a cross and rose again on the third day. My favorite part of this record?
Check out verse 32: “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.”
Certain men clave! I say, amen! We cannot win them all. But, we can win some! And, we can certainly put a stone in the shoe of others (this is evidenced in those who said “we will hear thee again”)!
There are other examples of apologetics being invoked in the Bible. But, I need to make a final observation of its purpose according to the Bible.
God made thinkers. And wherever thinkers are presented in the Bible, apologetics or a form thereof is used to defend the faith.
Therefore, the Biblical purpose for apologetics seems to be to provide convincing and reasonable evidence for taking God at His Word.
As the father of a very sick child in the Bible cried out to Jesus, so do many today–“Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
Before moving on, I must insert a very interesting dynamic into this conversation. The level of thinking that was once reserved to philosophers and scientists is now accessible to anyone today!
We call carry devices in our pockets with way more computing power than what it took to go to the moon. That is a sobering thought–and one that should scare us a little bit.
Our universities and even public schools are teaching kids to reject the Bible and to embrace naturalism and humanism. And let me say–they provide very compelling evidence IF you have not been educated otherwise.
Parents–don’t let you kids live with a superficial faith. The need for apologetics is greater than ever today because the attacks on the Truth of the Bible are greater than ever today.
The Posture of Biblical Apologetics
In order to determine the posture of Biblical apologetics, we need to once more look at our supporting verse, 1 Peter 3:15 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”
I have bolded the two words we must pay attention to in order to fully understand what I mean by the “posture” of apologetics according to the Bible.
It has been said that an apologist must be very careful of one thing–answering the question, rather than the questioner.
People today have real problems, and when a true, genuine seeker begins asking the tough questions of us, we must be so careful not to give our studied answers in a rigid, robotic manner.
The person asking about the reality of hell is no doubt doing so because of loved ones who may very well be there. The person asking if euthanasia is supported by the Bible may have a friend who is terribly ill and is struggling with the decision. The man who asks why Christians “hate gays” may very well have an inner struggle with homosexuality.
Truth is truth; I’m all for it. And I’m for boldly proclaiming it too.
But no one ever said we had to sacrifice compassion on the altar of Truth. Jesus did not do it, and therefore neither should we.
The good news is that, as usual, if we’ll just take the Bible’s advice on the manner, we’ll have no problems with our apologetic posture.
Let’s look at the two words in view: Meekness and Fear.
Wiersbe said, “Meekness is not weakness. It is power under control.”
I like that definition. Other translations of the Bible use the word “gentleness” here, but I think meekness according to the KJV makes more sense, especially using Wiersbe’s definition.
I like to think about it as a filter. You are trying to communicate, through the holy power of Almighty God, with a person who is spiritually dead. A meek individual is a perfect filter. You possess a human nature, but have the power of God in you to lead people to Christ.
We find that it is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23), and it should manifest itself in the life of any true Believer.
Sheer power without meekness is futile. It’s the quickest way to get labeled a “Bible-thumping bigot.” Weakness, however, is the absence of power. Without power, the “power of God unto salvation” is not present. We must have power, but we must not be offensive (concerning our attitude–the Bible teaches that the gospel itself will be offensive to unbelievers, which cannot be helped).
We find that Jesus displayed a meek attitude. He always spoke truth, but it was always spoken out of love and a genuine care for the individual or group he was dealing with.
This is precisely why we must not view apologetics as engaging in fruitless arguments. If the argumentative nature of apologetics is what interests you, you had better forget it! You’ll do nothing but make others mad and turn them away from the gospel.
[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]We should approach each and every engagement as if it will end with an opportunity to lead the questioner to Christ.[/clickandtweet]
In doing so, you will quickly remind yourself that no one in their right mind would waste such a special moment with someone who wanted only to win an argument against them.
The word “fear” found here is used in the same context as the “fear of God.” This speaks of reverence or respect.
This is an important point. In Genesis, the Bible teaches that we are all made in the image of God. Theologians call this the “Imago Dei”.
As Christians, we have a high calling to treat ALL of God’s creation with respect. This is why we must answer the questioner rather than the question.
There are some folks who will approach you for no other reason than to be “bullish.” In other words, they are not honestly seeking the Truth–they are merely looking for an opportunity to shame you or prove you wrong.
My friend, treat that person with respect. Do not be steamrolled–you are deserving of respect as well–but the way you handle the conversation may have a profound effect on someone else who is looking on.
The great philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig has often stated that he usually does not enter into debates with any sort of expectation of winning his opponent to Christ. After all, his opponents are usually well-learned individuals who have already spent a lifetime of study and are emphatically opposed to his views.
But there are many fragile minds on the college campuses and public forums where many of these debates are held, and no doubt thousands have come to Christ as a result of the many debates Craig and other apologists have held in these venues over the years.
Respect matters. If we are to be salt and light, we must not only present sound reasoning, but we must do so with a compassionate heart and an attitude of respect.
One more word about fear:
Concerning the traditional understanding of the Word, i.e., “to be afraid”, we shouldn’t be!
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Fellow defenders of the Faith–we have Truth on our side. Despite popular belief, the evidence for God is truly overwhelming, and in a court of law, would unanimously trump an argument for the lack of a Creator. I realize that is quite a claim, but I believe it wholeheartedly.
Stay in your Bible, contend boldly for the Faith, and let wisdom and Truth be your guide.
The Proof of Biblical Apologetics
In the beginning of April 2017, a profound movie was released called “The Case for Christ”. This is a movie based on the book written by well-known pastor and apologist, Lee Strobel.
Lee was working as a legal journalist for the Chicago Tribune, and by virtue of his training, was a natural skeptic. His life changed one day when he got home from work and found out that his wife had accepted Christ as her Savior.
As she grew more and more in the Lord, Lee began to draw further away. Desperate to put a stop to the madness, Lee set out on a journey of discovery. Lee had set his sights on accomplishing the task once and for all that none other before him had been able to do–silence Christianity.
Lee was very good at his job, and if anyone could prove that this Jesus character was no more than a myth or a mere man, it was him.
Lee spent the next two years interviewing faith leaders–trying desperately to poke holes in their arguments. At the end of his journey, he came to the realization that it would actually take more faith to maintain his atheism than to accept Christ as his Savior. And he did just that.
Lee’s story has received much publicity because of his book series and now feature film, but his story is far from unique.
Thousands share a similar testimony. When “preaching” in the 2017 understanding of the term does not get through, apologetics might. NO ONE becomes a Christian unless they can move from the belief that Jesus was who He said He was to belief in Jesus as Savior, but some are just hung up on on the “that”!
Apologetics is simply a form of Biblical evangelism. Many evangelists today travel around proclaiming a specific aspect of the same Message (Jesus Christ and Him crucified!). For instance, there are evangelists who specialize in:
- The King James Bible
- The Tabernacle
No matter what the angle, the Biblical evangelist must preach Christ. Paul said, “God forbid that I should glory except in the Cross (paraphrased)!” All teaching must point to the cross, as it is the central fact that the whole of our faith rests in.
Allow me to point you back to a phrase in Scripture we looked at earlier in Acts 17:32 — “…Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed…”
I have heard this statement criticized by church leaders before, because Paul was not able to start a church in Greece — only certain believed and clave.
But, must we always seek “Day of Pentecost” experiences when we are looking to see people saved by God’s grace? In our church, we may go weeks at a time before another soul is added to the Kingdom. Does that make us a dead church?
I had rather see one genuine conversion than 1,000 fake professions.
Remember we are dealing with the Proof of Biblical apologetics. I’m not attempting to start a new doctrine here, but I believe that if this verse alone were the proof, it would be enough! Reasoning works! God made us reasonable, and logical human beings. The way we believe is not only consistent with the world we see around us, but in many cases, what we believe is neccessary to explain what we see!
The very laws of logic are held up by our Creator. He told us explicitly to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (see Mark 12:30).
For some reason, Christians have been sold the lie today that we must leave matters of the mind to the foolish knowledge of this world. Friends, that it is anti-biblical heresy straight from the pit of hell.
There are two kinds of knowledge and wisdom: the knowledge and wisdom of the world, and the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord.
We find in the New Testament that wisdom and knowledge from the Lord are actually spiritual gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12:8). We also find in Romans 1 that there are those who profess themselves to be wise, and in doing so they have become fools (Romans 1:28).
The mind is just another part of our being that must be sanctified unto God. Following Christ does not mean we have to lay down our wisdom; quite the contrary! It means we can now see with a fresh view through the “mind’s eye” in the way GOD intended for us too!
It now means we can explore the natural creation God has so graciously given us in the context of His Word. It means we can learn how to uncover and expose the quite irrational teachings of the world, and begin to see true knowledge–the way God intended for it to be seen.
Christian friend–don’t put down your mind and follow Christ on “blind faith.” “Faith” in the Bible would be best understood as the word, “trust.” We can trust in the Word God has given us.
The Power of Biblical Apologetics
The last and final point I want to make in the case for Biblical apologetics is its power.
I have been trying to make the case that apologetics is merely a small outcropping of what the Bible would call “evangelism”–in other words, it is a method of response that need be invoked only when evangelizing certain types of individuals.
That said, I believe I have the liberty here to superimpose the power that comes along with preaching and evangelism onto apologetics.
God says in his Word that it is the “foolishness of preaching” which has the power to save them that believe.
Notice 1 Corinthians 1:21 – “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
I encourage you to read the whole chapter in order to gain context, but what God is saying here is that God’s wisdom (and even God’s “foolishness” according to verse 25) is wiser than the wisdom of men!
In other words, there is a fringe benefit that comes along with invoking the knowledge of God when you preach the cross–power, power, wonder-working power!
Chapter 1 and verse 18 says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” We bring a message of power–power to save and heal, power to transform lives, and power to bring lowly sinners into the throne room of a holy, righteous God.
Friends, I like knowledge–but despite what you learned in elementary school–it is not power. It’s foolishness. However, couple knowledge with the preaching of the cross, and it IS the power of God!
I say, Amen!
This is why when you take your message to the college campuses, you have nothing to fear.
This is why when trying to engage with your family member with multiple Ph.D.’s, you have no need to fear.
There is not one bit of knowledge that has ever been accumulated in a University that trumps the knowledge of God! Sure, there is plenty you can learn to supplement that knowledge. But the knowledge gained post-(true)conversion will only strengthen your faith–not weaken it.
Sometimes, God just uses the evidence already found by some of the world’s greatest minds to point seekers back to Him–that’s what happened in Lee Strobel’s case (mentioned earlier).
Remember, next time you are engaging an atheist, agnostic, or spiritual seeker that you have a message not only filled with knowledge, reason, and intellect, but it’s a message filled with power! You’re packing a knowledge bomb filled with Truth and the “power to save them that believe.”
Preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified with confidence, boldly contend for the faith, and be prepared to give an answer to any man that asketh a reason of the hope within you.
I believe there is good Biblical evidence to suggest and affirm that we can confidently evoke apologetics in our preaching and in our evangelism. It was my aim to share just some of this evidence with you.
I would encourage you to, next time you begin a Bible reading plan, be on the lookout for instances of apologetic significance. You might notice a trace of it as you cruise through 1 Kings 18, where Elijah used apologetics to prove to the Prophets of Baal that the God of Israel is the One, true God.
You might take note of each of the times Paul uses apologetics (more often than you might think), and even the times when Jesus Himself uses apologetic arguments when confronting the religious authorities of His day.
Let me say finally, I love my Bible. It has been tested, and can be trusted! It will never fail, it will never fade away, and it is always true. As the popularity of apologetics as a method of evangelism grows in this modern day, we must never forget what we are defending–the Holy Word of the Living God. Get to know it more intimately than any other work, and God will always give you the answers to the tough questions asked of you in this culture so hostile towards Him and His Word.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!