By Jon Topping | May 12th, 2022
At times the field of apologetics is questioned by Christians, who think it’s a useless enterprise. Apologetics is all about the defense of the Christian faith. Even the word itself originally comes from the Greek word that was used for giving a defense of yourself in court. Considering my job title is “apologist”, you could say that it’s literally my job to defend Christianity. I respond to arguments from skeptics, and give reasons for aspects of the Christian faith like the resurrection, the Bible, and the existence of God. Because of this, there have been times where someone has challenged me with something like, “Do you think God isn’t powerful enough to defend Himself?” The basic sentiment here is that God is obviously far more powerful than me, and thus, He doesn’t require some little human to rush to his aid, protecting Him from all the mean things the other humans say about Him. However, I think this misses the point of what apologetics is about.
“God is obviously far more powerful than me, and thus, He doesn’t require some little human to rush to his aid.”
The purpose of apologetics is evangelism. When we hear the word “defend”, we automatically think about wars and battles, attack and defense. When we think about defending the faith, we think about the faith being under attack, so we need to defend it from destruction. If this is what defending the faith means, then I would agree, we don’t have anything to worry about. If Christianity is true, it’s not going to be destroyed by some people posting atheist memes on Reddit. If there’s an all-powerful God, He doesn’t need some human to stick up for him in conversations. However, like I said, the point of apologetics is actually evangelism. The source of this concept of giving a defense comes from 1 Peter 3:15, which says that Christians should always be prepared to defend their faith when asked for a reason for the hope they have. Another place we see this word used is Philippians 1:7, where Paul is writing to a church, telling them that he feels connected to them, because they share the same faith, and share the same goal of confirming and defending the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He then continues the point, talking about how preaching the Gospel is the purpose God has given him. He then uses the term “defense” once again to describe this act of evangelism. In other words,
biblically speaking, to give a defense of your faith is intimately connected to what it means to evangelize.
Apologetics does not mean that we get offended when someone insults our faith, so we put that person in their place by insulting them, or yelling at them. Instead, apologetics means that when we evangelize, we should give actual reasons for the person to think the faith is true.
What else could it mean to defend the faith, other than to be an advocate for the truth?
In Philippians 5:4 it says that we as Christians should be known for our reasonableness, which would obviously imply the ability to reason through matters of faith. There are even places in Scripture where we are called to specific apologetic related tasks. For example, we are told to rebuke those that contradict good doctrine (Titus 1:9). We are also tasked with “destroying arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). In this way,
preaching the Gospel should not only be about telling people the good news; we should also be showing people that it’s actually true!
As an example of how important this is, I once had a discussion with a man who was a part of an atheistic organization. Part of his story was that as a child he had doubts and questions, and was going through the struggle of wondering what is true. He asked his priest some of his questions, and the priest’s response was to literally pat him on the head, and say, “just have faith”. Because of this, that boy began to believe that there weren’t answers to his challenges and doubts, and thus, the faith must be false. This led him down a path where he eventually became an advocate for atheism, to the point of entering into debates with Christians (which is where I met him). With this story in mind, do you think the priest needed to defend God’s honor? Do you think God was insulted by the boy’s questions, and wished for the priest to rise up and destroy the little boy in debate? Absolutely not. That is not what we find in Scripture, and that is not what apologetics is about. However, do you think that priest gave a good defense of the Gospel? Again, absolutely not. Rather than defending God’s honor against attacks, apologetics is about giving a defense of the Gospel for the sake of evangelism. The priest should have been able to answer that boy’s questions and doubts. He should have shown the boy that the Christian faith is reasonable. If he had responded the way Scripture calls us to, perhaps that boy wouldn’t have lost faith, and wouldn’t have become an evangelist for atheism.
In my mind, apologetics just is good evangelism.
If we preach the Gospel, but never give anyone any reason to think it’s true, then why would they consider what we say?
Is our only goal to preach the Gospel? Shouldn’t our goal to be to preach the Gospel with the hope that some will respond to it? The real mission of the Church is to bring people to accept Christ as their savior, and in order to do that, we have to be winsome in our approach to sharing the Gospel. Apologetics is defending the faith in our witness, which means we answer challenges against the faith, and give reasons for people to believe what we’re telling them. Scripture tells us that it’s our responsibility before Christ to see that we defend the faith, and that we do it in gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
Jon Topping is a speaker with Engage International and is based out of Canada.