Lee Strobel recently told the Christian Post that the church in the West is approaching a Golden Age of Apologetics. I echo Strobel and in this post I want to explore why I think apologetics is so important. At Apologetics Canada, we are seeking to bring a new wave of Christian apologetics to the Western Church. I am not talking about the kind of apologetics that is bent on winning arguments or trying to look smart with an impressive storehouse of worldly wisdom in Jesus’ name.
I want to show you that apologetics should be a priority in every church for 5 reasons: It is part of our mission, it is a command in Scripture, it is part of church history, it is our Christian responsibility to defend truth, and it is an important part of Christian discipleship.
Apologetics As Mission
In his book, A Christian Worldview, the late Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) wrote:
“The purpose of apologetics is not just to win an argument or a discussion, but that the people with whom we are in contact may become Christians and then live under the Lordship of Christ in the whole spectrum of life.” (P151)
If I approach someone on the street and say, “You should become a Christian,” they might say, “Sure!” and give their life to Christ right there on the spot. That would be a really nice response but that has never been my experience.
What is far more likely is that they will ask, “Why should I become a Christian?”
I could say in response, “Because I said so…” That would be simply trying to bully them into belief. Such a power-play would make Nietzsche and the postmodernist’s toe nails curl. I could say, “Because everyone is doing it.” We learned in high school that following the crowd was a waste of time and gave you nothing but a headache (literally and metaphorically). Truth is not a democracy. While cults appeal to the collective, Christianity appeals to the truth.
People will have questions: Why Jesus? Why not other religions? Why not atheism? Apologetics is the formal word for giving the “Why” behind the “What” of Christian belief. Are you ready and prepared to respond to being asked “Why?”?
The person you are sharing with will not want power-plays or appeals to the masses. They will want reasons why you back up the claim that Christianity is true. In response to the Great Commission and for the sake of the beloved souls for whom Jesus died for, also known as your neighbours, friends, family members, classmates, teammates, baristas, etc, I would hope you are ready and excited for such an opportunity to share the hope of Christ.
The Biblical Mandate
The Bible says we should “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Can you help someone work through the “Why does God allow suffering?” question? Can you help a university student see that science has not, will not and cannot disprove God? Do you know why it is logically impossible that all religions could lead to God? We need to be ready to answer these because the Bible commands us to do so. As Christians we have a tremendous heritage we have inherited from those who have taken 1 Peter 3:15 seriously.
Apologetics As Christian History
In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul is often reported reasoning with the Greeks about the claims of Christianity. This was also the case with Paul’s contemporary, Apollos.
Following their lead, the writings of our Church Fathers like Tertullian, Justin Martyr, and Origen are filled with their own apologia. They felt it was their responsibility to articulate and defend the claims of Christianity as it spread around the Roman Empire.
Augustine was an apologist who reasoned for the validity of Christian doctrine and defended the gospel against its many emerging heresies.
Thomas Aquinas gave reasons for why he believed God was the best explanation for the observable world.
Anselm did this in his volumes as well.
Martin Luther reasonably argued with his objectors in an effort to present the gospel as hope for sinners in the form of “justification by grace through faith.”
Calvin’s Institutes are not filled with arguments for predestination but evidences for God’s existence, the reliability of the Bible and an articulation of the gospel that is clear and biblical.
On and on we could go through church history. These are the leaders who have gone before us worked hard to preserve the good deposit they received from their predeceessors (2 Tim. 1:14). Under the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit, they served the church by helping people understand why it was most reasonable to believe the Christian worldview.
Apologetics As Defense
Francis Schaeffer believed that Christian apologetics is something every generation must take seriously and be equipped for. Schaeffer wrote,
“Defense is proper and necessary because in every age historic Christianity will be under attack. Defense does not mean being on the defensive. One must not be embarrassed about the use of the word defense. The proponents of any position who are alive to their own generation must give a sufficient answer for it when questions are raised about it…Such answers are necessary in the first place for myself as a Christian if I am going to maintain my intellectual integrity, and if I am to keep united my personal, devotional and intellectual life” (A Christian Worldview, p153).
I appreciated this line: “Defense does not mean being on the defensive.”
Apologetics is not about winning arguments or trying to outsmart people. It is not about getting your back pinned in a corner and intellectually fighting your way out. It means having a response for every attack or question that is brought to you. I am ashamed both in myself and in others whose strong apologetic has not been met with strong character and, as a result, turned many people off apologetics or Christianity as a whole.
Apologetics As Discipleship
Schaeffer included another important aspect of apologetics – the discipleship component. “Such answers are necessary in the first place for myself as a Christian if I am to keep united my personal, devotional and intellectual life.”
Apologetics, according to Schaeffer, is part of our discipleship journey. Jesus told us to love God with all our minds (Matt. 22:37). Saying to God, “I want to love you more with my mind. I want to know more about you,” is, I believe, an act of worship to God. Being a disciple of Jesus means that you are going to be asked to fully engage your heart, mind and that you will do so with all your strength. As C.S. Lewis said, “God is no more fond of intellectual slackers than he is of any other kind of slacker.”
For the sake of the lost we are called to reach, in obedience to Scripture, in the legacy of the saints, for the sake of our own integrity, in worship to God, as intellectually-engaged disciples of Christ, I urge you once again to reconsider Christian apologetics.
This article was originally posted on our partner site: Grounded In The Gospel