Is Apologetics Biblical?

Andy Steiger Articles, Events, Parents, Youth 6 Comments

Is apologetics Biblical? It might surprise you, but I hear this question a lot. When I founded Apologetics Canada in 2010, I quickly found myself giving an apologetic for apologetics. In fact, this is also what Ravi Zacharias found when he started RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries: He said, “What I did not anticipate was having to give a defense of why I was defending the faith.” Here’s what I have learned over the last five years of leading Apologetics Canada.

Generally, I encounter three types of people. When Apologetics Canada first started, the most predominant response was confusion. Some people had no idea what apologetics was, and they wrongly assumed it was about apologizing for being a Christian, or even for Christianity as a whole. Others I met had seen apologetics presented poorly in the past, so they viewed it as purely argumentative and having little redeeming value. But the response I now hear, more and more, is that people are dismayed that apologetics is so seldom evident in the Christian world. It’s interesting that the first two responses are based on ignorance and misrepresentation.

Church, we need to redeem this word!

That’s why I named Apologetics Canada what I did. Many suggested I use another name, but I refused. I’m convinced we need to re-educate people. Apologetics is a Biblical word and practice. In fact, it’s mandated (written in the imperative, as a command). The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, meaning to give an answer or defense for our hope in Jesus. The verse most quoted to promote apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15. It says:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

Here’s the deal, I don’t wake up each morning and pledge allegiance to Apologetics Canada. I love Jesus Christ and want all people to know and love Him too. That’s why I started Apologetics Canada. I’m just convinced that apologetics is one of the greatest tools of evangelism that we have, and I believe that the apostles agree.

Consider that at Pentecost, followers of Christ were experiencing a powerful indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but that didn’t convince the Jews to become Christians. They just thought these Christians were a bunch of drunks. It wasn’t until Peter stands up in their midst and gives his first sermon in Acts 2, an apologetic for Jesus, that people come to faith. Peter does more than just preach about receiving the Holy Spirit. He gives them good reasons why they should place their hope in Jesus and trust that what is happening is real. Peter uses scripture, miracles, prophecy, and the resurrection to convince them.

This is exactly what Jesus instructed them to do in Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples…” The word to make disciples in Greek does not mean to force people, but instead to convince or persuade them. Now of course, this is not by our strength, our wit or our intelligence, but we co-labour with God to reach people; and in our culture, apologetics is an effective tool towards that end.

Not surprising, the resurrection was what the apostles preached throughout Acts and the epistles. The resurrection was their hope, and it motivated them to share this good news. Now that’s apologetics! We have good reason to place our hope in Jesus, and so naturally we should want to share this hope with gentleness and respect.

Is apologetics Biblical? Yes! But perhaps a more important question would be, “Is doing evangelism without apologetics Biblical?”

Learn more about the hope we have in Jesus and how to share that hope at the 5th annual Apologetics Canada Conference this March 6-7, 2015 at Northview Community Church and Willingdon Church.

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Comments 6

  1. Dear Mr. Steiger:

    Hello, and thanks for both AC and this article. Now, I’m certainly a proponent of apologetics; it was, after all, my primary focus at Trinity Western Seminary.

    That said, however, I personally don’t feel comfortable using 1Pet. 3:15 for justifying apologetics, because in his own context Peter isn’t referring to intellectual defense of the faith. He writes prior to v. 15: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled[.]” (vv. 13-14)

    As you know, persecution is a theme of this epistle. Therefore Peter’s intent is to fortify the faith of his immediate audience (or, by extension, any believers facing persecution in any age), and so he goes on to say what our response to persecution (or the threat of it) should be: “but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy[.]” It’s our faith in the sovereignty of Christ that enables us to “have no fear of them, nor be troubled[.]”

    So, when Peter then says to “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you,” he’s referring to the fact that we don’t (need to) fear our enemies or potential threats because Jesus is Lord. He’s _not_ referring to answering the challenges of skeptics. So if, say, I’m battling cancer and someone asks me how I can be so hopeful in the face of that, an appropriate response based on 1Pet. 3:15 would be, “Because Jesus is Lord and I know I’m safe in his hands.” That would be giving a “defense” of my hope in that instance – but not an intellectual argument, per se.

    But if I’ve misconstrued Peter here, please do set me straight.

    God bless you,

    1. Hey Andy,

      Thank you for your comment! You make a great point. However, please notice I did not argue for apologetics based on 1 Peter 3:15. I only pointed out that the word is found in the Bible and highlighted that (1 Peter 3:15) is the most commonly cited verse saying, “The verse most quoted to promote apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15.” The thrust of my argument is Matthew 28:19 & Acts 2.

      Andy Steiger

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