What Is Apologetics and What Good Is It?

1. Apologetics is Not Evangelism

One common misconception concerning the ministry of Apologetics is the view that it is an attempt to “talk people into belief in God,” as part of an evangelistic effort. To be sure, apologetics is not “strictly” evangelism. Evangelism, properly speaking, is the exercise of sharing the gospel message with others. However, apologetics, broadly speaking, involves the practice of answering questions or, more precisely, providing reasons for faith (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

Having said this, God, at times, uses our apologetic efforts as a “facilitator” to evangelism.  Which is to say, as we attempt to share the gospel, we inevitably are  going to encounter questions about (or intellectual objections to) Christian truth-claims. When this occurs, apologetics training can assist us as we attempt to answer questions and respond to those intellectual challenges.

Apologetics functions under an assumption that when someone has a legitimate question (not a smokescreen), regarding why Christians hold to certain beliefs, we should attempt to provide answers to the question(s) (with gentleness and respect, I might add), instead of ignoring the issue(s) and moving forward with a forced gospel presentation.

An additional underlying concern is, typically the language surrounding Christian beliefs is foreign to non-Christian individuals and requires translation. For instance, our belief in God as a Trinity; (one Divine Being who is, at once, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is a case in point. How can God be both one and three? Do Christians worship three Gods?! These are the points of confusion which apologetics also attempts to address. In short, apologetics can help to distinguish between truth and error, or to bring clarity to a situation where vagueness of terms may impair one’s comprehension of Christian truth-claims.

A further assumption is that apologetics tries to stand in place of the Holy Spirit. This is also unfortunate. I would imagine that most individuals who indulge in apologetics ministry are not likely to approach it from this standpoint. Rather, coupled with the exhortation of 1 Pet. 3:15; other supporting Scriptures, and what Jesus and His apostles modeled for us, the motive for providing reasons for faith out of love.

Jesus often engaged people who were in need of additional explanation. He did so, with grace and respect. This method is more appropriate than forcing the issue and trying to coerce someone into responding to a gospel presentation, when their heart is set against it. What a joy it is to meet people where they are and to seek ways in which to respond to their question(s), both lovingly and compassionately.

As with evangelism, apologetics does not function on its own. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is responsible for moving the hearts of people as we engage in apologetics ministry. God can use us to open up someone’s understanding or to expose erroneous beliefs.  That said, we are well aware that we cannot force people to agree with our ideas. This is not, however, to suggest that we should refrain from attempting to influence the thinking of those around us.

Given that apologetics is not evangelism and since it is a work of the Holy Spirit, we must exercise discernment so that we will know when apologetic discussions have moved to a point of becoming unproductive.  Once it becomes clear that the party with whom we are speaking is not interested in sincere dialogue, we need to be gracious as we end the conversation and commit to praying for that individual.

Hopefully the above discussion clears up some misconceptions regarding the nature of Apologetics. What follows is a discussion of it practical uses:

2. Apologetics Can Help Those Who Have Real Questions About, and Legitimate Objections to Christian Beliefs

Many Christians will argue that Christ (as God) does not need our defense. “Technically,” they are correct. At the same time, Christ called us to be his witnesses (Matt. 28:19ff). A witness must be prepared to testify to the truth, at a moment’s notice, and in an objective manner. That involves prayerfully-training our minds so that we may respond appropriately when called upon. As has already been stated, invariably, attempts at sharing Christ with others will be met with questions or objections. We should not ignore them. We should take them seriously and respond to them as fully and fervently as possible.

3. Apologetics May Be Used As A Tool for Discipleship

Christ also called us to make disciples. A disciple is both a learner and a follower. Often one aspect of discipleship is emphasized while the other is neglected. Typically, we neglect the intellectual side. This is not a good practice. Discipleship is a spiritual exercise that involves learning (studying) and living out (practicing) what we believe. Granted, Solid Rock Reasons emphasizes the intellectual side of discipleship. That does not mean we are unaware of the need for exercising our faith practically. One way to exercise our faith is by sharing it with others. However, that requires getting our intellectual hands dirty.

Discipleship incorporates thinking about and formulating ways in which to state our beliefs clearly and objectively. Doing so prepares us and builds our confidence so that we are more likely to tell others about Christ? Moreover, when we fortify the next generation of Christ-followers with these sorts of tools, they will be less likely to succumb to arguments and assertions that challenge their faith. There is no biblical precedent for taking our beliefs for granted. As ambassadors of Christ, we must continue to equip ourselves while passing historic truth-claims on to future generations, until Christ returns.

4. Apologetics Can Help Young Christians To Stand For Truth

The chief audience for the ministry of Solid Rock Reasons is mature adolescents and young adult believers. Our chief purpose is to invest in each of your lives because we all must to stand for Christ, and for the cardinal teachings of The Faith; in the midst of a changing culture. We cannot afford to leave the next generation of believers behind to fight today’s intellectual and spiritual battles, on their own. We must take ownership of, and intellectually-defend historic Christian truth-claims for Christ and His kingdom. This will strengthen our resolve and help us to thrive, rather than merely survive as Christians; at home, on campus, and in the wider marketplace of ideas.

The enterprise of providing reasons for faith is not just an intellectual exercise. It demonstrates our hope in Christs to a world that so desperately needs Him. It also fortifies us with tools to engage the culture without becoming casualties of cultural conflict. To summarize, remaining ready and responding with reasons for faith is an honorable service to the Lord, to fellow Christians, and to the World; again, as indicated by 1 Pet. 3:15. In effect, it is an exercise in loving God with all of our minds, preparing disciples to live for Christ, and loving others enough to meet them where they are, both spiritually and intellectually.

Note: The Current Practice of Christian Apologetics May Be Summarized As Follows:

At the risk of being redundant, the discipline of Apologetics involves providing a rational basis for our beliefs. (A person who defends a given position is an apologist for that position). The tools of Christian Apologetics help us to respond appropriately to questions about our faith, to justify historic Christian truth-claims, and to refute objections to them. The exciting part is that the Lord can use such tools to remove intellectual road blocks and to reach non-Christians where they are. The motivation behind all of what Solid Rock Reasons does is to fulfill the Great Commission of  extending the truth and love of Christ to every listening ear.

Philosopher C. Stephen Evans describes the practice of Christian Apologetics as: “The rational defense of Christian faith.” Evans explains further that “Historically, apologetic arguments of various types have been given: philosophical arguments for the existence of God; arguments that the existence of God is compatible with suffering and evil; historical arguments, such as arguments from miracles and fulfilled prophecies; and arguments from religious experience.” C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 12.

May God richly bless you.

In Christ,

Ibrahim Inuwa, Solid Rock Reasons