1. Apologetics is Not Evangelism
To be sure, apologetics is not “strictly” evangelism (though clearly some people disagree). Rather, apologetics facilitates evangelism by working alongside it. As you share the gospel, you are inevitably going to encounter questions or intellectual barriers that apologetics can help you address. When someone has a question (not a smokescreen), we should attempt to provide an answer to the question, instead of ignoring the question and moving forward with a gospel presentation.
Typically the language surrounding religious matters is foreign, and requires translation. The apologetic task considers the fact that “some” people have legitimate concerns that need clarification. The loving thing to do, in such circumstances, is to meet people where they are and to seek ways in which to respond to their question(s). This method is more appropriate than forcing the issue and trying to cram the gospel message into a person’s mind when they are not ready to receive it.
Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is responsible for moving the hearts of people as we engage in evangelism. On the other hand, apologetics has its own limitations. We cannot force people to agree with our ideas. We can provide a rationale for our beliefs, address questions and objections posed by others, and attempt to influence the thinking of individuals that we meet. Apologetic discussions are only a waste of time when it becomes clear that the party with whom you are speaking is not interested in sincere dialogue. The good news is that the exercise of providing reasons for faith has a number of additional practical uses:
2. Apologetics Can Help Those Who Have Real Questions About, and Legitimate Objections to Christian Beliefs
Many Christians will argue that Christ (since he is God) does not need our defense. “Technically,” they are correct. At the same time, Christ called us to be his witnesses. 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 the opportunity presents itself. Invariably, attempts at sharing Christ with others will be met with questions or objections. We should not ignore legitimate questions and objections. We should take them seriously and respond to them rationally.
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. Disciples entails 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
To summarize, we need to stand for Christ and for the cardinal teachings of the faith; by taking ownership of, and intellectually-defending historic Christian truth claims. This will strengthen our resolve and help us to thrive, rather than merely survive as Christians. The enterprise of providing reasons for faith is not just an intellectual exercise. Nor is it an attempt to “coerce” others into belief, against their will. Rather, the practice of being ready and responding with reasons for faith is an honorable service to the Lord, to fellow Christians, and to the World; as indicated by 1 Peter 3:15. 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:
The discipline of Apologetics involves providing a rational basis for various convictions to which one subscribes. (A person who defends a particular position is an apologist for that position).
The tools of Christian Apologetics help us to respond appropriately to questions about our faith. What is more, they help us 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.