When someone first comes across the term “Apologetics” we see a close similarity to the word “apology”. I want you to know straight off that Christian Apologetics is not the art of being sorry for your faith. For a proper understanding, let’s start with the word itself.
The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used of a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The accused would attempt to “speak away” (apo—away, logia—speech) the accusation. The classic example of such an apologia was Socrates’ defense against the charge of preaching strange gods, a defense retold by his most famous pupil, Plato, in a dialogue called The Apology (in Greek,hē apologia). As an extenstion, Christian apologetics is that branch of Christianity that deals with answering any and all critics who oppose or question the revelation of God in Christ and the Bible.
Now, I know there are many that think this is a big waste of time. “Doesn’t the Bible say that all we need is faith?” Well, the Bible has quite a bit to say on the concept of apologetics:
- “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,” (1 Peter 3:15, NASB).
- “I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 3)
There are many examples throughout the New Testament of apologetics at work. Jesus did not walk around Judea for three years telling people to “just have faith”. He fulfilled prophecy (Mk. 14:61-62, Lk. 24:44-45), he performed miracles, he predicted his own death and resurrection (Jn. 2:19-21, cf. Mt. 12:39-40), and he corrected false interpretations of Scripture (Mt. 4:1-11) all as evidence for the claims that he made.
The apostle Paul also used apologetics. In Acts, we see Paul reasoning in the marketplace in Athens (Acts 17:17) and we have the famous sermon on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-34) where he uses quotations from Greek poets. A majority of Paul’s epistles are defending the Gospel and refuting false teachings and there are two quotes in Philippians where Paul says his mission is the defense of the gospel (Phil 1:7; 1:16).
Practically, apologetics is beneficial to Christians. They deepen their faith and are able to share it more effectively. They are able to answer peoples’ real questions which hinder them from accepting the Gospel. They gain the ability to have influence in the public square (education, media, etc.). They are capable of recognizing and preventing doctrinal apostasy in the Church. Finally, they are equipped to answer the false claims of cults and other religions.
Finally, apologetics covers a wide range of areas including philosophy, theology, biblical inerrancy, historical evidence, morality, science, etc. As you might guess, apologetics is as varied as people and subjects and no one is capable of mastering all areas. As God calls people into study, they will become proficient in what interests them according to the gifts and interests that have been entrusted to them by Him.