Lots of people question why apologetics is a worthwhile area of Christian study and knowledge. Some see it as puffing oneself up with lofty arguments or academic expertise, as if it’s a compromise with the world versus a spiritual state of being. Since I’ve earned my Master’s degree in apologetics, I have made plenty of friends in the field. I’ve never met an apologist, personally, who in any way wanted to “compromise with the world,” as if the study of apologetics, philosophy, or metaphysics would in some way be a compromise with the world’s system. Sadly, however, this is a perspective that many Christians have: an anti-intellectual attitude that sees academic pursuit as somehow compromising faith with worldly knowledge. That’s a misunderstanding of apologetics.
The actual term, “apologetic,” comes from the Greek word “apologia,” and is used in 1 Peter 3:15, where he encourages believers to: “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense[apologia] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (NASB). Apologetics is, in essence, case making for Christ.
Apologetics has helped me to counter the argument that faith is blind. I hate that term, “blind faith.” So, what makes someone have faith? Many people think it’s purely a choice based on personal experiences or opinion. But what separates a justified belief from a mere opinion or experience? Faith was never meant to be blind, but should be based on sound reasoning and good inferences.
A Mormon claims a “warming in the heart,” leading to belief in Joseph Smith’s testimony, who claimed to be a latter-day Saint, and wrote another testament. Mohammad said he was the final prophet in the Koran. Unitarians believe all religions are basically the same, and it’s intolerant to claim there is only one way to God. Atheists don’t believe in God. And on and on…
Many beliefs exist, but do they have evidence to back them up? Once thoroughly examined, Christianity remains the most verifiable faith—one that is not simply based on subjective experience or opinion. The Christian religion is based on thousands of ancient historical manuscripts and archaeological finds confirming Biblical records. In addition to physical evidence, there are millions of lives dramatically changed from faith in Jesus Christ. There is the apostles’ personal eye-witness accounts of seeing the Resurrected Christ, and their testimonies have been shown to be reliable. This handful of people were used by God to eventually convert the entire Roman empire to the Christian faith. This is no coincidence… this is truth! All these facts together put the Christian faith in a category of its own: it’s evidentially-based. There are many good reasons to believe.
Some think that apologetics is used to gain the world’s acceptance and is a form of compromise. Apologetics is used to gain the world’s acceptance? I don’t think so. Instead, apologetics is used to correct falsities that discredit the truth of the Bible and what the Scriptures proclaim.
When shown the reasons to believe in the God of the Bible, if a person still vehemently rejects the evidence, there is usually an emotional reason behind it. It could be basic rebellion, as some people hate God’s authority. It could be that they are sinning and want to continue. It could be that they were hurt by the Church or another Christian. Perhaps someone continues rejection of God because a prayer wasn’t answered in the way hoped. There is also a great cultural distrust of authority because, from government to educational institutions and the Church, authority has been abused at times and left a path of pain in its wake. That is an area that we, as the Body of Christ, should continue to work on, giving everyone lots of grace along the way because the Church is full of Christians who make mistakes. The key is to allow God to heal the wounded souls, and ask for forgiveness.
Apologetics is not an area of theology attempting to make God’s Word appeal to the standards set by hostile men. Apologetics is simply providing good reasons for curious questions about Christianity, discussing theodicies (reasons for why God allows evil), and correcting false assumptions about the faith. Apologetics has been going on since Paul’s day, and it should continue until our Lord returns.