What’s Christian Apologetics? Pt 1 of 2

I’m passionate about Christian Apologetics. This is partially because it was a catalyst for my already-Christian world being turned upside down in an amazing way about four years ago, and partially because I believe in what it stands for- giving a thoughtful account, or reasons, for the hope that we have as Christians. In light of a conference that will be happening at my church next weekend on this subject (follow the link at the end of this blog for more info on that), I’m re-posting a blog I posted a few weeks ago on the subject, but in two parts this time. I haven’t yet learned the art of short article writing.

Interestingly, as I’ve gotten more and more into apologetics over the years, the reactions to it from some fellow Christians towards it have been disappointing and even unsettling. (Sidenote: Christian Apologetics isn’t actually just for Christians at all but also for theists, atheists, agnostics and whatever other -ist you may consider yourself. So feel free to read on, whatever your beliefs, but this particular blog is written for a Christian audience). I’m a little surprised at how many Christians don’t know what apologetics is, but I’m even more surprised at how easily others dismiss it or even denounce it. All of these reactions are surprising to me for two main reasons- apologetics is important and it’s Biblical. Before I delve further into that though, I’ll address the most basic question first…

What is “apologetics”?

NO, it doesn’t mean to “apologize” for something. Actually, the opposite is true. The word itself comes from the Greek work “apologia” meaning to give an answer or defence for something- in this case a defense of Christian claims to truth. The word comes from the judicial processes that go on in a courtroom, so let’s analyze that scene for a moment: Defense attorneys come prepared with all the evidence they can gather. They have both direct and circumstantial evidence, and eyewitness accounts, and from this they make their case. The attorney researches, studies, memorizes and then expounds their evidence to the courtroom. They build a reasoned and rational case for what they’re claiming is true. Christian apologists do the same thing, only they use the Bible as historical document as much as a holy book, and evidence from other disciplines as well like the sciences (yes, the sciences), philosophy, archaeology and more.

Image

Does that sound cool? It is!

As Christians, we’re actually all called to be apologists. 1 Peter 3:15 says “…always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect…”. We are also instructed, ” Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind“- Matthew 22:7, Deuteronomy 6:5 (emphasis mine). And yet, a lot of Christians seem lukewarm about it. Some are even antagonistic towards it. Of the Christians I’ve spoken to in this latter camp, they explained that they’ve had bad experiences with it. Some have taken the apologists’ words as prideful and arrogant. Consideration for subjectivity aside, on the one hand if this is true at face value, the apologist has perhaps not applied the second instruction in 1 Peter 3:15 in his or her argument. On the other hand, it also doesn’t seem reasonable to ignore an entire field of study because one proponent didn’t follow one of its cardinal rules. Furthermore, to those who are against apologetics, if a strong enough case hasn’t yet been built from the aforementioned scripture, there’s another fact from biblical history that gets seriously overlooked- apologetics was the modas operandi of Paul and the apostles.

Apologetics is not just a trend as many seem to think. Dozens of examples could be used here to illustrate how apologetics was standard for the apostles. They constantly defended, taught and challenged false teachings against Christian doctrine. They used examples from the culture of the audience to whom they were speaking to apply Christian teaching, regularly quoted from “scriptures” (the Old Testament) and taught from oral traditions (“You have heard it said…”) and historical facts as known to their audience to formulate their arguments. “Then (Paul) went to the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, engaging in discussion and trying to persuade them about the things related to the kingdom of God.” Acts 19:8 & 9. As you can see, being a Christian and being an apologist actually go hand in hand. Far from a passing fad or something popular Christian culture has conjured up that will come and go, apologetics is as old as Christianity itself.

Some have said to me that apologetics is intimidating. That’s certainly understandable. I was exposed to apologetics for a few years before I started to understand even its staple concepts. The scientific and philosophic statements that often arise from the various fields of study that apologetics encompasses can indeed seem baffling. The great things is though that you don’t need to be an expert apologist to be able to defend your faith well. Sometimes even a few key pieces of information that challenge some of the major, popular, flawed ideologies of our culture are enough to greatly increase your understanding, both of what those flaws are and of how to have a meaningful conversation about them. There are also many of online resources (see below) that put these complex arguments in simpler terms. I’d encourage you not to let sophisticated argument names or concepts intimidate you and to be patient with yourself. There are hugely important lessons to be learned and even greater benefits to be reaped for you as a believer when you come to understand them.

For the Christians who seem to be apathetic altogether about the subject, I have a few thoughts to share about that but I’ll leave it for the next blog. I’ll start it by giving you an anecdote from my own experience. I hope you don’t get caught in the same position I was.

*Visit http://www.apologeticscanada.com/conference-2013/ for more information about this year’s Christian apologetics conference.

*For a sort of intro to apologetics, visit http://www.thinkingseries.com

Advertisements

About coralierose

I am 29 and live in Abbotsford, B.C. I'm a singer/songwriter, hiker, cook, lover of my friends and family, and I love the God of the Bible. I've learned that life might feel like a rollercoaster but I can trust in its Designer. Expect change and you'll be ready to change right along with it.
This entry was posted in Apologetics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What’s Christian Apologetics? Pt 1 of 2

  1. dogbronte says:

    I recently came across “Interactive Gospel” http://www.hazelden.org.uk/ig/ig.htm Well written, simple to understand apologetic.
    Be blessed friend in Christ

  2. Brad Richert says:

    I appreciate your words, and I hope that your blog can engage some constructive debate that is helpful for you in your spiritual jouney.

    Perhaps an antagonism towards apologetics had nothing to do with “a bad experience” (straw man argument) and more to do with methodology found among apologists.

    Apologetics is like politics – finding the weakest point of your “opponent” and exploiting it in order to “win” your argument (as apparently that is the “best” way to defend one’s belief system). Dr. William Craig is an infamous proponent of such a method.

    Most people, including myself, that I know that no longer engage in what is considered “apologetics” proper, appreciate methods, such as the scientific method, that are not used in apologetics. Winning a debate or “defending the faith” is much different than finding the truth.

    A crude, but apt, breakdown of the difference between science and apologetics:
    http://confessionsofadoubtingthomas.blogspot.ca/2011/08/apologetics-vs-scientific-method.html

    Kind regards.

    • coralierose says:

      Brad,

      Thanks for the comment. And feel free to laugh at my crazy-delayed response to this. I just happened to be rereading the comments and realized I hadn’t responded to yours.

      You’re right that some people get turned off by apologists. So far, a few friends have met a few lesser-known, younger apologists whom they thought gave decent arguments, but did so with an air of conceit, and so it tainted what their idea of what apologetics is all about. But from my experience so far of going through material from Dr. Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, JP Moreland, J Warner Wallace, CS Lewis and others, I disagree with you on several points. I’m not yet convinced that their methodology has been the problem. More to the point, I’ve also not seen the apologetic method used as described by the link you posted, by Dr Craig or any other apologist I’ve come across so far. I also disagree that that’s what apologetics is vis-a-vis parts of #2, but especially 3 and 4. I hear your caveat about it, but frankly it seems like scientific elitism. Sure, apologetics is about sifting through an argument, but to expose, not exploit, the weakness of it, for the purpose of instead exposing truth and not simply for the purpose of “winning” an argument as if to satisfy one’s ego. Is that what you’re getting at or am I mistaken? By the way, I hope this doesn’t come across as antagonistic in tone because I don’t mean for it to…

      Can you point to a particular debate Dr. Craig has had or ay other material that would show him using this method? Are there other apologists who you have seen use a type of “politician” method? I just haven’t witnessed it yet.

      Feel free to clarify any points I’ve misunderstood or assumptions I’ve made, as I may have and as I’m sure you will. 🙂

      Hope you and the family are enjoying your summer so far by the way!

      Cor

  3. Anonymous says:

    You’d be surprised how much heat I get every time I mention apologetics. Which is sad because it’s become one of my passions in life. There seems to be a belief out there that apologetics, being so fact and reason oriented, is actually harmful to faith. People seem to believe that if you do apologetics and you somehow “prove” God exists, then where is the need for faith? I don’t understand this mentality. Apologetics has *edified* my faith. Indeed, it was apologetics that stopped me from becoming an agnostic in 2011. I don’t base my faith upon apologetics material, but it has certainly given me greater confidence in believing and sharing Christianity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s