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 Christian apologists do the same thing, only they use the Bible as historical document as much as a holy book, and evidence from other disciplines as well like the sciences (yes, the sciences), philosophy, archaeology and more.
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