In this post, I’ll give a brief answer to the popular question “What is Christian apologetics?”. I’ll also expand on why this sub-field of theology and Bible study is so pertinent to promoting the wider Christian faith.
I pray you’ll find the info here useful if you’re just getting into Christian apologetics. And… who knows? You may be inspired to become a Christian apologist yourself!
What is Christian apologetics? Here’s the short answer.
So, just what is Christian apologetics exactly? Well, for starters, it is not about… apologizing for our faith in Jesus. Heh. You can let out that sigh of relief now.
A form of theology, Christian apologetics aims to justify the truth of our Christian faith in a rational manner, rooted in logical reasoning. The word ‘apologetics’ comes from the Greek term ‘apologia‘ (ἀπολογία) which means to stand in defense of a charge. Thus, in this context, Christian apologetics is about giving systematic and convincing philosophical arguments in support of God’s Bible and all its claims and consequences.
Thanks to its diverse approach, Christian apologetics has found a wide audience with open-minded agnostics, atheists, and people of other religions. Apologetic works have also helped to spiritually refresh fellow Christians by bridging the gap between logic and faith.
Paul the Apostle is often seen as the first-ever Christian apologist (Acts 26:2). Many great thinkers have also risen to defend and spread the faith over the centuries. This includes Justin Martyr, Saint Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas, to name a few. The apologetics tradition has flourished in more recent times via various intellectual investigations. For example, C.S. Lewis details how it is entirely rational to believe in God, while John Lennox explains why God’s objective truths have become all the more important amid our age of radical relativism.
What is the Holy Spirit? Read our answer here!
Why is Christian apologetics so important today?
Over several centuries, the assumed ‘divide’ between faith and reason seems to have only deepened.
In light of this, I think many people today believe that faith / reason, God / science, emotion / logic, etc. make up distinct and separate experiences that, supposedly, cannot be reconciled. This in part reflects the lasting impact of the Age of Enlightenment, among other historical movements that have shaped cultural mindsets.
Thus, broadly speaking, there now exists two popular camps of people: the skeptics and the fideists.
On one side, skeptics tend to hold the idea that faith in God is ‘irrational’ – especially since His existence has not yet been proven by ‘traditional’ methods. For example, a skeptic may say “The Bible isn’t logical to me! Therefore, your faith in unreasonable.”
Like skepticism, fideism also maintains that faith is separate from reason – but goes to the other end of the spectrum. For example, a fideist might think “I do not need any reason and logic to have faith in God!”
As a former agnostic who is now a follower of Christ, I actually see value in both these positions!
However, each strict ‘either-or’ side sadly tries to minimize the merits of the other.
For instance, skeptics tend to overlook how the Christian faith actually offers a good amount of objective evidence (e.g. new archaeological finds, historical accounts of Jesus outside of the Bible, etc.). On the other hand, a fideist who brazenly rejects reason also ignores that God Himself is the Creator of all knowledge (Proverbs 2:6) – and that includes logical thinking!
Christian apologetics offers a balanced way.
Amid this, I think Christian apologetics plays a big part in overcoming this false divide.
Again, this is because a Christian apologist’s goal is to defend and explain the Bible in ways grounded in reason and logic – but also a steady faith in God. Both these qualities are key!
Let me quickly illustrate.
For example, the Big Bang Theory posits that the universe first began as a single point and has continued to expand until today.
A die-hard skeptic may argue “Science proves the Big Bang created the universe – not God!”
On the flipside, a stubborn fideist might dismiss this, saying: “Nope. Your science is stupid!”
However, a Christian apologist may instead present this more balanced view:
- “The Big Bang could be the start of the known material universe.”
- “However, if it’s the ‘start’, we must apply the universal law of causality.”
- “So… how did the Big Bang happen? Using logic, there must be an original cause of the Big Bang, since ‘something’ simply cannot emerge out of ‘nothing’.”
- “It is thus logical to suggest that God – who Christians believe exists outside of time and space – is able to cause the Big Bang, and the creation of time-space itself. This obeys a kind of causality that suggests ‘something came from God’ – not a comparatively weaker ‘out of nothing’ reasoning that is anti-causality.
This example shows just one way in which Christian apologetics can merge faith and reason, presenting a logical entry-point to open up further discussions on the Bible.
Many branching topics can stem from such an approach. For instance, a Christian apologist could defend specific Biblical claims, or even try to reasonably explain the purpose of Jesus’ work. The intellectual possibilities abound!
In short, I think Christian apologists have a role to play in making our belief in God more accessible to a wider audience, alienating less people.
Feeling stressed? Read our devotional on anxiety!
Want to be a Christian apologist? Always keep this in mind.
Are you thinking about becoming a Christian apologist? That’s great!
However, as you embark on your exciting journey, I hope you’ll also remember the following.
Speak logic in love, not ‘love logic’.
As humans, I think it’s too easy to get caught up in heated arguments with others – especially when it comes to defending our faith. Such hot-headed blowouts happen every single day!
However, ideally, this is not a good attitude for a Christian apologist to take – or any Christian for that matter.
Rather, as Peter says:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,“1 Peter 3:15
In short, as an apologist, you should aim to share / defend your faith in a well-reasoned and logical manner.
However, as a Christian who believes in what the Bible says, it is important that you do this with patience, gentleness, and respect for others.
Remember, the ultimate goal of Christian apologetics is to point people to Christ. It isn’t about a self-interested desire to ‘win’ or embarrass others in a fiery debate.
In short, speak God’s truth in love and reason – but be careful not to idolize your own logical mind and reputation. Always check your heart!
God chooses who He reaches, and when.
Christian apologists try their best to ‘win over’ people to God’s side.
However, we should never forget: it is God who ultimately decides who He wants to bring into Him. In short, salvation is His gift to give, not ours!
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,Ephesians 2:8
In short, being a Christian apologist is simply a chance to apply the gifts God has blessed you with (e.g. intellect, wisdom, reasoning, etc.). It is you doing your humble part to bring God’s Kingdom to others – as you are proportionately called by Him to do. This is wonderful!
However, don’t pressure yourself to ‘convert’ others out of your own will. Instead, just focus on speaking God’s truth, in faith and reason, with love and logic. And let Him work on the hearts of the people willing to listen. Trust God to do what He does best.
May God bless you on your journey of discovering the joy of Christian apologetics!