What is Apologetics?

Are we apologizing for being Christian? Heaven forbid. Apology in early English times did not convey the idea of excuse, or making amends for some injury done.An apologist should proudly proclaim the word of God as inerrant, divinely inspired, and expertly preserved through the ages, better than any other in history. For example, apologist John Warwick Montgomery says this: “To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity”. The reason? Because the bible manuscripts have been retained and preserved hundreds, even thousands of times better than many of the books we rely on from antiquity. Click on CARM.org link here to examine the difference between our bible and the writings of Plato, or Aristotle, or Homer. There is no comparison, as no other book in history demanded such reverence and respect when it came to authenticity.

How I defended the scriptures there, using facts, resources, respected researchers and authors, that is apologetics. Defense, from the Greek “apologia” means a defense of conduct and procedure. A verbal defense, a speech in defense of what one has done, or of truth which one believes. This describes, like a lawyer might, the examining of facts and reason that would allow someone to believe, or make a case for belief.

“Apologia” is used 8 times in the new testament including the verse 1 peter 3:15 ‘But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer (defense, apologia) to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.’

Here are some other relevant verses
Acts 22:1 – hear my defense before you now
1 corinthians 9:3 My defense to those who examine me is this…
Philippians 1:7 … in the defense and confirmation of the gospel
Philippians 1:17 knowing I am appointed for the defense of the gospel…
The manner in which the word “apologia” is used in 1 peter 3:15, denotes the kind of defense one would make to a legal inquiry, asking, “Why are you a Christian?”

Everyone who is a Christian is responsible to give an adequate answer to this question. Christianity is either EVERYTHING to mankind, or it is NOTHING. It is either the highest certainty, or the greatest delusion. But we lovingly guide others to Christ knowing this; Christianity appeals to facts of history that are clearly recognizable and accessible by everyone. It is a factual faith. Here is a basic apologetic thesis:
“There is an infinite, all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God who has revealed Himself by means natural and supernatural in creation, in the nature of man, in the history of Israel and the Church, in the pages of Holy Scripture, in the incarnation of God in Christ, and in the heart of the believer by the gospel.” – (Bernard Ramm, apologist.)
There are many ways to practice apologetics, and I would encourage you to follow your studies in a direction that the Spirit leads you, and based on how adeptly you pick up on the different types. Often you will have to decide at the onset of a discussion what pre-suppositions each party is starting with. These will have to be explored and defined, otherwise it will be very difficult to make points. As you already know, the world of religion is very complex, and debates can spin off onto several tangents very fast. One party may want to challenge the veracity of a God while the other is only prepared to start with the pre-supposition that the bible is true, accurate, inerrant etc. There is room in apologetics for every presupposition, as long as it is defined. In fact, you may find that the bulk of a discussion is spent defining the problem. There is nothing wrong with this. As it is often said, “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.”

One way to practice apologetics is Classical, which highlights rational argument for the existence of God. You have to show that God exists before you can show miracles, or necessitate Christ’s works. Without the presupposition that God exists, it is hard to show why we need redemption at all. Refining this argument further, you can approach from a couple positions. One states there must be a cause for matter to exist; some cause that was not caused itself, for there cannot be an infinite regression of causes. Another approach is the watchmaker argument. Basically, evidence of design proves there must be a designer.

Romans 1: 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
Evidential is another method of approaching apologetics. This appeals to history, the sciences, fulfillment of biblical prophecy, resurrection of Christ, etc. as evidence for the veracity of scripture and Christianity.

We must always be aware of our audience, just as the apostles were in Acts, and know from which point the audience is starting from. When Peter preached to the Jews in Acts 2, he spoke to citizens of Jerusalem with a clear knowledge of the beginning, with a respect for the Old Testament already:

“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words… this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel… Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know…For David speaketh concerning him…”

Do you see how Peter approached by appealing to their patriarchs and already accepted history? Now compare that to an Acts 17 culture:

“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”

Paul was speaking to Athenians here, steeped in an idolatrous polytheistic culture. It would have done Paul no good to start referring to Moses, and David, and the Ten Commandments. They had no frame of reference without first being introduced to who God was.

This is often the case in America today. In the 50’s and before, our western culture was one of Christian roots, and less apologetics had to be applied, because a biblical framework already existed. That isn’t so, today. By the admittance of even our own leaders, we are not a Christian nation, and the west certainly practices varied types of idolatry and religious inclusion that parallels the Acts 17 Athenians. Therefore, we must be prepared, as Paul was, to give a defense of our beliefs, and to lovingly guide others to the cross.

To join the conversation, please join and share at www.facebook.com/cooper.author 

For Excellent tutelage on apologetics, visit CARM.org/apologetics (Matt Slick)

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Author: J.R. Cooper

Author, Christian Fiction, Apologetics, Creationism vs Evolution, Published with Touch Publishing

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