By Numa Gomez
Faculty, College of Theology
Many believe that Apologetics is a waste of time because no one has ever made a decision to follow Christ because of apologetics. As one who teaches worldview and apologetics, I do agree that not many have been converted through apologetics, I would also argue that apologetics is not the foundation for which one is won over to Christ, only the Gospel can change the human heart and transform the being into what Christ demands. So why do Christian Apologetics?
Christian Apologetics is the discipline of defending and explaining the great truth claims of the Christian faith. This may be done by both the use of Scripture and rational reason. Many are confused by the term apologetics because they suggest that this is primarily an evangelistic tool. Although it may be related to evangelism, apologetics mostly aims to provide rational reasons for agreeing to the claims of the Gospel and removing any intellectual roadblocks to faith.
So how are evangelism and apologetics related exactly? Evangelism to unbelievers can be a great challenge if our attitude is only of ‘duty’, and not from a concern for the lost. Engaging the lost is not easy for most church people. Evangelism requires us to be disciplined and mature enough in our faith to see with God’s eyes. We must remember that we are asking unbelievers to change their entire view of reality—the fundamental way in which they see life. We are asking them to move from one worldview to another, to forfeit their basic beliefs and assumptions about religion and morality. So why the resistance to apologetics?
There are two fundamental reasons some object to doing apologetics. First: The belief that Jesus didn’t do it. The argument goes something like “Jesus didn’t use apologetics,” or “Sure, He gave awesome speeches, but those were about how we should live and stuff. He didn’t waste time trying to convince people through intellectual arguments.” The problem with this view is that it is not true. Jesus used intelligent debate and proofs to validate His claim as the Son of God (Mt.12:25-27. 11:16-19, and Acts 1:2-3). Jesus never shied away from a challenge and was quite adept at handling objections to His claims (Lk.13:15-17). The “Did Jesus do this” test is not always as effective as we’d like it to be. It’s actually very flawed. This is because there are certain things Jesus did that we can’t/shouldn’t do (like claiming to be God) and more importantly, there are many things that Jesus didn’t do in His time that we absolutely should do in ours.
The second reason is the often heard refrain, “Aren’t we just called to love each other? Isn’t being kind to people and caring for their needs more effective than arguing with them?” Our response should be “going out of your way to help someone in need is a paramount example of love, whether that need is physical, emotional or intellectual.” Apologetics is for that last part and it’s every bit as important as the other two. Lee Strobel once said: “I think apologetics without evangelism is a bit of a wasted effort. …we want people using knowledge to really lead people to Christ. It’s been said that apologetics is the handmaiden of evangelism and I think that’s true.”
When the Apostle Paul describes love in 1 Co.13: 4-8, he says, “…Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” If we as Christians aren’t defending Christianity as true, then we’re not really loving our non-believing friends the way God calls us to. Actions speak louder than words. But sometimes having the courage and the skill to stand up for and articulate, God’s truth with gentleness and respect can be a pretty powerful action. If you doubt that, read more about the Apostle Paul. He regularly convinced a few people using evidence in his day (Acts 17:2-3).
God doesn’t need defending, but people need help making sense of the many competing ideas. We have been commanded to give a reason for the hope we have. It is only the lazy Christian that cannot give reasons for his faith. Evangelism/Apologetics doesn’t happen within a vacuum. It happens amidst many different subcultures, people’s background, experiences, history, education, etc. effects how they relate to the gospel. While we can never be completely prepared, we can do our best to have an understanding of our own beliefs and be able to offer a reasonable explanation of them. Apologetics has great value in that it explains and reaffirms evangelistic claims. Let us not forget what 1 Peter 3:15 teaches:
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
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