The Purpose of Apologetics


Paul_Preaching_On_Mars_Hill

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because  what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and   Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they  became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image  made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping    things.”[1]

            By looking at these verses we can clearly see that everyone already knows the truth. However, there is an agenda set by unrighteous men to suppress the truth. The word suppress is the Greek word katéchō meaning, “To have, hold. Hold fast, retain, or hold down, quash, suppress.[2] If there is no truth or if the world believes that there is no truth, then we must conclude that there is nothing for them to hold down. However, truth is obvious so they purposely engage in an agenda to suppress the only thing that can make people free.[3]

            So, if the truth is evident to every men and women on this earth, why is there a need for apologetics? The first and obvious answer is, because the Bible tells us so. The ministry of apologetics is not something born out of some philosophical and intellectuals want to be; apologetics has its foundation in Scripture. First Peter 3:15-16 tell us,

            “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness  and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (KJV)

            The word answer is the Greek word Apologia, meaning, “To give an answer or speech in defense of oneself. A plea, defense before a tribunal or elsewhere.”[4] Groothuis gives us a specific definition for Christian apologetics; “Christian apologetics is the rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true, rationally compelling and existentially or subjectively engaging.”[5]

            Beilby also clearly identify other reasons to Biblically validate the ministry of apologetics; demolishing arguments, contending for the faith, refuting those who oppose sound doctrine and for gentle instruction.[6] However, the main purpose of Christian apologetics is to defend the orthodoxy of the Christian faith, the emphasis is not in defending doctrine, the emphasis is in defending dogma.[7] “Dogma is the core Christian claim; doctrine are attempts to explain.”[8]

            Up until not too long ago I did not have a clue regarding the word apologetics. I also asked myself, why do we have to apologize for our faith? As I gained a little more understanding I realize the vital need of apologetics in our society. There is indeed a need to defend the core claims of our faith. Personally, I believe that there is a greater need for internal apologetics than it is for external apologetics. Internal apologetics does not necessarily means those that are saved, but those who identify themselves as Christians whether they are saved or not. External apologetics focus on those who do not identify themselves as Christians.[9]

            The fact that internal apologetics deals with the saved and unsaved does not make it an easy task, but I believe that is extremely important that as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ[10] we do not neglect our core claims. If the core is neglected the doctrine is affected.

            With the spread and popularity of the charismatic movement, the constant emphasis on feelings and experiences rather than on core values and doctrine it is vital that the ministry of apologetics stand tall and strong defending the core of our faith from within first and then externally; for God’s judgment start in the house of God.[11]

            The last issue that I want to deal with on this post is the audience for apologetics. Beilby points out the difference between audience and context. Audience is the person or person you are addressing. Context, on the other hand, deals with the environment that surrounds the apologetic conversation.[12] I find this part very exciting; that is because the audience of apologetics varies. The reason I express such excitement is because apologetics is open to be expressed in different ways; private, public and academic apologetics.[13]

            Private apologetics takes place on a one-on-one or in small groups. Public apologetics is done in the presence of a general audience. Lastly, academic apologetics is done in a more formal and strict setting. This excites me because, just like evangelism, apologetics is not limited to public speaking, but it can be done over coffee, by taking a walk, at lunchtime during work, in the comfort of our homes, etc. Many people I know would be intimidated in a big group and I know I would be intimated in an academic setting. Also, people seem to be afraid of asking the tough questions in public for fear of being judge. However, they may be more willing to open up if they are just speaking informally with someone or in a small group of friends. What I am trying to say is that apologetics, with the proper training, is available for everyone.

[1] Romans 1:18-23 (New King James Version)
[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).
[3] And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31 (KJV)
[4] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).
[5] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, (Downers, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011) 24
[6] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What it is and Why We Do it, (Downers Groove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011) 14
[7] Ibid., 20
[8] Ibid., 19
[9] Ibid., 28
[10] “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)
[11] For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17 (KJV)
[12] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What it is and Why We Do it, 26
[13] Ibid., 26

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