The Case for Christian Apologetics
By Jesse Jost
“Jesus was not buried, but left on the cross to be eaten by birds and wild dogs.
These and many other audacious claims were conveyed in the ABC News special, The Search For Jesus, (aired June of 2000). This is just a sample of the attacks that are constantly being made on Christianity. From the learning institutions to the media, the Christian faith is perpetually ridiculed and belittled. There is the idea in today’s culture that Christians have a merely subjective faith, while reporters, scientists, and intellectuals are the ones who are communicating objective facts.
Unfortunately, many Christians are unequipped to respond to such accusations. They feel they are left with only two options. If they are to retain their intellectual integrity, they must abandon the faith. Or they must accept a dichotomy between faith and reason that will allow them to put all matters of faith into the “untouchable” realm of the subjective, and leave them free to think whatever they want on “objective” matters. Thankfully, there is another option. It is found in the area of Christian apologetics.
The resurrection story was borrowed from eastern pagan cults.”
What is Apologetics?
Apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “defense.” Apologetics is simply the defense of the Christian faith. It deals with attacks made on Christianity from the outside (by atheists, agnostics, skeptics, etc.) or from the inside (by heretics, scripture twisters, etc.). Equipped believers can use apologetics to effectively demonstrate that the Christian worldview is consistent, rational, and corresponds with reality.
Apologetics uses reasonable arguments to defend such things as the following: the existence of the infinite-personal God, that the universe was created and did not evolve by random chance, that Jesus is God and proved His Godhood through the resurrection, and that the Bible is divine in origin and has been accurately and reliably preserved for us throughout history.
Apologetics also serves as a sort of pre-evangelism. Since our minds are corrupted by sin, good arguments alone will not bring people to repentance. However, the Holy Spirit can use apologetic arguments to remove mental roadblocks or intellectual doubts that are hindering seekers from receiving the message of the Gospel. For many people, their intellectual reasons for not believing, such as ” there is not enough evidence,” are merely smoke screens hiding the real reason they won’t believe – they refuse to surrender the control of their life to God. Apologetic arguments, presented in love and humility, can remove their pseudo-intellectual defense and force them to come face to face with the truth about themselves.
Apologetics enables you to get on the “same page” as the person you are trying to reach. Remember that in our postmodern culture where relativism is rampant, words like God, truth, Jesus, and salvation may mean something totally different to the person to whom you are witnessing.
Apologetics also strengthens the faith of weaker believers by assuring them that Christianity is not a blind leap of irrationality, but a faith that is founded on real historical events and is overwhelmingly supported by objective evidence.
Why should I?
You may ask, “Why should I take the time to learn the apologetic arguments? I am convinced of my faith. Isn’t that enough?” The first reason is that God commands it. In 1 Peter 3:15 we are instructed to “always be ready to give a defense (apologia) to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” To the early church, Jude said that he “found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Paul told Timothy, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:2) Paul also wrote, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)
Secondly, if we truly love the lost, we will seek to provide truthful, well-reasoned answers to the questions they are asking. There are hurting, empty people who have tried many different things to no avail and are desperately longing for answers. The optimism of modernism is crumbling. Many people, disillusioned by the unfulfilled promise of utopia that modern philosophy had offered, are turning to the spiritual realm for help. There are hundreds of cults and false religions eager to embrace such people. It is crucial that we, as followers of the true Savior, learn to demonstrate that Christianity is not just another religious option along with the other cults and religions, but that Christ alone has the answers such people long for. God does exist! He has revealed Himself through Christ, creation, and the Bible. He does love each person and longs to give their lives the meaning and purpose He created them to have. Christianity is truly fulfilling both for heart as well as the mind!
In presenting apologetic arguments, there are some things we must keep in mind.
- We must always speak the truth in love and humility. Remember, we are trying to win souls not merely win the argument. It is humbling to realize that it is a holy, all-powerful God that we are presenting to people; we’re not showcasing our IQ. Keep in mind that it is only by the grace of God that we are arguing for the truth and not defending the lie!
- Only the Holy Spirit can change the Heart. Our apologetic efforts must be accompanied by utter dependence on God. Every apologetic encounter must be bathed in prayer.
- Pray for discernment about the motivation behind the question the person is asking. Some people will only be trying to “stump” you. If you are stumped, be honest about your inability to give an answer at that moment. But also remind them that just because you don’t have an answer now, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an answer. Tell them that you will do some research on the issue and get back to them.
- Be sensitive to the need behind the question or accusation. Seek God for the wisdom to give them the answer they are seeking. Don’t bowl them over with a long apologetic discourse. We are dealing with real people. Francis Schaeffer’s motto was “honest answers to honest questions.”
- The loudest apologetic argument is a life that is controlled by the Spirit of God.
What about Faith?
Some may be thinking by now, “Doesn’t evidence destroy faith? Isn’t there merit to having faith even when evidence and common sense tell us not to?” In the biblical sense, faith is not irrational or contrary to reason. God gave us powerful minds. In fact, our ability to reason is part of our being created in the image of God. In Isa.1:18, God challenged the Israelites, saying, “Come, let us reason together.” Jesus told us to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We need to develop our minds for God’s glory.
God gave us the ability to reason so that we could discern where we should put our faith. Would you trust an airplane that was missing a wing and had smoke billowing from the cockpit? The idea that we should “just believe” even when all the evidence is against it is much more in keeping with Mormonism, Darwinism, and Eastern religions, then it is with Christianity.
However, our minds are finite and God is infinite. As Blaise Pascal put it, “The ultimate purpose of reason is to bring us to the place where we see that there is a limit to reason.” We must never forget the limitations of human reasoning. When God “doesn’t make sense,” it is only because we don’t see all His reasons.
In light of this, I believe that a good definition of faith has been given by Ravi Zacharias, “In its essence, faith is a confidence in the person of Jesus Christ and in His power, so that even when His power does not serve my end, my confidence in Him remains because of who He is.”
Apologetics is something I get very excited about. Christianity is truly a reasonable faith! It’s vastly different from Mormonism and other intellectually impaired religions where intellectualism is considered one of the most deadly of sins. In fact, I believe that only within the framework of a Christian worldview, can the intellect find true fulfillment.
In our witnessing, we must learn to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is not some metaphysical abstract or ancient fairy tale that will make you “feel” better, but that He is an objective reality that every person has to deal with. We must also show them that the Bible is not just another religious writing from antiquity but the infallible word of God that we must hold as the highest authority on matters of faith, history, and science. Remember that when science taught that the world was flat, the Bible said that it was round.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much researching apologetics has done for my spiritual walk. Seeing how grounded in historical evidence the Christian faith truly is has strengthened my faith in so many ways. It has made me realize just how amazing and exciting the truths of Christianity really are!! I challenge you to ask God for the grace and desire to love and defend His truth.