Do We Really Need Apologetics?

I felt it quite worth the mention to bring up the sometimes-controversial topic of apologetics. For some, apologetics is unnecessary – regarded as being a contradiction of faith. For others, maybe apologetics is all about winning arguments. However, regardless of the many presuppositions of apologetics, it is important to first consider all the arguments before committing to opinion. So, I’ve taken the liberty to list FIVE arguments that I think are worth considering before formulating an opinion about the necessity of apologetics.  

1. It’s a biblical mandate to gain an understanding in apologetics.

The term “apologetics” is derived from the Greek apologia, which means to ‘make a reasonable defense.’ The often-cited verse for this claim is 1 Peter 3:15, which says “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.” Thus, we know it is a biblical command, a command from God, to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us.

However, please note that this verse also prescribes the condition in which the defense is being given. 1 Peter 3:15 says that we are to make a defense to anyone who asks. This is an important distinction to be made. Don’t believe that apologetics is to be used in an ostensibly offensive manner, for that is contrary to the meaning of apologia. Apologia is to “make a defense.” And all the while, we are to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” and give our defense “with gentleness and respect.” Apologetics is not about winning arguments, it’s about responding to the questions of a skeptic with reason and respect.

2. Apologetics is necessary for evangelism.

Evangelism, deriving from the Greek euangelion, meaning “the good news”, is another biblical command. Evangelism is the work that is fulfilled from obeying the biblical command to go and to share the “good news,” which is the gospel message. This command is given to us in many places in Scripture, to name just a few: Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:18-20, and Matthew 9:37-38.

The command to evangelize only gives more credence to the need for apologetics, because apologetics is often a necessary step before presenting the gospel. Not only is it often a necessary step, it’s the perfect intro to present the gospel with – to present it as a clear and reasonable discussion! If someone were to ever ask you why it is that you’ve decided to be a Christian, it means they’re curious (or potentially seeking to be argumentative, but nevertheless it’s an opportunity to present your answer). Therefore, it is necessary to grasp a good understanding of apologetics, so you can answer the questions that are to come. Just think of it as ‘pre-evangelism’; a necessary step before evangelism.

3. Studying apologetics strengthens your personal conviction.

For far too long surveys have been revealing the large number of youths that leave the church after high school. Most surveys report numbers higher than 75%. Why is this so? Maybe it’s because “college professors are five times more likely to be atheists than the general public.” [1] Is that why? Perhaps, but probably not. College professors can hold the ability to promote a secular or naturalistic worldview if they wish, but that influence is only going to leave an impact on the mind of a student who doesn’t have a strong conviction behind their own belief system. So, “it’s not so much that Christian minds are lost at college – it’s that Christian minds rarely get to college.” [1]

Apologetics is necessary because many Christians lack an understanding of the origin of their own Christian world view. True? I think so. Many Christians never even discover apologetics until after their profession of faith, they “simply responded to the proclamation of the gospel.” [2] In other words, a lot of proclamations of faith are simply the consequence of an experiential “God-moment.” There is nothing wrong with this, for that is the power of the gospel, but this kind of conviction can often be explained away by someone whose goal it is to do so. This is where apologetics helps to increase personal conviction. Apologetics gives us the ability to defend our own conviction by providing us with the cosmological, biblical, historical, archaeological, and moral evidence that points us towards Christ’s existence.

4. Studying apologetics will increase your ability to articulate your personal conviction effectively.

This is a big one, and a bit of a follow-up on the last-mentioned point. Gaining an understanding of apologetics allows you to not only amplify our own personal conviction, but in the pursuit of doing so you will begin to acquire a proclivity towards articulating why it is that you believe. In other words, an increase in the knowledge of apologetics will produce the ability to speak about things that are related to apologetics, quite naturally (and perhaps a bit too obvious, but still worth noting).

To stress this point a bit further, I feel it’s necessary to mention the harsh actuality that Christians are not commonly thought of as individuals who are capable of presenting a reasonable defense for why they believe in the Christ. This observation, I will admit, is rather conjectural and only based on anecdotal evidence but I believe it’s true. And it’s not a fact that I am elated to propose, nevertheless I’m proposing it because I believe it’s ostensibly (and unfortunately) true. The bottom line is that Christians shouldn’t just be advised to study apologetics, we should feel obligated as Evangelicals to have the ability to speak eloquently when it comes to the topic of our faith and our conviction thereof. Afterall, there exists the command to “Walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:5-6).

5. Studying apologetics grants discernment towards false teaching and prevents apostasy.

Apologetics goes deeper than merely defending the faith against the questions of skeptics. Since apologetics deals with defending the faith, it’s breadth of learning goes far beyond making cases for creationism or objective morality. Again, apologetics is concerned with “defending the faith.” This means that there will be moments when you should be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”, and there will be times when you should be able to make a defense to anyone who seeks to undermine the gospel and propose false teachings. This distinction could be referred to as external vs. internal apologetics.

It should be mentioned that every book within the New Testament except Philemon gives warning against false teaching and apostasy. [3] In Jude we are told that false teachers have “crept in [the church] unnoticed” and therefore we must “contend for the faith.” This word “contend” leaves us with no room to believe that this is a command for passivity. This is a command to all believers, and it is the command to contend, fight, maintain, and struggle for the faith. The command is given because false teachers will always be a threat to the church. Therefore, it is every Christian’s directive to be biblically-educated and to remain watchful over the flock. It is those who are biblically illiterate and lacking in theological discernment, those who are unable to make a defense that remain susceptible to being swept away by false teaching.

Noteworthy quotes about apologetics

“The charge of the Christian is not to withdraw from the world and lead an insular life. Rather, we are to be engaged in the culture, to be salt and light. The solution to this problem is for believers to become informed in doctrine, the history of their faith, philosophy, logic, and other disciplines as they relate to Christianity. They need to know the facts, arguments and theology and understand how to employ them in a way that will effectively engage the culture. In short, the answer is Christian apologetics.”Doug Powell

“If Christians continue to rely on emotion and ignore evidence, they will continue to lose their children to secularism. As Ravi Zacharias points out, a tepid Christianity cannot withstand a rabid secularism. And make no mistake – secularism is rabid. The world isn’t neutral out there. Today’s culture is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. Every day the media and academia pound out an incessant drumbeat against the Christian faith, some to the point of mockery. They depict Christianity as completely unreasonable.”Frank Turek

“For me, apologetics proved to be the turning point of my life and eternity.  I’m thankful for the scholars who so passionately and effectively defend the truth of Christianity – and today my life’s goal is to do my part in helping others get answers to the questions that are blocking them in their spiritual journey toward Christ.”Lee Strobel

“Moreover, Christians must be pastoral in their apologetic practices. We must care deeply for the lost, not simply desire to defeat their arguments. The stakes are too high for apologetic one-upmanship.”Douglas Groothius  

“This, then, is the ultimate apologetic. For the ultimate apologetic is: your life.”William Lane Craig

I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.”Paul, Philippians 1:6b

[1] Turek, Frank. Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. (Nashville, TN.: NavPress, 2014), xxvi.

[2] Powell, Doug. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics. (Nashville, TN.: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 7.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s