*This article is also available in Spanish. [Leer en Español]
Let’s revisit the basics.
Like the idea that our discipline’s got a weird name. People who come to my workshops still ask, “Why does it sound like apologizing?” I still get odd responses at family gatherings when this comes up!
An “apologetic” just means a defense. Peter commanded us to be ready with answers when people ask about the faith. In 1 Peter 3:15, the word translated as “answer” is apologia—kind of like how a lawyer gives a reasoned statement or argues a case. It just means you’ve got reasons for what you believe and you’re ready to talk with anyone who’s got questions. It doesn’t mean getting defensive. It doesn’t mean getting into fights. It means speaking the truth in love as we represent our Lord.
For us, apologetics helps confirm our faith is true. The Holy Spirit also uses it to help unbelievers discover that Christianity is true. William Lane Craig defined it this way in one of my favorite books, Reasonable Faith:
Apologetics is that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith.
What is Apologetics? Video
Here’s how I introduced this topic and explained it on stage at an apologetics conference in Northern California.
Think of it like soccer.
You’ve got your forwards.
This is where we build a positive case for Christianity by giving someone good reasons to believe God exists, Jesus rose from the dead, etc…
And you’ve got your defenders.
This is where we respond to challenges—where we deal with objections to belief in God and refute arguments against the truth of Christianity. Just like in soccer, these positions can work together. Norman Geisler put it like this in To Everyone An Answer:
Apologetics is simply to defend the faith, and thereby destroy arguments and every proud obstacle against the knowledge of God. It is opening the door, clearing the rubble, and getting rid of the hurdles so that people can come to Christ.
In my workshops, I train believers in three key areas of apologetics:
- Understanding the answers to tough questions about Christianity
- Giving good answers to those who ask tough questions about Christianity
- And engaging the culture in way that’s wise, strategic and tactical.
As always, I’d love to hear your comments. How do you help people understand apologetics? What’s been most effective for you?