What is Apologetics?

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The word appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the New Testament, and both the noun (apologia) and verb form (apologeomai) can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Practical Definition for Apologetics

Having just returned from from the National Christian Apologetics Conference and Ratio Christi Symposium, I have been thinking on the interactions I had with fellow apologists of the weekend. After some reflection, I cannot help thinking about the condition of the church in light of its misunderstanding of the spiritual discipline of apologetics. 

Let me say that it is both troubling and encouraging at the same time. As Charles Dickens wrote in the opening of his work, A Tale of Two Cities, "it [is] the best of times, and it [is] worst of times." The reason for this is because the church at large seems to be refusing, except in some circles, to engage the culture with the truth of the gospel. But engage the culture how?  

Folks, we need to realize that the culture is ratcheting up its assault on moral absolutes, absolute truth versus relativism, and the Christian worldview as a whole. The church needs to understand that there appears to be four major ideological storms rolling in, confronting not just the church, but also the culture as a whole.[1]

If the church does not begin to engage the culture with a well informed response, and if the church does not begin an apologetic based form of discipleship, I will predict along with the others that that the church in America will become an insignificant institution in this nation.[2]

I have posted in the past on the subject of apologetics, and it might seem like I am beating that drum again. However in this posting, I have been thinking of a better way of explaining what apologetics is all about; and my hopes are that we can see that there is no reason to be intimidated by the meaning and see if it for the spiritual discipline that it really is.

How have we understood apologetics in the past?

If you have read anything that I have posted in the past, you might find a rigorous definition in there sounding something like something out of a formal classroom setting, "Christian apologetics", is that branch of theology (in this case Christian theology) that attempts to give answers to persons who ask questions about or object to Christianity."[3] 

Some folks who are opposed to apologetics would like to defend, that they do not need to give answers for why they believe what they do. My first thought is that the person making the claim would have to give a defense or a response (apologetic) in order to try and refute the need for apologetics. You see that the discipline of apologetics actually defends itself.

I also want you to know that it is biblical. There are many passages that I could share with you in support of this idea [4], but there is one which has sparked the thoughts for this posting. and that is what I call the "apologetic mandate" in 1 Peter 3:15. In that passage we read the following,

"but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (an apologia) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (NASB). 

It this verse that gives me a reason for a practical definition. How so?

Breaking it DOWN!

One of the best sources for getting answers to some of the tough and curious questions that are challenging the Christian faith, comes from Bobby Conway's, One Minute Apologist Youtube channel. Bobby is a gracious guy, and I shared with him, after his talk on the Fifth Gospel, that I "borrowed" his definition and modified it a little. He was more than happy to give me his blessing with a firm handshake and a hug.  What is that definition?

If you clicked on the above link, you would have heard that "apologetics is giving credible answers to curious questions." Does this follow the line of 1 Peter 3:15?  Absolutely!

Looking at the front end of the verse, we read again, "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (an apologia) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you. . ."

When we are living out our Christian faith, not doing things or saying things to defame our Christian testimony, people are going to ask some curious questions. Some of those questions may be soft questions, and some of the may be tough. Some may want an answer. Others may want to see if you can answer the question with an intelligent answer.  Whatever the temperature of question coming from the questioner, we need to "be ready to make the defense," and give a response to those who challenges. Those challenges are the curious questions confronting your Christian faith.  

So how did I modify Bobby's definition? As the Chapter Director and Community Apologist for a local Ratio Christi chapter, the term apologetics is a heavy word for the church. So in order to spoon feed those who struggle with apologetics, I have put the cookies on the table with a definition that goes like this, 

Apologetics, is about "giving credible answers to curious questions confronting your Christian faith." On a college campus, there will be those curious questions. Our job is to set apart (sanctify) Christ as holy in our hearts and our mind, and be ready to give those answers that people are looking for or challenging us to give.

In fact every believer is under a command to do just that. Why? It is commanded of us in Scriptures. God did apologetics by giving Moses evidence to bring to Pharaoh, and raising Jesus from the dead. Jesus did apologetics by giving clear evidences of His deity, showing Himself risen from the dead and physically healing the lame, the blind and the sick.  And lastly culture is demanding the church to step up in the biblical discipline of giving credible answers to the curious questions challenging and confronting our Christian faith.

When will we hear the call? Will we listen. . . before it is too late?


Notes

[1] The ideological storms that are confronting the church are secular humanism, vitriolic neo-atheism, the financially rich gay agenda, and lastly the politically savvy Islamic movements. This footnote is only listing these fronts. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at roblundberg2000@yahoo.com and I will be more than happy to dialog with you one on these further. 


[2] During one of our times at the Ratio Christi Symposium, Richard Land, President of Southern Evangelical Seminary made a statement that I will summarize. In essence he stated that in today's culture, one cannot do evangelism, teach Sunday School, engage in discipleship, or prepare and preach a sermon without engaging the task of apologetics in one way or another. But I will have to defend that in another blog posting.

[3] Norman Geisler and Joseph Holden, Truth Quest: Living Loud, Defending Your Faith. (Nashville: Broadman Holman Publishing, 2002), 10.   


[4] There are both New Testament and Old Testament examples of this, but the most popular ones in the New Testament are Acts 25:1619:3322:11 Corinthians 9:3Philippians 1:7, 162 Timothy 4:16 and 1 Peter 3:15-17.  Old Testament examples where we see apologetics in action are in God and Moses (Exodus 4:1-9); Moses and Aaron before the Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-13); Moses  (Exodus 7:17-12:30); Elijah versus the prophets of Baal at Mt Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40); God responding to Israel (Isaiah 1:18);  God through the mouth of Isaiah (Isaiah 48:3-5) and others.

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Rob Lundberg is an apologetics and worldview instructor with a passion and purpose to equip believers to defend their faith in whatever setting they find themselves. He currently serves as Chapter Director/Community Apologist for Ratio Christi at Germanna Community College. Rob is an available speaker conferences, pulpit supply, seminars, break-out sessions, Pastor Q and A, workshops, retreats, or anything else a church or Christian school, or group needs. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS), and the International Society of Christian Apologetics (ISCA), and the Christian Apologetics Alliance. 

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