Take a moment and ask yourself, “What do I think are the most important apologetic issues and concerns?” No, really, pause, do that, then continue reading if you would.
If you’re like many of us who are passionate about apologetics, worldview issues likely came to mind when you considered that question—maybe the problem of evil, the age of the earth, relativism, etc. To be sure, these are important foundational questions and topics we must be prepared to address. However, oftentimes apologetics today can seem to focus more on general theism or worldview/cultural issues rather than on Christianity and the gospel. We can tend to think of the journey from atheism to Christianity as a progression, which might look like accepting truths in an order: truth and morality is objective, a God exists, Scripture is generally historically reliable, miracles are possible, etc.
But someone who becomes a theist and who is not a Christian is still just an idolater. Philosophically speaking, the accuracy of their worldview may have improved. Spiritually speaking, they’re still dead in sin. This leads me to my central point: Simply having the right philosophical commitments and beliefs doesn’t make one a Christian, so if that’s where we put most of our time and effort—both in study and in conversation—we risk tacitly hoping the person will somehow coast across the “finish line” and arrive at the right place.
First Peter 3:15, which is often used as the “call to arms” for apologetics, focuses on giving an answer “for the hope we possess.” What is the hope of the Christian? If we are in Christ, we have been declared righteous because of Christ’s work on the cross. In other words, the call of 1 Peter 3:15 is a call to give a defense of the gospel.
So, we must have a robust concept of theology in our apologetics. If a person accepts our worldview commitments, are we prepared to articulate and defend the truth that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone? In other words, how much weight do we put on our preparedness to defend gospel essentials?
You may be thinking, “But most of my conversations naturally focus on worldview issues since those are the objections people commonly have,” and that’s understandable. We should address those. But we must also show the people we’re speaking to that their biggest problem is their sinfulness before a holy God. That is their fundamental issue. We do them no favors if we only discuss what are sometimes peripheral matters instead of showing them the reality of their condition. Now, of course, there is not a clean line between gospel issues and worldview issues; they overlap.
So, where does apologetics come in here? Going back to 1 Peter, why must our hope be in Christ? Why is it not in ourselves? Why must Christ be Lord in and of our hearts? These are all questions we should be able to answer and even suggest as important to the other person. They will necessarily touch on issues of faith, grace, justification, and works.
There are many cults and false religions that agree with us on many worldview commitments, but only the gospel is the power of God for salvation. Let us be prepared to make a full-orbed defense and presentation of it, and as we address worldview issues, let’s tie them back to their importance in understanding the gospel.