Christian Living

An Apologetic for Apologetics

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 04/22/2013

Alan’s monthly letter for June 2010

Dear Friend,

Is apologetics a biblical concept? This is a fair question. Christians want to know if apologetics is sanctioned by God. It turns out that God cares a lot about it.

God commands the use of apologetics.

This alone should be sufficient reason to consider apologetics legitimate. Apologetics, or the defense of the faith, comes from the Greek word apologia. It’s a legal term that literally means “defense” and is used in the New Testament eight times. There are three purposes for apologetics:

  1. Apologetics helps to defend against attacks at Christianity.
  2. Apologetics provides positive reasons for believing in Christianity.
  3. Apologetics helps believers who doubt their faith.

The commands in scripture to defend biblical faith are clear. 1 Peter 3:15 tells Christians, “to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you...” Jude 3, warning of godless men, encourages us to, “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” And 2 Corinthians 10:4–5 reminds us that “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” We are to “Destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.” The point is that God clearly commands us to defend the faith.

Jesus modeled apologetics.

John the Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” In response, Jesus doesn’t ask them to believe who He is merely by “faith” or trust in His words. Instead, he points to the evidence of His miracles. He says, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up...” (Luke 7:18–23).

In a similar conversation, Philip asks Jesus to see the Father. Jesus responds by telling Philip that the He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. As proof of the Father’s power in the Son, Jesus says, “At least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

In one of my favorite stories about Jesus, some men lower a paralytic through the roof in order to get Jesus to heal him. Jesus tells the paralytic that his sins are forgiven. Realizing that people doubt His authority to forgive sins, Jesus asks, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?” But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

To prove that He has power in the spiritual realm to forgive sins, Jesus demonstrated His power in the physical realm by healing a paralytic.

Whenever Jesus is challenged, He responds in a way that proves His point and answers his detractors. Indeed, He often uses questions to accomplish this, a tactic that permeates our apologetic approach at Stand to Reason.

The apostle Paul used apologetics.

Paul, who wrote nearly half of the New Testament, describes himself as being “put here for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:16). Acts 17:2–4 describes his work: “Paul went in [the synagogue], as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.”

Not only did Paul reason with the Jewish leaders to make his case, but he was successful at leading converts among them and “many of the devout Greeks” as well.

It turns out, then, that apologetics serves to make the evangelistic enterprise more successful. It’s part of the great commission. It’s part of my work. And it should also be a part of your role as an ambassador for Jesus. God commands Christians to use apologetics to draw people to the truth. I hope that my work and my newsletters have equipped you in some way to fulfill that purpose.

Because of our partnership training Christians to make an apologia, we follow in a tradition set by Paul, the disciples, and Jesus. It’s an important work and exciting work, and I’m thrilled we’re doing it together.

In defense of the Gospel,

Alan Shlemon