What is apologetics?
By George Alvarado
What is Apologetics?
Imagine being in a courtroom. Your accusers have stated that you are guilty of committing a crime that you did not commit. They present “evidence” that implies your guilt and are trying to convince a jury that you are indeed guilty. Now, it’s your turn. What will you say to prove your innocence? Well, depending on what is presented as evidence against you will determine what you will say or explain. Christian apologetics is quite literally giving a defense for what you believe and why. Except, God is not on trial, we are!
Apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “to speak in defense.” The word is broken down into two parts, apo- (which means ‘away from’ or ‘off of’) and logos (which means ‘speech’). In a legal defense, it applies to “speak away” the legal accusation. This word can be found 8 times in the New Testament, but is usually quoted from 1 Peter 3:15 where the apostle Peter states, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…” (NKJV, emphasis added) Apologetics has many interrelated categories and sub-categories, but there are three that are most well known: Presuppositional Apologetics, Classical Apologetics, and Evidential Apologetics.
Although only three types of apologetics are mentioned, there are sub-categories like Philosophical Apologetics, Biblical Apologetics, Theological Apologetics, and the list goes on, which may be closely interrelated to the three main categories above. Also, it is equally important to remember that even though each category is unique, there is often a mixture of these approaches anytime we use apologetics in our witness. What is argued as most effective and most profitable may be somewhat relative to the situation, but it is important that we as Christians maintain a presuppositional standpoint concerning what we believe is being true regardless of what unbelievers say. This does not mean we take our thinking caps off and parade in arrogance to anyone we witness to, but it does establish a foundation that we are not to put God on trial when using apologetics. We are to simply be faithful to herald what the truth is, and earnestly pray that the Holy Spirit will use our feeble attempts to nail that truth into the hearts of men.
In going back to 1 Peter 3:15, many will use this portion of Scripture to prove our role as Christians in the realm of apologetics. But what is most often looked over in the first half of the Scripture. It states, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…” (NKJV, emphasis added). In other words, God must be primary in our affections, our desire, and remain “holy, holy, holy” within our hearts first and foremost. If not, we may end up depending more on our smooth arguments, our witty intellect, or our compelling evidence instead of trusting in the power of Jesus’ gospel to save the hearts of unbeliever.