Apologetics is the subject of, or the practise of understanding the reasons for why Christianity is true, and what the evidence is (whether philosophical, theological, historical, scientific, etc.) that Christianity is true.
The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used of a speech of defense or an answer given in reply.
Pretty simple really. Another way of thinking about it is as a ‘reasoned defense’ of Christianity.
If you read my testimony you’ll find that I became a Christian because I believe the evidence powerfully attests to the truth the Bible.
For some Christians I imagine that reason is they felt, at some point or another, God’s presence.
Some people would say that they heard a sermon and were so moved by it that they gave their life to God right there and it changed their life.
What was it that convinced you that God was real, and how would you explain it to someone who wasn’t a Christian?
Because you see, as soon as you do that, you’re attempting to offer up to that person some piece of evidence, some reason to believe, in an effort to convince them to believe in God and give their life to Jesus Christ.
One or more reasons for believing that something is or is not true (UK)
Anything that helps to prove that something is or is not true (US)
We make statements, and then offer evidence in support of some claim all the time in very ordinary ways.
Statement: “You want to quit you job? Why?”
Reasoning: “Because I hate my job, my boss gets on my nerves and I don’t feel like my work is appreciated”
“(statement) Don’t touch the stove, (reasoning) it’s hot!”
Argument: “If I head to the shops now, then I’ll miss the peak hour traffic”
Each of the above represents some statement or instruction, which is substantiated by some point of reasoning.
These are simple examples, and we take them for granted.
The point is, as humans, we are always making decisions, and judgements about the world around us, and we come to these decisions based on some line of reasoning.
The same is true of Christianity.
The important question is, would they find that reason convincing?
Most average Christians would not think they do apologetics.
But apologetics is something God expects all Christians to do, and do it the best they can.
Matt Slick of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) explains that all Christians should feel obligated to engage in at least a minimal level of apologetics. Indeed one our favourite verses of the Bible is of course 1 Peter 3:15:
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
via Bible Gateway
If you’re a Christian, and you explain to someone why you’re a Christian in the hopes that they will accept your explanation and become a Christian too, then you’re doing apologetics, as far as I’m concerned.
The real question is, are you going to give them a stale peanut butter sandwich? Or a slow cooked lamb shank marinated in red wine?
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ
2 Corinthians 10:5 – via Bible Gateway
What do I mean?
Well, suppose a friend of yours asks you why you’re a Christian and you say something like:
“Because I just know that God loves me and I can often feel Him there, holding me”
This raises some obvious questions:
“How do you know God is real and how do you know He loves you?”
“What do you mean by ‘feel’ and how do you know that it’s God you feel, and not something else?”
An even more important question is:
“What happens if that feeling goes away? Is the feeling of God’s presence the only reason you have?”
How do you convince your friend if all you can say is “but I know He’s there, I can feel Him”?
Apologetics can (and should) be done for personal reasons, to strengthen our own faith and build confidence in our own faith, so that we would be motivated to share it with others, and better weather the storms.
But primarily we learn apologetics to share the Gospel more effectively. People have questions, often very good, valid questions.
Finally, we also do it because the Bible commands us to.
Consider that the apostles and early church Christians reasoned for and defended their faith virtually every single time they shared the Gospel.
Luke gave a reasoned defense:
3… I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Luke 1:3-4 – via Bible Gateway (emphasis added)
Paul gave a reasoned defense:
25 … I utter words of sober truth.26 For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner.
Acts 26:25-26 – via Bible Gateway (emphasis added)
Peter gave a reasoned defense:
This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.
Acts 2:32 – via Bible Gateway (emphasis added)
And you should too.