What Is Apologetics?
We're not 'Apologizing' for being a Christian! In fact, it's completely opposite of that! ‘An apologetic’ is just a fancy way to say ‘a defense.’ Christians are clearly expected to be prepared to give this defense of their faith in any situation. The most obvious command for an apologetic (a defense of our faith) is 1 Peter 3:15b:
...ALWAYS be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have...do this with gentleness and with respect." 1 Peter 3:15b
So, the study of Apologetics is the study of the defenses of the Christian faith. One can hardly imagine the multitude of reasons that may emerge that will require this defense. We may be drawn into a debate over worldviews, or be asked to explain our perspectives on various life situations when we are counseling others who are craving for our (and God’s) help. Therefore the study of apologetics is clearly a very important and serious endeavor, and a requirement for all Christians.
One does not study Apologetics, however, just to win arguments. Although many famous apologists are involved with other highly trained philosophers debating atheism, creationism, and a million other –ism’s, the main purpose of apologetics is not to convince but to confirm. The Master Himself tells us in an explanation of ‘the greatest commandment’ that our faith is an exercise of the mind as well:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." Matthew 22:37-38
The heart will not accept that which the mind cannot. God never says that our faith is to be based upon things we cannot rationalize in our minds, despite what non-believers would have us believe. In fact, Christianity is the most rational of all world beliefs. When one considers some of the wild things that pass for conventional wisdom these days, and compares them against the clear evidences for and the realities of Christianity, one can take comfort in the faith and worldview of the Christian. And the Christian need not be bothered by the some of the things that world takes for granted, because a Christian by definition thinks differently from the rest of the world:
"Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a 'fool' so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight." 1 Corinthians 3:18-19a
‘Presuppositional’ apologetics assumes that life begins to make sense when it is considered with a Christian perspective in mind. Once you ‘pre-suppose’ that Christianity is true, everything else begins to fall in line and make sense. This does not imply however that an apologetic defense cannot confirm the truth for someone who ‘pre-supposes’ that there is no God or Christ. In this case it is God bringing around the heart of the hardened to Him, and through us (thus the command for the defense preparation!) In the study of Apologetics we confirm our faith both for ourselves, and for others who are truly searching for the truth.
Therefore, Apologetics is an essential evangelism tool. A basic understanding of our faith will enable us to be used by the Spirit of God, when the Spirit moves within someone and draws him or her to you to explain the reasons for your faith in Christ:
"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage...discharge all the duties of your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:2a, 5c
We must be ready to accomplish the commands of God upon us:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you..." Matthew 28:19a, 20
What a glorious purpose and incredible incentive for the study of apologetics, to be the hands and feet of the Lord in His plan of salvation for the world!
But ultimately, the reasons alone are not enough for anyone to accept the Christian Faith. It is our intuition, our spirit that leads us to accept the evidence as true, because it satisfies our longing and searching. It is
“...not philosophy (or logic) but religious experience that propels anyone through the door. The appropriate apologetic is thus not an argument directly for the existence of God, but an argument for the rationality of forming beliefs on the basis of experience, including religious experience." John Hick, Four Views of Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Pg 248