What is Apologetics? What is an Apologist?

What is Apologetics? What is an Apologist? October 2, 2014

You’ve probably heard the word “apologetics” but what does it mean exactly?  What or who is an apologist?

What Apologetics is Not

Apologetics is not an apology where you say you are sorry for something.  It is not browbeating someone into submission so that they see that you are right. It is not intellectually destroying every non-believer you come into contact with that tries to force them to believe in God and the Bible, even if it’s against their will.  Apologetics is never arguing or debating with someone until they surrender to your arguments.  No one has ever been debated into believing against their own will and intellect by the will of man simply because they gave up.  It is not about winning an argument but winning a soul for Jesus Christ because only God can draw men to Christ (John 6:44).  Salvation is fully a work of God but He does use us to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Having great intellect sometimes makes a person arrogant (1 Cor 8:1) so Christians should always strive to use apologetics as an act of love (Rom 13, 1 Cor 13) and to “hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” it (Titus 1:9) and should “not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all” (2 Tim 2:24).

What Apologetics is

Apologetics is basically a branch of Christianity that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith and the elemental doctrines of the Bible which include the creation, God as the Creator, Jesus’ historicity, and evidence for the resurrection among other things.  It is basically a rational defense of what you believe and giving good reason for why you believe in God as Creator and Redeemer.  The word apologetics is from the Greek word “apologia” which means “to give a reason or defense.” All believers should have a basic understanding of not only what they believe but why they believe it.  Peter told the church that “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15).   Notice that Peter is saying that we should be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” and to “do it with gentleness and respect.”  No one was ever argued into conversion. You could win an argument but lose a soul.  Peter tells us that we should be prepared to give an rational answer so common sense tells us that we should prepare ahead of time when someone asks you about your beliefs therefore you should “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3) “and have mercy on some, who are doubting” (Jude 1:22).

Appointed for the Defense of the Gospel

Read what Paul thought of his calling when he wrote to the church at Philippi saying he wanted them to be “partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel” (Phil 1:7b) “knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel” (Phil 1:16).  Paul may have been the greatest apologist of all time with both the Jews and the Gentiles (or Greeks) as 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” (Acts 17:2b-4).

Admonitions to Be Ready

Paul may have been not only the greatest apologist but also the greatest missionary ever and he frequently got arrested for preaching the gospel so what did he say in many of these circumstances?  In Acts 22:1-2 he says “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.” And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet.” Once again, Paul was brought before the authorities, this time King Agrippa as it says in Acts 25:16 “I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him.”  Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 2:5 that “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.”  Paul argued that unbelievers have no excuse, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom 1:19-20) which is similar to what David wrote in Psalm 19:1-2; “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” and “day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” but they still “suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18c).  We are also reminded of Peter’s admonition which has already been established when he wrote that we must “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15).

What is Apologetics

Conclusion

Some of the best authors on apologetics are R.C. Sproul, C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, John Ankerberg, John Lennox, Albert Mohler, Norman Geisler, William Craig, J. P. Moreland, Augustine,Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas.  You can read some of these men’s works and see how they approach apologetics differently and can see  Paul command Timothy and really, all Christians to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).  We know that God is “not desiring that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:9) and that should be our desire too.

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon

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  • Sophia Sadek

    I admire the work of C. S. Lewis, but not that of Aquinas or Augustine. The latter are an embarrassment to orthodoxy, which is an embarrassment to Jesus. Lewis reminds me more of the heretics that died burning on an Orthodox stake. Given the long history of intellectual repression by Christians, modern apologists might want to start apologizing.

  • GrayAsks

    GOD ON TRIAL The Fable of the Christ Michael B. Paulkovich

    from the author

    I have always been a staunch Bible skeptic but not a
    Christ-mythicist. I maintained that Jesus probably existed but had
    fantastic stories foisted upon the memory of his earthly yet
    iconoclastic life.

    After exhaustive research for my first
    book, I began to perceive both the light and darkness from history. I
    discovered that many prominent Christian fathers believed with all pious
    sincerity that their savior never came to Earth or that if he
    did, he was a Star-Trekian character who beamed down pre-haloed and
    full-grown, sans transvaginal egress. And I discovered other startling
    bombshells.

    An exercise that struck me as meritorious, even today singular, involved reviving research into Jesus-era writers who should have recorded Christ tales but did not. John Remsburg enumerated forty-one “silent” historians in The Christ
    (1909). To this end, I spent many hours bivouacked in university
    libraries, the Library of Congress, and on the Internet. I terminated
    that foray upon tripling Remsburg’s count: in my book, I offer 126
    writers who should have but did not write about Jesus (see the box on p.
    57). Perhaps the most bewildering “silent one” is the super-Savior
    himself. Jesus is a phantom of a wisp of a personage who never wrote anything. So, add one more: 127.

    https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/articles/5656

    You might also want to watch the following:

    Dr Carrier lecture “why I think jesus didn’t exist” (excellent lecture)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwUZOZN-9dc

    Pastor Wellman sounds like an apologist, like all other apologists. You folks are losing ground as each year passes. Your savior is a myth, and always has been.

    • TheSquirrel

      Apologetics only really seems to work if you believe the very thing it tries to defend. Once you discard your preconceptions in favor of honest inquiry it all starts to fall apart.

      • GrayAsks

        So true. Faith is belief without evidence and apologists are in the business of trying to prop up ideology and dogma. They attempt to maintain the misconceptions/preconceptions.

        Ideology and its inherent dogmas shut off the brain and make one willing to sacrifice truth.

    • lilycarol .

      Well, I enjoyed your entertaining vocabulary.

      • GrayAsks

        I understand how difficult it must be for you to let go of this ideology and the dogmas you have been indoctrinated by all of your life. I am sure you have used it to bring yourself comfort throughout your life. But it is just your indoctrination and your belief in it that stirs your imagination to create the sense that it is real.

        Death is inevitable. What happens afterwards isn’t known. Fear of this unknown will make us believe in something that tries to promise there is something else. I get that. I understand it, and I understand why you will try to defend and protect yourself from information that takes that away from you.

        It would be better for you if you could truly prepare yourself for that inevitable eventuality in a framework of reality instead of this false story of make believe, santa claus & tooth fairy like imaginary friends.

        Some will be unmoved, but that is out of fear. Is that what you really want?

        Is that how you would prefer to live your life driven by this phony sacrificial blood sacrifice story?

        All is choice lily, and I suppose all choices are valid, but they have consequences.

        • lilycarol .

          I haven’t been indoctrinated all my life. I deliberately gave up the trappings of Lutheranism one night when I was a teenager. My parents never found out my friend and I opened our offering envelopes and bought French fries instead of going to church. I didn’t show up for the choir photo, after which my mother informed me my father was “really mad,” which I didn’t care since he never talked to me anyway.
          Later I suffered quite a bit from postpartum depression after my only living child, and praying to Jesus during horrible bouts of depression (many Christians think this is wrong, only pray to God) helped me survive. I still have a diagnosis of major depression in remission with medication. I didn’t do much else until much later I gave birth to a dead little boy and my husband left me for his former girlfriend who had a boy by him 20 years before. I really needed comfort then, and I am not going to abandon God just because my life is better now.
          I don’t want anyone to go to hell. I don’t know what to do about Hitler. I don’t really want there to be a heaven because I am tired. I like my life but when it’s time, enough already. Seeing one’s child dead is a pretty awesome introduction to death.
          Why does everyone always bring up Santa Clause and the tooth fairy? Can we get some fresh images?
          I also believe in evolution, and fundies drive me nuts okay? Although some of my best friends are … Some are atheists too.
          I read a lot and I honestly did enjoy your word usage. That’s life affirming isn’t it!

          • GrayAsks

            We are probably the same age, or close in age, and I am
            judging by your avatar image, so if that is a picture of someone else, then what I just said does not apply and I don’t know how old you are. I can tell you are well-read, at least you are more capable than others in matters of grammar and speech and in communicating thoughts and ideas.

            You’ve revealed a lot of deeply personal experiences to
            validate your belief.

            I understand your need to do so to validate your experience and choices.

            I wrote a lengthier response but I don’t believe it is appropriate on this forum to discuss it here, and I don’t mean that in a snarky manner in any way shape or form.

            I spent a large portion of my working life in health care, and have been witness to people who lived in and out of great misery and people who were dying, and died. Family have died. But I’ve had none of the experiences you listed.

            I get that the reference of god by mentioning santa claus and the tooth fairy are on some level an irritation to you. Perhaps many levels. Your comment in that regard was an example of you angrily swatting at flies that keep trying to land on the salad and was notable.

            But they are excellent subjects to use as representatives of what is involved in faith and belief, based on the indoctrination of someone about something that isn’t real. I get it that it irks you and gets under your skin. I get it, that to you, it is an assault on something you believe got you through really hard experiences involving emotions and intellect in the physical world. I believe that you believe that it saved your life, even saved your soul.

            I’d like to assure you that no one is going to hell. It
            doesn’t exist.

            Let me say this, If getting rid of that notion is one thing that could help you move forward, as I see it, I would recommend it if you cannot abandon the rest of it. But that is actually a matter of choice, (and you need to know that) and I would therefore kick out sin as well.

            If that’s all you can handle, please get rid of those notions.

            You’ll continue to get the benefits of the remaining constructs that serve you and, because they serve you, because you believe they serve you, and believe you
            need to keep believing that they do.

            So I’ll do this.

            If you want me to glorify your god idea by comparing it, raising it up to the level of respect as that of
            Zeus, Horus, Mithra, Thor, etc., and anon, (there’s more than a thousand of them in history) instead of santa, I just did. ;-}

            I don’t mean for that to sound snarky in any way and hope you take it in the vein it was intended in as the saying goes. If that irks you less than santa and the tooth fairy, well so be it, and hopefully it did.

            Perhaps you have seen the following.

            Perhaps you’ll make the
            choice to spend some time with it.

            “Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able?

            Then he is not omnipotent.

            Is he able, but not willing?

            Then he is malevolent.

            Is he both able and willing?

            Then whence cometh evil?

            Is he neither able nor willing?

            Then why call him god?”

            – Epicurus

            That was some time around 300 to 270 BCE.

            You might also want to read (first) Pascal’s and then the
            Atheist’s wager after googling them and selecting the sources found on Wikipedia.

            I hope one day that you’ll realize that it was you who made it possible to survive those tragedies by believing in a god of your own creation (yes, you had tutors and you had a book, and a tradition of it in our society, so you had something available to use/borrow)

            even though one didn’t exist.

            You are the strong one, the one who has had and continues to have the determination to do so, to survive.

            You did it,

            using what you believed was available to you.

          • lilycarol .

            Rats, I thought my avatar was an acrobat, but here I am.
            Thank you. I was determined to survive through the genetic and social crap I found myself in.
            I’m only interested in alternatives to Santa and the T fairy because they are such clichés, not that they irritate me. I enjoy creative writing, which is what drew me to your post. You met my challenge with Zeus et al. They aren’t as silly or repetitive.
            I’m not as fragile as you imagine. I choose not to abandon God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Why should I? It’s really no one’s concern. I don’t even go to church because of the whole social thing and some unpleasant experiences. I sin, but I ask for and receive forgiveness. I suppose my ex-husband sinned against me, but now he’s not so happy married to his old girlfriend for 20 years and thinks of what we had. So he’s messed up now. My motto sometimes is “Life is tragic, but not serious.” I’m old enough now not to sweat stuff, except I would like to see a Democratic Congress and president for the next 10 years and no more needless deaths at war. I wish for homes for all animals, protection of all children, no bullying in schools (or churches), and protection of the environment. I would like MIchelle Bachman. Sarah Palin, Rush, and all the other names to shut up.
            I’m fine with no hell. If no one goes there, it won’t exist. I still don’t know about Hitler and Stalin and serial killers. It’s heartbreaking. I think I’ll merge with God in a mass of glory and beauty, maybe in dark material or another universe. There’s no marriage in heaven according to Jesus, so I probably won’t know who I am either. I will be done, and I’m not afraid. I try to live each day, but sometimes I do dumb stuff to relax since I’m a caretaker for my husband who has dementia and balance issues. Maybe I’m cheating by defining my own sort of Christianity, and if so, my loss will be infinite, but I’ll be dead eventually, and it will be what it will be.
            God gave us free will. People have created evil. I wish He could make things nice, but then we wouldn’t be who we are. I still wish it though. I get that some things are beyond understanding, like why is music so essential and what is dark matter? If research explains these, there are plenty more mysteries. Einstein was wrong about some stuff. So was Hawking. That doesn’t diminish their accomplishments. I’m glad I’m alive now and not in some time period of ignorance. I wish Newton and Galileo could see what we see. They would be enthralled. I wish the best for everyone. Christianity for me is not a judgment on others. Cliché: I have Muslim friends.
            Thanks for caring and conducting a truly interesting conversation with me.

          • GrayAsks

            Lily: Thank you. I was determined to survive through the genetic and social crap I found myself in. I’m not as fragile as you imagine.

            Me: You are welcome. Thank you for confirming that and cheers to you for doing so.

            Lily: I’m only interested in alternatives to Santa and the T fairy because they are such clichés, not that they irritate me.

            Me: Maybe,

            but

            I’m not really convinced yet. The cliche’s still work and hold up as valid resources for examining the behavior associated with it.

            Lily: I
            choose not to abandon god, jesus, and the holy spirit. Why should I?

            Me: Because it isn’t necessary and it is actually you creating this in your head?

            Lily: I sin, but I ask for and receive forgiveness.

            Me: And it is you who actually grants this forgiveness to yourself. You are appealing to a construct you have created in your head.

            Lily: I’m fine with no hell. If no one goes there, it won’t exist. I still don’t know about Hitler and Stalin and serial killers. It’s heartbreaking.

            Me: Hitler and Stalin did none of that. The people who decided to serve those corrupt masters, are the one’s who actually did the killing and all the atrocities
            associated with them, and waged war the way they did.

            Hitler didn’t lay one brick in building those ovens. Didn’t pull one lever. Didn’t shoot anyone. Didn’t perform horrible medical/surgical procedures on fear filled participants.Stalin didn’t lay his hands on any of the
            millions killed under his leadership.

            The psychology of serial killers is that they were seriously deranged and likely had no impulse control or “free will” in their brains.

            I am not advocating it as such, so please don’t misunderstand me,

            but reincarnation is a much better explanation if you must have a plausible explanation. Live a life exploring your bad side, come back in another and make up for it by exploring your good side.

            Lily: I think I’ll merge with god in a mass of glory and beauty, maybe in dark material or another universe.

            Me: Yes, but all of that is merely a construct you are choosing to create. Generally it is in response to
            the fear of death and not knowing, it would appear to be consoling.

            Lily: Maybe I’m cheating by defining my own sort of Christianity, and if so, my loss will be infinite, but I’ll be dead eventually, and it will be what it will be.

            Me: Every one of you, (who believes in such belief systems) is cheating in defining your own version. Everyone from pastor/priest/pope to every congregant does this. Nearly everyone (on earth and thru most of its recorded history) is/was handed some version of religion/belief system from birth, by parents and/or society at large, others accept it as a means of being included by the dominant sub group.

            I don’t believe that about your loss being infinite.

            Your loss, however is more to be measured by what you missed out on in not realizing it was you who gave yourself reasons to survive the experiences you
            had, and in not attributing it to yourself. No external forces, it’s simply the stuff you are made of. You simply used a handy belief system to indulge in to keep
            yourself alive.

            Lily: God gave us free will. People have created evil.

            Me: No. Actually we evolved to this level as a social construct and contract. We gave ourselves this, but many of us agreed to socialize and contribute to our social
            dominant sub-groups. Evil doesn’t exist. People just behaving badly for individual gain over others exists.

            Lily: I wish he could make things nice, but then we wouldn’t be who we are. I still wish it
            though.

            Me: Then why call it god?

            Continued: Well, yes we would still be who we are anyway. It’s a destination all of us reach, even those who don’t believe. So if that happens, how can faith/belief have any
            meaning or value? It’s inevitable that we will be who we are, therefore you can’t really use it as a support for what you are saying.

            Lily: Thanks for caring and conducting a truly interesting conversation with me.

            Me: You’re welcome

          • GrayAsks

            Allow me to recommend that you view the following videos.

            Man made god – with Andy Thomson – Parts 1 through 5

            These interviews discuss various aspects of the human mind and how it adapts, it even discusses why the power of music is so strong and why it is powerful, as well as the trolley conundrum of morality, slavery, but relates it
            to the mind, how it works and processes things like this the way we do even from birth without religion. The neuroscience isn’t heavy handed and easy to
            understand.

            They run from 9 minutes in length to as high as 14, so this won’t take you long to view them.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4dYxJaRl-0

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZLu-ZfHCrM

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diIeYtBfAOE

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKAp9iWOLY4

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpFltZ1rAmg

  • TheSquirrel

    My preparation to gather the apologetic evidence to defend my faith led to the loss of my faith as I found no logically consistent arguments or evidence to defend it. I had been interested in apologetics since I was a child and the idea of it instilled concepts of internal honesty and sincere inquiry, but when I knuckled down to it I found its substance depressingly thin.
    More than what is apologetics, then, my question to you would be what victories has apologetics had in defending your faith since it failed me so thoroughly?