Are Christian Apologetics Still Relevant? 

Are Christian Apologetics Still Relevant?  June 25, 2024

 What is Apologetics? 

Historically, apologetics is the task of presenting a well-reasoned, intellectual defense of the truth claims of the Christian faith. In the early church, persecuted Christians defended the faith against paganism, polytheism, and political threats. Over the last thirty years, though, we have observed a new Christianity arise. This new(ish) form has been seen before in many iterations, but this new Christianity that we are observing is more insidious, more rigid, more extreme.  

Are “apologetics just another “right-wing” tactic to impose ridged views of Christianity and morality on others.” (see ) Philosophically, one could posit (and some philosophers do) that there is no truth, that all truth is subjective (Consider Kierkegard).  

Are apologetics a “triumphalist art of having an answer for every anticipated objection. Apologists do not seek to understand but to explain away. Apologetics does not dwell with people in their difficulty and darkness; it just plows over their objections with sound bites. An apologist is someone who has a barrage of verbal spitballs to spit back at any question or concern, without trying to understand where the questioner is coming from or if the questioner knows something you do not. Apologetics is not a dialogue. Apologetics is an algorithm”( ) 

I am not opposed to the idea of apologetics, I am a still a creedal Christian to some degree and I think we do need bumpers around our faith, we need to know the why behind what we believe. But we cannot use our beliefs to plow over those around us. We must like I teach in parenting, be gentle and let awareness arise gradually and in a way that enhances self-esteem and self-efficacy. It is felt that faith is two things, a subjective experience, and a process of becoming. One is not simply a Christian; one is always in the process of becoming a Christian, this is why it is felt that the historical model of apologetics does not work. 

How Does a Critical Approach to Our Faith and Scripture Better Inform our Faith? 

I propose a better way going forward. My idea is not new, it relies heavily on ideas I learned when I was a seminary student learning how to read and understand what the bible actually says (not that it says anything, rather it informs us) 

In the past two posts, I have talked a lot about my contemplative approach to my faith: reading, prayer, contemplation, and meditation. In reading and interpreting the bible, we learn several forms of criticism: textual, philological, historical, literary, form and tradition. ( ).  

In the Middle Ages, there was also the debate around how we know what we know (epistemology). Descartes took a rationalist approach, while others like Locke and Hume took what became known as an Empiricist approach. It turns out, both are right. We know what we know because of what we think and what we experience.  

Taking all these approaches seriously then gives us a more wholesome and inclusive approach to defending our faith. Interestingly, this looks a lot like Wesley’s famous quadrilateral. In all of this we move faith away from an objective experience as traditional apologetics suggests and towards a subjective experience which seems to fit with many of the younger people I talk to. It is felt that considering all these approaches brings us closer to Jesus’ decree, “you have heard it said, but I say to you.”  

The only thing that is certain in the bible is that God is love. It is from here we must start our discussion.  

Whose Faith are We Defending? 

Is theocracy, dominionism, nationalism, and reconstructionism what Jesus wanted? In my early ministry days, the “What Would Jesus Do” bracelets were all the rage. While the fad has faded, I think the message still rings true. Are we defending the faith of the homeless dead Jew or are we defending the faith of the White American (or insert whatever dominate ruling system is in place if you are not American) Jesus?  

What I find talking to people each day (about 35/ week) is that real faith is not as cut and dry as apologetics make it out to be. I remember some of the early days of my work in the church when I flirted with apologetics because those were the spaces my mentors and teacher were in. I never bought into it mostly because I was a Social Worker and understood that a messy world could not be ordered with well-meaning words put together to help one deal with their messiness.  

I find that apologetics lead to a prescriptive faith. If our churches are going to survive and bring young people to their pews, they need to have real questions with radical, open dialogue. This conversation will not have grandstanding, last words, or absolutes. Young people appear to not be about this. Midrash is going to get people involved and make church great again. Real faith, grounded faith, experiential faith comes from being conversations that push us to think, that ask us to explain and challenge ourselves and our beliefs.  

Is a Prescriptive Faith Relevant to our Post-Modern Era? 

As a philosophical orientation, “Postmodernism says absolute truth does not exist. Supporters of postmodernism deny long-held beliefs and conventions and maintain that all viewpoints are equally valid” (Zavada, 2021). 

Postmodernism suggests five tenets (Zavada, 2021): 

  1. Reality is in the mind of the beholder. Reality is what’s real to me, and I construct my own reality in my mind. 
  2. People are not able to think independently because they are defined—“scripted,” molded—by their culture. 
  3. We cannot judge things in another culture or another person’s life, because our reality may be different from theirs. There is no possibility of “transcultural objectivity.” 
  4. We are moving in the direction of progress but are arrogantly dominating nature and threatening our future. 
  5. Nothing is ever proven, either by science, history, or any other discipline. 

 Many of the younger people I talk to these days relate to these tenets. For many, the discussion around faith is open and for many, their faith development skips the believing what you were told to believe and moving immediately into a questioning and owned faith. For those of who still adhere to a strict Christian apologetics, we will need to move away from our rigidity of right/ wrong, in/out. In medical terms, our prescription will become an as needed with the disclaimer, “some results will vary.” This is the modern way.  

Apologetics feel like a utilitarian calculation. When applied to the rise of nationalism, dominionism, theocracy and reconstructionism, we are not defending the faith of Jesus and his intentions that he set forth 2000 years ago. Acts 2 clearly outlines how the church should respond. Love is the command, love is at the center of Christ and in love, all beings and all creation was created. 




Zavada, Jack. (2021, September 4). What Is Postmodernism in Religion? Retrieved from  

Browse Our Archives