Redeemer has been going through the Apostle’s Creed this summer, which is the oldest Christian creed we have. It states things that are foundational for all Christians to believe in because they are all found in Scripture. Some of the statements are controversial even within the church (like the phrase “He descended into Hell” and the topic of God’s judgment), but almost all are controversial within our secular culture. The exclusive claims of Christianity are not appreciated in our relativistic culture, and the idea that there is only one way to God is offensive to many. Arguments are often offered against the claims of Christianity to show that it is false or should only be held as a set of personal, private beliefs. But Christians believe that Christianity is true for all people. Because of these circumstances and our command as Christians to give a defense of the gospel (1 Peter 3:15) and “contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3), we would be wise to be familiar with the field of apologetics.
What is Apologetics?
Apologetics is giving a defense of the beliefs of the Christian worldview (the set of beliefs one has about reality that informs how they choose to live their life) as true, rational, and compelling—Christianity makes the most sense of the world we live in and leads to the most human flourishing for all. So, a Christian apologist simply defends the foundational tenets of the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible.
The word “apologetics” is derived from the Greek word apologia, of which the best English translation is “defense.” This word is used multiple times in the New Testament to describe a rational defense of the gospel of Christ. The most well known passage in which this word is used is in 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter tells his readers to “always be prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Peter is encouraging Christians to be ready to give a coherent account of their faith as a defense against those who persecute them. And this is exactly what the Apostle’s Creed does. It defines what all Christians believe based on what God has revealed to us in His word, and it defends these beliefs against error, objection, and attack.
Apologetics entails both defending the Christian faith against attack and giving positive arguments for why the person genuinely pursuing truth should accept the claims of Christianity. This is done by using logic and proper argumentation, and presenting supporting evidence for the beliefs of Christianity. By responding to other worldviews and objections against the Christian worldview, as well as presenting positive arguments across various disciplines (philosophy, science, history, archaeology, etc.) in favor of Christianity, a cumulative case for the Christian worldview emerges that is hard to deny.
The Goals of Apologetics
The goals of apologetics are to bring people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and to instill confidence in the believer that doubts or questions some aspects of the Christian worldview. Converting to Christianity involves understanding and believing the Christian worldview, repenting of past sins and way of life, and trusting in Jesus Christ and committing one’s life to Him. This is a huge life decision that sometimes requires addressing the doubts, questions, and concerns that people have with accepting the truth claims of Christianity. No matter what a person’s hesitation is in coming to Christ, apologetics helps to address these and bring someone to a solid, reasoned faith in Jesus. Of course, it is only the Holy Spirit that opens a person’s eyes to see the truth of the gospel and enables them to trust in Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation. But the Spirit can use anyone and anything to bring someone to faith in Christ, including apologetic arguments (Both C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel came to faith through apologetics). Apologetics is an invaluable discipline for defending the faith and finally helping people cross that line of doubt to trust in Christ alone.
The second goal of Christian apologetics is also to build the confidence of believers. I cannot fully express how helpful studying apologetics has been in bolstering my own faith and giving me greater confidence to live for Christ and share the good news with others. A fuller understanding of biblical truth will better enable the Christian apologist to be assured of the rationality of their beliefs and to present them to others in a compelling way.
In light of the truth claims made in the Apostle's Creed that warrant rational defense, Redeemer will be posting a few blogs that present apologetic arguments in favor of Christianity. The first argument we will look at in our next blog post will be the cosmological argument for God’s existence.
-By Kevin Tapscott