When you spend years of your life on a subject, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Is this as important as I once thought? What was it that made me so passionate about it to begin with? I recently had to answer some of these questions as I tried to explain why apologetics was needed, to some people not familiar with the subject. Why am I so hyper-focused on this one area of Christian teaching, rather than others? It made me realize that it is a good idea to occasionally zoom out and go back to the basics. Why study apologetics?
What Is Apologetics?
To go back to the very beginning, what is apologetics all about? The word itself is a fancy Greek way of saying defense. Please, no more jokes about apologizing or being sorry. When applied to the topic of Christianity, apologetics usually entails engaging with objections to Christianity. This is a step above memorizing scripture or understanding theology and more about applying them to issues raised by our culture today. This typically involves argument and evidence, unless taking a presuppositional approach, but that’s a topic for another time.
Use Apologetics for Evangelism
The most obvious application of apologetics is in evangelism. A large part of why we would answer objections is to help bring people to Christ. Some will argue that nobody ever comes to Jesus through argument, but that is not entirely true. Indeed, many will not be entirely honest about what keeps them from belief. It sounds much more credible to say that you don’t believe in Jesus because there is no evidence than because you want to be your own authority. We need to be somewhat cautious in throwing around that assumption, though.
If you look at studies regarding why people leave the church, many of the top answers are usually apologetic issues. They will cite concerns over lack of evidence, opposition to science, and the church not being open to doubts and questions. Even if these are not the only or even the primary reason people are leaving, we clearly need to be ready to answer them. Why study apologetics? So we can remove every remaining barrier someone may have to belief in Jesus.
Study Apologetics for Defense
Apologetics helps to equip Christian believers for every challenge that can be thrown their way. Of course, we should always be thinking about evangelism and outreach. That’s the great commission. At times I worry Christians focus so much on reaching out that they fail to reach those already under their roof. Especially now, we cannot assume that someone fully believes just because they grew up in the church. Even if someone is a committed believer, they can get rolled over by the apathy and skepticism prevalent in our culture. Christians need the means to defend themselves against those, or else the downward spiral of young people leaving the church will only continue.
I’ve been a college student for a few years now. There are many teachings both in and out of the classroom that Christians need to be ready for. I’ve been pretty thoroughly inoculated at this point. Now I enjoy finding the bad philosophy and ranting to Drew about it. But someone without that training is far more likely to get swept up by the nonsense. There are many Christians who still hold onto their beliefs, but often with serious questions and doubts. One of the most important things we can do is answer those questions and show that Christian belief does not require us to turn our brains off. Training students in apologetics builds their confidence as Christians. Not every Christian may end up needing to use apologetics, but it’s something they all should know about.
Why Study Apologetics?
In the end, we need to keep the right perspective here. Apologists very easily fall into the trap of learning knowledge for knowledge’s sake, or inflating our own egos. Am I learning this so I can be the smartest Christian in the church? Is it all just to school that atheist coworker and get awesome mic drop moments?
Apologetics is a form of worship. Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37), but we tend to ignore that mind portion. Our goal must be to draw closer to him and to help others do the same. Out of love, God gave us minds that could comprehend the world around us and these evidential arguments. It should be out of love that we use them for his glory.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
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