Essential Truths: What Is Apologetics? 1Peter 3:15

Posted on August 17, 2008. Filed under: Apologetics |

Sunday, August 17, 2008– When I was pastoring I always taught on Wednesday nights. The last several years I was there, I attempted to teach through the basic doctrines we believed; I called the series, “Essential Truths”. I began with a series on what we believed about the Scriptures, then went to a series on Our Need To Know God. But then I went with an apologetics series, to show that our belief in God was not unreasonable. So in this series of blogs, many years later, I will give you my notes from some of those Wednesday night studies. It so happens that in our Care Group at Redeemer, we are going to be studying RC Sproul’s book “Reason to Believe” this year, which deals with some apologetics issues. So this Wednesday night I will be using parts of this old study to help us begin our new Care Group study.

Essential Truths: What Is Apologetics?

1Peter 3:15

Wednesday 9-25-02


Wed.9-25-02 Series: Introduction to Apologetics. What is Apologetics? The Biblical basis for apologetics. Various methods and ministries




I. What Is Apologetics?

II. The 4 Functions of Apologetics

III. The Biblical Basis of Apologetics


Introduction: We have just completed a short series on our need to know God. One reason we need to know God deeper is so that we can share the gospel with others. Knowing the Bible stories and the teachings of the Bible is very important if we are going to share the gospel with others. Doctrine has an evangelistic kick to it. Knowing God enables us to answer the questions of the lost people around us, as well as answer the questions that we have deep in our own thoughts.

Questions: Does it make sense to believe in God when there is so much evil in this world? Are there any facts that support our faith in the resurrected Lord? There are so many religions out there these days; can we be sure that Christianity is the true religion? Are any religions true? Why should we believe the Bible? Don’t all religions lead to God? How do you even know that God exists? Aren’t the miracles in the Bible just legend of myth? Why should I believe in Jesus?

These questions are some examples of what the study of apologetics is all about. There are certainly direct applications to evangelism and missions as well as discipleship.

I have many books on the subject that I can recommend. You may find it helpful to do some reading while we study this topic. (Present books).

I. What Is Apologetics?

I know that many of you are nervous over the use of a strange word like apologetics so let me define it and explain it for you. Keep in mind that words mean things, they are how we communicate. Words are our friends! The word apologetics comes from the Greek words apo logiaapo means away, and logia means speech. The word then means to speak away. It was used in ancient Athens in the courtroom as part of a trial. The court would present the charges against the person and then he could make his apology, he could speak away the charges. Socrates was charged with leading the young men of Athens astray, introducing them to strange gods. His trial is written by Plato and called The Apology. In our day we use the word apology or apologize in a non-technical way as a way of saying we are sorry for doing or saying something wrong.

I will discuss how this word is used in the NT in a little bit, but right now I am still defining it and I want to tell you how it came to be used by the early church. As Christianity spread it began to come under attack by the Jews of course, but also by the pagans. Particularly in the 2d century the attacks began to get severe. There were many pagan authors who wrote against the Faith and so the Early Church began to respond with various writings. Justin Martyr wrote First Apology, Dialogue with Trypho and Second Apology. Tertullian wrote Apologeticum. These writers were attempting to defend the Faith against charges of criminal activity like being atheists (for not worshipping local gods) and being cannibals (for eating the bread as the body of Christ and the wine as the blood). These Christian authors consciously hearkened back to the pagan philosopher Socrates and Plato for the use of the word Apology.

For our purposes then Apologetics is the study and practice of defending the faith. Ken Boa (Faith Has Its Reason, NavPress: Colorado Springs, CO. 2001) writes, “An apologist…may offer defenses of the Christian faith in relation to scientific, historical, philosophical, ethical, religious, theological or cultural issues.” (p.19). In other words the Christian apologist (any ordinary Christian) should be able to defend what he/she believes in these various areas of thought. If you have some expertise in science you ought to be able to witness to scientists and have answers to their challenges from the atheistic scientific world view. If you are not a scientist you ought to be able to defend your faith in the area of ethics (what is right and wrong) religion- why are you a Christian instead of Muslim, theological area- that is Bible doctrine (why do you believe in salvation by grace alone instead of works plus grace) and cultural issues- what is good art?

New Dictionary of Theology, Ferguson, Wright and Packer, InterVarsity Press, 1988 (p.36) “Apologetics…is an activity of the Christian mind which attempts to show that the Gospel message is true in what it affirms. An apologist is one who is prepared to defend the message against criticism and distortion, and to give evidences of its credibility.”

II. The 4 Functions of Apologetics

Dr. Norman Geisler writes (Systematic Theology vol.1, Bethany House: Minneapolis, MN. 2002) “Apologetics deals with the protection of Christian theology from external attacks. Polemics defends orthodox Christianity from internal doctrinal threats such as heresy and aberrant teachings.” (p.16).

There are 4 functions of apologetics. 1) Proof or Vindication. We ought to be able to present a positive case for Christianity to the world. We should present reasons for the lost to believe in Christ. This means showing that Christianity is a reasonable faith, it is rational, it makes sense. In this part of apologetics there are some rather difficult philosophical proofs that can be made.

2) Defense. There are a lot of attacks against our faith coming from all directions. We ought to be able to answer these attacks graciously yet firmly. This includes clarifying what true Christians are supposed to believe and practice and then answering objections and problems posed by the unbeliever. Here we are trying to show that our faith is credible. Christianity is not unreasonable.

3) Refutation. As non-Christians give their reasons for remaining unbelievers we must be ready to challenge them on their beliefs. If you are talking to someone who believes that they will go to heaven by being good how do you refute them? Non-Christian thought is ultimately unreasonable and inconsistent.

4) Persuasion. Persuade people that the Christian truth is true and that they ought to apply its truth to themselves by trusting in Jesus. The intent of apologetics is not to merely win a debate but to lead people to Christ! Christianity is not known by reason alone, it is revelational and must be received by faith.

III. The Biblical Basis of Apologetics

We began this lesson with 1Pet.3:15 which gives us a directive to give answers to those who ask us about the faith we have. But there are several other passages that even use the word apology that help make the case for teaching and applying apologetics in the church.

In Acts22:1 Paul uses this word which is translated defense. Here Paul had been seen in the Temple in Jerusalem by his enemies who stirred up a riot. Upon being arrested by the soldiers he gained permission to speak to the crowd and gave a wonderful testimony.

In Acts25:16 he uses the word in the traditional legal defense mode.

In 1Cor9:3 He uses the term to defend against unjust attacks on his methods as an Apostle.

Phil1:7 he uses the term in the same sense we are speaking of, he is defending the gospel. And in vs 16.

In 2Tim4:16 he uses it to refer to his legal defense before Caesar.

In the Bible the Gospels are very definitely apologetic in nature, especially Luke/Acts. Luke 1:1-4 the prologue. Boa writes,(p.25f) “Luke announces that his work is based on careful historical research and will present an accurate record of the origins of Christianity. The very structure and content of this two-part work suggests it was written at least in part as a political apology for Paul…In Acts the motif of Jesus’ resurrection as vindication, his fulfillment of OT messianic prophecies and the charismatic phenomena on and after the Day of Pentecost are used as cumulative evidences of the messianic lordship of Jesus (Acts2:36) and of the authority of the apostolic truth claims.”

In Acts 17 Paul uses secular philosophical methods to make his defense in Athens. He uses Stoic terms and argues in Stoic fashion. He quotes from a Stoic poet to support his argument in vss.24-29. His argument basically says that the Stoics themselves admit that idolatry is foolish and therefore he exploits their weakness to insert the gospel. The result of Paul’s speech is that some scoffed, some would consider it over time and a few believed.

Conclusion: Apologetics is essential for the average Christian today who wants to witness and share the gospel. Apologetics is witness training for the 21st century! I work closely with people who are Muslim, Buddhist, and atheist as well as good old American pragmatists who think they can go to heaven by good works outweighing the bad.


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