What is Apologetics?

Many even within the Christian community are still unaware of the discipline of apologetics.  For this reason, and others, it seems useful for the apologist to periodically define the term apologetics and demonstrate it's biblical origins. In his excellent work, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, philosopher Douglas Groothuis offers a useful definition that I wanted to highlight here:

"The word apologetics is often used today in a derogatory way to mean a biased and belligerent advocacy of an indefensible position.  Yet the idea of presenting a credible 'apology' for a legitimate position or viewpoint has a long and rich history.  For example, the American founders presented an apology (or apologetic) for what would become the American form of government in The Federalist Papers.  These learned and eloquent apologists explained and rationally defended a political perspective in the face of objections.  An apologist, then, is a defender and an advocate for a particular position.  The position is not reserved for Christians or other religionists.  Richard Dawkins, for example, is a tireless apologist for atheistic Darwinism and, as such, an equally tireless opponent of all religion, but particularly of Christianity.  While apologists may resort to propaganda or even coercion in order to win approval for their positions, they need not do so.  Of course, the Christian, following Christ's example, must never do so.

Christian apologetics is the rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true, rationally compelling and existentially or subjectively engaging.  The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which can be translated as 'defense' or 'vindication.'  In the days of the New Testament 'an apologia was a formal courtroom defense of something (2 Timothy 4:16.)'  The word, in either the noun form apologia or the verb form apologeomai, appears eight times in the New Testament (Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Philippians 1:7, 16; 2 Timothy 4:16; 1 Peter 3:15). The term is used specifically for a rational defense of the gospel in three texts: Philippians 1:7, 16, and most famously in 1 Peter 3:15-16.

'But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.'1

If you are interested in learning more about apologetics, please checkout our Apologist's Quiver for resources to get your started!

Courage and Godspeed,


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