Second Baptist Church
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
October 1, 2005
For this material, I am primarily indebted to Alan Richardson, Ravi Zacharias, and George Barna. I am grateful for the members of Second who decided to undertake the challenge of becoming Apologists.
The term “Apologetics” rises from Peter’s admonition. “Always be ready to give a defense (apologian) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15b Holman). “Apologian” often had the technical meaning of a legal defense rebutting a charge presented in a court of law.
Our English word “apology” has taken on a different meaning over the centuries. In 1796 Bishop Richard Watson published his book, “An Apology for the Bible.” King George III commented, “I did not know the Bible required an apology.”
Let’s consider what Apologetics is not. First, it is not theology. Apologetics accepts the tenets of theology, but uses them for a specific reason. Defenders of the faith drive the point home, into the heart of a listener.
Second, Apologetics is not evangelism and missions. Defending the faith helps both disciplines, but its thrust includes not only unbelievers, but also believers having doubts or struggles. Apologetics deals with believers and unbelievers who are at the same time drawn toward and away from faith.
Humans were created with minds to think, ponder, and analyze. We cannot rest till our thoughts find congruence and consistency.
The minds of believers, as well as unbelievers, thirst for rational, reasonable, logical explanations of life. Without this, we experience a growing sense of angst. The Apologist seeks to relieve this inner tension.
Third, Apologetics is not an aggressive attack. Peter’s admonition about defending our faith is followed by another directive, (Do this with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:16a). We need to be straightforward, yet also respectful and gentle.
Our objective is to win the person, not an argument. By winning the latter we too often lose the former. Arguments are futile.
Apologetics is not intended primarily for bitter opponents of Christianity. Only God can cause an antagonistic person to begin to want to seek after Him. Apologists inform, but only God convinces.
Our goal is to help questioners, doubters, and seekers. Our foe is not atheists, but rather anti-Christian thinking that might lure faith away from a wavering person’s heart.
In many situations, our goal is simply to remove obstacles that keep unbelievers from having a direct look at the cross. Many prechristians are not rejecting Christ as much as they are rejecting wrong notions about Him. When Jesus is seen clearly, He is a lovely and winsome sight.
In all situations, the Apologist tries to anticipate barriers to belief. Part of his or her research entails studying what opponents are likely to ask.
We try to have an answer for any question before the question is raised. We will get blind-sided, caught off guard, sometimes, but this should rarely occur.
One of our most effective answers to unbelievers is, (I don’t know.” This response carries a humility befitting a follower of our Lord.
Fourth, Apologetics is not experienced-based. It must go beyond one’s personal testimony, because the latter is subjective.
Apologetics has to be objective. It must find outside our own personal experience truths we hope others find logical and ultimately will embrace.
Apologists seek points of connection, mutually acknowledged criteria, between believers and unbelievers. We seek evidence that will commend Christianity to people in the twenty-first century.
Our faith can easily pass the tests of modern criticism. Our job as Defenders is to prove its viability.
To convince prechristians our faith is reasonable, an Apologist has to be a student. Apologists in the twenty-first century are fortunate to have more resources at their disposal than ever before in church history. We need as many Defenders as possible wading through these helpful and essential materials.
We have to dig deep into Christian truth before we can defend it well. We need to know our facts before we speak.
This having been said, we quickly add, academic pursuit is merely prelude for Defenders. Our real work is found in interaction with people, Christian and prechristian.
Questions and skepticism being raised in our era are many and complex. Apologetics is a discipline far too vast for any Pastor or church leader to master on his or her own. This battle requires a team, a crackerjack unit of Defenders who help prepare and master evidence in many areas.