What is Apologetics?

September, 2010
Henry W. Middleton PhD

Is apologetics all about saying you’re sorry about something? Of course not; it is derived from the Greek word apologia, which refers to giving a reason. Christian apologetics includes both 1) defending the Christian faith when speaking with non-Christians and 2) encouraging and strengthening the faith of believers. Christians are encouraged, actually commanded, in the scriptures to be able to give the reasons for why they believe and have the hope in them.

Apologetics Presentation

Dr. Henry Middleton presented talks for the youth group meetings at Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.1

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;…2 (I Peter 3:15)

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts,” should be the foundational motivation for all behavior of the Christian. This should be behind all we do, including apologetics. He is Holy and complete, and He has given us sufficient information and power to accomplish any task He would command us to do. When we honor Christ as Lord, we will have the proper mindset for defending our faith.

The phrase, “and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you,” is the “why” or reason for apologetic study. It is also one reason why Christians should engage in scientific study and research. Science is the study of the physical reality as God created it, and as believers it should be done as a defense of God’s work of creation.

Defending the faith is an intellectual process.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15)

Study of God’s Word to give a reason for our hope also includes proper application and interpretation of God’s Word. Bad theology is a result of not rightly dividing the Word of God.

The aim of apologetics is evangelism and discipleship, not winning an argument. The aim is to spread the Gospel and to make those who already are believers stronger in the faith so that their light so shines before men that even more are drawn to repentance. It is the defense “for the hope that is in you.” It is why you believe, what you believe. Our “hope” is that because Jesus came to Earth, died on the cross, and rose again, we by faith and repentance can be with Him in glory. The proper attitude is to honor the Lord Jesus and to study to know why you believe what you believe and how to present that to anyone who asks, yet “with meekness and fear.”

You cannot argue somebody into the Kingdom of God. Faith and repentance are heart issues, volitional issues, more than intellectual issues.

No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

It is written in the prophets, “AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. (John 6:44, 65)

A Christian should: 1) present the Gospel, 2) deal with objections in a biblical manner, 3) leave the rest to God. You have not failed if the person does not believe. It is not your job to win or save anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can bring someone to salvation. It is your job to present the Gospel as clearly as possible.

A Biblical example of apologetics is Paul on Mars Hill in Acts 17. First Paul shows the Athenians’ ignorance.

And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17: 22-23)

He then explains the biblical God.

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, “For we also are His offspring.” (Acts 17: 24-28)

He then shows the folly of idolatry.

Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. (Acts 17: 29)

Finally he presents the Christian worldview and calls for repentance.

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17: 30- 31)

Paul used this approach because the Athenians had a false understanding of the nature of God which significantly affected their entire worldview.

Another Biblical example is Peter at the time of Pentecost. Peter did not have the same starting point as Paul did at Mars Hill because the Jews already believed in the biblical God. He did not have to explain creation by God and the fall of man. They were already aware of those truths. Peter cited prophecy that pointed to Jesus as the Christ, and he called them to repentance. Peter did not need to build a monotheistic worldview for them; they already understood it.

The Epistles of Galatians and Hebrews are also examples of apologetics. Galatians defends salvation by grace apart from works. Hebrews shows how the Gospel fulfills the temple and sacrifices and is the complete fulfillment of the law.

Apologetics incorporates history, science, other religions and cults, theology, philosophy, and ethics. In historical studies we defend the historical reliability of the Bible, background information, and the writing and transmission of the Bible. In the area of science we defend Creation in six literal days, evidence of the complexity of created things and the necessity of a Creator providing the structure and information in the physical universe.

Christians need to know how to respond to false religions that are quite willing to fill the spiritual void in man. This void results because of man’s rejection of God. Islam, materialism, and atheism all try to counterfeit the truth and fill that spiritual void. Theology dictates our response to cults and other denominations.

In Christian philosophy we use logic and the foundation of knowledge. In any ethical decision or debate we must use Biblical standards and principles. God’s standards are the only absolute standards on which to base ethical and moral decisions. He will never vary on what is right and wrong, but the opinions and attitudes of man will change frequently and cycle throughout history.

The Bible is the foundation for a Christian understanding of everything. Therefore, learn to think Biblically.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,… (II Corinthians 10:3-5)

Thinking Biblically includes a true love for God.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your minhd, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

When our minds understand the things of God we are better equipped to love and serve God with all our being.

  • 1. On June 9 and 16, 2010, Dr. Middleton gave an Introduction to Apologetics and returned the following week to do a presentation on World views and the Myth of Neutral Ground along with Lisle's apologetic procedure. TASC has many speakers that provide talks for churches or other organizations. ontact us at http://www.tasc-creationscience.org or call 919-341-8004 to arrange for a speaker.
  • 2. All Scriptural references are from the New American Standard Bible.