What Is Apologetics and Why Is it Important?
By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
It’s a question you probably don’t hear enough because once you know the answer, you realize how critical apologetics is to having a grounded faith and being able to answer the questions of why you believe what you believe.
The simple Webster’s definition for apologetics are as follows: “a systematic argumentative discourse.” More specifically, Webster continues with: a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.
Simply put, apologetics is a defense for the Christian faith. I Peter 3:15 states, "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” That last portion is also a critical part of apologetics. While debate may occur within conversation, apologetics is not a weapon to wield with insult, disrespect, or scorn. Giving a defense for why you believe what you believe is an opportunity to present your case to support the Truth.
Lee Strobel, a popular apologist and author of A Case for Christ and many other books, says about his own experience with the defense of Christ and his conversion from atheism: “In short, I didn’t become a Christian because God promised I would have an even happier life than I had as an atheist. He never promised any such thing. Indeed, following him would inevitably bring divine demotions in the eyes of the world. Rather, I became a Christian because the evidence was so compelling that Jesus really is the one-and-only Son of God who proved his divinity by rising from the dead. That meant following him was the most rational and logical step I could possibly take.”
There is always faith that must be a part of the step to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior, but God does not discount the evidence for who He is, for what He does, and for what He can do. Finding out this evidence and building a databank of research and information goes a long way in undergirding the walk of faith with logic and rationale. In a nutshell and in an unscholarly way of putting it, this is apologetics.
Strobel also states, “All Christians should be able to articulate reasons why they believe what they believe – not just for the sake of our spiritually confused friends, but also so that we ourselves will have a deeper and more confident faith.”
This confidence comes in knowing that we have chosen—yes, by faith but also by evidence—to follow the almighty God for reasons that are founded, proven, and true. To find truth, one must investigate, analyze, test, and make a determination.
Can you answer confidently why you believe Jesus rose from the dead, and can you do so without citing “the Bible says so”? How about evidence that God created the world versus the theory of evolution? Again, can you pose a quality case for your belief in Creation without reverting to Genesis 1:1 as your main point of evidence?
It is important, yes, without argument, to know your Scripture and to take it as the authority. However, when you are faced with defending why you believe what you believe, citing one source is a potential problem of bias, not to mention if the person you’re in conversation with does not believe in the authority of the Scriptures as the Word of God—and perhaps doesn’t believe God exists—the Bible itself will hold little argumentative influence for them. It will be quickly discounted as a book of myths and legends, perhaps a book of good ideas, but it will not be counted as scientific or authoritative.
This is why it is essential to educate yourself on the other evidence God has provided us through science, mathematics, archaeology, logic, and historical documentation, among other things. Using reason and common sense can take us systematically to the truth of God’s existence, proof of Him as a Creator, evidence for the resurrection, and so much more.
So what are good resources to learn how to defend your faith? There are some great ones out there that you can tap into, and you don’t need to be a scholar to read and understand them.
1. A Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel, is a great first book. In it, Strobel provides personal testimony of his journey from hard-core atheism to a deeply committed faith in Jesus Christ. As a journalist, evidence was key for Strobel, and he embarked on a journey to discount Jesus’ authority and, instead, built his life on teaching the truths he found along the way. You can also check out his other books, including The Case for Faith and The Case for a Creator.
2. If reading is tough for you, check out Sean McDowell’s YouTube channel or website: seanmcdowell.org. Dr. Sean McDowell is an Associate Professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. Aside from having written over twenty books, he has a growing channel on YouTube that covers a multitude of topics. His approach is not with the intent to convince or proselytize; rather, he asks the hard questions of all his guests and has reasonable discussions. He doesn’t shy away from tough topics like “Can you trust the Old Testament,” “10 Toughest Objections to Christianity,” “Archaeological Finds for the Gospels,” and more.
3. Another great resource book is The Big Book of Christian Apologetics: An A to Z Guide by Normal L. Geisler. This book is encyclopedic as it presents various objections to Christianity, discusses areas of the Bible that can be challenged and may create difficulties as you ground your faith, and gives insights into other philosophies. It’s no small volume, but it’s a must-have book if you want a resource guide written by an expert apologist.
Being able to answer the tough questions is important not only in conversations with others but in our own faith journey. The difficult times will come. The doubts will rise. We will find ourselves challenging our own decision to follow Christ, and without a viable defense, many of us will find our faith and our devotion floundering.
As culture continues to blur the lines, these defenses become even more important. When your family, your friends, and your children ask you, “yes, but why do you believe in God?” we must be able to present a case that isn’t summarized in “because the Bible says so.”
In the end, learning to build a defense for your faith is a lifetime learning process. It’s also an exciting one! As you dig into the evidence that God has infused in every part of this world, its history, its science, and other areas, you will find your faith bolstered by the framework He has given to us. The Scriptures will become more alive, definitive, and authoritative. Apologetics is important—no, they are critical. Take time to learn!
Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. The Christy Award-Winning author of “The House on Foster Hill”, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful mysteries stained with history's secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!