Christian apologetics? What's that?
No...Christian apologetics has nothing to do with "apologizing." In fact, it actually has the opposite meaning. It carries the idea of firmly standing on what you believe regarding your Christian faith and arguing to protect it from those who would try to destroy it.
But there's a little more to it than that...
My mother-in-law recently spoke with someone she knew on the subject of Christian apologetics. As she related the story to my wife, she explained that the woman said something like, "You need to read up on all the cults so you can know their arguments and combat them."
An interesting definition of Christian apologetics. But is this idea biblical? Are we as Christians to learn everything about every cult so that we can defend our faith? Is this what God wants from His children? Is this what the Bible tells us?
Should we do Christian apologetics?
As we mentioned before, apologetics is the method used to defend a certain point. In this case, Christian apologetics attempts to defend the Christian faith. The question remains, should we do this?
If you make a search of the New Testament doctrinal books (Romans-Jude), you won't find the word "defend" or "defending" anywhere in the New Testament. You will, however, find the word "defence."
It's interesting to note that this word is only used in relation to the Gospel when used in a doctrinal sense. There's no confusing this idea with personal interests. We aren't to defend ourselves.
Even in the other instances where variations of the word "defend" are used in the New Testament they either carry a negative meaning or show the person defending himself also proclaiming the Gospel. Once again, these individuals felt "defend" meant defense of the Gospel. And we are to defend the Gospel, the basis of our faith.
As far as the way this should be done...
We saw one view above that said we need to know what the cults believe. Let me make one clarifying statement that will give away how I feel about this...
To defend our faith, we need to know our Faith, not the faith of others. So is this biblical? Let's find out what the Bible says about Christian apologetics...
What does the Bible say about defending Christianity?
Although the word is used very little, the idea of defending our faith is definitely evident. We see countless examples of people practicing Christian apologetics in the Bible. Some notable examples are...
1. Noah (see Hebrews 11:7
From what we can gather from Scripture, each of these men had something in common. They engaged in Christian apologetics. They defended the the Christian Faith by preaching the Gospel of Christ. They didn't feel they had to learn "everything" about the groups they preached to. They just stood up and preached what they knew...
The Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Let's look at what two of these men said about defending the Faith...
John the apostle said this in I John 4:1-6...
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
Did you catch that? How do we know the "spirit of error?" We know error by comparing it with the truth. Those who preach the truth about Christ, that He is God come in the flesh, the Messiah of the Jews and Savior of the world, speaks the truth.
We don't need to know that some false religions think Christ was only a "Great Spirit" or that He was only a man. We only need to know that Christ was, is and always will be God in the flesh. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong...no matter what they claim to know.
John's message is clear.
know and proclaim the Truth!
This is a good example of practical Christian apologetics.
Paul the apostle also had something to say about defending the faith. But what did he say? Philippians 1:7 says this...
Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
Let's get a little background for this verse first...
Paul had just thanked God for the Philippian Christians. He counted them as benefactors of every part of his ministry and explained so much in the previous verses. Then, he wrote verse seven (7.)
As you can see, Paul thought very highly of of those in Philippi. Notice he felt they had given "defence and confirmation of the gospel" just as he had. Whether this means they helped him passively by funding his mission trips or by actually actively helping him win souls isn't clear...
But it doesn't really matter. Paul felt these folks were invaluable to the "defence and confirmation of the gospel." This seems to show that Paul thought very highly of defending the Gospel. He actively engaged in Christian apologetics and praised people who did the same.
So defending the Gospel isn't wrong...it's something we ought to do.
But how did Paul do this?
Did he try to learn all about other religions? Here's what he said about it in Galatians 1:8,9...
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Paul wanted the Galatians to know how serious "drifting" from the truth of the Gospel was. The one who does it is "accursed," he has the curse of God on him. Pretty serious stuff.
Much of the book of Galatians is the same thing, a practice in Christian apologetics. Paul defends the Gospel at almost every turn. But he didn't defend the Gospel with "facts" about other religions. He did it by stating the truth.
In Galatians 3:1, Paul says...
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
The Galatians had been following "another gospel" as Paul put in in chapter one (1) Here he rebukes them for it. But once again, he doesn't use "facts" from other religions. Notice he's concerned with what he calls "truth."
The fact was, the Galatians had departed from what they knew was correct doctrine. The had chosen another Gospel, that is true. But Paul very clearly uses the "truth" to try to bring them back, the truth of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul was concerned that the Galatians "obey the truth." And Paul's emphasis on truth made the whole argument work.
He could have gone into the particulars of works salvation...he didn't.
He could have explained the evils of legalism...he chose not to.
He used "truth" to bring the Galatians back to the real Gospel. Not the facts of false religions.
If knowing and proclaiming the truth was good enough for the theological battles Paul faced, shouldn't it be good enough for us to know the truth so well, we can combat any falsehood simply with the truth of Scripture?
The fact is, most people would rather study the "lies" false religions proclaim. That way you know what you're up against. Such tactics are nothing more than sloppy thinking and theological laziness. If we know the truth...
We don't need to know the lies.
And there are dangers in that. Looking at the "knowledge" that other belief systems proclaim may lead us away in the wrong direction as well. We don't need to know the "lies."
Look at it this way...
A great art critic is someone who can eye a masterpiece without batting an eye. How does he do this? By studying the Masters...knowing their style...their brush strokes...even the way and place they signed their name.
But it's interesting to realize that knowledge of each "master painter" also gives them the ability to spot a fake. Can you imagine if these experts had to study the style of every art sham artist! They'd spend their whole lives studying and have no time for exercising their skills! They would be useless to the art world.
But it's their knowledge of "the truth" of each genuine artist that gives them the ability to see what's real as well as what's fake.
When we engage in biblically based Christian apologetics, we too become experts of the Master of all Masters, God, Himself. If we tried to study all the methods of Satan (and there are lots of those!) we would never have time to proclaim the truth of the Gospel to the dying world.
We need to know truth...not every lie Satan throws at us.
Take it from John and Paul. They knew the value of truth in Christian apologetics. And we ought to as well.
May God bless you in the study of His Word.