Why do “apologetics”? The term can even cause confusion among people. People ask, “Why should I apologize for being a Christian?” Except that is not the definition of this word. The word apologetics stems from the Greek apologia, meaning to give a reasoned defense. If even the word itself is confusing, why should the church, or Christians for that matter, concern themselves with it? Because Jesus commanded us to spread the news about who He is and what He did for sinners. He commanded us to go and make disciples. How do we expect to do that if we are unable to defend the news that we are spreading?
Christianity is never presented in a vacuum. No one you share the Gospel with is a blank slate upon which we just simply write verses from the Bible. Everyone comes with their own ideas, their own worldview, their own family religion, their own concept of origins. So every time Christianity is presented it is being weighed against that person’s previously held beliefs. This is true even of the atheists, for they come to the table with their own religion of secularism and naturalism. In light of that, Christians indeed must be able to defend their beliefs against the ideologies from the world around us. And in all reality, if Christianity cannot be defended against alternative worldviews, then we should wonder why we are wasting our time with it. Because really, the goal for all of us shouldn’t be whose religion makes you feel better, or whose religion keeps peace within the family, or whose religion works best as the government. The goal should be finding which religion is truth. Because truth, by the definition of what truth is, will exclude the false. All religions cannot be true at the same time because they all exclude one another. Therefore, it is necessary to be able to show how Christianity is the truth that excludes all others and why that is so.
In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” With that analogy, we are then appointed representatives of God’s truth, living in a land not as citizens but as foreigners. But as a wise friend of mine pointed out, ambassadors must be able to speak the language of the land they are called to. It wouldn’t make much sense if I were sent as an ambassador of the United States to Japan when I don’t speak the first word of Japanese. How am I to represent my nation when I can’t communicate with those I now live among? So going back to what Paul said, how are we going to represent God to the world if we can’t communicate with the world?
So when the world says things like: God doesn’t exist. Evolution is proven fact. All religions are the same. The Bible is just a bunch of made up stories. Jesus was just a good man. There is no life after death. God doesn’t exist if there is suffering. What language are we able to speak back to them to show them the truth about Christianity? Would our answer of “God loves you” or “Jesus died for your sins” even make sense if they don’t know there is a God, have no concept of sin, and don’t believe Jesus was real? We are not effective “ambassadors” if we can’t speak their language.
I know the common mode of operation among many Christians and churches is to show Christ’s love as their witness. There is a lot of truth to that. Jesus said that how we treat the least of these is how we treat Him (Matthew 25:31-40). He also said that they would know us by our love for each other (John 13:35). That is an important aspect of the Christian witness and Christian ministry. But when we really look at how the early church grew in the book of Acts, it wasn’t because they ONLY loved on people. Yes, the church showed love to one another and had “all things in common” to take care of one another. But that was not how Paul preached. That was not how Peter preached. That was not how Stephen, the first martyr, preached. Look at the words used to describe their ministries:
We must then consider the world honestly when we go out and make disciples. How are we reasoning with the Greeks? Are we speaking to someone that when we say “God” they understand that to be the God of the Bible? Or would they consider “God” to be just one of many that people choose to worship? Or would they consider “God” to be a fanciful creation of those who don’t understand science? How would you explain the truth of the God of the Bible in each of those situations?
Some churches may say that this apologetics stuff is for just the intelligentsia to be debated only in the forums of academia. I say to look at the world around you. Look at what your children are being taught at school. Look at what is being shown on our televisions. Look at the skepticism on the internet. The debate has been laid at the doorsteps of the church whether we like it or not. And for far too long the church has simply stepped over it on our way to “love on” people. But we must reach people’s minds as well. We are to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). We are to believe in our heart and confess with our mouths (Romans 10:9). We are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). In truth, our mouths, our minds – all stem from what we think in our heads. The Christian faith is not divorced from our minds. If we aren’t fully grounded in the truth of what we believe and why we believe it, then we too can be swayed away from it by those who challenge it.
Go back to those sample questions I listed that the world asks: Is there a God? Is the Bible true? Was Jesus really God? Are you equipped to answer those? Do you look for conversations to address issues like these or do you hope you can just say, “Jesus loves you” and invite them to church? We must begin preparing ourselves to be the ambassadors of Christ to a skeptical world.
Showing love to others is not enough if we never speak the truth to them.