Merriam Webster defines apologetics as the systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine); or a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity. Simply put, "apologetics" is a logical and reasoned defense of a religious position. So what is it about this term that makes it so offensive? And no, I’m not talking about the hostile atheist angered by the Christian who dares to use science and reasoning to defend faith. And I’m not talking about the social activist offended by someone using the Bible to form their position on a particular issue. I’m talking about the Church. Why is the church offended by the idea of apologetics? If, like we discussed last week, our one true duty is to know God and to know the One whom God sent, then why are churches afraid of studying and understanding that God? Don’t get me wrong. There are many churches out there that understand the new battles that the believer faces. And those churches work to equip the believer in the best way possible to deepen their understanding of God, strengthen their faith, and embolden them to witness. But there are many more churches out there that don’t.
Why is that? Well, there are many excuses.
2.“The church doesn’t need to teach science – that’s for the schools to do.” The secular world says science and the Bible are at odds with one another. It implies that intellectual people know science outweighs religion. Our children are exposed to that faulty logic every single day. At best the church has two hours a week to try to remedy that. But it can never be done if the church doesn’t address science alongside the Bible. The church must explain how science and religion are not at odds with each other. The world uses science to draw our children away from the church – because they are engaging their minds. They are teaching science from a non-Biblical perspective and it is undermining everything that you are trying to teach them in church from the Biblical perspective. The Bible says God created and Adam sinned. The world says evolution and Neanderthal man. When is the church going to wake up and see we cannot leave science to the secular world to address?!? The church must be able to provide a logical and scientific discussion on those issues so that the believer will have confidence in the validity of the Bible, and therefore understand the God behind that Bible.
I’m not saying each Sunday school (or small group, since we seem to think saying Sunday school is off-putting now) teacher begin lecturing on calculus-based physics. But I am saying that the church should stop being afraid to look for God in chemistry, biology, geology, and cosmology. God made those things. So wherever we look for Him, in whatever field of science, we will find God’s creative hand and almighty power. But we have to show our children that God is there, otherwise, they will so easily be swayed by those secular scientists who tell them He’s not. When we leave an entire field of study up to the secularists, then we can’t be surprised when our children are persuaded by secularism. But if we show and teach our children that God is found within science, in fact, that you can’t even do science without God, then we will find a new generation of ambassadors for Christianity.
3. “No one wants to learn apologetics all the time.” This is a direct failure of churches to understand what apologetics is. Apologetics is a broad term for any subject that will give a reasoned defense behind Christianity. So it doesn’t mean that a year-long study of apologetics means you will be deep into Socratic philosophy every week. I find it much like saying you’re doing a “Bible” study. Consider how many different topics and books and aspects to the Bible we can study! The same is true for apologetics. In reality, apologetics should be so interwoven into our Bible studies that people don’t notice when it’s apologetics and when it’s not. It should be a regular topic that is covered by our churches. When Peter said to “always be prepared” to give a defense, he didn’t mean to just practice it for 4 weeks over the summer because church attendance is already low. The idea of always being prepared means…always preparing! We wouldn’t teach them from the Scriptures just a few weeks out of the year and think that sufficed as being prepared. The same is true of apologetics. Doing a short study once every three years is not going to equip believers to defend their faith. That is not being “always prepared.”
4. “If we show them love, they don’t need apologetics.” As Christians, we are most certainly called to love others. In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” But let’s face it. We are not very good at that. Sometimes we’re downright terrible at it. Even worse, sometimes the world does better at it than the church. Yes, we are called to love. But there must be a stronger bind, a deeper call, into the fellowship with Christ than just the brotherly love of the church. Something must hold us in that relationship with God even when the relationship of the fellow believer may fail. So in reaching people, we must do more than just showing love to one another. Besides, Jesus said our love will show people that we are His disciples, but we must do more than that to make them His disciples. Showing love is how people will know we follow God, but that’s not how we get others to follow God. We have to speak about God. The great commission was not “go and love people.” The great commission was “go and make disciples,” which means telling and teaching others. Paul says in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hears without a preacher?” We must be telling others about Christ. And we must be able to articulate to others who that Christ is and what He has done – in a way that they might understand. Which leads us to the next point…
5.“That’s not a good outreach tool. That’s not what gets people saved.” Right now, apologetics could possibly be the best, if not only, tool available for outreach. How many people are questioning what Romans 3 says compared to how many are wondering why God allowed a particular tragedy in their life? How many people are wanting to know what the book of 1 Timothy says compared to how many wonder if a god exists at all? How many people are wondering whether it matters what they believe anyway? It makes no sense to tell someone, “Jesus loves them; all they need to do is repent and ask forgiveness; they too can have eternal life instead of eternal condemnation” if they don’t think they’ve done anything that needs forgiving, have no concept of who they would be repenting to or asking forgiveness from, and don’t think there’s anything after this life anyway.
Hear my heart here. I am NOT minimizing the importance of reading the Bible and understanding Scripture. Nor am I minimizing showing the love of Christ as evangelism. However, making those kinds of statements as an excuse to not teach apologetics is a terrible misunderstanding of what apologetics is. Apologetics does not mean debating with someone over a metaphysical philosophy. Apologetics is being able to explain to someone why a God must truly exist – without just saying, “the Bible says so” because most people don’t believe the Bible to be true. Apologetics is being able to explain to someone why they have offended that God – whether they understand or agree with the concept of sin or not. Apologetics is being able to explain how only Jesus can reconcile them back to that God – whether they know anything about Jesus or not. And isn’t that the point of outreach? Through our love of others, we must explain to them who God is, who we are in relation to God’s Holiness, and what Jesus did for us.
6. “We just don’t do that here.” This is the worst excuse. It implies that simply because it hasn’t been done before in the past, it is not needed in the present. Same old, same old. Wake up, church! We are truly living in different times – not so different from the early church, but different from our parent’s generation.
The church must recognize that though our enemy is the same, his tactics have changed with this generation. I heard it best illustrated by Ken Ham so I’ll try to summarize that here. In the book of Acts, we see Paul’s missionary journeys and the model he set for establishing and growing a new church. He taught first in the synagogues using the Scriptures. With that Jewish audience, Paul was able to start with that common ground and then explain the prophecies fulfilled in Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The Jews already understood who God was and what sin was. They had been offering sacrifices as an atonement for sin for thousands of years. They just needed the understanding, that veil to be lifted from their eyes, that the final sacrificial atonement was made in the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, when Paul preached to the Gentiles he delivered quite a different message. We can see that in his speech at the Areopagus in Athens in Acts 17. That audience had no idea who God was. They worshiped all kinds of gods and were more than happy to just add another one to their list. They were so lost on that concept they even had an altar to the “unknown god.” They had no idea what sin was or that they needed to be reconciled for it. So Paul had to start his outreach to the Gentiles at a different place. Paul couldn’t pull out the Old Testament scrolls and point out prophecy. Paul had to identify who God was, the One True God. In his speech, Paul said:
“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; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man 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 would seek 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. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people 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.”
Paul made an apologetic explanation of who God was and why they should be concerned with Him. Paul knew his audience. Just a few generations ago, we were like that audience in the synagogue. Everyone tended to have a concept that there was a God and a general respect for what was in the Bible. They might not believe the God of the Bible, but if you showed them the scriptures, they trusted that as reliable and something to consider. Now, we are like that audience in Athens. We are philosophers that want to spend our time in nothing other than telling or hearing some new philosophical idea. We have many gods that we serve and don’t really care which one it may be. We have no concept of sin or why we should worry with it. We have no understanding of a righteous judgment that is to come or that we would ever be at risk for it. We are no longer living as Jews; we are living as Gentiles. And for that reason, we can no longer present the Gospel to the world as though they are Jews, needing only the final explanation of the Messiahship of Jesus. We must present the Gospel with an explanation that a God does in fact exist, that it is the Christian God, and that Jesus is the Son of God.
The Church must understand the world we are living in. Churches seem to recognize the world is different by how desperately they want to make the appearance and music of the church fit what is in the world. But we must recognize the seriousness of the doctrine that is in the world. We now need to prepare the believer to be able to present the Gospel message of Jesus to the world in the manner in which it is needed. We must add to the believer’s armor the belt of truth.