Why should Christians desire to become proficient case-makers for their Christian faith? This is the implicit question that is continually posed throughout the modern day American church; which raises other theologically relevant questions. Should Christians be content with living their comfortable Christian lives in a little church bubble while avoiding substantive dialogue with individuals that differ (aka heathens!) because they feel unprepared to winsomely respond with persuasive reasons for their Christianity? Anyone who has grown up in the church or has been around their fair share of Christians will realize that many (if not most) have neglected their Biblical studies and have not been deliberate in seeking out the answers to Christianity’s tough questions.
By way of analogy, many Christians are the possums of western society. When found in a confrontational situation, they play dead till the threat passes. Once the threat has past, they will resurrect from their faked death and continue their comfy lifestyles alongside other like-minded possums. As a result of this passivity, the threats multiply without secession because they have never been challenged, resulting in an exponential growth of the threat itself. The occasional brave possum cannot halt the rise of the threat to any meaningful degree. It will take the entire pack of possums to bravely stand against the threat in order to truly change the lives of all possums for the better. In the same way, a very small fraction of well spoken articulate Christians cannot shoulder the burden of influencing a secular culture into a culture that seriously acknowledges the merits of Christianity. It will take the whole pack of Christians to be dedicated to their Biblical cause in order to overcome the seemingly terrifying challenges that face us so we can make a real difference for Christ.
Am I being too critical by making a parallel between the intellectually lazy and passive Christians and cowardly possums who fake their deaths when threatened? I do not think so. Both groups are reacting in a similar way to advance their earthly existence without too much adverse confrontation with those who threaten their cause and existence. As far as I can tell (all possums aside), there is no Biblical support for the intellectual backwardness of avoiding or even condemning Christian apologetics. Christ made it perfectly clear that His followers will face afflictions and He called us to take up our cross and bear these afflictions with open arms (Matthew 10:38). However, we must honestly ask ourselves, is studying the Word of God and tackling the challenges that serve as intellectual or emotional roadblocks for our unbelieving and skeptical friends a burdensome cross? Or is it our privilege of being ambassadors for Christ? For me, I attest to the latter.
Does everyone love studying after a busy day? Do most people like the idea of worshiping the Lord through study? While this may not sound appealing on the surface to everyone, the notion that a studious lifestyle can result in knowing the God of Creation in a more intimate fashion is enough to motivate me to spend an extra hour or two in study with the Lord. The thought that I can know my Creator through study overwhelms my soul! If God is real, as I contend that He is, why would anyone not want to take every opportunity to learn about Him on an intellectual level so that they may deepen their own relationship with Christ along with preparing themselves to communicate the Word more knowledgeably and persuasively to unbelievers? For all Christians, this should be a no-brainer!
Presently, there are people in some dark parts of the world that cannot legally have a Bible in their possession without the threat of execution. In more recent times, we have observed Christian men, women, and children being executed for nothing more than professing their faith in Jesus Christ. These amazing Christians gave their lives because Jesus is Lord and they could not reject this fact on the delusional whim of a madman. If you can, imagine how you would respond if you were put in the same life-or-death scenario when a knife is at your throat or a gun is at your head? Is your faith strong enough to withstand the threat of execution in the name of Jesus? These courageous Christians who loved Christ enough to die for Him would cringe at the notion that Christians in America do not freely and openly practice their Christian faith in the way that the Word instructs, including the practice of intellectual worship. Many of these Christians who were executed did not have access to Bibles or other Christian literature and resources; but imagine if they did. If they were passionate enough to stand in the face of death for their Christian faith, do you think they would let the prospect of intellectual challenges obstruct them from loving the Lord with all of their mind? I seriously doubt it. Let’s appreciate about how lucky we are to practice our Christianity without the threat of death, at least by comparison to how brutally persecuted our Christian brothers and sisters are in some parts of the world. Let’s not take Christian apologetics for granted as these martyred Christians would have done anything to worship the Lord in the same way that we have the liberty to in the United States.
As far as scripture is concerned, are we called by the Word to become good case-makers for the Christian faith? Are their examples of it in the scriptures? If so, what are the examples of it in the text? Let’s take a look….
1 Peter 3:15 – sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence
2 Corinthians 10:5 – 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,
Philippians 1:7 – It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.
Acts 22:1 – Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.
Acts 25:16 – I [Paul] told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges
Matthew 22:15-33 (example of apologetics with Jesus ) – Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar – 15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Marriage at the Resurrection
23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
Matthew 22:37-29 – Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
Colossians 2:8-9 – See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
Jude 3 – Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
Acts 17:24-31 (example of apologetics with Paul) – 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
While there are many more scriptures within the Bible that support the practice of apologetics within our Christian worldview, this is a good introductory Biblical apologetic for apologetics. With this in Biblical perspective, do you feel we have a legitimate reason to care about apologetics? The fact is that the scriptures directly support the practice of apologetics. Jesus and Paul are two excellent examples of the effectiveness of apologetics! If Jesus used apologetic methods in his discourse during his ministry, do you feel it might be wise to follow in the path of the One who our faith is based on? Christians who easily dismiss apologetics might not necessarily realize how apologetics was practiced in Jesus’ own ministry and how there are documented historical accounts were apologetics was successfully practiced by the apostles. Along with the scriptures that directly call for our intellectual preparedness in this way, they also illustrate the brilliant example that Christ and others have set for us.
For the sake of clarity, I would like to make one thing clear in order to avoid a common accusation (among all apologists) that I am claiming that apologetics is the be-all and end-all for achieving a healthy Christian faith. Important theological questions arise from this accusation. Is the active practice of apologetics Biblically commanded? Yes. Is apologetics a necessary factor for salvation? No. However, can winsome apologetics help lead the lost to a saving relationship with Christ and deepen one’s own relationship with the Lord? YES! The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) commands us to make disciples of all the nations. Since Christians are tasked with such a massive objective, it would be wise to prepare oneself to effectively plant the seed and pray that it comes to harvest through the Holy Spirit.
This article was not meant to be a tirade against those that do not find their spiritual strengths aligning with the practice of apologetic case-making. I have plenty of spiritual weaknesses! While I have accepted the fact that I am weak in some areas does not necessarily mean that I refuse to work on these weaknesses, especially if I am Biblically commanded to perform these tasks. For example, I have always struggled with my prayer life. Obviously, prayer is commanded in the Bible! Is it a Christian practice to pick-and-choose which parts of the Bible I want to abide by and which ones I want to ignore? As Christians, we do not have authority to pick and choose which verses we like out of the Bible. With all scripture considered as inerrant, we must nurture our spiritual gifts and ask God to give us strength where we need it the most. All things are possible through the Lord.
In closing, apologetics has enriched my relationship with the Lord more than I ever could have imagined. It has given me an understanding of the Lord that I otherwise would not have had if I was not actively pursuing my studies as an ambassador for Christ. Not only am I prepared to give a defense for the hope that I have in Christ, I am now in a position to train others to do the same. While I have grown in my passion for apologetics, I still see people rejecting this practice as irrelevant because they do not see the immediate applicability in their lives. I would encourage those that feel this way to take a closer look at what the Bible says on this matter and let that dictate how they live their lives rather than making excuses to avoid it. My prayer (and yes, in my weakness I still pray) is that God would convict you to love the Lord with your entire mind and realize that society needs an army of thinking Christians to combat the rise of secular society.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use.” – Galileo