6 Principles of Apologetics
We live in a rapidly changing culture and world. Information is traveling faster than ever before. Ideas spread more quickly, global "influencers" appear seemingly out of nowhere, more media and information is being created than ever before. With the introduction of AI, information will only flow more quickly to our devices and our minds. All of these influences have a profound effect on faith, reason, and spirituality.
How should Christians respond to this new revolution in information? We must be prepared to give a REASON or DEFENSE for the hope that we have in us.
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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 -1 Peter 3:15
The word in this passage for "make a defense" is apologia from which we get the English word "apologetics." I would define apologetics as:
The reasonable or intellectual defense of Christianity for the purpose of bringing unbelievers to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
This post in particular will serve to give six primary principles for Christian apologetics that should drive our efforts to give an answer for our hope in Jesus. If you are looking for more apologetically oriented posts you can read more here.
1. Evangelistic Purpose
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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 (1 Peter 3:15).
Ultimately, the primary reason for giving a defense is to point people towards Jesus. We want to help remove any barriers to faith in others' lives as we carry a message of hope to the world! The truth that God loves them, and sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for their sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8, Romans 6:23). We are not trying to win an argument or demonstrate our intellectual superiority. We are seeking to carry the gospel, the good news of Jesus and give good reasons to believe in Him.
2. Dependence on God
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (John 6:44).
This is good news. Results are not dependent upon the apologist. It doesn't all depend upon you! This should take the pressure off as we seek to share reasons for our faith. Ultimately, eyes being opened to faith and the bringing forth of a fruit of repentance is something God does! For this reason, the work of an apologist is not just in knowing what to say but how much he or she prays.
The work of an apologist is not just in knowing what to say but how much he or she prays.
3. The Sufficiency of Scripture
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Never underestimate the power of God's Word, even to the person that doesn't believe it. I am not saying here to just walk around saying only "The Bible says..." to a post-Christian culture. But using God's truth is one of the most effective things you can do. Don't just say, "Look at the complexity of the universe! How could all of this exist without a Creator?" Instead, use God's Word, "The heavens declare the glory of God! (Psalm 19:1)." The Word of God does not return void (Isaiah 55:11), it penetrates into hearts. Don't think that Christian apologetics means leaving the Bible at the door; it is your greatest weapon.
4. Cultural Intelligence and Discernment
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16).
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious." (Acts 17:22)
In this account, we see that the apostle Paul, even as a Jewish Christian, has a great awareness of the culture he is ministering to. He seeks to understand the language, beliefs, and values as he shares the hope of Jesus. A wise apologist knows his audience and studies the culture around him. We should seek to be like the sons of Issachar who "understood the times" (1 Chronicles 12:32). Too many well-meaning Christians burn bridges in their witness because they use words or wrongly characterize or represent an idea or person in conversations with non-believers. Let's understand the world around us so that we can speak more directly to its greatest needs, values, and mistruths.
5. The Character of the Apologist
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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 (1 Peter 3:15 (See also 1 Peter 3:8-9; 16-17).
The whole context of this passage on making a defense is godly living in an ungodly culture that is rejecting you for your faith. What an amazing concept for 21st century Christianity that increasingly finds itself pushed to the margins of culture and society! For this reason, our lives are inseparable from our message. This is exactly what Jesus said after calling us to be the "the light of the world." His desire was that the world might see "your good works" (See Matthew 5:12-16). Don't let your life damage the message of Jesus.
Remember that even how we say what we say is important. Give an answer "with gentleness and respect." We can say all the right things but in the wrong way and do more damage than good. Demonstrate love and compassion even as you give a defense for your faith.
6. The Reality of Doubt
Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire (Jude 21-23).
Have mercy on those who doubt. I believe everyone has doubts at one time or another. This is one of the reasons apologetics is so important, because if we let doubts fester they become unbelief.
If we let doubts fester they become unbelief.
We must respond to doubt with truth. According to Barna, almost three quarters of Christians have experienced a prolonged period of time where they doubted their faith. This means we must cultivate an apologetic environment that seeks to give "a reason for the hope that is in [us]."
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27)
In a world filled with doubt, let us as the church boldly proclaim and live the truth. Let us always be prepared to give a defense for the hope that we have.
Read more articles by Phil on Apologetics HERE.