Dumping the Term: “Christian Apologist”
by J Warner Wallace
Most of us who have taken the time to defend what we believe as Christians are familiar with the term, “apologetics”. It comes from a Greek word used by Christian authors: ἀπολογία (apologia). This word appears seventeen times in the New Testament, as either a noun or a verb. Most often, some form of the expression “make a defense” can be substituted for the term. Jesus, for example, tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will help them “make a defense” (apologia):
But when they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you should make your defense or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you must say.”
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The problem is that our culture has attached specific connotations to the terms that seem to hurt and inhibit our efforts. “Apologetics” sounds like we have something to apologize for, and “Making a Defense” sounds like we’re being defensive! It’s time to change our terminology while remaining true to the definitions used in Scripture. I suggest we stop using the term “apologetics” and stop using the expression, “making a defense”. Instead, let’s use the expression “making a case”. As it turns out, every instance where the term ἀπολογία appears in scripture reads accurately if some form of the expression, “make a case” is substituted (try it for yourself in Luke 12:11). When we engage skeptics about the Christian Worldview, we are “making a case” for what we believe and acting as “Christian Case Makers”.
“Case Making” provides us with several sources of inspiration to help us understand what we are doing and how we ought to do it, and we can look to more than other Christian “apologists” for direction if we start to adjust our thinking in the direction of “case making”. Now it’s easier to analogize the process to what cold case detectives do every day
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