by Daniel Richardson
Apologetics is defense. The word may be used more generally, but it also carries the specific connotation of defending the faith. There is such a thing as Christian apologetics.
Why does Christian apologetics exist? The text most often cited to defend the defense of the faith is 1 Peter 3:15. 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...
This particular text written by Peter came into existence, not in the midst of deep and tiring academic debates, but rather in the context of an emerging Christianity that was quite bloody. Just as Jesus was crucified, so his early followers often suffered, especially under the Roman emperor Nero. Peter was eventually crucified for following Jesus; it is believed that he asked to be crucified upside down because he considered himself unworthy to be crucified the same way as his Lord. Christians were being called on to give an account, by both Jews and gentiles, for the hope that they had, and often their very lives were at stake.
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It is an entirely reasonable question to ask someone, "Why do you believe what you believe?" That is also an entirely reasonable question to ask yourself. For the Christian, I believe that 1 Peter 3:15 means that our answer should not simply be, "just cause I do." Or, "cause my parents did." If someone asks you why you have hope, don't give them just a blank stare. For the occasional person who is truly seeking and wondering if there is anything to this faith beyond some nice metaphors and a social club, we owe it to them to have a better answer. When the difficulties of life would bring us doubts, we owe it to ourselves to really examine things, instead of ignoring the difficult questions by drowning them out with chatter and noise.
To have doubts without dealing with them, acknowledging them, looking them in the face is like having a relative die, ignoring it, and stuffing her in the closet. Without a proper burial (or without a resurrection), grandma is going to start smelling, and febreeze ain't gonna cut it. To ignore the stench is denial, but for many people it is just business as usual. "Don't make me think too hard or bother with whether this stuff is actually true. Just give me some good singing on Sunday and I'm happy…"
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