Why is Apologetics so Important?
by Maryann Spikes
All the polls in the past few years show a rapid increase in those who have left their religion, and a rapid decrease in church attendance. Robert Putnam and David Campbell presented research showing "young Americans are dropping out of religion at an alarming rate of five to six times the historic rate (30 to 40 percent have no religion today, versus 5 to 10 percent a generation ago)" (American Grace). This is gleaned from a November 2010 Christianity Today article entitled “The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church” wherein Drew Dyck talks about the results of his interviews with those who leave the church. He writes:
“Almost to a person, the leavers with whom I spoke recalled that, before leaving the faith, they were regularly shut down when they expressed doubts. Some were ridiculed in front of peers for asking "insolent questions." …
“At the 2008 American Sociological Association meeting, scholars from the University of Connecticut and Oregon State University reported that "the most frequently mentioned role of Christians in de-conversion was in amplifying existing doubt." De-converts reported "sharing their burgeoning doubts with a Christian friend or family member only to receive trite, unhelpful answers."”
My dad got his questions answered at seminary and my mom got her questions answered by my dad when they were dating, but he could not answer my questions. I eventually became an atheist until God broke through to me starting September 22, 2005. This breaking through caused me to realize that there had to be answers to my questions that would strengthen the faith of those with doubts, and thus began my interest in apologetics. That isn’t to say that I became interested in studying great ways to apologize.
What is apologetics, anyway?
Apologetics is simply the rational defense of the Christian faith, or as William Lane Craig puts it, “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith,” (Reasonable Faith, p. 15). It involves making the case for Christianity, like providing historical evidence for the resurrection, and answering objections to Christianity, like the problem of evil. It comes from the Greek word apologia, which means defense, as in a court of law.
Is it biblical?
R.C. Sproul writes that “the apologist echoes the work of the apostles who did not ask people to respond to Christ in blind faith. The apostolic testimony to Christ was buttressed both by rational argument and empirical evidence.” Ratio Christi’s website points out that “Paul is seen reasoning with those he encountered concerning the gospel: ‘So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God fearing Gentiles and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be present.’ (Acts 17:17) …Paul had done this with such consistency that it became his custom: ‘And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence.’ (Acts 17:2-3)” On page 15 of “On Guard” William Lane Craig notes that Paul “says all men can know that God exists (Rom. 1:20). Paul also appealed to eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ resurrection to show further that Christianity is true (1 Cor. 15:3-8).”
Rather than shutting someone down who asks a question or expresses a doubt about Christianity, Scripture would have us do apologetics. Glenn Miller notes that, “1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give every man an answer (apologia), a reason for the hope that is within us. 2 Timothy 2:25 [talks about] correcting those who are in opposition. Jude 3 [says to] earnestly contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Colossians 4:6 [says] you will know how you should answer each one. Phil. 1:16 [says] I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. Titus 1:9 [says] a leader is to be able ‘to exhort and convict those who contradict.’” William Lane Craig signed my copy of “On Guard” with 1 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Did Jesus ever do apologetics?
Christ himself used apologetics, as pointed out on Ratio Christi’s website, when “Jesus silenced the Sadducees in their attempts to discredit the resurrection by laying out a reasonable argument from the scriptures [Matthew 22:30-32]…reasoned with [the Pharisees] to the only possible conclusion; Jesus is both fully God and fully man [Matthew 22:37-36]…gave evidence of His divine nature to the doubting Pharisees and scribes by supporting the power of His words to forgive a paralytic by healing him with His words, ‘so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ (Luke 5:18-26).” Tim Keller points out in “The Reason for God” that Jesus responded to Thomas’ request for more evidence by supplying it, and to another doubting man he responds by blessing him and healing his son (Mark 9:24). Eric Chabot, in his article Do Christians Get Brownie Points For Being Ignorant? Is Anti-Intellectualism Biblical?, notes that when John the Baptist asked Jesus from prison, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt. 11:3)—Jesus did not reply, “You must have faith; suppress your doubts.” He replied “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matt. 11:4-6; Luke 7:22). “Jesus’ works of healing and teaching are meant to serve as positive evidence of His messianic identity, because they fulfill the messianic predictions of the Hebrew Scriptures…
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