Apologetics: An Important Spiritual Discipline for Our Times
by Dr. Alex McFarland
Director for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at the Christian Worldview Center of North Greenville University
Christian thinker G. K. Chesterton observed in 1933 that while it is important to win the unsaved to Christianity, leaders must increasingly endeavor to "convert the Christians to Christianity."
Chesterton’s remark was a timeless reminder that the church must be ever dedicated in its duty to pass on biblical truth to rising generations.
Today more belief systems than ever are competing for the attention of people. Because of this, I believe it is vital for churches to incorporate apologetics and worldview content into their ministries.
"Worldview" refers to what a person believes. "Apologetics" is all about why one believes the things he believes. Individuals within the church—and those on the outside possibly looking in—need to learn about both.
The Greek word for apologetics appears several times in the Bible. Usually translated as "answer" and "reason," apologia means "a defense." A few of the categories of Christian apologetics include the following: (1) textual apologetics—defending the trustworthiness of the Bible and then presenting the content of what it says; (2) evidence-based apologetics—presenting external data that provide objective confirmation of the Christian faith (such as historical or scientific facts); and (3) philosophical apologetics—exposing the flawed reasoning behind popular arguments against Christianity.
Much has been written about the decades-long erosion of Christianity in America and the West. Cultural and spiritual challengers to Christianity are even causing some church members to ponder how Christianity stacks up against competing beliefs. Statements like "You’ve-got-your-truth-and-I’ve-got-mine," or "Jesus was just one of many great spiritual leaders" have become axiomatic in our culture. Knowledge of apologetics helps both Christians and non-Christians understand why the claims of Christianity are to be preferred rather than those of some other belief system.
The rise of secular humanism throughout the world is also a reminder of the need for apologetics. Why not just embrace the atheism insisted on by books like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion? The answer is multifaceted. But Christianity is to be believed and followed because it is true. In a world of sincerely held opinions, Christianity comes via historical (yet personally relevant) facts.
Protecting Those Who Are Spiritually Vulnerable
A well-circulated YouTube video showed some footage from Africa in which a baby water buffalo was rescued from the mouths of three hungry lions. The people whose camcorder captured this could be heard cheering as one adult water buffalo courageously fought off the lions. The video reminded me that within the world are predators, prey, and protectors.
Believers need to be equipped for the intellectual questions and spiritual challenges that inevitably come. Apologetics content helps by demonstrating that Christianity is credible, reasonable, and relevant.
Some churches seem to shy away from teaching apologetics, possibly assuming that their people will not understand it or that it is a pursuit for just the super intelligent. To such sentiments, I respectfully object! For nearly 20 years I have witnessed people of all ages and economic strata react to apologetics content with enthusiasm and appreciation…
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