The Biblical Basis for Apologetics
guest post by Douglas Groothuis
(Excerpt from Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith [InterVarsity, 2011])
Is the Christian worldview true and rational? Is it worth believing and living out? Within these questions resides the discipline of Christian apologetics. It offers answers based on rational arguments, yet these arguments can never be divorced from the apologist’s personal character. Therefore, apologetics is necessarily both theoretical and personal, both intellectual and relational. Along with the method of the apologetic argument comes the manner of the apologist himself. Both are equally vital, as we will see.
The word “apologetics” is often used today in a derogatory way to mean a biased and belligerent advocacy of an indefensible position. Yet the idea of presenting a credible “apology” for a legitimate position or viewpoint has a long and rich history. For example, the American founders presented an apology (or apologetic) for what would become the American form of government in The Federalist Papers. These learned and eloquent apologists explained and rationally defended a political perspective in the face of objections. An apologist, then, is a defender and an advocate for a particular position. There are apologists aplenty for all manner of religion and irreligion.
Christian apologetics is the rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true, rationally compelling, and existentially or
subjectively engaging. The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which can be translated as “defense” or “vindication.” In the days of the New Testament “an apologia was a formal courtroom defense of something (2 Timothy 4:16).” The word, in either the noun form apologia or the verb form apologeoma, appears eight times in the New Testament (Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Philippians 1:7, 16; 2 Timothy 4:16; 1 Peter 3:15). The term is used specifically for a rational defense of the gospel in three texts: Philippians 1:7, 16 and most famously in 1 Peter 3:15-16.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Because Jesus, echoing the Hebrew Scriptures, affirmed that we should love God with all of our being, including our minds (Matthew 22:37-39), believers should defend God’s truth when it is assailed. Jesus himself did just this throughout his ministry. He was an apologist and a philosopher, although these categories are rarely applied to him today.