by Michael Ramsden
The trouble with most theologians,” said one writer, “is that they go down deeper, stay down longer and come up murkier than anyone else I know.” Maybe, as you read this, that sentiment expresses your own feelings about apologetics. However, apologetics is not about injecting a dose of confusion into the Christian Gospel to try and make it sound more profound. It is about communicating the profundity of the Gospel so that it removes the confusion surrounding it.
Apologetics is really about evangelism. The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which literally means a reasoned defense. The apostle Paul uses the word to describe his own ministry, when in Philippians he states that he is appointed for the defense and confirmation of the Gospel. We also find apologia used in 1 Peter, when a command is given that we should always be prepared to give an answer (apologia) for the reason for the hope that we have. Clearly, both Peter and Paul are thinking of evangelism in these contexts.
Unfortunately, however, apologetics has come to be defined in such a way that to most people it means little more than engaging in abstract philosophical arguments, divorced from the reality of life. Yet apologetics is not about dry intellectualization of the Gospel. For others, the word seems to imply apologizing, as if Christians should say they were sorry for believing in Christ. Yet apologetics is not about that either.
The Truth About Apologetics
So what do we mean when we talk about apologetics? The letter of 1 Peter is addressed to the wider church, which is suffering under persecution. The letter is a passionate one. Its readers are exhorted to lead holy and obedient lives, an endeavour made possible because of the new birth that has
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occurred in their lives through the living word of God. (1 Pet 1:17-24). Every chapter contains practical instruction as to how we should live and what attitude we should adopt. In the midst of all of this instruction comes a very clear command—to set apart Christ as Lord of our hearts and to be prepared to give an apologetic for the hope that we have (chapter 3:15). What then can we learn from this brief text about apologetics?
Firstly, the lordship of Christ needs to be a settled factor in our lives. The term “heart” does not just refer to the seat of our feelings, but also of our thoughts. Every part of us needs to be under the authority of, and obedient to, Christ.
The book of James speaks of the double-minded man. This turn of phrase does not mean to be twofaced, it means to try to look in two different directions, to be caught between two opinions and not have made a commitment either way. Such a person is simply swept along by the tide, tossed backward and forward by the ever-changing winds of public opinion. In contrast, the man who asks in faith is stable, and his prayers for wisdom are effective. The connotation is of someone who has been persuaded and has put his trust into that which is truthful.
The starting point for giving an apologetic, therefore, is not possessing a top-notch education or holding a proliferation of theological qualifications. It is accepting Christ’s Lordship in all areas of our lives including our thinking. If we are still caught in two minds, if we are not convinced of the veracity of the Gospel, we will never be able to develop an effective apologetic for the hope that we have…