The Role of Apologetics in the Church
by Dave Jenkins
Apologetics has in recent years become very popular. With that popularity comes a certain level of responsibility. For my own part I’ve joined that community out of necessity because I live in an area of the world in the Pacific Northwest that is very religious. In the Boise, Idaho area the predominant religious preference is Mormonism, Catholic and Jehovah Witness. Apologetics within this context has become an important means God is using to open the eyes of many people. Right across from my house I have neighbors who are Mormons and atheists. Yet the role of Apologetics is not limited to my efforts to reach my neighbors. Apologetics has a role in the Church at large because she is called to proclaim the Gospel. Since apologetics is concerned with answering the questions, “What does Christianity believe?” and “Why does it matter?”, engaging in apologetics is a function for the entire body of Christ.
The goal of Apologetics is to give a reason “for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15) and to do so with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Apologetics has a long and storied history in the Church. From Polycarp, to Irenaeus, to Augustine, to Calvin, to Luther, as well as modern apologists such as Dr. James White among many others, apologetics has been a means the Lord has used in the life of His people to bring clarity to what we
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believe and why it matters to a watching world. Additionally, God has used controversy in the life of the Church to bring clarity to what we believe. This is how the various creeds and confessions of faith came into being. As you can see, through the pursuit of apologetics, God has used very ordinary men and women in extraordinary ways as a testament to the truthfulness of His Word for His glory.
So what is the role of Apologetics in the Church? Is it just for individuals to write creeds, confessions, papers, and books? Or is it to engage in debates, lectures and heated conversation? I think it is all of the above grounded in the authorative and sufficient Word of God. Without grounding our thinking in the Word, we will not be able to help anyone. Biblical apologetics is first and foremost concerned with being Word-centered with a concerted focus on what the Bible teaches. A secret service agent doesn’t spend their time studying fraudulent dollars but rather they spend their time studying the authentic dollar bill in order to spot the fake…