Understanding the “Who” of Apologetics: Knowing and making known the grace of God
by Dave Jenkins
Apologetics has a long and esteemed position in the history of the Church. Fundamentally, apologetics is concerned with the question, “What do we believe and why does it matters?” It does this through contending, defending, and explaining what biblical Christianity is and why it matters. Put another way, apologetics is the defense and application of a biblical worldview to the questions of life. However, apologetics isn’t important solely because of those facts I just stated. It is important because it focuses on seeing issues not through the lens of personal opinion, but rather through a biblical worldview centered on explaining what the Bible teaches about the matter at hand. Understanding apologetics and its purpose will reveal that the Apostle Paul engaged in apologetics in his epistles in an effort to help his readers have a fully orbed understanding of the Gospel.
The use of apologetics is important both to the Church and for the Church’s witness. When reading various articles and books, I get the sense that authors think apologetics is important only in so far as the defense of the Gospel. One can rightly assert that is part of apologetics, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Additionally, many argue for apologetics only to engage certain issues of the faith. While we need specialists in certain areas, we also need to have a holistic understanding of how apologetics relates not to engaging those who oppose biblical truth outside the walls of the church, but also how apologetics is needed in response to those in the Church who oppose biblical Christianity. Peter writes about such people in 2 Peter 2:1, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” Notice what he says here, specifically that “false prophets also arose among the people”.
Note that the people he is talking about in this passage are not outsiders, conversely, they were insiders. They were already in the church causing division and teaching “destructive heresies”. Paul wrote Galatians to deal with Judaizers in the church who were being destructive to the early church. 1 John was written to deal with Gnostics. I could go on and on with additional examples, but the point is simply that our apologetical efforts need to be both inward and outward in focus and scope. It must be inward to address heresy and defend the faith and outward to explain the biblical worldview and defend against attacks. All of this is because of the Gospel.
The Gospel explains the reason why apologetics is important. Many think they need to defend the message of the Gospel. I want to caution that is not the ultimate purpose of apologetics. The Gospel can defend itself for it is the power of God. We defend the Gospel not because we can, but because we’re called to do so and understanding that distinction is vital…