Do we really need to teach apologetics in the church?

by Brad Cooper

“Do we really need to teach apologetics in the church?” Asking this question is like asking:

*Do we really need to obey the commands of Scripture?

*Are we obligated to follow the example of Christ?

*Should we follow the example of the apostles and other New Testament leaders?

*Do we need the Bible?

If we are Christians, the obvious answer to all of these is an emphatic “YES!” Let me show you the connection.

1) “Do we really need to obey the commands of Scripture?” In 1 Peter 3:15, we are given the command to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,….” The Greek word that is used in this verse (apologia) is the word for preparing a legal defense for a court of law (1). This is what we are commanded to do in defending the Gospel–prepare a reasonable defense of what we believe. Therefore, part of the job of the church is to equip people to do just that.

2) “Are we obligated to follow the example of Christ?” Jesus constantly used apologetics in declaring himself to be the Messiah and in defending his message. He never expected people to believe something as outrageous as the idea that he is God in the flesh without some clear evidence that it is so. Imagine if I were to declare that I was God. Would you simply believe it because I said so? Of course not. Notice how Jesus responds to those with legitimate questions about who he is. He points to the evidence:

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“Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.'” (emphasis mine; John 14:9-11; also 5:36; 10:25, 37-38).

“When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.'” (emphasis mine; Matthew 11:2-5)

We see here that Jesus provided tangible evidence of his Messiahship even to those who knew him best. (Also, see John 20:24-29.)

3) “Should we follow the example of the apostles and other New Testament leaders?” The book of Acts makes it clear that apologetics was an emphasis among all those who first declared the Good News. Rather than appealing to their hearers’ desires through false promises, they declared the difficult truth of repentance and following Christ and backed up their preaching by proving that Jesus is the Messiah…

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To Be Sure: Do we really need to teach apologetics in the church?