Apologetics for Christians: Hope for Believers
Eye on Apologetics
The discipline of apologetics is multifaceted. The practice of defending the content of Christian theology in an intellectual fashion has many applications, both for non-Christians as well as Christ followers. Apologetics is generally thought to be for the former: presenting arguments for God’s existence, Jesus’ resurrection, miracles, the Bible’s reliability, etc to non-believers. But it is also for Christians too! I would argue that apologetics is not only helpful for Christians, it is necessary for Christians to have a robust walk with God.
Apologetics: The Flip-side of Theology
By definition, apologetics is defense. But you can’t engage in a defense unless you know what you are defending. That is why it is important to know what you believe. As Christians we study the Bible and interpret it in the best way we can. The resultant theology is what we defend (we may also defend our method of interpretation, or the source material which we interpret). As we engage in exegesis, hermeneutics, and the systematization of our findings we will undoubtedly be challenged by other interpreters (past and present). No one can do theology in a vacuum, in an environment isolated from history or from their personal interests, questions, life experiences, etc.
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Anyone who has engaged in bible study will attest that apologetics must be done alongside of their study. But this kind of apologetics is not what you generally think of when you imagine a dialogue between a Christian and an atheist. It is, rather, an attempt to explain why you come to your conclusions in a rational and logical manner. If you do theology and never need to explain the why behind your results then you will never go deeper than a surface level understanding.
1 Peter 3:15
Peter wrote the following in 1 Peter 3:15
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
This verse has been one of the most cited texts by apologists. It speaks the necessity of being prepared to offer a “defense” (translated from the Greek word we get “apologetics” from). A defense of what? When we are asked why we have hope, we are to offer reasons for our hope. Unbelievers do not have hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12), so they must be curious about our hope. When they inquire about the reasons for our hope, we need to be ready to defend our reasons.
But are non-believers the only people who need explanations of Christian hope? What about Christians struggling with sin? What about new believers? In different seasons of life, Christians and non-Christians alike are in need of these reasons…