How Apologetics and Evangelism Work Together
by Kiefer Owens
The biblical mandate for using apologetics in evangelism is found 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” (cf. Jude 3; 2 Cor. 10:5). As Peter teaches, we should be prepared to provide intellectual justification for the good story of Jesus Christ as we share it with those who do not know him. Such a practice involves giving positive reasons to believe the Christian worldview and removing intellectual barriers to it.
The use of Christian apologetics in evangelism was first employed by none other than Jesus and the apostles. Jesus appealed to fulfilled prophecy, miracles, and his resurrection to back up his own radical personal claims (Luke 24:25-27; John 14:11; Matt. 12:38-42). The apostles appealed to evidences such as these in their witnessing as well (Acts 17:2-4; 2 Corin. 10:5; John 20:31). The use of apologetics by the apostles is best seen in the Book of Acts, which contains no less than 39 passages where the first evangelists provided intellectual support for the claims they made about Jesus.
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Yet despite this biblical support for apologetics, there are four reasons often given by Christians why it should not be used in evangelism. These objections are considered and answered below.
Objection #1: “Apologetics leads to quarreling.”
The worry here is that dialogue over the truthfulness of Christianity cannot be had without it leading to anger and conflict. But Paul in 2 Timothy 2:24 says that this can be done, when he states that the Lord’s servant “must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone…correcting his opponents with gentleness.” 1 Peter 3:15 also says that apologetics should be done with “gentleness and respect.” Thus, it need not lead to quarreling.
Objection #2: “Trust in the Holy Spirit, not arguments; no one can be argued into the kingdom.”
This objection has an element of truth to it, as no one is saved by a rational presentation of the gospel. But this misunderstands the role of apologetics, which is a method of evangelism and thus a potential means by which the Holy Spirit draws a person to God. In these terms, no one is saved by a John Piper sermon, or the sharing of one’s personal Christian testimony, but these can likewise be used by the Holy Spirit to bring a person to God. The same is true of a rational presentation of the gospel…