Is Apologetics Really Needed? Answering Objections to Apologetics

by Peter Jay Rasor II

Apologetics, the study and practice of defending the Christian faith, has always been a part of the historical church. In fact, it dates back to the New Testament when the Apostle Paul entered the Greek city of Athens and debated the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (see Acts 17). The Apostle Peter even commanded his readers to always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15; NASB). Defending the faith continued on after the apostolic era with Christian theologians and philosophers developing arguments for God’s existence, defending miracles, and providing good reasons to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he was raised from the dead. Even today, especially in the last several decades, Apologetics continues to thrive as apologists like William Lane Craig and the popular Lee Strobel develop and write about the arguments and reasons for faith in God and Christ.

But Apologetics has not been without its critics. Some from the Reformed wing of Christianity, like Cornelius Van Till and those who followed his line of thinking, have been especially harsh toward the practice of Apologetics. Their main contention is that unbelievers have no ability to reason appropriately and thus cannot reason to the existence of God and belief in Christ. This opinion is based upon the theological doctrine of total depravity and bondage of the will—the idea that the rationality and will of unbelievers are entirely distorted—even destroyed—by sin.

Others also object to the practice of Apologetics but for different reasons. Some in my Christian tradition (i.e., the Restoration Movement) have qualms with the enterprise. For example, the apologetic argument known as the “moral argument” has been criticized for “not working” with unbelievers.[1] One author claims she has seen apologetics replace “grace and love,” essentially becoming a practice in “name-calling” and “mud-slinging.”[2] It is simply an exercise in arguing with unbelievers. Still others view apologetics as ineffective because “God doesn’t need to be defended” or “people do not come to faith in Christ through arguments.”

These objections, however, are a misunderstanding of the objective of apologetics, and they are not good objections themselves. The following is a brief look at the more common objections to the study and practice of Apologetics. As we will see, they are not good reasons to abandon Apologetics…

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