The Christian Apologetics Mandate
by Kenneth Samples
The Greek word apologia (Greek: ἀπολογία) is the root for the English term “apologetics.” Apologia and its root forms are found in the New Testament (Acts 26:2; Romans 1:20; Philippians 1:7, 16), with 1 Peter 3:15 revealing the mandate imploring Christians to be ready to explain and defend their faith. Throughout Christian history, apologetics became known as the enterprise by which apologists sought to give a reasoned defense of the truth of Christianity. Today, Christian apologetics involves the use of various disciplines to defend the faith, including the biblical, doctrinal, philosophical, historical, literary, and scientific fields.
In more technical terms, apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that seeks to provide rational justification for the truth claims of Christianity.1 For 20 centuries, Christian scholars and leaders have engaged in a fourfold defense of the faith by (1) presenting and clarifying the central truth claims of Christianity, (2) offering clear and compelling positive evidence for accepting Christian truth, (3) answering people’s questions and objections concerning the faith, and (4) providing a penetrating critique and refutation of alternative non-Christian systems of thought.2
This type of apologetic endeavor remains as important today as at any time in Christian history. And it is imperative that believers look to Scripture and church history to instruct them in the performance of this critical task. Fortunately, the apostle Peter—the central preacher in the primitive Christian church—offers such guidance in his first epistle.
Since 1 Peter 3:15 contains the official New Testament order or commission to do apologetics, let’s cite the passage and explore its meaning in some detail…