Why We Study Apologetics

“The problem is not the absence of evidence, but the suppression of it.” – Ravi Zacharias

Earlier I wrote about how it is every Christian’s responsibility to know how to teach the Bible and counsel with the Bible. Now, I think it is a good idea to talk about the importance of apologetics, something else that every Christian has the responsibility to know. Peter tells us,

“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,” and Jude tells us to “contend for the faith.” 1 Peter 3:15, Jude 3. 

A Definition

Using a definition from the New Oxford American Dictionary, apologetics are “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.” When we use apologetics for Christianity we are using it in a way that protects biblical theology from external attacks by confirming biblical history and doctrine through reasoned revelation of Scripture. Apologetics are important to study and know for several reasons. It helps us understand why we believe what we believe. Apologetics is largely designed to enable us to defend our faith in the face of attack, but it also strengthens and encourages our own faith. It is a tool that we can use to point people to the salvation that is available through Christ.

Studying apologetics helps us biblically understand and answer questions such as “how can God be good and loving and just with so much evil in the world?” It also gives us an understanding of many other theological, moral and scientific situations in life and culture, such as why Christians do not believe in doctrines such as reincarnation; why Christians stand against things like abortion, abuse and pornography; even how we can use science to prove the great flood was a real historical event.

Through careful study, we can learn places in the Bible that give us the answers to these problems so that we can live lives more glorifying to God, point others to Christ through a reasoned defense of our faith, all the while gently, compassionately, and truthfully, upholding the truth of God’s Word.

We will now look in depth at the reasons why we should study apologetics. They were already mentioned in this introduction, but it would be good to look at them in more detail. 

1 – We Study Apologetics So We Can Know What We Believe and Why We Believe It

If they are honest, everybody will admit that they have asked themselves “is this Jesus Christ really the only way to salvation? Is this religion really true?” This is a serious matter and it is important to look into the facts and ask the difficult questions: Is the Bible actually inerrant and true? Do history and science contradict the Bible? How can I know that what I am placing my faith in is right? These questions are only a few that people ask.

The inerrancy of Scripture has been the subject of debate for hundreds and hundreds of years. Examining some things can give us a quick (not exhaustive) look at how we can know the Bible is trustworthy. To begin with, the Bible was written by over 40 different authors from very different walks of life including shepherds, priests, kings, a tax collector, a doctor, and fishermen, along a span of over 1000 years, but yet it is all one unified story. When was the last time a mere human book was able to accomplish that? Further, there are predictive prophecies in the Bible that documented history affirms have come true, such as the destruction of the temple that Jesus predicted to his disciples. We can do a quick contrast of some religious texts to show the Bible’s reliability. The Hindu Vedas, Book of Mormon, and Qur’an contain no predictive prophecy at all.

It was briefly mentioned in the above paragraph that there is historical proof that says the Bible is true. There have been archaeological discoveries that have affirmed the accuracy of descriptions given in the Bible. There are documents by non-Christians about a man named Jesus Who did mighty works and died on a cross, written in the same time period as, and tell of events in a manner consistent with, the biblical account. There is no time to get into specifics in this short introductory document, but later on we will look at the historical reliability of the Bible in far greater detail.

Why devote your life to, and place your hope of eternity in, a religion that cannot provide trustworthy counsel to life’s greatest questions without answers riddled with inconsistencies? The good news is that since the God of the Bible is a just and truthful God, our faith is cemented that same righteous love and truth. There are historical, scientific, theological and philosophical reasons why the Bible is completely without error and why Christianity is the world’s only true religion. As a Christian, you can be encouraged by the assurance that you have not just the greatest answers out of many, but the only true and correct answers available. This leads us into the second reason apologetics is important to study.

2 – We Study Apologetics for Encouragement and Hope

It may seem strange that a topic devoted to defending against external attacks would also be good for encouragement of the one standing in defense, but the defending of the faith and the encouragement of the defender go together. We can be encouraged as believers by looking into apologetics because, as mentioned above in point 1, we have the only true answer to the problems people are facing. Since the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, it is true in all that it teaches and speaks about, itself being the standard of truth against which every other teaching or opinion must be tested and compared. This is how apologetics provides encouragement and hope to a believer. When you study apologetics, you are studying the complexities and areas of your faith that may not immediately be apparent in the biblical text but are biblical altogether. The more you learn about apologetics, you will also see the Bible is trustworthy and sufficient for everything in life, how Christianity provides the answers to your own and the rest of the world’s big questions concerning faith. This will certainly encourage you to live out a life glorifying to God and give you hope in even the darkest of situations. 

Apologetics can also be used as a tool to sharpen the faith of a believer. Maybe you yourself or a brother or sister in Christ has a question about your faith or the Bible that apologetics can answer. Knowing how to apply these truths can help you encourage your brother or sister by providing them with biblical counsel concerning what they are asking. Maybe neither of you knows the answer, and you can figure it out by studying the Bible together or looking into biblical resources provided by faithful teachers and authors. In this way apologetics can help you live out your faith with other people, something that we need to do as followers of Christ.

It may seem strange that a topic devoted to defending against external attacks would also be good for encouragement of the one standing in defense, but the defending of the faith and the encouragement of the defender go together. We can be encouraged as believers by looking into apologetics because, as mentioned above in point 1, we have the only true answer to the problems people are facing. Since the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, it is true in all that it teaches and speaks about, itself being the standard of truth against which every other teaching or opinion must be tested and compared. This is how apologetics provides encouragement and hope to a believer. When you study apologetics, you are studying the complexities and areas of your faith that may not immediately be apparent in the biblical text but are biblical altogether. The more you learn about apologetics, you will also see the Bible is trustworthy and sufficient for everything in life, how Christianity provides the answers to your own and the rest of the world’s big questions concerning faith. This will certainly encourage you to live out a life glorifying to God and give you hope in even the darkest of situations. 

Apologetics can also be used as a tool to sharpen the faith of a believer. Maybe you yourself or a brother or sister in Christ has a question about your faith or the Bible that apologetics can answer. Knowing how to apply these truths can help you encourage your brother or sister by providing them with biblical counsel concerning what they are asking. Maybe neither of you knows the answer, and you can figure it out by studying the Bible together or looking into biblical resources provided by faithful teachers and authors. In this way apologetics can help you live out your faith with other people, something that we need to do as followers of Christ.

Apologetics also helps believers by creating a theological depth as you learn and apply its principles. It is not simply defending facts about the Bible, but you are learning a good deal of biblical theology and how it applies to various situations in life when you study apologetics. For instance, consider the old theological and philosophical problem of evil and injustice in the world mentioned above. As a Christian, when you learn how the Bible addresses this issue you can cling to those truths about God no matter the situation. Regardless if it is something in your own life or the next time there is a murder down Houston’s streets, you have the truth, and that truth will never change.

All of these realizations are a great cornerstone for the believer, and should serve as hope and encouragement in our walk as we proclaim these truths to the lost. 

3 – We Study Apologetics to Point Lost People to Christ

It should be noted that apologetics should not be used as a tool to win an argument or be a jerk to people who have questions, even accusing and slanderous ones, about Christianity. It would be easy to make apologetics simply about knowing the argument and being able to win. The point of apologetics is not to convince people that Christianity is right, but to point them to Christ while defending your faith. It is important to know the biblical response to the issue of salvation for lost people so that we can lovingly give them the truths of God’s Word. Our hope is that they will realize Jesus Christ is the only way, truth and life and thus surrender their lives to Him.

The focus of apologetics should be mission oriented, desiring to point people to Christ and give them the gospel. In fact, this should always be the objective of our interaction with the lost. Apologetics should not merely be about knowing the facts. There is a very real danger of being the Christian who accurately defends the truths of Scripture but does it in an unloving way. If you respond to somebody with anger or a prideful objective of wanting to be right, you could create a stumbling block to the foot of the cross regardless of how well you could explain the answer. In that case, you may have done more harm than good. We love people as Christ loves them, with gentleness, patience, compassion and truth. We are to never compromise the truth, regardless if they will find it offensive or not and regardless if it is easy to accept and understand or not. But we are to present the truth in love.

We should also ensure that whenever we are relating to the lost we need to make sure that we are rightly representing God. When we read Scripture, we learn that God’s primary desire is to be glorified, so our primary focus should be to give Him glory. The very reason apologetics exists is because of false accusations and beliefs about God. Of course, God does not need us to defend Him as if He is unable, but we have an obligation as followers of Christ to uphold the truth of His Word. Because we love God, we do not want to misrepresent Him or have other people holding false beliefs about Him. Clinging to untruth is not good for them, nor does it glorify God. In that vein, we should make every effort to accurately handle the Word of God, reflecting His character as He has intended. If a lost person believes something that is false about God and we know the truth, but refuse to give it to them, we are turning a blind eye to the consequences of their decision. There are many false beliefs about God in the world, and it would be inexcusable if we had an opportunity to uphold the truth but failed to do so. If we truly believe the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), it is our responsibility and should be our desire to make every effort to lead a lost person to the foot of the cross. That will certainly bring glory to God.

Other Considerations

I have heard other Christians say, and I myself have at times thought, that apologetics is very dry and somewhat boring. To be sure, it can take a lot of time and work to get familiar with the facts and get the answers to all of the different questions that come up when dealing with apologetics. But I encourage everyone to learn and be well educated in this matter. I hope there are conversations you have with people where you are able to present and defend the truth of the gospel to others, and it is your responsibility to know how.

I would also encourage you to prayerfully engage in apologetics. It is unlikely that someone who questions the Christian faith will immediately accept your reasons for why you believe. We should always be praying for the lost, and we should especially be praying for people that God has placed within our day-to-day lives that we have opportunity to share with. Be compassionate, patient, gracious, truthful, loving, and prayerful when you practice apologetics.

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