In Defense of the Faith
1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
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,
Peter makes a strong statement for the need for strong apologetics in the church and in the life of the Christian. Apologetics is the art of defending the faith against those who question and attack it. The word apologetics comes from the word apology. This can be somewhat confusing because we should never have to apologize for our faith in the popular sense of the word. Instead, think of the word apology, as used in apologetics, to mean “an explanation.” Isn’t that what we do when we apologize to someone? Don’t we try to offer an explanation for our behavior? In the same way, Christian apologetics seeks to offer a reasonable explanation for our belief in God and Christ and the Bible.
Apologetics has been a love of mine going back to my teenage years. I grew up around all things church. In fact, there has never been a time in my life when I was not associated with God’s people. But as I moved through my teenage years I began to ask a lot of questions. No one wants to be fooled and I didn’t want to believe everything I’d always been taught just because it was “passed down” to me. I think most people go through a phase like this. So I began to ask questions and seek out the answers. I did not know it at the time but I was embarking upon an apologetic journey. I was looking for answers as to why I believed what I believed. In the end I came back to where I had started, but the difference was that I became convinced because I had sought the answers out for myself.
A famous preacher once said, “There comes a time in a man’s life when his religion must become his own.” This is the journey of apologetics.
So much of what we do in church is communicate content. We focus on the “what” of faith and belief. Too little do we concentrate on the “why.” But Peter is clear, we must be ready at all times to give a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for why we believe what we believe.
People today are asking a lot of great questions
• Did Jesus really die and come back to life? Why would you believe such an outrageous thing?
• Why do you trust the Bible? There are so many religious books out there. What makes the Bible better than the Koran?
• How do you know there is an afterlife?
• Do you really believe Jesus is the only way to heaven? How can so many other people be wrong?
• What kind of God would send the majority of people to hell?
• Do you really believe Jesus was born of a virgin?
These are all excellent questions. And they deserve excellent answers. Are you ready to give those answers? This is the call of apologetics, the call to be ready to give an answer. Apologetics will begin with you becoming a student. You have to know what you believe about all of these things. And you have to know why you believe it. You also will need to have a basic understanding of what others believe so that you can speak with confidence to the superior belief system that we call Christianity. I think too many Christians live in fear of stepping out there into the world of apologetics. What if someone asks me a question that I can’t answer? What if I end up looking silly? Listen, do not allow yourself to be ruled by fear. Christianity is a reasonable faith. The Truth is on our side. And when we encounter others they may not always be looking for an answer, they may be looking to just pick a fight. You must be discerning here. Don’t ever be drawn into a war of words. As Peter says, always give your answer with “gentleness and respect.” As Christians, we should never be rude or ugly or disrespectful to anyone who may engage us about our faith.
Consider this list of excellent apologetic resources that every Christian should have in their library.
A Ready Defense by Josh McDowell
The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell
More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
The Concise Guide to Today’s Religions and Spirituality by James Walker
The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics by Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner
Watchman Fellowship website: www.watchman.org