Yes, the play on “what hath Jerusalem to do with Athens?” is fully intentional. Much the same intention of the original is communicated by this question. What relation has “Athens” (whatever that means, usually the mind/intellect) to do with “Jerusalem” (whatever that means, typically Scripture, Christianity, and “spirituality”). In much the same way apologetics tends to be divorced from the life of discipleship to Jesus.
“What hath apologetics to do with discipleship?”
My answer: everything.
This makes sense if we understand that Christianity is a worldview. I appreciated this point of personal testimony in Jeff Durbin’s session (what he says between 4:21-6:49) from the 2015 Bahnsen Conference. When he began to read Greg Bahnsen (Always Ready), it was more than just having a philosophically consistent apologetic. It was learning to see all of life as under the Lordship of Christ. “All thinking was to be submitted to Jesus Christ as Lord.” It was more than apologetics, it was a change of life as a Christian.
I can attest to that as well. The same happened to me. I certainly was sanctified when I encountered Bahnsen’s work. When I first read Greg Bahnsen (Pushing the Antithesis), I must say I wasn’t as deeply changed by apologetics narrowly defined, but by suddenly being able to look around me and actually discern presuppositions and worldviews, and see the antithesis between Christianity and unbelief, and self-consciously ground all of life in the Christian worldview. My life was changed. I too, learned to think as a Christian. I learned more than a mere apologetic method.
You know what that was? A huge leap in our personal discipleship. It was a great moment in our lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Everything we do will have an apologetic edge to it, because we live from a Christian standpoint, whereas non-Christians do everything from the standpoint of unbelief. All creation is covenantally qualified. All is in relation to God, and with reference to him (whether acknowledged or not). Christ is the reference point, in him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and by him all things hold together (Colossians 2:3, 1:17). The question is not “do you have a personal relationship with God?” All people, by virtue of being created by God, in his image, are in relationship (covenant) with him. The question is, “what kind of personal relationship with God do you have?” A right relationship, or one of enmity? Are you in Adam, or are you in Christ? That’s covenantal language.
With this understanding, we see that everything we do is covenantal, characterized by our covenantal relationship with God. Therefore, all activity is religious activity. Both believers and unbelievers are inherently religious, they were made covenantal creatures by God. So everything we do, regardless of our worldview, we do religiously. Because of this there is no sacred-secular dualism.
What is discipleship? Jesus commanded that disciples be made of the nations, “teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Teaching and obedience. Learning sound doctrine and living it out, and making more disciples. Disciples are disciple-makers. Simply another way to describe this is learning the Christian worldview, the total perspective of Scripture, and living by it.
Discipleship can be summarized as developing, demonstrating, and defending the Christian worldview.
Understanding that all of life is under the Lordship of Christ, you are going to be doing everything, self-consciously, as a Christian. You will use your words to explain why you live the way you do. You won’t necessarily be doing anything differently than non-Christians (apart from what is explicitly sin), but your basis for doing everything, from family to employment, will be different. There’s that absolute, ethical antithesis between believer and unbeliever.
One way to understand apologetics is: the application of theology to unbelief, wherever it is found. So everything you do is potentially apologetic, as you are living according to the truth in contrast to unbelief. Worldview is the framework for discipleship, for Christianity encompasses all of life, and it is by the Scriptures that we interpret everything. Apologetics is at the level of worldview. It is fundamentally a collision of worldviews. Discipleship and apologetics go hand in hand.
What has apologetics to do with discipleship? Everything, because your personal discipleship is growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, living that out as the Holy Spirit works in you to will and to do (Philippians 2:13), and making disciples of others. So, what struggle with unbelief within you will always be confronted by the Scriptures. As you live it out, you will be confronted with the antithesis, the way of living based on unbelief (way of the wise versus the way of the fool, as in Proverbs). And, as a result, unbelievers will ask or challenge you, and you must respond at the level of their worldview. That’s apologetics.
In addition to that, every disciple is by definition a maker of disciples. How is that done? Exactly what had to happen to you. You believed in the Lord Jesus, being transferred from darkness to light, from “in Adam” to “in Christ.” You are to be proclaiming the Gospel to people. You are to engage in apologetics, confronting their unbelief. Say that God brings them to life, what then? Well, you have a baby, you’ve got to raise him. Time for that “teaching them everything” that Jesus said. Catechism and Confessions come in handy. Teach them the Word of Christ, and model for them what it means to live every day under the Lordship of Christ. This includes sitting under the preaching of the Word, taking the sacraments, and being shepherded in the covenant community of the church. Through all of that, unbelief is continually confronted by the Gospel. What remains of unbelieving thought is replaced by God’s thoughts in his Word. They are being sanctified. As they live accordingly, they understand more of what it means to demonstrate the Christian faith. And in obedience, they are training to be always ready to answer anyone who asks. They know what they believe, because they’ve developed a Christian worldview and are demonstrating it daily, and are commanded to defend it.
In addition, the aim is not merely that they would be holy and happy in their personal discipleship, but the long term goal is that they too would disciple others. The cycle begins again. Disciples are disciple-makers.
Maybe this will be a helpful way to illustrate the interdependency of apologetics and discipleship. They should never be compartmentalized in your life or in the church. Apologetics is not a separate activity. It’s more an angle, a perspective, that is either less or more emphasized or apparent. When you’re talking with an unbeliever, it’s more apparent. In a Bible study, it may be in the background. Remember: there’s one theology behind “discipleship” and “apologetics.” (Of course, if we are in the habit of making false-distinctions between preaching, evangelism, apologetics, and theology, then this will be difficult to understand.) Theology is applied to the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), which is apologetics at work, as your old pattern of thinking is challenged and replaced. You progressively think God’s thoughts after him. So apologetics (theology applied to unbelief) is happening to you in your personal development (discipleship).
Part of your personal development in godliness should be learning and employing apologetics. As far as your disciple-making, you’ll do the same thing for someone else. Toward the unbelievers, you engage in apologetics, challenging their worldview, and presenting the very worldview that you have been growing in and living by.
The transition for the newly made disciple should be smooth, since it’s the very same theology driving your apologetic that you are presenting to the unbeliever, and when God saves them, bringing them into covenant with Christ, they now stand upon (and learn) that same theology, which now drives their whole life. Presuppositional or covenantal apologetics is evidently not optional. You present the unbeliever with the absolute authority of the self-attesting Christ, not attempting neutrality, then after they are brought under that authority, they live self-consciously under that authority. You do not grant neutrality in apologetics, and they do not grant neutrality in any area of life after conversion.
Toward believers, you teach that same theology that grounds and drives apologetic methodology. Teach that pattern of sound words for their own personal growth, viewing and living all of life as a Christian, and they have a defense for anyone who asks, so they can be disciple-makers as well.
Apologetics and discipleship are interwoven and constantly overlapping. I’m not sure a chart or graph could be made to illustrate the relationship. It’s a bit tangled. But we must grasp that Christianity is a worldview. All of life is under Christ’s Lordship, and only properly understood through the lens of his Word. The biblical apologetic is a worldview apologetic, challenging the root of unbelief itself. The (worldview) teaching you are getting (should) have an apologetic edge, for your personal sanctification and also to provide something to say to others.
All believers must be discipled and equipped to make disciples. Part of that is training in apologetic methodology, specifically. The practice of apologetics is a component of complete discipleship. At the same time, apologetics will always be an application of Christian theology, no matter what activity you are doing. Whenever and wherever there is a clash of worldviews, within you or between you and others, there’s apologetics. And there is discipleship there, also! Because whoever you are interacting with is in covenantal relationship with God. If they are an unbeliever, and you are confronting their worldview and offering the hope of the Gospel, you have begun disciple-making. As Jesus said, make disciples of all nations.
If you are helping a new believer with basic doctrine, there are worldview changes taking place, as unbelieving categories and presuppositions are being replaced with ones from Scripture. The change of mind is sanctification. And you begin to train them in apologetic methodology so they are prepared to tell others about their new faith, in obedience to Christ, which is characteristic of being a disciple (1 Peter 3:15).
For the more mature believer, they may pursue more advanced training in apologetics or not. Regardless, it will always be part of their life as a disciple. We are always growing in the knowledge of Christ, and must always be ready to give a defense to anyone.
I am confident in saying that if apologetics has no place in your life, or in your disciple-making, then that discipleship is deficient. On the flip side, if discipleship is missing from the teaching of apologetics, in other words no development or demonstration of the Christian worldview, then that’s a serious deficiency. You really cannot separate the two. This is beyond the fact that apologetics is for the church, and should be developed within the local body. What I mean is that apologetics is dependent on and flows from the very “everything I commanded you.” Theology drives methodology. And do we really understand theology if we cannot offer a defense? It would be very strange if someone claimed to learn or teach apologetics and not also learn/teach sound doctrine. How could anyone learn apologetics apart from developing the very Christian worldview being defended? How could one avoid undermining or contradicting the Christian worldview by his apologetic methodology if he did not know that worldview? (a methodology that assumes neutrality, for example). If you are learning/teaching apologetics as a naked method, you’re doing it wrong.
Disciple-making is apologetic: making disciples by engaging unbelief, then simultaneously teaching the Christian worldview and how to defend it. Apologetics permeates discipleship: from the point of unbelief being challenged with the Gospel (apologetic clash of worldviews), to the moving from unbelief to belief (changing worldviews), then as one’s worldview is transformed (continuous unbelief being confronted), and for the rest of your life as a disciple of the Lord Jesus as you bear witness to him (demonstrating and defending the Christian worldview), in turn making disciples (engaging in apologetics).
It’s all very involved. Intertwined. No clean-cut, sharp distinctions here. It all may seem a little scattered and repetitive, but such is the nature of the case, I think.
By the way, if you weren’t completely convinced that a presuppositional (or covenantal) apologetics is the only way, this interdependent and overlapping relationship between theology, discipleship, and apologetics should help.
I could go on, and add a whole bunch of substantiating quotes, but this post is long enough.