Last time, we saw that apologetics is a moral necessity for followers of Jesus Christ. Greg Bahnsen said it well in his book, Always Ready,
“It is God Himself, speaking through Peter’s inspired words, who calls upon us as believers—each and every one of us—to be prepared to defend the faith in the face of challenges and questions which come from unbelievers—any one of them.
The necessity of apologetics is not a divine necessity: God can surely do His work without us. The necessity of apologetics is a moral necessity: God has chosen to do His work through us and has called us to it. Apologetics is the special talent of some believers, and the interested hobby of others; but it is the God-ordained responsibility of all believers.”
Apologetics is not optional. But what about the method? Are we allowed to engage in defending the Christian worldview by any means necessary? Or does the Bible itself give us a method? Robert Reymond points out the connection between theology and methodology:
It is clear then that the task of giving an intelligent defense of the faith cannot be avoided on biblical grounds. So far from being inconsistent with the Christian faith, its cogent defense is in fact demanded by it. This does not justify, however, any and every method of apologetics. Obviously, we cannot defend our religious commitment and persuade men in anger or through use of violence. Neither should we think that we may devise an apologetic method inconsistent with the very content of the gospel we proclaim, specifically the teaching of Scripture concerning the noetic effects of sin in man and the need for the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men before they can believe the gospel.
-Robert L. Reymond, The Justification of Knowledge (Kindle Locations 145-150). Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
Remember what apologetics is. It’s not merely defending a single point of teaching, but the whole Christian faith. It is the clash of the Christian worldview against anti-Christian worldviews of any variety. This has implications for methodology already. Our method will not be a piecemeal defense. For example, our method will not be to merely argue for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, void of the Biblical context that accounts for the resurrection. Apart from the whole of Biblical revelation, the resurrection is meaningless and could very well be a spontaneous event in a chance-based universe. Any apologetic method that does not engage with unbelief at the level of worldview is insufficient. Any method that merely deals with “facts” instead of the philosophy of fact is insufficient.
Now, we will finally look at 1 Peter 3:15 where the Greek word apologian is used.
“…honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (HCSB)
One implication from 1 Peter 3:15 is that apologetics must be simple. What does that mean? Notice that Peter says each and every Christian should “always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you.” Imagine that. Each and every follower of Jesus can be prepared to defend the faith, no matter who is asking. Every Christian, whether you were converted last week, or have been raised in Christianity, is required to answer anyone that could ever ask; from the common person to the scholar. The Apostle Paul, remember, reasoned in the streets and marketplace but also with scholars and philosophers. By telling us that it is every Christian’s responsibility to give a defense to anyone, Peter is also saying that it is possible for every Christian to be prepared to give a defense, no matter who asks.
Therefore, the method of defense must be simple enough for any believer to master! Apologetics is not reserved for the elite or the smartest believers. Apologetics is for every Christian. What an encouragement! Every believer is required by God to be prepared to answer anyone that asks, so obviously every believer is capable of obeying. No matter our level of intelligence, no matter how academically educated we are, we can always be ready. No matter how smart the opposition is, no matter how educated they are, we can always be ready. What a relief that a degree in philosophy is not necessary for us to be obedient to God. Don’t worry, you do not have to memorize all those scientific facts and philosophic arguments you saw in the film God’s Not Dead.
Think about the cultural context of Peter’s letter. He wasn’t writing during our time, he was writing during the time of the Roman Empire. The Christians that Peter was telling are required to engage in apologetics were anyone from fishermen to scribes. The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee. We have been looking at chapter 3 of Peter’s letter, but in chapter 2 he addresses slaves! Poor, rich, slaves, educated, it doesn’t matter. All Christians are able to “always be ready to give a defense to anyone.” That should be an encouragement for us to press forward, and learn what the Scriptures say about how exactly to do that, knowing that all of us can defend the faith.
Also, there is God’s sovereignty to consider in apologetics. Remember that God is the one who saves. The Holy Spirit is the one that makes the truth of the Scriptures effective, and regenerates the heart. Our responsibility is not to convert people. That is God’s responsibility. The most we can do is faithfully stand upon the firm foundation of God’s Word and communicate the truth of Christianity, without compromise. We stand under the authority of Jesus Christ, as Peter said “…honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts” (emphasis mine). We do not pretend to be neutral as we argue for Christianity; that contradicts Christ’s absolute Lordship. Our responsibility is to shut their mouth, and leave them with no objection. So, we must not be burdened or guilty when someone does not respond positively to the Gospel. At the same time, we can proceed with humble boldness, knowing that God will save those He has chosen. This also speaks to the question of method. By what means does the Holy Spirit bring the dead to life? The Word of God. Our method must be confronting the unbeliever with what the Bible says. That is where the power is. We must confront the unbeliever with what God says about them, revealed about Himself, and what their only hope is. We must confront the unbeliever with the truth of their sin and vain understanding apart from Christ, and that their only hope in life and in death is Jesus Christ. The Spirit makes the Word of God effective, so our method must be Word-based.
Christian apologetics has for its ultimate goal the persuasion of men of the truth of the Christian position. This points up the fact that Christian apologetics is not only concerned with correct epistemological theory but at bottom is also evangelistic and kerygmatic. Although he fully recognizes the depravity of man and the noetic effects of sin, and his own inability to persuade men apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, the Christian apologist nonetheless will seek persuasively to present the Christian faith in all of its wholeness as a self–consistent, coherent, significant body of truth which alone gives a rational basis for understanding man and his universe. In other words, just as gospel content will be incorporated in any properly conceived apologetic methodology, so also the Christian apologist will self–consciously regard his efforts as simply part of responsible evangelism!
-Robert L. Reymond. The Justification of Knowledge (Kindle Locations 210-217). Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
This has been a simple introduction to the question of method. I will likely go into detail at a later date.
In the mean time, see the recommended reading page for books you can read. Pushing the Antithesis by Greg Bahnsen is the book to start with, followed by his Presuppositional Apologetics.
Also, for those who are interested in learning more, or who would like to be strengthened in the faith, or Christians with doubts or questions, or new believers that would like to grow in your understanding of the Bible, all of you can send messages to our facebook page (“like” our page while you’re at it). If several people ask the same questions or have the same concerns, then I may write posts to address them.
To answer the question, why apologetics? It has been made clear that apologetics is a Biblical mandate. Not only is it a legitimate practice for Christians, but it is a moral necessity. Not only is it helpful for us, but a matter of obeying the Lord Jesus. Why apologetics? Because God has chosen His people to defend the Christian worldview against all opposition.
All Christians must defend the Christian worldview. You can do it.